By Nick Mattingly
Creating TV style productions is a big operation. Lots of equipment, lots of people and lots of time. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is an entertainment company and the largest professional wrestling organization in the world. Since its inception, it has amassed a global audience of over 36 million.
Each year, WWE televises over 100 events via its SmackDown, WWE Raw and Pay-Per-View events. That doesn’t include the hundreds of arena shows that the organization books in venues around the world.
“Putting this show on in one day is no small feat. Our shows begins to load-in typically around 4:00am and everything must be up and ready for production by 2:00pm,” explained Nick Smith, WWE’s director of remote IT and broadcast engineering. “We travel everything from the lighting, PA, screens, backstage sets, television production facilities, generators and satellite transmission facilities, down to catering. Everyone [on our team] knows precisely what to do and how to get it done.”
Now the WWE is experimenting with a new format for the some 300 events it hosts that are currently not captured on video. The goal? To see if using Switcher Studio with a few iPhones and iPads can achieve TV-style results. A key part of testing has been defining workflow using mobile devices while meeting WWE’s high standard of quality. One of the first requirements was moving beyond the four-camera setup. As a result, the Switcher Studio team produced a special version of Switcher that allows unlimited sources. The only limitation is network bandwidth.
Adding more cameras was an untested challenge. To help prevent bottlenecks over the local network, we lowered the resolution and bitrate on preview video feeds. We also hardwired the primary iPad used for switching using Apple dongles. Using the “Director Mode” function in Switcher Studio. WWE then triggered a recording on all devices.
For the first test using Switcher Studio, the WWE had a director and operator at the main iPad. The video from the iPad was output to an external TV monitor using Apple’s AirPlay. This workflow allowed the director to see a live video feed from all sources. They were also able to talk with the camera crew and “direct” the operator when to cut to each camera.
The WWE crew had three camera operators from their TV productions to run iPhones in and around the ring. To ensure the devices had enough power to make it through the four-hour-long event, iPhones were attached to batteries. Meanwhile, two camera operators captured wide shots of the ring. Another camera operator captured performer entrances and crowd reaction shots.
WWE setup a local WiFi network for the event to wirelessly sync cameras. The operator made edits in realtime to generate a line cut. After the event the line cut and a ISO from each angle was sent to the WWE post team in the United Kingdom.
Moving forward, we plan to make further improvements to the post workflow. This will be especially helpful for editors, using tools like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer.
If future tests prove successful, WWE could use this new mobile setup to provide more content to their fans–building new revenue streams along the way.
Nick Mattingly is the CEO/co-founder of Switcher Studio. He has over 10 years of experience in video streaming, online monetization and new technologies.