2019 Girls 16u and 18u National Championships
In 2019, the City of Plano, Texas played host to USA Softball’s Girls 16u and 18u National Championships. The prestigious 6 day tournament displays the best-of-the-best softball teams from across the United States each year, with teams battling it out in the Texas mid-summer heat. For the event, GlobeStream Media stepped up to the plate and delivered over 500 hours of live streaming softball action; 240 softball games played across 9 different fields at the Heritage Landing Softball Complex.
In 2019, as a result of on-going renovations at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City, OK, the girls 16u and 18u National Championships were relocated to the Heritage Yards Softball Complex in Plano, Texas. GlobeStream Media was contacted by the City of Plano and USA Softball to provide continuous coverage of the very prestigious 6 day tournament.
The girls 16u and 18u National Championships are a showcase for the best young softball players from across the United States, and a feature event for USA Softball. Participants include many high school seniors committed to playing division 1 collegiate softball, and many young girls also use the tournament to showcase their talent for college scholarship opportunities. The requirements for event coverage were straight forward; use a single camera to live stream every game of the tournament during round-robin bracket play, and then provide multi-camera coverage for the semi-final and final games in each age division. All games needed to have basic scoreboard information, and for the semi-final and final games, instant replay as well.
Yet while the requirements were straight forward, meeting those requirements was anything but. There was only a single internet drop at the facility, and while it was centrally located, it was still nearly 1000 feet from the furthest softball fields. For a cabled solution, fiber would have been the only option, though due to logistics and time constraints, that wasn’t going to be possible. The only solution to provide internet access at each field was to setup a point-to-multi-point wireless network where we could encode and beam a camera feed from each field to our central building with internet access.
To implement the temporary networking solution, GlobeStream Media turned to Ubiquity Networks airMax technology for wireless point-to-multi-point networking. At each field, a Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera was connected to a LiveU encoder, and the encoder was connected to an airMax radio transmitter aimed at the antenna installed on the top of the concession stand building in the center of the complex. The airMax network allows us to stream a 4Mbps video feed from each field into LiveU Central, where we leveraged Singular Live’s graphics solution to provide on-screen scoreboards for each field. For 8-10 hours a day for six consecutive days, the Blackmagic, LiveU, and airMax equipment worked flawlessly in the 100+ degree Texas summer heat.
When Championship Saturday arrived, two different fields were utilized for the semi-finals and finals, one for each age division. For the 18u field, GlobeStream Media leveraged its full Blackmagic Design fiber chain capabilities to setup three URSA Broadcast cameras in left, center, and right field with a fourth camera, a Micro Studio Camera, mounted high on the backstop behind home plate. The fiber connections for the USRA Broadcast cameras supported integrated crew coms and tally as well as remote camera control for camera shading. The camera feeds were fed into a Blackmagic Design 20 x 20 Smart Videohub which distributed the feeds to both the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4k as well as the Softron M|Replay replay system. Replay feeds, along with graphics were also feed into the 1 M/E Production Switch. On-site stream encoding was implemented using a LiveU Solo encoder streaming its feed to Ooyala for distribution on USA Softball’s web site.
For the 16u field, GlobeStream Media setup a REMI production using LiveU. For this field, a single Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera was mounted on the backstop behind home plate, and three Sony FS-7 mk II cameras were used to provide coverage from center field as well as the left field and right field lines. All four cameras were connected to LiveU LU-200 encoders which were in turn connected to the airMax wireless network to send 4Mbps camera feeds back to our central control facility. Within the master control room, the ingested LiveU feeds were routed through a Blackmagic Design Smart VideoHub 40x40 to our M|Replay system as well as our ATEM 2 M/E Production Switch, which was controlled using a Blackmagic Design 1 M/E Advanced panel. The live program was then sent to a Wowza Clearcaster which streamed its feed to Ooyala which delivered the content to viewers via USA Softball’s web site. Crew coms was implemented using Unify Intercom, an IP-based coms solution.
Overall, the tournament was a great success, and USA Softball was delighting with the live streaming, which as reported to be a ‘significant step up’ from what was provided in previous years.