There has never been a time in our lives where sporting footage has been more in demand.
Fewer Supporters allowed to matches, a better uptake in the use of technology across the general population, and an acceptance that video is essential for sporting organisation’s digital media presence have all contributed to this.
Working at Coach Logic, we get a lot of questions about which video camera we would recommend, how do you live stream, what’s the best set-up? etc. Not having much expertise in the subject, we have asked others in the past, but we thought given filming and streaming is going to take off in a big way this season it was time to get out there and upskill ourselves.
This post explains the various experiments we have done in the process, which of them worked and which of them didn’t. It’s been an exploration and I guess, the process is continually evolving. The intention is to be open and detail how it has gone and not hold any secrets to ourselves. It is in everyone’s interest for filming and live streaming to become more mainstream, especially at cost-effective levels.
Experiment 1 - Dollar Academy vs. Mary Erskine’s School, 15th June 2021
The first experiment was done at Dollar Academy. After being unable to get the Aver Media encoder (it connects the video camera footage to the computer) to work with Jamie’s 4K video camera that he borrowed from the SRU we were forced to film with my phone. This was a Huawei p20 Pro. Mark did the filming and possibly due to our elevated position at Dollar it turned out not too bad. You could see the full game from an end-on-end perspective.
Experiment 2 - Dollar Academy vs. Stewart’s Melville, 15th June 2021
The second part of the day at Dollar Academy was the boy’s rugby match. Due to the quick turnaround, we decided to try the phone again and stream to Facebook Live. This time we used Jamie’s iPhone, which was an Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max. The quality came out at 480p, which was a little disappointing, but the footage is watchable. If the ball was close to where we were filming from it is possible to watch in detail. If the ball is on the far touchline it is much harder to see. The footage can be seen here.
Experiment 3 - Currie Chieftains vs Stirling County, 17th July
The next experiment was at Currie’s Malleny Park. As part of pre-season, Currie Chieftains played Stirling County. As Stirling County’s competitive season was due to begin the following week they were not keen on the match being streamed publicly. We, therefore, had to stream via a private Facebook group, called Coach Logic Connect. I used my own phone, a One Plus 9 Pro, which had been upgraded since the Dollar match.
As you can see from the image, streaming to a Facebook group is not recommended because of the poor quality. Given no one was watching the match, I think the quality was automatically set lower by Facebook’s settings. It was published at 480p. When uploading to Coach Logic the quality was even worse, essentially unwatchable. I would not recommend streaming to a private Facebook group.
Experiment 4 - Currie Chieftains vs. Watsonians Rugby, 19th August
For this one, I roped in the expertise of Aiden, one of the Coach Logic developers. He suggested using a browser-based solution called StreamYard. We connected up a budget video camera we had, namely the Sony HDR-PJ410, which cost £219 a few years ago. The camera itself provided a reasonable quality stream which through Streamyard was broadcast to the Coach Logic Facebook and YouTube channels. The YouTube stream can be found here and Facebook link.
For this method to work we had to buy an Elgato Cam Link 4K cable which cost £86.99 and a Streamyard subscription which cost £36 per month. There are other packages to Streamyard, including a free version, but we wanted the professional plan which allowed for dual-broadcast ability (i.e. Facebook and YouTube) and then 1080p video. There are other browser and desktop solutions available such as Restream, Streamlabs and Melon. We plan to look into cheaper alternatives in more depth.
This was the most comprehensive streaming experience so far. The footage is watchable. It does flicker and is unstable at too many points. It is worth comparing against the footage David Sloan is able to generate from the other side of the pitch. An example game he has streamed can be found here.
The quality is noticeably better and David’s stabler filming location and better tripod make for more stable footage with smoother zooming in and out. I personally like the ref’s audio which I feel adds to the game as well.
Experiment 5: Royal High RFC vs. Murrayfield Wanderers, 21st August
Fresh from the upgrade in output in the Currie match a couple of days back, I headed to Royal High to film their game against Murrayfield Wanderers. My dad actually did the filming and I ‘worked’ Streamyard. The Facebook link can be viewed here: and YouTube here.
The filming position at Royal High is such that there is an embankment at the side of the pitch. This meant that the camera was positioned on a tripod on the ground, and not shaky scaffolding and shaky tripod which was the case at Currie’s Malleny Park. The match would have benefitted from the additional height that scaffolding would have provided. In my opinion, my dad filmed the game a little too close to the action. This could be because he was a forward or alternatively that he is a fan and wants to get as close to the action as possible. It was raining quite heavily throughout the full match and my dad used a plastic cover for the camera to protect it. I think this affected the resolution a bit.
The quality of the stream was decent, however. It is available on Facebook at 720p which is higher than the two previous games. The camera used was still a Sony handheld camera but it was more expensive than the one used at Currie. It cost roughly £375 according to my dad.
In terms of Streamyard, we trialled the clock countdown and some sponsor overlays/logos. Streamyard is not cheap at £35 per month, but the functionality it provides could be invaluable for boosting sponsor’s exposure and thus generate greater revenue for the club.
