Harvard University is home to 42 NCAA Division 1 teams spanning basketball, hockey, football, squash, tennis and many other sports. To keep its students, alumni and Crimson fans up to speed on their favorite teams, the Athletics Departments’ multimedia and production arm produces and broadcasts home games in high quality H.264 to ESPN+, regional outfit NESN and the Ivy League’s international streaming platform, and also creates ancillary content, all using a host of gear from AJA Video Systems.
In preparation for streaming to multiple CDNs, the department ramped up its production workflow over a year ago — adding more cameras, graphics and audio equipment and other tools to its arsenal, including the AJA HELO, U-TAP and Ki Pro Ultra. “Streaming to ESPN+ has taken college athletics production to a new level, with standards that are higher than ever before. To keep pace, we needed equipment that’s reliable, affordable and easy to learn and use,” says Imry Halevi, assistant director of athletics, multimedia and production, Harvard. “If you do the math, we’re churning out more than 300 broadcast-quality streams a year. Having tools like HELO, Ki Pro Ultra and U-TAP that tick all these boxes gives me confidence that we’ll be able to consistently meet the production standards expected of us without ever missing a beat.”
While workflows slightly vary depending upon the sport, the tennis and squash workflows are quite similar. Each squash or tennis court features mounted POV cameras with HD-SDI outputs and a mic output. The audio and video signals go into a rack holding a switcher, video unit and six AJA HELO H.264 recording, streaming and encoding devices. The switcher, with an Intel compute stick that captures scoreboard data, outputs the camera and mic feeds for each court via HDMI to a video unit for Harvard’s international stream while the SDI outputs are fed to each of the six HELOs, one per court, and streamed to ESPN+ in H.264 via RTMP, as well as recorded for archival.
Halevi and team also deploy two HELO units across their basketball and hockey/football control rooms for streaming needs outside traditional live production. Connected to DirecTV receivers, the devices come into play when the team needs to capture footage from away games in H.264. “We love having HELOs in our control room,” he adds. “It’s great to be able to schedule recordings with HELO’s built in calendar support, stream and record at the same time, preview videos and be able to see the video signal coming in.”
To meet requests for uncompressed ProRes and/or DNx footage, the team also keeps a Ki Pro Ultra 4K/UltraHD/2K/HD recorder/player in its hockey control room. Additionally, Halevi recently added AJA U-TAP SDI USB 3.0-powered SDI capture devices to his collection of gear to double the number of feeds that his team could capture when live streaming with Wirecast on MacBook Pros. “Most capture solutions available today come with Thunderbolt ports, which is partially what made U-TAP so appealing. It allows you to take advantage of the MacBook Pro’s USB 3.0 ports to double the amount of inputs and outputs you can tap into,” he explains. “The units were super easy to get up and running on, and we didn’t need to adjust or install anything; they just worked out of the box.”