High-Resolution Sports Broadcasting Is Easier Than You Think

3 min

Sports are one of the higher education sector’s biggest products. Football and basketball have become staple entertainment events for colleges and universities, generating valuable revenue and bolstering their reputations. A professional team requires a professional broadcast setup to give audiences the best possible experience.

Modern high-definition TVs with fast refresh rates demand higher-quality images. Even tablets and phones now feature crisp, sharp displays carefully honed for vibrant video. Thanks to modern technology, college and universities can build sports broadcast systems at relatively low cost. They can offer the same high-quality output that used to be exclusively reserved for the big networks.

Here’s how your education institution can build a world-class broadcast system that will help put your team on the map and draw much-needed attention in this competitive space.

Achieve quality video with high-resolution cameras

One piece of equipment makes all the difference at the sharp end of a college or university sports broadcast: the camera. The past few years have seen falling prices and rising quality as image resolution improves. Now, 4K ultra-high resolution (UHD) is within most colleges’ reach, providing crisp images that capture everything on the field or court, even in a long shot.

There are other important camera features beyond resolution, too. One of these is sensitivity. The farther away an image is, the smaller the lens aperture (the F-stop) must be to focus on it. Cameras require more light (measured in lux) to get the image through a smaller aperture, creating a trade-off between focal length and sensitivity. Sports broadcasts demand the best of both worlds, with crisp long shots that pop. Their high-sensitivity CMOS (active pixel) sensors ensure that Panasonic cameras deliver, picking up sharp images with minimal noise even when focusing on action in the distance.

A camera must also be able to capture that action at a high frame rate. Some Panasonic broadcast cameras can film fast-moving sports events at up to 240 frames per second. This enables directors to adjust the action for super-smooth slow-motion replay that retains vital detail. It was a key selling point for Georgia Tech Athletics, which deployed 13 Panasonic AK-HC5000 cameras to broadcast a wide array of varsity sports.

Manage the broadcast experience from the control room 

At the other end of the production chain is the control room. This is where directors and technicians transform raw video into irresistible sports broadcast experiences. First, the video has to get there from the camera.

Panasonic’s cameras can deliver ultra-high definition video over industry-standard Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMTPE) cable. They support both traditional industry serial digital interface (SDI) formats and modern IP for better quality and more functionality, including easier streaming to over-the-top (OTT) environments.

Getting power to the cameras while operating remotely has also historically been a challenge in busy sporting environments. Control units can help here, too. The AK-UCU600 camera control unit sends power to cameras up to 6,600 feet away via its power over ethernet (PoE) feature. This also enables it to control the camera and IP streams.

At the back end, the control room technicians have a range of solutions to help them produce broadcast-quality images from the video. These include production monitors like the Panasonic BT-LH1770, which offers accurate gradation reproduction via 10-bit processing. That enables technicians to coordinate shading across multiple cameras to ensure consistency across all incoming images.

Control units are the key to distribution in the control room or rooms. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) used multiple control rooms when it installed multiple Panasonic cameras to capture live sporting events, along with pre-game shows. One room handles broadcast to its external partners, including Time Warner and the CW Network. The other handles its in-house video.

RIT makes maximum use of its cameras by connecting them to both control rooms. This enables directors in each room to share the cameras for their own streams.

Each room also has access to robotic camera control stations that enable operators to control the pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) camera stations remotely. That lets them easily follow the action both in the game and in the audience between game periods. Panasonic’s hardware-based controllers feature joystick-based control for hundreds of PTZ robotic cameras, along with dozens of camera presets for easy management and PoE power for minimal cabling issues.

Build your dream sports broadcasting system

These relatively low-cost options bring high-quality sports broadcasting within the reach of more college and university teams. They open up sports broadcasts to a broad array of varsity sports beyond the most popular football, basketball and baseball options. If you haven’t explored sports broadcasting yet, it’s high time you did. If you already have a production system, consider leveling up. Whether you're looking for professional-grade video switchers or the best auto tracking camera for live streaming sports, Panasonic Connect has got you covered.