In 2014 and 2015 I used Periscope and Twitter to live broadcast segments of the Crit under the Castle, a incorporating the Scottish circuit race champsionships. Held in Stirling in June, on a closed-road city centre circuit, the events have proven to be a massive success, thanks in no small part to the vision of Stirling Bike Club chairman Norrie Petrie, and the hard work of his committee and army of volunteers.
Norrie explained some of the work that went in to how the club organised these events in a previous episode of my Scottish cycling podcast.
What sort of races are good for live broadcast?
- Crits- I have broadcast 2 crits, and you get the chance to show plenty of action, as the riders come back around frequently. You can move to the finish line to catch the end of the race. You can easily move around the course. Crits tend to have an announcer more often that road races, and you can position yourself nearby to take advantage.
- Cyclocross – for the same reasons as crits! The courses are often more interesting, and with run-ups, bombholes or barriers, you can get spectators to congregate. Live stream where you have the best atmosphere.
- Track – in a closed environment, a track event could be good to broadcast. You might get a good wi-fi connection and could sit in spectator seating.
- MTB XC – cross country courses will have some interesting features that would be good for live broadcast, as you catch different riders choosing their line down a descent, for example. Laps are longer so you may have to broadcast intermittently.
- MTB DH – similar to XC, you’ll need to find a nice course feature and position yourself there. Fill the gaps between riders with banter and see how long you can keep going.
- BMX – perfect for live broadcasting! You have a short circuit, a fast event, and ideally a high vantage point to catch everything.
What sort of races are not good for live broadcast?
- Road races – you could position yourself at a key climb and capture some action but it will be brief. Identifying riders and race numbers is tricky at speed. If you’re at a finish line, why not turn on your camera and see how many people tune in though? Capturing the podium presentations are good for sponsors, friends and family but aren’t particularly captivating as live content.
- Time trials – not the most exciting races to watch at the best of times. They are made interesting for the viewer by data – time splits, average speeds, wattage. You are going to have to work pretty hard to keep an audience! Rider interviews before and after their effort might be better.
What skills and knowledge do I need to live broadcast an event?
- Commentatary – the ability to chat and cover the race, similar to the role of the PA announcer
- Knowledge of the riders.
- Knowledge of previous editions of the race and the current season in general.
- Printouts of the race schedule, start sheets and sponsor info are very beneficial.
- None of the above – you can still switch on your live broadcast and film it without any commentary, but I found that people enjoyed it much much more when I gave my spin on things.
What kit do I need to live broadcast an event?
- An up-to-date mobile phone
- A Wi-fi or at least 3G mobile data connection
- Good battery life, backed up a portable USB battery
- Decent amount of data on your contract, I’d say 1GB remaining
- EITHER: Twitter app with an existing engaged following and the Periscope app
- OR: Facebook app with a good club group
What is Periscope?
Periscope is a live-streaming app for Apple / IOS and Android phones. It integrates with Twitter and allows the user to broadcast live video over wi-fi or mobile data connections. I used it at Crit under the Campus in an experimental way, to connect with the @castle_crit twitter following and provide some visual highlights, over and above the text and picture updates that are typically provided via twitter.
What even is Twitter?
If you are reading this, I’d expect you must have heard of twitter, but if you are unsure of how it can be used for a cycling club, why not read my post on how to run a twitter account for your cycling club. Cycling, as a worldwide sport with an international of fans, seems to have a strong community on Twitter. In many parts of the UK this filters down to the local club and racing scene.
What is Facebook live?
If your club and members aren’t Twitter users, good news! Facebook has recently introduced live broadcasting to its mobile app. The bad news is that it’s available mostly to Apple phones only at the moment (June 2016) and is being rolled out gradually to Android users. When you post from Facebook, you can do live broadcasts if you have this icon: Facebook help shows you how to do live broadcasts.
If you are doing the Facebook live broadcast from your personal Facebook page, you will want to be sure that I’d recommend sharing your Facebook live broadcast to your club Facebook group, or to another cycling group in your area, which has lots of members who will want to see your video.
Starting your broadcast – Twitter and Periscope
I have most experience with Twitter and Periscope, so I’ll share my knowledge on this. Before you broadcast your race, I’d recommend doing some tests to get a feel for it. Get your phone out at the start of your club run or chaingang, or at the coffee stop.
- The user has to have the Twitter app and have access to the club or other race account, and be logged in to that account.
- You then open Periscope and ensure that you are logged in ‘as’ the the right twitter account, rather than your personal twitter account.
- Give the broadcast a title that identifies what you are filming, e.g. “Mens E123 crit championships”
- Broadcasts are currently prefixed with the text “Live on Periscope” – this is a good hook.
- Clicking the location button to ‘on’ seems a good idea.
- Clicking the tweet button is very important. This will tweet a link to your Twitter followers that a broadcast is starting. People can now watch Periscope broadcasts from within Twitter.
- Anyone who has already downloaded Periscope and are following your Twitter account should receive a notification on their phone that we have started broadcasting.
- Start filming and try to add some chat!
During the broadcast!
- Keep the phone orientated vertically – if you use a landscape orientation, people watchin on mobile will be able to rotate their phone, but people viewing on a desktop computer will have to twist their head – the system is designed for vertical orientation.
- As the day went on, I realised that I was getting many more viewers if I left the broadcast running for several minutes. (initially I was worried about data consumption and that the clips would be boring if I filmed the course with no riders, but this didn’t seem to matter – it’s better to keep the ‘cameras rolling’)
- After watching my clips back – I realised I wasn’t keeping my phone on the action as closely as I thought I was – it would have been good to find an ideal vantage point and stay there. As it was I was behind spectators a lot of the time.
- I felt I was really adding to the coverage by commenting on who had attacked – this is easy where riders are well-known. A bit of prep can go a long way and you start to realise how hard it must be to do fully live TV commentary.
- During broadcast, viewers can ask questions, which is great – but it can be easy to miss them if you have sunlight on your screen. Providing interaction with the viewers is a great thing.