In NCAA Division I men’s basketball, the sixth man is not typically an encoding appliance. But for the University of Kentucky (UK) Wildcats, Matrox Monarch HDX is an indispensable member of the team. As one of the most successful programs in NCAA Division I history, leading the division with 2,293 all-time wins since the team’s inaugural season in 1903, UK men’s basketball has accumulated fans and recruitment hopefuls over the years. Catering to those fans and making player recruitment more efficient by capturing and recording video streams have become top priorities for the team.
Tim Asher, Director of Athletic Video and Team Technologies for UK Athletics (pictured above), says that before they purchased two Monarch HDX units, the video team had been capturing most of the men’s 25-35 games on cameras. However, the cameras’ 50-Mbps capture proved to be too high for the recording workflow; the team recorded to USB drives and SD cards for scaling and optimization for varying screen sizes.
Asher was searching for a flexible solution that would allow the team to record games in multiple bitrates: one high-quality version and one standard-quality version. The high-quality version would record to SD card so that content could later be edited for broadcast and viewing on the web. The standard-quality would be recorded onto a USB drive to be quickly uploaded onto iPads for easy-to-access recruiting material.
UK Athletics is now leveraging the dual-channel H.264 encoding power of their two Monarch HDX units to record two independent feeds. Having made NCAA championship tournament appearances nine of the past ten years, most of the Wildcats’ games are considered to be premier content on their opponents’ schedules. Accompanying the team at home or on the road is typically a big production crew in a TV truck, housing the Monarch HDX encoders, at least six cameras, and supporting gear.
From the SDI camera sources, video feeds travel to a switcher located in the TV truck. The feeds are then sent to the Monarch HDX units and recorded as MP4 files at two different bitrates: 20 Mbps and 5 Mbps. The 20-Mbps videos are saved to an SD card; the 5-Mbps are saved to a USB drive. The MP4 files typically contain footage of the game, coaches’ talks to players in the locker room, pre- and post-game commentary, plus other behind-the-scenes moments of the team throughout the season.
The 20-Mbps MP4 files are transferred from the SD card to Adobe Premiere Pro, where they are edited, and music and other effects added. The finished product is the Wildcats’ very own reality show–“This is Kentucky Basketball”—which is available online at the UK Athletics website. The show gives fans a chance to feel connected to the team on and off the court. The original footage is often also sent to a 15-channel TV network spanning Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia for wider broadcast.
The 5-Mbps files are usually transferred from a USB dive to a laptop, where they are then edited to create recruitment videos. The H.264 codec, which requires no transcoding before editing, allows for the quick pivot between editing and uploading the MP4 file and provides fast downloads for the content the coaches need. For example, when games are filmed at night, and the next day need to be played back on an iPad in a recruit’s living room, the video playback requires no special software.
“One of the main reasons that I went with Monarch HDX to begin with was, instead of having two pieces of equipment at different bitrates, I was able to use one piece of equipment, which was smaller in stature than I had previously been using to record those two different recordings,” said Asher. “For me, that was huge because I’m traveling to different places to record all of these games with our team, and having one less piece of gear to keep up with is very important.”
According to Asher, UK Athletics is now looking into also leveraging the dual-channel streaming and recording functionality of the Monarch HDX units. For members of the media who are not able to attend the coaches’ press conferences, UK Athletics will soon be streaming them live via UKAthletics.com with one unit, while recording them with another unit.
The Matrox HDX dual-channel encoder is ideal for use in broadcast or wherever an SDI or HDMI source needs to be sent to Facebook Live or YouTube Live, while simultaneously recording or streaming to a second location, including with closed-captioning.