Columbus Crew SC, Major League Soccer Score With Blackmagic Design Gear

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup transforms casual observers into passionate — and knowledgeable — soccer fanatics. In the intervening years, Major League Soccer looks for ways to cultivate that fervor into year-round devotion. As MLS teams turn to video to build relationships between players and fans, Blackmagic Design provides the gear to make producing video a cost-effective yet valuable endeavor.

At Columbus Crew SC, Video Content Producer Skyler Schmitt has served as a one-man video department since 2012. He shoots, edits, and publishes content for the team’s Website — including live streams, behind-the-scenes footage, and player interviews — and produces in-venue content for the videoboard on game days.

Previously, Crew SC relied on freelancers to create Web video content. Bringing video production in-house, the team found that the money saved enabled purchase of new equipment. Currently, Schmitt relies on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF, ATEM Television Studio live production switcher, and Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt capture and playback device.

“We bought the Blackmagic cinema camera because we wanted to be able to use it in a live stream,” explains Schmitt. “The other cameras we had looked at were DSLRs to be able to shoot video in that shallow depth of field that has become popular recently. We wanted that kind of look, but then, we also know that you can’t use a DSLR stream, so we figured this would be a happy medium. We could get this camera, get that look that we were going for, and also be able to use it within a live stream and at a low cost compared to other production cameras.”

Schmitt feeds the content captured on the Cinema Camera via SDI and HDMI directly into the ATEM switcher. The final output is sent via HDMI through the Intensity Shuttle into a MacBook Pro with Wirecast streaming to YouTube, which is then embedded on Crew SC Website and is available for viewing on desktops and mobile devices.

In addition, Schmitt leverages the Blackmagic camera for the in-venue video show. If a particular game is carried on television, he typically takes five broadcast feeds and supplements them with two in-house cameras. However, for games that aren’t televised, he must supply every camera for the videoboard, including the Blackmagic camera, and feed them into the ATEM switcher and out to the videoboard.

When Schmitt covers events outside of Crew Stadium, he relies on the Blackmagic camera’s ability to stream off WiFi hotspots. “We go to some places that don’t have Internet access, and the Blackmagic equipment [provides] us a high-quality output at a low bitrate, [which] has been key. … That’s actually been really important for some of our streams to be able to have a fluid stream without crashing online.”

Major League Soccer, through its MLS Insider video series, aims to strengthen the league’s fan base through player profiles and behind-the-scenes looks at its clubs. Hock Films’ Loch Phillips, who shoots and directs the series from locations around the globe, also relies on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF.

“The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is perfect because it’s tough and can withstand the heat and sun, and the compact and solidly built form factor means I don’t have to worry about bringing it on a plane or traveling with it,” says Phillips. “It also produces beautiful images. I don’t like to shoot in H.264 because there’s not a lot of latitude. With its 13 stops of dynamic range, the cinema camera’s color space is so much better than what you get with H.264.”

Because the Blackmagic Cinema Camera can shoot in RAW, ProRes, or DNxHD, Phillips can select ProRes and DNxHD to reduce the time spent in postproduction, which comes in handy when working on a tight timeline.

Both Schmitt and Phillips note that Cinema Camera gives player interviews, crowd shots, and team features a cinematic look without the need for expensive cinematic equipment.

“Professional soccer has really taken off in the U.S., and it’s only continuing to grow, as is evident from the increasing number of teams entering into the MLS,” says Kendall Eckman, regional manager, Western North America, Blackmagic Design. “It’s great to see organizations like Columbus Crew SC and MLS Insider using Blackmagic Design to help connect with fans, get them excited about the teams and players, and promote the league and the sport.”

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