Wavecam Goes Outdoors To Stream Big East Track and Field

By Carolyn Braff

Of all collegiate sports, track and field may be the hardest to broadcast in a compelling fashion. Add three days of rain and wind, and last weekend’s online stream of the Big East track and field championships was headed for certain disaster. Luckily, host Villanova University had a ringer in the stadium: the Wavecam system.

Villanova has been using Wavecam, an aerial video system, inside its basketball arena throughout the year, but the engineering team behind it — led by Villanova engineering professor Ed Dougherty — has been experimenting with an outdoor version. The track and field championships provided the perfect test run, complete with enough rain and wind to make sure the system is truly weather-proof.

“Last winter, we built a test system that was supposed to run outside, around the football field,” Dougherty explains. “Because of the rain, fog, and wind, the primary camera on the roof couldn’t get a very good picture, but we were able to fly around on the field, and we got a great picture. This was really our first outdoor use, and we got through the terrible weather and constant rain without any issues at all.”

Dougherty rigged the system between two of the six light poles that go down the sides of Villanova’s football field, outside of the stands. The camera was able to move from the south stands to the north stands, crossing the football field at approximately the goal line. For track events, the camera was able to fly over both sides of the track.

“I could go over the starting line and look straight down or fly to the other side and look at the runners coming toward me,” Dougherty says. “For the field events, we were 10 yards from where they were doing the long jump, high jump, and pole vault. Because we could go back and forth at any height, we got some really fabulous pictures.”

The indoor version of the system uses a high-definition Panasonic broadcast camera, but, with the first run outdoors — not to mention the inclement weather — Dougherty outfitted the outdoor edition with a Panasonic DVX-100B prosumer SD camera.

“We can easily switch in our high-definition camera at any time,” Dougherty adds.

The event was streamed on BIGEAST.tv, the Big East Conference’s live and on-demand streaming site, and the conference was thrilled to be able to showcase the championships with an additional camera angle, especially for the field events.

“Live track and field is not an event that’s very conducive for live video,” says Ben Fairclough, director of marketing and Web development for the Big East conference. “For TV, they usually package it up and spit it out on tape delay, but, with Wavecam, it allowed us to get a different angle. The field events especially usually end up getting snuffed when we go live, but Wavecam gave us a pretty cool look.”

Dougherty operated the Wavecam himself for the three days of competition. Because the track and field championships coincided with finals week at Villanova University, many of the students usually hired to operate additional cameras were unavailable. Wavecam was able to fill the void.

The outdoor test run went so well, in fact, that Dougherty plans to keep the Wavecam rigged in the stadium for Villanova’s use for football this fall and lacrosse next spring. He believes that the system can work for any sport — except for baseball or softball, where there is always the danger of a ball’s hitting the camera.

Dougherty will speak on a panel discussing the next era of college sports production technology at the inaugural College Sports Video Summit, June 9-10 in Atlanta. Registration is just $75 for college, university, and conference employees and is the best investment you can make in your school’s video future. For more information and registration, click here: http://csvsummit.com/