How are you doing sports broadcasts?

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How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby timinbovey » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:29 pm

I'm just wondering what the rest of the world is using to do local sports broadcasting. I come from a long line of long ago broadcasters, where we always had a landline, and if there wasn't one, we had the phone company put one in for that one game. Those days are long gone. We've done the cell phone thing for years now, but it always sounds pretty awful. Not nearly as good as a landline, anyway. Now, they're insisting on doing it with Skype, which for us means a JK Audio sports mixer into a laptop, and Skype back to the station. When we have a solid connection (which is about 50% of the time) this sounds pretty good, way better than anything we've done with a cell. When there's no wifi, we have an ATT Hotspot.

It seems to me that the way to do this nowadays is via internet, and I see all sorts of wonderful products advertised (Tieline, Comex, many others) that connect to wifi, 4G, 3G, landline, etc. But when you get right down to it, don't you still have to rely on what's available at the venue? If the sports guy walks into an arena, he's got cell or public wifi available, both of which are bogged down with hundreds of users during an event. I don't see how any of these fancy new products give you a better connection from the get-go. Am I wrong?

Now, I also happen to operate my own private, small sports broadcasting operation and we use an iPad fed with a Conex (that's Conex, not Comex) and we broadcast on the internet only, via Spreaker. We get fabulous sound, and for our listenership it's fine, and we're on the internet only. But again, we are at the mercy of the connections available. the nice thing about Spreaker is, it seems the audio stream is buffered and even if the listener gets some dead air, the archived broadcasts are perfect. Anyway, at the last event we did, he managed to get clearance and PW to use the secure wifi in the building and it completely blew away the public wifi and cell connections for the purpose. But Spreaker is not the right answer for live radio unless the announcer is running all the ads, etc himself from the site, due to the time lag in the feed. Although we DO do the theme music, break music, spots, etc ALL from the ipad in the Spreaker app from our broadcasts, and it *could* be done on radio too.... but I digress.

It seems a goon and not congested connection is the only answer to using the internet for broadcasting. How does one obtain this? We're in Northern Minnesota, rather rural up here, and cell and internet service can be flaky at times. Management has been on a quest to have good sounding sports broadcast for several years, and it seems to me the connection issue is the hurdle to overcome. The iPad gives us 3G, 4G, wifi, in an easy to carry and operate device and the mixer we use into it sounds great. But how to get around the congested network issues? Or plain ol' weak service -- 1 bar is never good!

We do a LOT of high school sports. On both an AM and FM. We can get away with marginal sound on the AM, but it really shows when it's bad on the FM.

So, we can get relatively nice sound with Skype when we have a good connection, otherwise it's typical cell phone audio, which is a JK plugged into the external mic on a flip phone (I haven't convinced them to go the smart phone route at all yet, even though it would eliminate the laptop). On my network, the iPad and mixer sounds fabulous on Spreaker, but I don't think good for "real radio"

So, what's everyone else using?

Tim in Bovey
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby TPT » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:48 pm

We're in rural West Virginia, and have tried Skype from time to time, usually with disappointing results unless we are hard wired into someone's network (for example, doing remotes from Suddenlink Cable's office). For sports broadcasts? Forgetaboutit! Too much money riding on the broadcasts to rely on anything that flaky.

When we are at home we use an RPU, but for away broadcasts we are usually too far out to use a Marti.

Tonight we are doing two away football broadcasts. Sold out, oversold, and looking for a guy with a striped shirt and a red hat to get more spots in. Both broadcasts on POTS (plain old telephone service). However...

At site we are using J-K Sports mixer, much like what you are using, with a pair of Beyer DT190 headset mikes. At the studio the coupler feeds 1/2 of an Orban 424 for leveling, then into an ART 31 band equalizer. The same set-up is used at those sites where we can't get a landline and must rely on cell. For the cell phone broadcasts we use a landline emulator (or home cell phone--haven't seen a good name for the unit) which has a modular the J-K plus into and a little whip antenna for a much more reliable signal.

