Saturday, 3 September 2011

WCBU 2011, Hot and Streamy

When we were asked to lead/be the media team for WCBU 2011 we were a little bit...'Us?!'. I'm pretty sure we've said this before but Tom and I have no formal media training or experience beyond this BlockStack TV thing we do. It's a hobby like stamp collecting or lighting your farts. Still, we agreed and since early 2011 have been engaged in largely skyped based meetings about how to do it, what we needed, who should be involved and as a result, generally set our sights fairly lofty.

Facebook pages, promotions, news articles, competitions, the daily podcast, live streamed games FROM THE BEACH and a team to get all this done. Easy!

Skip the end, we hope you enjoyed when we brought to you! We attempted, as best we could, to bring you live streamed games direct from two different locations separately merely by a few thousand metres of golden sand. Additionally we filmed edited and released our usual daily podcasts featuring lots of interviews, perspectives, controversy and game highlights! The podcasts went really well as usual. They can still be seen along with all of our previous podcasts via our website ( The live streaming (our first ever attempt)...let's just say the hurdles were many.

The Hurdles
First we needed to get wired internet from the adjacent government buildings to the beach, and/or, get a strong enough wireless upload from the nearby GeTur sports facility that allowed us to stream the love, uninterrupted, and in something that resembled a resolution high enough that you wouldn't be expecting an ATARI logo on it. Let's not forget the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th hurdles. Hurdle #2: We needed a video camera with a good enough picture in a variety of light conditions that would stream the picture as it was filmed, via firewire, to a laptop. Hurdle #3: We needed a laptop that had enough balls under the hood and the software technology (and somebody who knew how to use it) to be able to connect to the internet and fire out the red hot streams of Ultimate pleasure. Hurdle #4: We needed a server that could keep up with the potentially millions of edge-of-their-seat live ultimate video consumers, anxiously waiting to watch every delicious moment of sandy caked frisbee porn from the comfort of the tiny hidden away corners of their offices/homes, hoping their bosses/co-workers/girlfriends/boyfriends don't catch them with their dirty pleasure. We know our audience. Hurdle #5: It was 35degC in the shade. Great for a beach holiday but a far stretch from an air conditioned server room. Tech + sand + pasty British flesh + heat ... you get the picture.

Bring it all together not forgetting the two idiots put in charge, and it's pretty much smooth sailing! We did hope that with so many things to go wrong it could only go right.

The Solution
The Tech: We contacted Tushar from IamUltimate ( Tushar is a technowizard. The kind of wizard there may someday be a feature film about starring that guy who played Anakin Skywalker as Tushar, a flippant yet somewhat loveable anti-hero. Tushar himself will catch the film on a plane on his way to the next big thing. Tushar was the only sure thing we had. He has experience streaming (CUC2010), the technology background, the powerhouse laptop, the sexy assistant/fiance Rose and no patience for f*ck-ups.

The Camera: Once we realised, two weeks before the event started, that none of the people involved actually had a camera that met the requirements, this was solved by me (Steve G) doing some research via the the usual methods of hoping somebody had already solved this and posted it in ridiculous detail on the web. This didn't so much happen but enough information was found to narrow the search to a few affordable options. The ebay stalking begin and £800 later we were ready to film. £800 kindly provided by Lookfly ( Hooray for bail out sponsorship!

The Voice(s): Since 2008 when Tom and I accidentally fell ass-backward into the laps of Ultivillage during the filming of WUGC and did some impromptu commentary for their DVD, we've started to get a bit of a name for it. Tom in particular. I don't know how he can come up with 20 different ways of saying same thing over and over and keep it jazzed. He does it on the podcast as well. In fact we used to have some fun spotting the times I would say something and Tom would simply repeat my point using different words. A man truly made for live commentary. Of course one man + me isn't enough. I had games to play, we both had editing for our daily podcast and we had to eat and sleep. Help was required. The natural choice was Tony Leonardo. He's written two books on the subject of Ultimate, has done commentary in the past, knows a shit-ton about USA Ultimate and a respectable amount (for an American) about International Ultimate to fit right in. He was also already going to be there. He also recently bought a wearable GoPro camera that was potentially was a great addition to the show! We needed one more person and it had to be from a new perspective. In short, we needed a woman. What we got was a short woman. Liz Garfinkle, captain of the now Silver Medal winning USA Mixed Masters team was on hand and as keen to help us as Patrick Van der Valk is to get naked. Add in our journo BlockStack newbie Sean Colfer, random camera man acquisition during the event, Patrick Fourcampre-Maye from UAE, and lastly the passion powered, beer loving, Ultimate media go-getter Matt Kass and the team was complete!

How did it all go right?
It didn't. That wasn't anything to do with the assembled team, all of which performed admirably and we would not hestitate to call upon each and every one of them again for such an undertaking. What happened, or didn't, was internet and sometimes light and power. Infrastructure basics for those looking to get into the live streaming of anything. Internet, light and power are important. Write that down. Our promised killer wired connection turned out to be a flakey shared uplink with half of the business end of Lignano Sabbiadoro (gotta love saying that name!). Who got that wrong? No idea. If we do find that guy who kept kicking the plug out again and again we're going to punch him in the jeans. Lack of essential services often meant that in spite of our killer camera, full staff, two commentators per game, heaps of techology ready to pump waves and waves of digital fris-bliss across the flood lit information super-highway straight into your face, we were too often spitting it through a candle lit, battery powered straw.

In retrospect we probably would have got a reliable source to check the internet in advance and verify the speed. Still, we did get lots of positive feedback from all over the world with regards to the games. The audio worked well, the video was at odd times quite good and the patience amongst the viewers was exceptional. We did still have the podcasts and we are uploading the recorded games to youtube.

Please do stayed tuned in to our streaming ventures in the future because, we have the technology and we have the team. If you've got the internet, if no one else can help, and if you can find us (facebook is good), maybe you can hire...BlockStack TV (and IamUltimate)!