Frisbees, Computers Collide Through PDGA

By Carolyn Braff

Disc golf — basically, golf played with a Frisbee — is more than a pastime for college students. The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) established a national tour in 2003 to showcase the sport to the general public, and this year, curious sports fans don’t have to travel to a course to catch the action. With help from satellite company TodoCast.TV and production partner E-Planet Media, the PDGA will stream six weekend tournaments this season, with plans to use those streams to gain more recognition for the sport.

“Everybody loves our sport, but the television part of it was a challenge because production costs are so high,” explains John Duesler, director of marketing for the PDGA. “We think that live Internet TV is a natural progression of what our fans, viewers, and corporate sponsors want. We’re trying to fill a need there.”

To fill that need, Duesler called on TodoCast.TV, a satellite company with a division focusing purely on sports. Combining those resources with the production expertise of E-Planet Media, he has built a team that will help broadcast live disc-golf tournaments to the world.

E-Planet Media operates through a mobile IP-based satellite transmission protocol. Using a 96-cm uplink dish called the E-Planet Rover, the company streams to Galaxy 18, a geo-stationary satellite.

“We can push a stream anywhere from low-bandwidth 256 kbps up to 1.5 Mbps,” says Peter Palm, technical/creative director of E-Planet Media. The 24-hour satellite uplink gives the PDGA plenty of broadcast flexibility, something Duesler was looking for in researching time-buy arrangements with television stations.

For PDGA streaming productions, E-Planet Media will provide a 43-foot production trailer, the E-Planet Roamer, equipped with a NewTek TriCaster Studio six-camera switcher, NewTek TimeWarp for playback, Mackie pro audio mixers, Kulabyte Xstream Flash encoders, a Telex wireless intercom system, Digital Rapids StreamZ, and a series of wireless transmission devices that allow the truck to accept radio-frequency audio/video feeds. Up to six JVC GY-HD 110 cameras will cover the athletes as they compete on the courses, which feature a range of terrain and geography.

“We’ll be using four to six cameras, depending on the venue,” Duesler says. “Our courses are often found in public parks, in the woods, places where there are dramatic elevation changes. Some of the cameras will have to be RF hookups, and we can cable a camera up to 1,000 ft. with relays.”

A lockdown camera with a wide-angle lens will serve as a backup in case any of the close-up cameras fail.

“It’s really television light,” Duesler explains. “The ball-golf community and production teams helped us to realize that Internet streaming of live events is possible and provided a template for us to cover disc golf. Our solution is a great collaboration between the hardware company, the production company, and the PDGA, since we provide the content.”

Duesler will serve as executive producer and director of the event streams, so that he can ensure that top-notch content will filter through E-Planet Media’s streaming infrastructure. A play-by-play announcer and color commentator will call the tournaments from inside the truck, where monitors will allow them to see all of the action without having to move around the course.

Duesler is contemplating offering a free preview to introduce fans to the service, but he believes that PDGA content will be best supported by a subscription service. “If we did not ask for some kind of fee, I think we would be perceived as having little to no value for our fans and sponsors,” he says. “It could range anywhere from $4.99 to $14.99 per production, but we need to test that out a little bit to see what our fans and viewers will support. The TodoCast solution gives us the flexibility to register our viewers and build an audience as we grow.”

The PDGA will have several chances to test that this year: Duesler plans six streaming productions for the season, beginning in April. However, when it comes to technological vision, streaming is by no means the endgame.

“The Internet stuff is the mid-game,” Duesler says. “In terms of our long-term plans, clearly, the mobile space is really ripe. We have a very tech-savvy crew that wants to migrate to smart phones. We’re really beginning a journey to create a mobile-streaming application.”

For now, catch the broadband streams at http://www.pdga.com/.

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