Indeed, there are at least three stadiums we've run into that have absolutely no wired connections. No telephone, no internet. Brand new venues. What happens when you let the coaches and AD's design these things. At least we have good cell coverage at all three.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby ChuckG » Fri Aug 30, 2013 8:56 pm

Our stations use Skype for 95% of our remote broadcasts and sports now. We made arrangements with some schools to access their WiFI. Others would not hear of it.
Of course that isn't problem-free, sometimes they shut it off for the weekend or change passwords without updating us.
Second choice is a Cellcom 3-4G "mini wireless" connection, but as noted that can get congested at times and hiccup or drop out.
Backup to that is good ole cellphone and celljack. The less audio fed into one the better, BTW. Crowd mikes are the kiss of death for a cell remote.
We do have permanent Marti RPU installations at some local schools, particularly the football fields where wifi doesn't reach and two Marti relays for the really-distant schools. Leftover from the pre-cell and internet days that still comes in very handy.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby timinbovey » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:46 am

Skype seems to work most of the time, however it can often sound very "internetey" and I'm sure that's a factor of network congestion either at the remote site or back at the station.

We do have a Marti unit and it's used for virtually all of our in town remotes. It's vintage -- from the 70's, built like a tank and sounds fabulous. In 25 years of working for these stations, it's NEVER been used for sports. Maybe once or twice in an emergency. Sports guys bitch that it's big and heavy. No way to listen to the station (generally our nightime AM pattern is difficult to receive in a metal arena) there's no facility for several headsets with separate volume, in some venues we cause interference with the PA system, and the list goes on.

I look at devices from places like Tieline. Put the codec in the rack. Connect via the Report-It app on an idevice or android, and broadcast. Now, I realize you're still at the mercy of the public connection you can get, but the ad pitch seems to make it sound like this device has enough buffering and error correction that things will sound decent even in a congested network? I have very little knowledge of digital connecting and no experience with these "modern" devices. Would a Tieline Merlin (for example) at the studio and their app in an iPhone or iPad be an improvement over a cheap laptop at the game with skype and skype on a regular computer back at the station? Is the concept of a unit like a Tieline (and all the rest) that you connect from the site to the unit at the station more directly? Where when you use Skype for example, you go from the game to the internet to skypes servers, from them back into the internet, then on to the stations computer, where a Tieline goes from the site to the internet to the unit? Leaving out the "middleman" so to speak?

We do a LOT of games. Hundreds per year between the two stations. Generally all oversold. Of course management hates to spend anything on sports equipment, but yet complains that we don't sound as good as the stations broadcasting college games when they're using top of the line gear. But if I can demonstrate simplicity and substantial improvement in quality, I can get the bucks.

As I've said, using Spreaker for my own internet only broadcasts, through a Conex mixer and iPad we get stellar audio. The ads are also played form the site. It gets iffy if we have a really overloaded network at the site, which here in rural USA is pretty common when you get a ton of people in one place.

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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby Slab Bulkhead » Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:22 pm

I work with two stations that are covering high school sports. One is a Low Power FM that uses the Comrex Access system with the portable PDA-style unit on the road and the rack unit at the station. They generally use IP with a Verizon 4G hotspot or wi-fi if it's available at the venue. Before the Comrex came along, it was a Marti shot if in range, and cell phone or POTS line if not.

The other has a Tieline Commander rack unit at the station and either uses the Commander 3G mobile unit if a POTS line is available, or the Report-IT phone app if not. They don't have a hotspot or a tethering plan on the phone, hence using the app. No Marti there, so if the Commander doesn't work, it's POTS or cell phone

It sounds like we all have the same problems. The cell data connections around here aren't really subject to poor signal since it's a metro area, but data congestion on the networks is a big problem and both stations have been plagued with dropouts because of lack of consistent throughput. Wi-fi isn't always available at the sites, and when it is, it's either too congested if it's available to the public, or it's got overly restrictive firewalls that keep the codecs from connecting because their ports are blocked.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby TPT » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:07 pm

Skpe/Access/Tieline would all be nice if I could rely upon them--and the facilities were available. With some of our local schools we can't count on even getting a phone line installed, let alone having a snowball's chance of getting into an internet connection.

