Vans uses TriCaster and 3Play to catch "Off the Wall" action

NewTek Customer Story

All the young dudes were out in force one sunny August weekend, when the Vans Downtown Showdown skateboard event rolled into Paris.

With €50,000 prize money at stake for the twelve teams in competition, the event promised to be serious fun. The live streaming specialists, 3XScreen Media, captured it all using NewTek TriCasters, 3Play instant replay and LiveText graphics.

Van’s designs and distributes a wide range of specialist shoes and apparel targeted at the skateboarding community, both skaters and fans. The brand is promoted using a packed calendar of sponsored global events and a constantly updated Web and social media presence. Vans’ brand strap line is “off the wall” and the coverage for the event, just like their in-house VOD channel at, needs to promote the brand as young and exciting, urban and immediate.

“We’ve done BMX and skateboard events for Vans before, but Downtown Showdown is by far the biggest event of any kind for Vans in Europe, and the biggest skateboard event in Europe,” says Scott Robinson, Managing Director, 3XScreen Media, which produced the event with Factory Media.

No-barriers outreach
The Vans marketing team had two objectives: Get customers to Paris and immerse them in the event, and engage with the community digitally in other parts of the world.

Nick Street, Senior Marketing Manager, Vans EMEA, explains: “Only so many people can actually come to the event, so live streaming is a way of making a wider audience part of the experience. VANS consumers engage on multiple social platforms, and they consume media a lot quicker; they want to go and get things instantly, and they want to be part of it. That’s really a great opportunity for us.”

“These events are great for promoting our brand”, Nick continued, “The style of production aligns with our brand values. Skateboarders are a global community that want immediate access to, and involvement with the events.”

VansThe skateboard competition saw twelve teams skating four obstacles, each one representing a Parisian icon; from the Eiffel Tower, to a designer suitcase obstacle representing Parisian chic! The skaters, as well as peripheral art and music events, were filmed and streamed live to screens around the venue, as well as to various Web platforms, and the footage was recorded for later use.

Multi-camera, multi-action
“Vans’ brief was that the production needed to be cost-effective; to be broadcast-quality; and to be innovative,” says Scott. “Those things are really what the NewTek kit brings to our workflow.”

3XScreen Media has been using NewTek TriCasters for three years, producing around 60 productions each year. “TriCaster and 3Play are a fundamental part of our live production workflow,” says Scott. “Without them we couldn’t do the kind of productions our customers expect.”

VansThe workflow for the Downtown Showdown consisted of 12 cameras, all feeding back to an on-site production studio which housed a TriCaster 850 and a TriCaster 855, plus a NewTek 3Play system for instant slo-mo’s, replays and highlights, plus NewTek LiveText for graphics. The 850 was used to feed the local screens, principally the programme output that was also streaming to the Vans website, while the 855 was the principal production machine for both the sport side of the event and the interviews, and reporting during the competition.

The camera set-up included a number of innovations to keep the content fresh and exciting. “We had Go Pro Hero 3 cameras on small travel jibs for capturing the action from above. We can use those with the TriCaster as we can input almost any signal.” says James Peilow, Online Video Producer and Engineer, 3XScreen Media. “We also used the Teradek Bolt wireless system which allowed us to use our overhead camera without cables, and the camera team had some handheld wireless cameras to get around the venue easily without worrying about being tethered or getting in the way of the skaters.”

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TV-quality highlights

Instant replay is a huge part of any sporting event, and the slow motion element provided by 3Play instant replay system beautifully highlighted the movement of the skaters. The system also brought other benefits to the production, as Scott explains.

“Being able to link 3Play into our live sports productions like Downtown Showdown, makes a huge difference to the production values of the event. Traditional replay machines are out of our league in terms of hire and operator costs, but 3Play allows us to bring in cost-effective instant replays and highlights packages,” he says. “In addition, using 3Play in conjunction with TriCaster on this event meant that we could take eight cameras into the TriCasters and a further four into the 3Play over the network. On an event like this, camera sources are gold! So being able to bring in network sources is very beneficial, and the two systems work together very well. Our team is also multi-disciplinary, and everyone is familiar with all of the NewTek kit, which means that the same guys who do live switching can also do replay.”

The slow motion element provided viewers with multiple angles of the same action, and gave the production team some breathing space, since they could create a playlist to play out between events while they were preparing for the next lot of live footage.

Gleaming the production cube
The team also used NewTek LiveText for its dynamic graphics. James recalls, “As we were interviewing people, we were adding in lower thirds on the fly and animating them in and out. There was no pre-rendering, so we could adapt to any changes or create new name straps for surprise guests; Live Text allowed us to be prepared for the unexpected.”

The live stream programme output was sent back, via LiveU to 3XScreen Media’s master control room in London where it was recorded through another TriCaster. Some additional graphics were added and then it was published through Elemental encoders to eight different platforms and around 100 different websites. Various versions of the programme output – dirty, clean, with and without commentary – were also recorded for the later creation of a TV programme.

Scott credits the NewTek equipment as a major factor in the creation of a high quality yet cost-effective production. “For this kind of production, if we didn’t have TriCasters and 3Play, we’d need an OB truck five times bigger than the one we had, we’d need a huge production crew plus drivers, riggers and the like. Today, thanks to NewTek, we are able to do a 12-camera, broadcast-quality production with 15 people.”

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