Experiment 6: Heriot’s Blues vs. Currie Chieftains, 28th August
Feeling a little more confident now I headed to Goldenacre and set up the same scaffolding used at Malleny Park, to try to recreate the situation that many clubs could use if they don’t have a stand/stadium where a camera person can gain natural elevation.
I am aware of the phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ but again I am disappointed in the poor quality in comparison to Currie’s regular videographer David Sloan. Admittedly, this comparison is raw footage (so not from a stream) but there the comparison is night and day and as a coach or player you’d only want to watch one of the videos.
The scaffolding set up at Heriot’s Goldenacre pitch.
So, what have I learned?
It has been a fast learning experience in terms of filming. Over the past five matches these are what I have learned:
- Elevation - film from an Elevated position. Ideally a stand, but if not scaffolding can be used. Try to ensure it is secured and fastened down.
- Video Camera - the difference between David Sloan’s output (https://youtu.be/TAeo2kIum4U) and ours (https://youtu.be/r8JxwB4ayno) is pretty evident. I would ideally like to use a camera in the £500 - £700 range to see if we can match David’s quality. I asked a friend to recommend articles and they came back with this one which gives a breakdown of what is required for good quality footage.
- Tripod - the tripod we initially used is not fit for purpose, if used on scaffolding that is not 100% solid. A tripod upwards of £50 should be used. For the last match we used a tripod that was extremely heavy, but felt solid, and made for a much more pleasant filming experience.
- Streamyard - we like this and would be keen to use it more and explore how to work with sponsors more closely to show their brands through Streamyard. The £35 per month subscription isn’t really feasible on a budget though so we would explore other solutions as well.
- Elgato 4k Cam Link - this is a superb ‘plug-and-play’ solution and great value for money.
- Hotspot - my phone contract is with Three and I have a data package of 100gb per month. Each game I tend to use between 1 and 2gb of data, which is perfectly fine. From speaking to others with more knowledge in this subject, the mobile reception doesn’t influence the end output that much. So Three compared to BT, EE, O2 for example shouldn’t make much difference. Similarly, getting a mobile hotspot hardware solution that is not connected to a mobile phone doesn’t seem to be an option worth pursuing either.
- Phone Lens - although we have been unable to create good video footage using the phone, we haven’t given up on using the phone on it’s own and will persevere. The major benefit to this is there’s no need for an Elgato or other encoder and the streaming can be done direct. There are a range of lens available and perhaps we will buy one for videography purposes. We will report back on the progress of this. https://www.imore.com/best-lenses-and-lens-kits-shooting-video-your-iphone
- Preparation - I know there are 14 year olds who stream with absolutely no anxiety to whatever online platform they are using, but it is not as simple as they make out! A bit of preparation is required and speaking with others to discuss the set up has been beneficial for me.
- Generating Sponsorship revenue - I would like to use the output from David’s camera, tripod, filming experience and then utilise Streamyard to go live on YouTube and Facebook and trial some of their additional features so every game has a scoreboard with live score and time in the match, to provide context and relatability. Currie Chieftains could get extra revenue through streaming ads during the live broadcast and this is something I’d like to explore.
A few people asked about David Sloan's set-up. We asked him via WhatsApp and this is what he said:
Our equipment: Canon Legria HF G30 - a top end consumer video camera which shares some features with pro-consumer cameras. Getting old now and not 4k. It has dual record capability which means I can record in ‘near broadcast quality’ and also a lower Mbits setting which is suitable for web upload. Obviously other manufacturers also make suitable video cameras. Unless you want HQ film most cheaper consumer cameras will be fine.
Tripod - I use an old Velbon - their DV-7000 is similar and that is what the club have for the other cameras. Don’t get a cheap light tripod if you want steady film. More expensive professional tripods are clearly very good but we can manage without at our level.
Streaming. I use an Elgato Game Capture HD60 box. This gadget is intended primarily for online gaming. I started years ago with some old Elgato equipment to compress my files and have just continued with what I know. I use its own Game Capture software but I am well aware that there are other applications which are probably more suitable. I just stick with what I know. The software enables me to take out the ref mic for public consumption and replace with ambient sound from another microphone connected to the laptop.
That’s basically it. Obviously you need a computer (laptop in most scenarios) and various cables - HDMI from camera to Game Capture box which then connects to computer by usb. Obviously also need wifi! Although the club does now have wifi at the stand we continue to use mobile internet which is also needed at most away venues. Mobile internet usually uploads at the same speed as download and is often therefore faster than most home broadband providers (At home I now have Vodafone broadband through Cityfibre who cabled this area last year. It has fast upload speed equal to download). However streaming does not need an excessive bandwidth. Our YouTube stream is much the same quality as the file we upload to CL. I could up the quality especially now 4g mobile internet is better in many areas. Normally we use 3-4 GB per match and mobile internet is now not as expensive as it was. You can connect through a mobile phone but I’m told that it is not very good for the phone’s battery life. We have a small mobile wifi gadget - came from EE and called ‘Osprey’. I need a new one as mine can be temperamental. Most of the mobile phone companies have them.”