SVG-U Q&A: David Belawski, University of Central Florida Athletic Association
Working in a brand-new control room in a brand-new stadium might be a video coordinator’s dream, but that’s before that coordinator knows what he is getting into. David Belawski’s first day as assistant director of video services at the
Central Florida Athletic Association
involved getting acquainted with the sparkling new control room in Bright House Networks Stadium as well as the streaming operations required in the association’s other facilities. Belawski took a break from his hectic schedule to share with SVG-U the challenges he faces at a program that, from an equipment standpoint, is the envy of its conference.
What sports content do you currently stream on your Web site?
Streaming for us is kind of new. The expectations were really low on that end this past year just because streaming was almost brought in after the fact, but this year, it should be smoother. More emphasis will be put on it, and we’ll build from that.
CBS College Sports, our streaming partner, would like us to stream everything, and starting this year, we are going to be a little more aggressive on that front. Last year, we did football, men’s and women’s basketball, softball, and baseball—just the games. We couldn’t do soccer just because the facility didn’t have the capability of any kind of Internet connection.
We didn’t have any additional coaches’ shows, and we didn’t do an additional all-sports shows or anything like that. There’s talk about doing [a sports roundup] this year, and if we were to do it, we would definitely make that available as well.
How do you get the content?
For football, we used our board production feed from the stadium. With the video-board feed, we had multiple cameras and graphics and everything else that goes with the in-stadium production linked with the home-radio broadcast. Every other sport was coaches’ video with the home-radio broadcast feed if there was one.
For football, our board feed and our program feed go into a
, which converts that into the streaming-video feed into a laptop. With the rest of the coaches’ video, it’s just a straight camera feed out of our Panasonic cameras, with the same setup through a
into the PC. We take the radio feed off the mixer that we have for the radio talent, and it’s usually wirelessly fed back to the
to stream audio with the video.
In the press box at the baseball stadium, we have a HP desktop computer. We’re feeding that stream with a coaches’ camera and audio from the home-radio through a
. In the press box, we use Sound and Video Creations Click Effects for video to our video board. We use the Crossfire for video playback, Blaze to send graphics to our Ribbon board, and Flashback for replays.
Softball doesn’t have a video board. We stream with a laptop and
. This past season, we used coaches’ video and student radio.
Basketball hasn’t been done yet, but I’m sure it will be the video-board feed with home-radio.
What equipment do you use, and who pays for it?
provided us with a laptop, a Canopus ADVC110, and a Canon GL2 camera for streaming. We use that throughout the year with all sports other than football. We ran into the issue of streaming multiple sports last year. At all the other locations, we provide our own HP desktop computers to stream.
What does your control room enable you to add to your productions?
This off-season, we were able to do some motion-capture with our digital-media school for our football video open for the stadium. We went to the motion-capture lab and did some basic movements that we need for our open. We plan on working with them more in the future so we can have more animated elements for our boards and TV shows and such, but while we were there, we shot a lot of B-roll to be used in our coach’s show that will air this football season.
We used a former football player as our actor. He was very athletic so he was able to get us a lot of really athletic movements that both I and my co-worker would be incapable of doing: like standing back flips, then making the touchdown signal after he did the back flip. Now we can have our animated Knightro, our mascot, do a back flip when we score a touchdown.
What equipment is in your control room?
Alpha Video did the room. Between John Kvatek, our director of video services, and Alpha Video, that’s how the design and equipment were chosen. When I got here last year, all the decisions were already made, and the equipment was put in place, so basically, I started with a brand-new room that I had to learn right before the season started and test with our first game with little or no time to rehearse or prepare.
The control room in Bright House Networks Stadium houses, among other components, four Panasonic P2HD camcorders outfitted with Canon 16x CAC zoom lenses, a Ross Synergy 2 MLE digital production switcher, a Pinnacle DEKO character generator, a Sony DVCam studio disc recorder, Avid Adrenaline media composer, a 360 Systems Ross Networked Clip Player, a Mackie 24-input audio mixer, and ClearCom intercoms.
Who staffs your productions?
Last year, we contracted someone out to assist with the streaming, and we’ll probably do the same this season.
Most of our student help has come from the digital-media school. Coming in as freshmen, a lot of them have shot and edited already. The school of communications here is more of a journalism-type track, and surprisingly, I haven’t had the type of response I thought I would get from the students wanting to be involved with sports video.
Our department is only one other person and myself. Between the two of us, we’re handling all of the requests, dubs, and other projects that come through, as well as maintaining the control room, which is a little under a year old. We have a lot of new technologies in there, fiber-optic cameras and such, so we’ve gone through some learning curves.
Additional revenue streams: you send your content to iTunes, local TV stations, elsewhere?
Our coach’s show is broadcast on the local NBC affiliate every Sunday during football season, and then it’s re-aired on the regional sports network, Sun Sports. Basketball is also on the regional network during their season, so that’s our main revenue stream right there. Outside of that, I think John [Kvatek] started a YouTube account, but we really haven’t used it that much.
What is the biggest challenge you face in extending your streaming offerings?
It’s hard with the budget we’re given. We’re trying to make do with the staff that we have. Obviously, if we added more full-time people, we would be able to accomplish more. We’re trying to get that done, but the university is on a hiring freeze. Although we’re not tied into the university—we’re the Athletic Association—we are dealing with cutbacks as well. We just built a new stadium, and we’re trying to find a way to pay for that.
Streaming for us is new, and we’re just starting to get our feet wet. We’re making strides little by little.
The challenges we face are like everywhere else: not enough funding, not enough personnel. Obviously, we have a brand-new stadium and control room, but it’s all the incidentals that people don’t account for that make it challenging.