Sports teams and federations are returning to action behind closed doors and seizing the opportunity to reinforce their relationship with fans. Lacking the normally vibrant atmosphere of crowds, broadcasters and leagues are relying on technology to reinvent the match-day experience by immersing viewers in the on-field play and off-field drama more than ever before.
Founded in 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the world’s premier professional ice hockey league and consists of 31 Member Clubs (24 in the United States and 7 in Canada). Each team roster reflects the League’s international makeup with elite players from more than 20 countries represented, all vying for the most cherished and historic trophy in professional sports – the Stanley Cup®.
When the NHL returned to the rink on 1st August 2020, its coverage featured new camera angles and a media presence enriched by an all new cloud-based video production.
Like so many sports organisations, the NHL was forced to suspend the 2019-20 season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than running idle, the League used the pause to prepare a Return to Play action plan which included a revamped remote production workflow designed to create compelling live and behind-the-scenes content while respecting social distance measures.
Innovations included the addition of 12 match day cameras to the standard 32 camera pattern positioned to show new angles. Microphones are placed throughout each arena, including at ice level, to pick up more sounds from the game. The NHL also worked with each of the 24 participating teams to collect audio unique to their home venues, including goal horns, music compilations and fan chants for playout during the game. The sidelines of the rink itself, empty of spectators, were adorned with LED screens, monitors and banners.
The most technologically-advanced solution the NHL deployed was using Blackbird to enable its production team to perform professional-grade editing in the cloud during the live game.
Since Blackbird needs only a fraction of the bandwidth of other professional edit systems it providing the production team rapid access to video content while the editor or producer was working remotely.
Developed just for the cloud, Blackbird enables a high quality proxy version of the live video from each NHL venue to be created faster than real time – enabling the NHL’s team to work only on the content they need. This dramatically reduces the cost and time of content creation and distribution.
The sophisticated editing tools support up to 12 video tracks and 36 audio tracks while powerful logging and review capabilities enable lightning-fast decision making and content publishing to the NHL’s widely followed digital and social outlets. This includes 6.2 million followers on Twitter, 4.5 million on Facebook and another 1.5 million subscribers to the NHL’s official YouTube channel.
Blackbird was also used for fast distribution of video content to the league’s own internal production personnel, NHL teams and media partners for re-purposing.
The energy, the noise and the excitement of NHL crowds may be irreplaceable, but the League has ensured that fans continue to receive the most entertaining and compelling experience at a speed that feels like part of the game.
Blackbird is best-of-breed
Jon Hanford - Group CTO, Deltatre