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Behind the scenes: AFC Media's Bite live streaming
01/31/2019 9:01 PM ET
An AFC Media cameraman at third base filming during an Adelaide Bite home game
An AFC Media cameraman at third base filming during an Adelaide Bite home game 

Inside a nondescript ATCO Hut behind the main grandstand of Adelaide Bite's baseball stadium at West Beach, there's a full container of crispy, golden hot chips placed on a table next to AFC Media Director Brayden Chamberlin. 

There is also a Blackmagic production switcher, three monitors, an iMac, two MacBook Pros as well as a labyrinth of cables and assorted control room equipment used to deliver tonight's live broadcast direct to fans via Facebook and YouTube.

The multiview output showcases live feeds from the five cameras coming into the switcher and is mesmerising to watch all the action from various angles unfolding on one display.

But it is still the hot chips which fascinate me the most, totally ignored and completely out of place amongst thousands of dollars of the latest technology.


Live coverage of the Bite's home game against the Sydney Blue Sox is minutes away from commencing and the crew members located within the portable building are fully focused on the task at hand.

The crew

Sitting alongside Brayden is Producer Lisa Brougham, who puts in a mountain of work behind-the-scenes leading into each game.

During the broadcast, she is responsible for keeping the crew to the rundown she has created.

"Lisa communicates with our commentators via headset to tell them how long is left on packages, what to talk about next or what else is coming up on the program," Brayden explained.

"She works right next to our graphics op to make sure all the visuals going to air are accurate and correct.

"The graphics op is constantly editing and putting graphics to air, including player supers, stats, weather conditions and most importantly, the scoreboard. They take cues from the Director as to when to put each graphic on air.

"We then have an audio operator who looks after all the external and internal communications to make the overall coverage more exciting."

There are four camera operators around the venue capturing all the action, including AFC Media team members Jake Zappia and Blake Stringer.

Jake stands on a scaffold at centre field just beyond the outfield wall, approximately 120 metres away from home plate. Most of the pitches are shot from this camera.


Meantime, Blake is situated directly behind home plate on the upper levels of the main grandstand with a primary task of following the ball in play.

One of the other fixed camera operators is located on first base, while the fourth is a roaming camera that can go anywhere in the stadium whilst also covering third base when needed. There is also a GoPro mounted in the home bullpen for an additional camera angle.

Coverage begins

With the game now on air, Brayden confidently delivers instructions at a rapid rate over the intercom system to the camera ops around the stadium.

The hot chips remain untouched.

"Standby (camera) one. Standby (camera) three. Take three. Standby (camera) five," Brayden calls.

"Can you expose down? Give us that and pull focus. Just that exact shot you had.

"Zoom out a little bit. Go left, go left, just there. Pull focus.

"Standby five. Just stay there, five. Cue Comms. Lose small box (score graphic).

"One, go in. Five, can you get the pitcher?"

To the average punter, the words make little sense.

But the critical part of the Director's role is to make instant decisions on which camera feeds appear on the broadcast to ensure high quality coverage, and Brayden's instructions dictate what the vision looks like, which he can switch to via the buttons in front of him.

It's a task that takes incredible focus, and one that I needed Brayden to explain.

"Basically, I'm in charge of the final product that goes to air, including what the cameras look like, what cameras are on air and which packages and graphics actually make it through," he said.

"I oversee the entirety of the product by communication with the producer, camera operators, graphics operator and audio operator.

"In simple terms, I sit there for about three hours pushing buttons and talking constantly. I'm often my own worst critic when there is the odd slip-up that makes it to air, but it's very satisfying at the end of a stream when we've successfully delivered the event to positive fan feedback."

What nobody sees...

The details above only cover a fraction of what goes into each live stream.

Many of the crew involved have been at West Beach since 1pm for the 7.20pm start.

"Generally, Lisa, myself and one other crew member will arrive six hours before the game to start rigging all the camera equipment," Brayden told me.

"Four hours before the game, the graphics operator arrives and starts working with Lisa to start preparing graphics. This includes grabbing team sheets and making individual stat graphics for each batter and pitcher that could take the field that game.

"Two hours before the game, the rest of the crew arrives. One camera operator will go out and get some pre-game colour vision that can be played in the live intro.

"The other camera operators will check their equipment and then all will attend a production meeting to go through the rundown.

"An hour before the game, the commentators will arrive to complete a sound check. We'll run through a final rehearsal 30 minutes before one quick final break and then it's live and on-air and go-go-go for the next three hours."

The coverage is about much more than baseball; the crew involved are committed to delivering a form of entertainment and the electric stadium atmosphere, all showcased through the on-air product.

"We put a lot of emphasis in trying to replicate the game day experience to the fans who can't be at the ballpark," Brayden said.

"This includes direct interactions and bringing crowd entertainment to life through our coverage."

 

Live stream complete

From a broadcast perspective, things have gone relatively smoothly but there's little celebration coming from the crew.

The feeling is more one of relief with AFC Media's 9th live stream of the ABL season successfully delivered.

One of the freelance camera operators returns to the ATCO Hut and spots the full container of chips still in front of Brayden.

Four hours after being cooked, the chips are now cold, soggy and limp. But the fact they are still there, untouched, reflects the true intensity of a live broadcast production.

The cameraman picks at a few damp chips and offers them around, but nobody else is brave enough.

There are still cables and equipment to be packed up before the crew can call the season a wrap.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.