MSUM Dragon Sports Media and GO! TEAM Productions experimented with 360-degree live streaming during Nov. 4 volleyball match against the University of Sioux Falls Cougars.
The NCAA streamed last year’s Final Four in 360 virtual reality as well as the previous NBA Finals. MSUM’s efforts were to be the first NCAA Division II to accomplish the feat.
“Our goals including being the first in everything we do, be cutting-edge, and create the best student-athlete and fan experience possible,” said assistant athletics director for marketing and production Jon Wepking. “We were not the first to stream sports in 360, but after seeing and hearing about it’s growth in the sports production industry we searched for a way to do it ourselves and we’re proud to be pushing the limits of the fan experience. We were hoping to maybe be the first in D2, maybe the first to do volleyball, and we’ll see what else we come up with.”
Wepking said the primary problem was distribution. Facebook and YouTube were early adopters to the 360 degree technology and only YouTube features a mainstream platform for live options. To afford the camera, the primary backer of innovative ideas for Dragon Athletics stepped up to sponsor the “Valley Import 360 of the Week,” which started the Dragons’ VR experimentation.
“We did our research and found a camera that has a partnership with YouTube for live 360 streaming and it was very reasonably priced,” said Wepking. “One Valley Imports agreed to help us get the gear, then the trick was how to utilize it. After a lot of testing we really enjoyed the perspective of the ‘net cam’ GoPro we use during our volleyball games. Once we felt confident we could mount the 360 camera, hold enough bandwidth to provide a high enough quality stream, and distribute it easily to our fans we wanted to give it a go.”
The result was a unique perspective of being on the court during an epic five-set battle between MSUM and USF. Courtside, Wepking showed the officials using an iPad and VR goggles.
“They geeked out pretty hard when they threw the goggles on,” said Wepking. “The next step is finding more and more opportunities to immerse our fans into different environments and possibly find new ways to assist our student-athletes in their training.”
The experience is best utilized on a computer using Chrome and Firefox browsers because Safari does not yet support 360 degree options. For mobile devices, using the YouTube app and sometimes manually switching to the highest quality works well. Anyone can experience the immersive virtual experience with a mobile device using the YouTube app and a simple pair of 360 goggles, some as cheap as $10 Google Cardboard.
The Big Ten Network recently broadcasted the Nebraska vs Minnesota football game with their BTN2Go app and Voke app on Samsung devices with Gear VR capabilities. Notre Dame did something similar on Oct. 15. Keep tuned to @MSUMDragons on Twitter and Facebook Page for the “Valley Imports 360 of the Week” for both live and recorded 360 media from the Dragons.
See the article, complete with a behind the scenes look, on msumdragons.com.