Portland Thorns FC Stream Championship Season with Broadcast Pix
Fans of Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) were able to watch home games during the team’s 2013 championship season live on the Web via HD streaming video. The coverage was produced through a unique sharing of stadium resources anchored by a Broadcast Pix Granite 1000 integrated production system.
Both Thorns FC and the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer (MLS) team, owned by Peregrine Sports LLC, play at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Ore. While Thorns FC wanted an online presence for the league’s inaugural season, the club opted not to invest in an entirely new control room.
Instead, built in a space originally designated as an audio booth for the stadium’s main control room, an area was established specifically for streaming Thorns FC matches. Using video output from the existing Granite 1000 production switcher allocated for in-stadium video wall presentations, combined with audio from the radio broadcast, each Web production was managed by a single operator. Dave Spraker of spraker.tv, who served as the integrator for the project, said it was essential to “leverage the existing Broadcast Pix system to do a second show.”
The Web streaming room, built around a 27-inch iMac, receives an output from the Granite 1000 via HD-SDI cable, which is fed into a Magma ExpressBox 3T Thunderbolt PCIe expansion box equipped with a Blackmagic Design DeckLink Quad HD capture card. Streaming is handled through Telestream’s Wirecast software. The room also includes dual touchscreens that serve as mirror displays of the main control room’s customized multi-view, which is part of the Granite’s built-in toolset.
In an effort to avoid the expense of an additional control panel, streaming productions are managed using iPixPanel, Broadcast Pix’s iPad-based virtual control interface. Matt Smith, director of broadcasting for the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC, said iPixPanel was a far better solution than keyboard and mouse-based control, especially when trying to TD a soccer match with shared resources. “It was a nice solution to be able to use the iPad,” he added. “That was the way to go.”
The system was installed in February, shortly before the Timbers began preseason and well in advance of Thorns FC’s first home game on April 21. Nine of 11 home games were streamed live to www.portlandthornsfc.com during the season. (The additional home games were televised by Fox Soccer.) The NWSL also partnered with YouTube to provide live and on-demand access to matches online.
Smith thought the Thorns FC streaming video game coverage was among the best in the league. He said Thorns FC had a very successful following on the Web that grew as the season progressed. “We knew there would be great interest in the team,” he recalled, “and we wanted to offer a high definition option for fans who wanted to see Thorns FC games online.”
The simultaneous productions were not entirely different, just tailored to suit the two audiences. The main production, designed for the large video wall in the south end of the stadium, included full-screen graphics, sponsorship messages, and extensive replays. The streaming presentation, however, had much fewer replays, as it was aimed at an online audience solely relying on the video stream to follow the action.
While most of the streaming coverage was simply a line cut of the in-stadium production, the Web director could take any source independently using the iPixPanel and coordinate with the stadium director on headset. For example, the streaming production could take the main game camera during replays or commercials, or switch to a stadium “beauty cam” during halftime. “It worked really well,” Smith said.