Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hattervision a Hit at A-Sun Tennis Championships

DeLAND, Fla. - With the addition of live scoring and video at the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Men's and Women's Tennis Championships from Stetson's Mandy Stoll Tennis Center, viewers have had the ability to tune in internationally to the athletic events happening on the courts during the three-day period.

Richard Skeel, Stetson's Senior Associate Athletic Director, stands as the man behind the curtain for “Hattervision”, the Hatters' live video webstreaming service. Hattervision is covering the majority of matches being played at the championships during the weekend at no cost to viewers.

“We do about 200 live events a year,” Skeel said. “It starts in August with men's and women's soccer and then goes to men's and women's basketball. We also do volleyball, as well as every home game for softball and baseball. We can move our equipment pretty much any place I can find a fiber optic cable.”

With all of the live games and events Stetson features, do you ever wonder how Hattervision got started at Stetson?

“My second year here, I called the television stations and told them we had a baseball invitational,” Skeel said. “We had Ohio State, Michigan and Navy coming in. I asked if we could get a game on the air. They said no because they had an SEC volleyball game they had to put on. So we started Hattervision out of a necessity to get ourselves seen around the world. I was not about to let the television stations do that to us.”

With Hattervision reigning as one of the original live athletic videostreaming services, Skeel must ensure that athletics stays current with the times.

“We were on the cutting edge when we started,” Skeel said. “Now everybody is doing the same thing we are doing. I am trying to find ways to stay ahead of the game. One of the ways is to try and run things like a regular TV production. It makes us look good because it is better than having just one camera and having someone follow where the action is.”

This weekend in Stetson marks the first time the championships have returned to DeLand, Fla. since 2005. However, this spring season also marks the inaugural year for Stetson to make any tennis match a live event on Hattervision.

“I told them in the fall I had an idea we could do this,” Skeel said. “We started putting bids in for video streaming for basketball, baseball and softball championships. No one has been putting video streaming in for soccer because they do not know how to do the outside sports. For the soccer fields, we run a 250 foot cable. We had the idea that we could take three cameras, push them into one line and back out to the world. Essentially, we cut the studio out and we have a primitive channel of every one of those setups. We tried it and tested it last week. We had no idea it was going to work.”

At any outdoor event, regardless of the game, the biggest hindrance to a video production is the weather. However, Friday's small breezes proved to help production more than hurt.

“Our biggest concern out here is the weather,” Skeel said. “But, the little breezes we are having now is actually saving the equipment from getting hot because we are running it 12-14 hours a day, nonstop. Something that is disappointing is that we cannot feature all six courts. But, because we know that the type of fiber optic cable we are using is only going to let us do three cameras at a time, we decided to do the doubles and the top-three singles. Between live-stats and being able to see this, at least almost every parent can see their child play.”

“I think the students love this. I created it out of frustration from television. Television is only seen regionally, this is seen worldwide. So far, I have already heard that parents from Sweden, Uruguay, Brazil and France have been tuning in to watch these matches this weekend.”

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