Matrox Monarch HDX Signs with University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball
The recruiting trip
In NCAA Division I men’s basketball, the sixth man is not typically an encoding appliance, but for the University of Kentucky (UK) Wildcats, Matrox Monarch HDX is an indispensable member of the team. As arguably one of the most successful programs in NCAA Division I history, leading the division with 2,293 all-time wins since the team’s inaugural season in 1903, UK men’s basketball has accumulated no small number of fans or recruitment hopefuls over the years. Catering to those fans and making player recruitment more efficient by capturing and recording video streams have become top priorities for the team.
In order to meet the demands of an elite team with such a longstanding tradition of excellence, an encoder coming from a brand with an equally respectable history of quality was necessary. For Tim Asher, Director of Athletic Video and Team Technologies for UK Athletics, the choice was simple. “I looked at some other different products, none of which I felt were up to the specifications of Matrox, and I’ve known the Matrox brand since the early days,” he said. “I knew Matrox had a good reputation, and once I looked into their product and looked at some of the video that had been captured by the product, I felt very comfortable moving forward with the purchase.”
Capturing the Kentucky basketball legacy
Before UK Athletics decided on purchasing two Monarch HDX units, their video team had been capturing most of the men’s basketball games, which number between 25 and 35 during the regular winter season, on cameras. However, the cameras’ 50Mbps capture proved to be too high for the recordings the team needed to store on USB drives and SD cards to later be scaled and optimised for varying screen sizes.
What UK Athletics was searching for was a flexible solution that would allow them to record games in multiple bitrates; one high-quality version to record onto an SD card so that the video could later be edited for broadcast and viewing on the web, and at the same time, a standard-quality version to be recorded onto a USB drive to be quickly uploaded onto iPads for easy-to-access recruiting material. “What I found is that, there are not many products that allow you to do multiple bitrates,” said Asher. “So, when I was narrowing down my search, Monarch HDX was obviously one of the first products that jumped off the page at me.”
UK Athletics is now leveraging the dual-channel H.264 encoding power of their two Monarch HDX units to record two independent feeds. As one of the NCAA’s most elite men’s basketball teams, having made NCAA championship tournament appearances nine of the past ten years, most of the Wildcats’ games are considered to be a premier competitor on their opponents’ schedules. Accompanying the team at home or on the road is typically a big production crew in a TV truck, which houses the Monarch HDX encoders, and video specialists that use a minimum of six cameras to capture every point, assist, steal, and rebound.
From the SDI camera sources, video feeds travel to a switcher located in the TV truck. The feeds are then sent to the Monarch HDX units and recorded as MP4 files at two different bitrates: 20Mbps and 5Mbps. The 20Mbps videos are saved to an SD card, and the 5Mbps videos to a USB drive. The MP4 files typically contain footage of the game, coaches’ talks to players in the locker room, pre- and post-game commentary, as well as other behind-the-scenes moments of the team throughout the season.
The 20Mbps MP4 files are transferred from the SD card to Adobe Premiere Pro, where they are edited, and music and other effects added. The finished product is the Wildcats’ very own reality show, “This is Kentucky Basketball,” which is available online at the UK Athletics website. The show gives fans a chance to feel connected to the team both on and off the court. The same footage edited to create “Inside Kentucky Basketball” is also often sent in its original format to a 15-station TV network spanning across Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia that will go on to broadcast the material.
The 5-Mbps MP4 files are usually transferred from a USB drive to a laptop, where they are then edited to create videos to be shown to recruits. The H.264 codec, which requires no transcoding before editing, allows for the quick pivot between editing and uploading the MP4 file, and provides fast downloads for the content that the coaches need. For example, when games are filmed at night, and the next day need to be played back on an iPad in a recruit’s living room, the video playback requires no special software.
An all-star addition to the team
For UK Athletics, adding Monarch HDX to their all-star lineup has allowed the men’s basketball team to reach their fans and potential recruits more easily than ever before, and between spared equipment costs and physical space saved in TV truck racks, the team is able to reserve all madness for March.
“One of the main reasons that I went with Monarch HDX to begin with was, instead of having two pieces of equipment at different bitrates, I was able to use one piece of equipment, which was smaller in stature than I had previously been using to record those two different recordings,” said Asher. “For me, that was huge because I’m traveling to different places to record all of these games with our team, and having one less piece of gear to keep up with is very important.”
According to Asher, UK Athletics is now looking into also leveraging the dual-channel streaming and recording functionality of the Monarch HDX units. For members of the media who are unable to attend the men’s basketball and football teams’ coaches press conferences, UK Athletics will soon be streaming them live via UKAthletics.com with one unit while recording them with another unit.
When it comes to sharing his appreciation for Monarch HDX, Asher does not keep to himself. “I’ve had multiple people at multiple venues ask me about the Monarch HDX,” he said. “Once I explain its operation and how I’m using it, they are very impressed with this piece of gear. One of the things that happens in the sports world is somebody sees something somebody else is doing, they immediately want to copy.”
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