The complete LiveShot system was 20% of the cost of running fiber to the playing field
CHARLESTON, IL—For the last 15 years, I’ve worked as a broadcast engineer for WEIU Television and Radio, the PBS-affiliated broadcasting stations at Eastern Illinois University (EIU). This means I do everything from transmitter maintenance and desktop computer support, to streaming live events (like commencements), to supporting newsroom operations. Additionally, I provide engineering support for the sports television broadcasts produced by the EIU Athletic Department for ESPN+.
When ESPN began working with the athletic department, they wanted EIU to provide live coverage which included the university’s soccer, baseball, and softball teams. Most of these games take place on fields that are on the edge of the main campus, and campus Wi-Fi coverage in that area was spotty at best.
Cheaper than Fiber
We initially proposed to run fiber-optic cables across the campus to the playing fields, but after examining the cost of installing fiber, it was clear that this wasn’t within our budget. We then examined wireless IP, but this would require students to aim antennas and still require the addition of long cable runs at the receive site. Finally, we decided that the best option would be using cellular—half of the cell towers in our county are located on EIU’s campus, so we’ve got the benefit of a reliable data network.
I looked into various wireless IP video platforms, and Comrex’s LiveShot was the clear choice for us. Because we’re eligible for a reduced-cost data package through the state of Illinois, it’s a massive plus to not have to subscribe through an equipment manufacturer. The complete LiveShot system was 20% of the cost of running fiber to the playing fields, and it was a plus that we would own the equipment outright. Additionally, because we have a Comrex ACCESS NX audio codec for our radio station, I knew that Comrex equipment and customer support were reliable.
Ease of Use & Remote Control
We use a remote truck for our broadcasts, so I built up a mount for our LiveShot Portable unit in our equipment racks, where it’s easy for students to access. Since all of ESPN+ sports programming is student-run, everything we use needs to be intuitive, so that our students can learn the ropes.
It’s been very easy to teach them how to use it. I pre-configure the equipment so that once the students are in the field, they can just push a button to get connected. I’m able to show them the interface, and they generally don’t struggle to understand it. Plus, LiveShot comes with the “LiveShot Control” smartphone app which allows me to check on the unit configuration from my phone and make adjustments as needed without needing to be in the field with them. If a student calls me in a panic, I’m able to identify the problem and walk them through it immediately.
With LiveShot, we’ve also benefited from the reliable quality it provides. We use CrossLock, the network management tool that’s included with LiveShot. We use just two modems, and once they’re connected, it’s rock solid. Per ESPN+ standards, we broadcast in 720p, and we’ve never had an issue with the connection breaking up. Plus, the video quality is excellent.
I’ve used Comrex equipment in one form or another since 1980. Without a doubt, Comrex has met our needs on every occasion, both in radio and in television. LiveShot is an incredibly well thought-out device that comes with a great price, solid reliability, and excellent support. There’s a lot of competition out there, but I’m always eager to choose Comrex when the need arises.
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Originally published in TV Technology. View here.
The author, Dennis Riley, is the broadcast engineer for WEIU-TV and Hit Mix 88.9 FM.