Live sports streaming production case study: Evergreen Curling Club
Portland, Oregon's Evergreen Curling Club is a great Ustream success story, and a great example of having all the pieces in place for creating a successful Ustream channel...a robust technical setup, creative production, and people who want to share and spread their passion.
Audio and Video
Capturing all the potential action from every corner of the arena are 9 permanently installed Axis PoE network cameras, which greatly simplified the setup since all of the video, audio, control signals, and power are transmitted through a single, standard ethernet cable. They are using a combination of fixed cameras: Axis P3364, Axis P3367 and one PTZ model: Axis Q6035 mounted over center ice. These cameras transmit video through the RTSP protocol, which needs to be repackaged before being delivered to Ustream. This can be done a few different ways, the easiest being the Axis Streaming Assistant, Ustream Producer Studio(see here for supported cameras), or in the case of ECC, Xsplit Broadcaster. Through Xsplit, they are able to setup multiple scenes combining any or all of the available Axis cameras, Logitech HD USB camera on the commentators, screen-region grabs for the scoreboards, and pre-made graphics and videos. Besides the Axis camera audio, the commentators are using Audio-Technica BPHS1 stereo headset microphones, run through a Behringer XENYX 802 mixer and HA400 headphone splitter.
In addition to the camera capture and switching, Xsplit is able to do the encoding and RTMP delivery to Ustream. ECC is encoding their video with the X.264 codec at a resolution of 1920x1080 and bit rate ranging between 2 and 3 Mbps. The audio is being encoded with the AAC LC codec, at a bit rate between 160 and 192 kbps. Xsplit is a Windows-only program, so in order to handle all of the cameras, graphics, switching, and HD encoding, a really powerful Windows Desktop computer was needed. ECC decided to custom build their own machine, with the following components:
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UD5H LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge 3.5GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) LGA 1155 77W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
- RAM: Crucial Ballistix 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
- Video Card: ZOTAC ZT-61002-10M GeForce GTX 650 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
- Hard Drives: OCZ Vertex 4 VTX4-25SAT3-256G 2.5" 256GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive, (2) Western Digital WD Black WD2002FAEX 2TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
- Power Supply: SeaSonic X Series X650 Gold ((SS-650KM Active PFC F3)) 650W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply
Now that an HD capable computer/encoder was ready to create their stream, they needed an internet connection capable of delivering the stream to Ustream's servers. Generally, we recommend having available upload bandwidth of at least 2x your encoded bitrate, so for a 2Mbps HD stream, you'll want to secure at least a 4Mbps upload connection. The ECC is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, so they were able to get Comcast's 27x7(potential download speeds of 27Mbps, upload speeds of 7Mbps) business class internet at a discounted rate. It's always good to confirm your speeds at sites like speedtest.net and speakeasy.net/speedtest.
This internet connection is shared by all the computers, cameras, and wireless devices at the club, so in order to ensure the stream would not have issues with local network congestion, they set the QoS on their Netgear R6300router to give the highest priority to the broadcast computer.
Besides the complex technical setup, ECC relies on club members for controlling the audio, PTZ camera, and Xsplit, as well as engaging with viewers in the social stream. They even have 2 members with some broadcast experience providing color commentary to create an engaging broadcast that keeps people watching and coming back for more.
Check out the archives at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/evergreencurling and join their crowd to be notified the next time they go live! If you have any questions about their setup or suggestions for other Ustream channels to feature, please submit them here: http://bit.ly/Uovo9m
Happy Curling and Ustreaming!