If you’re involved in live streaming sporting events, you more than likely have the following things in common with the athletes you’re filming:
- You like a good challenge.
- The more you practice, the better you get.
None of us will ever be perfect, but improvement is a worthy goal, especially when it comes to mastering something like broadcasting live sports. It’s a unique challenge, no doubt about it. The pace and unpredictability of live games can throw even the best live streamers for a loop. If you’ve ever found yourself shaking your fists in the air due to yet another recurrence of one of the issues below, now’s the time to get proactive.
Broadcasting Live Sports: 4 Common Issues & Their Fixes
1. The fast pace makes it difficult to master camerawork and placement.
We hear you: It’s hard to film sports—harder than almost any other type of event you might live stream. The amount of movement compared to a church service, for example, is multiplied a hundredfold. Often, teams set up one camera to cover the entire field without a single shot change. That’s fine—as long as it’s set up on the same planet as the game. A static camera placed too far away from the action means your viewers are barely getting a glimpse of what’s going on; the same goes for a camera located in a less-than-ideal position on the field. On the flip side, maybe you’ve tried doing camerawork, but it ends up being too busy, with constant movement in an effort to chase down balls and follow players. For many viewers, it might conjure up feelings of nausea rather than excitement.
The fix: We like to think of this issue as less of a problem and more of an opportunity. If you only have a single camera, experiment with different locations until you find one that adequately covers the playing field but also allows viewers to see the action relatively well (this may require a longer cable or a wireless setup). Or, try using two cameras—one for a static wide shot of the field and another manned by an operator-in-training. With someone at the computer to switch between cameras, try for a steady mix of shots: wide shots combined with baseline shots as well as the occasional close-up of the pitcher or batter getting ready for action. Eventually you’ll develop an awareness of the right shot, and it will have a huge impact on your broadcast.
2. Your cameras and/or computers can’t keep up, and your images are blurry.
No doubt about it—cameras and computers have to work harder to broadcast live sports. The more movement there is, the more your equipment works to update the pixels in the frame. (Water polo poses an extreme challenge, with the playing field and the players constantly moving.) A blurry picture could mean a few things, but more than likely, it is a sign that your CPU is being overworked, your camera might need an upgrade, or you need to rethink your encoding settings (higher bit rate and/or resolution).
The fix: There’s no silver bullet here—especially not one that would work in every situation. But the better you or someone on your staff knows your camera, the better your chances will be for success. To help mitigate the problem, make sure the settings on your camera are optimized to track fast movement, and verify the resolution settings are where they should be. Some cameras even have a motion setting you can adjust that will help with sports specifically. On the computer side, make sure there aren’t any additional programs running that are increasing the demand on your CPU (sometimes the old tried-and-true restart can alleviate CPU issues). Also, keep your computer out of direct sunlight at all times, which could cause overheating. If your CPU doesn’t seem to be too high, try upping the quality of your live stream by increasing the bit rate and possibly the resolution—make sure to verify your network can accommodate the higher quality first so you don’t compound the pixelation issue by adding buffering.
3. Constant venue changes make it hard to come prepared.
For live streamers, preparation is about expecting the unexpected. Venue changes are common, which makes internet connectivity unpredictable. You simply don’t know until you show up what kind of connectivity you’ll have or what’s available to begin with. You also don’t know what to expect in terms of logistics—the best placement for cameras, the location and number of outlets, etc.
The fix: While it’s not ideal to broadcast using a mobile hot spot, it’s good to have one handy. If the internet goes down or you can’t connect for one reason or another, at least you have a way to continue your live stream. Also, have plenty of cables and extension cords for power purposes in case the distance to an outlet is longer than expected or the ideal camera position turns out to be farther away than you thought. Both are simple fixes but super helpful in a pinch.
4. Simultaneous events make it difficult to manage multiple live streams.
Simultaneous sporting events, like tournaments, pose another unique challenge. Two, three, or four games in a day can be hard on your equipment and a drain on your manpower. You need to set up equipment in two different locations and have a way to monitor the live feed in both places. Hopefully, the locations are within walking distance, but it’s still difficult to stay on top of two games at the same time.
The fix: Make sure you have a way to communicate between venues as well as designated parties to manage the live feed in each location. We also recommend having simple checklists for each crew to follow to streamline the entire process—setup, event, and teardown. Keeping the lines of communication open is key. Perhaps you can identify one point person to monitor the individual sites from a central location and be in communication throughout, similar to how the Northwoods League monitors all of their league events.
If you’re having trouble resolving a particular issue with your live sports broadcast, get in touch! It’s our goal to help live streaming be as easy as possible for you while also being a memorable experience for your viewers.