Agree with high levels--or noisy locations, being a problem with cellphone. Especially during basketball season. Even using headset mikes, if you are on the floor with the crowd behind you the signal will "swim."

So we concentrate on doing what we can with what comes off the phone line at the studio end.

We stream all the games. Take a listen game-coverage starts 7 EDT Friday; both of the games next week are on POTS lines: WXCR.Com or LiteRock93R.Com
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby TPT » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:10 pm

P.S.: Don't let your sales people listen in on line, they may get too many ideas. Our sales people sell or brand everything. Example: An injury report sponsored by the local nursing home.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby Shane » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:02 pm

Back in the 90's we used frequency extenders extensively! Single-line Comrex for University of Nebraska basketball, two-line for part or the football pre-game, and three-line for the game itself. Those multiline units sounded pretty good unless you lost line 1!

Today we use Skype a lot except for games. A couple of years ago we tried doing some high school football using Skype over a Cricket broadband USB modem with not terribly good results but found out that the laptop - which was running Vista - was the bigger problem. After turning off a bunch of stuff it worked better.

This year we were emboldened to use Skype again after having some success with baseball. Plan was to use the stadium WiFi. Mistake. Social media is blocked at the stadium where we do most of our games and that apparently includes Skype. Curiously, we can connect to Skype and be seen In the contact list on the other end as being on line. But any call attempts are met with "Call failed."

So for this we are back to POTS and an old Telfax/Marti box which sounds pretty good on a POTS line, better than the J-K Sport we sometimes use.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby Scott.Cason » Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:32 am

I have two stations broadcasting football. We tested, and had significant luck, with a couple of Barix boxes. In one county, the local provider has agreed to wire the pressboxes of the football field and basketball gyms which solves that problem. The other station uses a bridge that the name escapes me with Verizon's 4G service. We only broadcast home games for now, so it works so far. Sounds good (as long as they remember to watch their mic levels). This year we are experimenting with them logging into Nexgen and running their breaks from the remote site.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby amguy » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:42 am

Here is what we do. We use our Verizon data card if no WiFi. We have laptop connected to an Alexis mixer. That way the mixer is now the sound card. We use arrikas automation so we can run everything from site as all commercials at on laptop. If we are on WiFi we use gotomypc. Station logs into laptop at event and can hear audio. We can text back and forth for scores and such. If on Verizon card..we make sure that is plugged into laptop. That way its just a modem..to get audio back we use samcast. Laptop sends to server..station uses win amp to get to server to air game. There is another program cant rember name but has team in it that I've been told works good too. Questions....drop me a note! Brian Winnekins WRDN Radio, Durand,WI.
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby Baylink » Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:43 pm

One thought that occurs to me is this:

If you have a protocol that will work well over an IP link (get the glue right: my first rule of architectural design), and you have 4G coverage of any type for which a carrier has a packaged hotspot available...

while the FCC says you can't attach an external antenna to that unit, nothing says you can't put it on a stick and *stick it way up in the air*, if you have such a stick available.

It's amazing what 30 or 40 feet of altitude does for your signal strength...
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Re: How are you doing sports broadcasts?

Postby radiowave911 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:57 pm

We use a Tieline when we have POTS available to us. We also use A Zircom unit (we have two of them) as a backup or when we run multiple remotes. If not POTS, we use a flipjack, fed from either the Tieline or the Zircom audio outputs. On the station end, we have a Tieline (obviously), plus two of the SPH-20 Gentner hybrids for analog lines. We could (and have) run 3 sportscasts simultaneously (one on air, one one each of the two streams).
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