Future Sports Media Offers Sports Clip Action at the Speed of Twitter
LiveReplayer—a software-based live production client from Future Sports Media—has gained below-the-radar commercial use with customers including Swedish ice hockey league HockeyAllsvenskan, Norwegian production company OB Team, and Scandinavian sports broadcaster C More.
"Our philosophy is to design everything with extreme simplicity of use," says Future Sports Media co-founder and CEO Mats Vindefjärd. "A lot of products claim to be really simple to use. We think we have taken that simplicity several steps further and like to say we can teach anyone with no background to run a full live production on it in just five minutes."
Even though the technology could be applied to news, entertainment, or security applications, Vindefjärd says the company remains concentrated on sports.
The firm's first product for live video clip creation and publishing to mobile phones launched in 2009, but proved to be ahead of the market.
"We were way too early. Online user behaviour wasn't mature enough; there weren't good enough payment or distribution mechanisms, and smartphones were just coming to market," says Vindefjärd, who has an engineering and business development background at Telia, Nokia, and HP. Founder and chairman Stefan Felter has engineering and research experience at Nokia, Saab, and Ericsson.
The software runs on Mac only, a conscious choice stemming from the company's belief in the many technical benefits the Mac platform has over PC. It is not planning to support any other platforms at the moment, but that this may change in the future.
LiveReplayer works with any encoder that receives AV using HDMI, and is compatible with Mac OS X. SDI or HDMI input signals are connected to the Mac's Thunderbolt port via a converter unit from Blackmagic Design. Picture and sound is output from the Mac HDMI port to an external encoder.
Importantly, it will also support IP based inputs (from IP cameras and network streams). If there are multiple simultaneous inputs, the user may mix these different types of signals simultaneously. As an example, there could be one or more manned SDI-camera and one or more unmanned (cheap) fix-mount IP cameras feeding into LiveReplayer at the same time. One click then yields a replay clip from each of the connected signals so that, for example, a goal can be replayed from multiple camera angles.
"Lots of development is being done right now, and some very cool updates are scheduled for release within a few months, including a very potent streaming encoder integrated right into LiveReplayer," says Vindefjärd.
LiveReplayer is installed on standard consumer hardware, and not a traditional replay machine consisting of proprietary hardware, electronics, and mechanics, he explains. There are features for sports-specific graphics and sponsor branding.
The second product, which builds on the company’s original founding idea, is just launched. LiveReplays takes the clips created in LiveReplayer and enables one-click publication via Future Sports Media's private cloud within seconds of the live action to sites embedded with its player. Applications include video-based live reporting and second-screen solutions supporting user-selectable multiple camera angles and slow motion.
"Our clients can themselves, through a back office web interface, set the service up, invoke other types of sponsor messages, control where to publish or distribute clips from every respective event," says Vindefjärd. "This end-to-end approach provides many benefits over less integrated solutions, including extremely quick publishing plus full control over the content at the fingertips of the production crew in the field."
Future Sports Media says several media publishing houses with large numbers of local and national newspapers, as well as regional TV channels, are ramping up their live production efforts and adding LiveReplayer and LiveReplays to the mix.
The system is designed to publish clips at pace with the live event on social media. An automatic Tweet function is planned to lure Twitter users to visit the channels.
"Before someone has the time to shout 'YEEEES 2-0!' on Twitter, there is a video clip of the goal already published in the club's or TV channel’s official channels," says Vindefjärd. "We will give clients the option to publish clips directly to social media feeds as well since this implies losing all or parts of the end-to-end control over content we place emphasis on promoting the client's 'own channels'."
Future Sports Media is privately held, has five permanent employees, and is preparing a financing round to close by Christmas.
"We are talking to major media houses which might have a hundred newspaper titles, or international organisations with multiple TV channels," says Vindefjärd. "We have maybe 15-20 of these cases in the pipeline. We expect a number of them to announce before the end of this year."
Traditional broadcasters are challenged by upstart online platforms that are doing a better job serving connected consumers. The trick is to join with OTT, but do so in a way that enhances—not overwhelms—the experience.