USPSA as it is now is not really set up to be a spectator sport, and would need some significant changes to be close to as TV-friendly as something like basketball or football. That said, if we are doing the work to run a livestream of shooters from Nationals, and people are willing to watch it, what can we do to make it as good as possible?
Last fall, during the Carry Optics Nationals, I was watching the YouTube livestream. It was boring, with brief moments of interesting content. I got to thinking what might make it better. With no preparation, I just started an OBS stream and decided to wing it. It took me a while to figure things out, but here’s what I ended up with:
What makes this more interesting than the livestream by itself just cutting between stages?
Cutting out the dead time and using instant replay. Instead of having one chance to see someone from the Super Squad shoot a stage, and then spending a few minutes watching the targets get pasted, or cutting to another stage where someone less interesting to watch was shooting, I used the ability to back the livestream up and watch each Super Squad run multiple times, and break down elements I thought were interesting.
Live scoring. Luckily, Practiscore was being updated within a minute or two of the run being scored and approved. Since I was running on a few minute delay with the livestream, I could put up the scores of the run as soon as we were done watching it.
Keeping a running scoreboard. I was pretty surprised how interesting it was slotting each run into the very rudimentary white-text-with-no-background scoreboard I was using. I would watch a run and mentally think it was pretty good, or not great, and then seeing the score pop up relative to the other Super Squad shooters was fun. It’s always enlightening when reality doesn’t match your expectations and it helps you learn what you might not be taking into consideration.
Knowing who was shooting. This was admittedly just best-effort on my part, since I could only recognize so many of the shooters. But at least knowing who the current person is on the stage makes it much more interesting viewing than just having a banner that shows the stage number and title.
Showing stage diagrams. Since the camera angle is a static, wide-angle view where you can’t see the targets, showing the diagram of the stage helped to give some context to why guys were shooting certain targets certain ways. Of course, this is a place where actually having some kind of overhead view of the stage as-built (which never precisely matches the diagram) would be helpful. To take it to the next level, have the diagram labeled with target numbers that match the target numbers in Practiscore.
Voice-over commentary. I am by no means a top-level shooter, but I tried to point out the nuances that I noticed between the runs of each shooter. Someone who has spent years in the sport will inevitably pick out little details that someone who may have only shot a few matches would find interesting. So having one or two competitors provide that commentary would make the livestream interesting and even educational for folks who are not hardcore competitors.
I will say, I think the style of having multiple static cameras and cutting between them as the competitor moved through the stage works out quite well, almost certainly better than trying to have a cameraman follow each shooter through. As long as you have the cameras set up, a crew of one or two behind the scenes could run this livestream across multiple stages. Ideally, you’d have enough cameras to follow the super squad(s) as they move through the stages, even if it means having someone go and move the tripods around to keep up the squads as the move through the zone.
Having the livestream being done via YouTube so you can skip around and watch the parts you are interested in definitely helps. And by no means is this post meant to gripe because something is good but not perfect. I am just saying that the hard work is done of setting up the cameras, running fast enough wifi and internet, having a system to cut between different camera views. What I did on my livestream was comparatively quite easy, but doing something like that on the official livestream takes the raw material generated by their setup and turns it into a genuinely interesting experience.