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From live screaming to livestreaming: schools installing cameras for sports

Football
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
If students at Los Altos and Mountain View highs aren’t allowed to attend games this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be able to stream them on cameras being installed at both schools.

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The installation of cameras to livestream sporting events at Los Altos and Mountain View highs couldn’t have come at a better time.

The automated cameras slated to be installed in the stadiums and gyms at both schools this summer might be the only way fans will be able to watch home football games and volleyball matches during the fall season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“With so much uncertainty about how COVID-19 will influence sports and how we view them this fall, the cameras could provide an unplanned benefit should games be forced to be played without spectators,” said Los Altos High School Athletic Boosters member Sam Player, who is spearheading the installation effort at that school.

The camera project has been in the works for more than a year at Los Altos, according to Player, whose wife Angela is co-president of the booster club. Mountain View got the ball rolling in December, boosters president Brett Schiller said, encouraged by then-principal and new Central Coast Section commissioner Dave Grissom. Schiller added that it wasn’t hard to get the district to approve the project once both schools were on board and their respective booster clubs agreed to fund the $2,000 installation costs.

“The timing is very good,” he said. “We started working on it with the district before COVID kicked in because we saw it as a nice addition to athletics and the school overall. Once COVID kicked in, it created a whole other possibility. If games aren’t played with crowds, it will allow everyone to watch them at home.”

Everyone with a subscription, that is. The games will be streamed online via the NFHS Network (nfhsnetwork.com), a partner of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Subscriptions range from $10.99 (monthly) to $69.99 (annually). Subscribers not only get to watch their teams – live or on demand – but also the games of any participating school.

“NFHS already has several schools in the SCVAL and other CCS leagues as part of the program, so subscribers can view the Eagles at many road games as well,” Player said. “Once a school recruits enough subscribers to the network to hit a certain threshold, NFHS will donate back some of the incremental subscription revenue to the school athletic program.”

Schiller said that his club is considering a promotion that would include a three-month subscription for those who join the boosters.

The NFHS Network doesn’t just broadcast varsity games; Schiller noted that all levels of every sport played in the stadium or gym during the school year will be streamed. In the near future, he said the boosters hope to install cameras on the pool deck for water polo and swimming, along with at the baseball and softball fields.

“After we get this running, we’re going to look into that,” Schiller said. “We’re calling this the first tier of it.”

Two cameras will be installed at each school. They come with desktop computers for production integration and video processing, according to the NFHS Network website, and scoring devices that plug into the score-boards. The high-definition cameras – made by Pixellot – are weatherproof and capable of displaying the game score and the time remaining in an inset on the screen.

“The cameras are permanently installed inside the gym and above the football press box,” Player said, “and will follow the action without need for a human operator, panning and zooming as appropriate from a sideline perspective.”
The streams won’t just benefit fans who can’t make it to a game but on-site coaches as well.

“The footage also automatically integrates with the coaching software (Hudl) many of the teams already use,” Player said, “so games are instantly available for analysis at the conclusion of each event.”
Mountain View athletic director and football coach Shelley Smith is excited to get the system – and not just from a coaching perspective.

“(It’s) great for people out of the area or not allowed to come (to games) due to COVID protocol,” he said.

Smith doesn’t know the exact date the cameras will be installed at Mountain View but expects them to be in place before school starts. Los Altos’ cameras will be installed Aug. 5, Player said.

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