I was asked on Facebook about getting started with live streaming racquetball. One part of my answer focused on the tools needed. The rest of the answer is the volunteers or paid personalities needed for success.
The biggest things you need:
1) Someone willing to spend a day watching racquetball and updating scores, starting and stopping streams, potentially running some commercials between games.
2) Someone willing to spend a day talking about the racquetball games. You can swap people in and out on this role, and the tech can jump in with some commentary to keep the discussion going so the prime speaker doesn’t have to do hour long monologues.
Then you need tools. These are the ones that I am using.
1) Restream.io This allows streaming to Facebook and YouTube at once, for $19 per month, and it doesn’t require you to have as much bandwidth as streaming to the 2 destinations separately. Both pro tours appear to be using this as well.
2) Cameras. I use camcorders, as a $1,000 4K camcorder is designed to be recording or sending video out via HDMI all day. Note that YouTube streaming is restricted to 1080P so you won’t be broadcasting to any free destination in 4K at this time (Facebook is 720p because their users are mostly on phones). I considered DSLR options, but the price difference was too high and too many of them have timeouts built in that turn off their streams after 30 minutes. The biggest key is to ensure that you have “clean” hdmi out, which means that the hdmi stream from the camera does not show the camera controls. I have 3 Sony FDR-AX43 4K Camcorders and usually only use 2 at a time when I am broadcasting outdoor matches.
3) I recommend doing all of your camera angle switching on a dedicated HDMI switch. I like the ATEM Mini line of switchers, they are the best bang for the buck and reliable.
I used the ATEM MIni Pro in order to keep the encoding off of my laptop so that I didn’t have that additional expense getting started.
*At the end of 2021, I upgraded this from the Mini Pro to the Extreme ISO. This allows more inputs, like other HDMI cameras for showing the commentary team when I work with the LPRT.
4) I use a MS Surface Pro 3 with an Elgato Streamdeck and H2R Graphics for my scoreboard, logos, tickers, and to play videos/commercials between games.
The Streamdeck does my automation, programmed with Bitfocus Companion.
H2R Graphics generates and displays all of the overlays.
*At the end of 2021, I replaced the laptop and started using vMIx.
4a) If you have a laptop with a better graphics card, or have $1500 to buy a dedicated one, you can go with vMix software, which does an amazing job for the LPRT. The $700 version gives you instant replay.
At the end of 2021, I replaced the laptop.
5) I use a Travel Router to ensure that my computer and the ATEM Mini Extreme ISO have a consistent connection to each other and to the internet. Specifically, the Beryl Travel Router from GL.inet.
6) With the ATEM Mini Extreme ISO, you do also get a multi-view output, so that you can see what all of the cameras are bringing in before you switch to that angle, and I use the Pixio portable monitor display for that.
7) Cables, lots of cables. You’ll need some HDMI cables that are at least 25 feet long, and can make do with some shorter ones for the 2nd/3rd camera if you can put your broadcast table up against the glass of the court. I’m not a fan of long HDMI cables so I invested in wireless HDMI transmitters. This is a $500 per camera addition, so if you will be primarily indoors with a PC within 20 feet of the cameras, then stay away from these. (I’m never that close outdoors, and only rarely that close at pro tour venues.) I have three of the Hollyland Mars 300 Pro Extended sets to connect my three cameras to the ATEM switcher.
8) Microphones. I use a pair of wireless mics that go into the same receiver. This then feeds into one of the cameras, to keep the audio and video in-sync.
The pro tours and USAR use a separate mixing board and feed that into their computer.
*At the end of 2021, I switched to a Zoom PodTrak P4 Podcast Recorder to feed in two XLR headsets from Senal (SMH-1010CH and SMH-1020CH) for more reliable audio for commentary.
9) Camera mounts or tripods. I use home-built mounts when I broadcast from Marina Park in Huntington Beach. Elsewhere, I use the tallest and cheapest tripods I can find. 8-9 feet in the air is a much better picture of the match than anything lower as you aren’t completely blocked by a player’s body.
10) Power. When I broadcast outdoor racquetball events, I need power for all of these items. I use a Maxoak Portable Power Station AC50S and a Jupitek Portable Power Station S1200 to cover everything that sits on the desk. Together these two have enough power to cover everything for about a 9 hour day. They can also be charged overnight, so I have only ever run out of power once while onsite.
I also need power closer to the cameras, so that I am not changing the batteries in cameras that are mounted 9-10 feet in the air. I have two of the NexPow 178Wh Portable Power Stations, one for each of the live cameras I use while outdoors. These could likely go two full days without recharging since the camcorders and the HDMI transmitters are the only things plugged in, but I do recharge them overnight as well.
11) Internet. When I broadcast outdoors, I use the hotspot of my phone (40 GB hotspot plan) tethered via USB to the Beryl Router from #5. Indoors, I would want to use a wired connection to the facility’s internet, if at all possible. I am looking for better options on this, like a dedicated hotspot device, but the data plan is the sticking point. I use about 2 GB per hour of streaming, so one two day event per month works well. The four day 2021 Team Root Outdoor Nationals Racquetball Championships presented by Pro Kennex coming up July 8-11, I will need more data than I have on my current plan. Let me know if you know of a better option here!
*For the outdoor event, I did buy a Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot ($500+ from Best Buy) with a $55 pay-in-advance 100GB plan from AT&T. The 140 GB was not enough, I completely ran out of data on the last match on Sunday. I have also added an Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot running on Verizon with an $80 100GB plan to help cover drops in coverage when either company’s cell towers get overwhelmed.
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