(This article was originally published here by the Sports Video Group on October 4, 2021)
IRONMAN triathlons — high-endurance competitions where participants swim, bike, and run a long distance — are popular events held domestically and internationally. On June 26, the Mainova IRONMAN European Championship Frankfurt was live-streamed to U.S. audiences on Facebook Watch through the hard work of BCC Live and technologies provided by Flowics.
BCC Live (Boulder County Communications Live) is a Colorado-based company that provides viable solutions for live streaming and virtual productions. BCC Live took its first dip into this event in 2015 when IRONMAN Triathlon struck a partnership with the company to provide AV solutions for the edition in Frankfurt. Over the past year, Flowics has helped take the quality of productions to the next level.
“We’ve been working with BCC Live for IRONMAN since the beginning of last year,” says Gabriel Baños, CEO/founder, Flowics. “It was a really cool project to implement last year with Dylan [Camacho, team technician, BCC Live] and his team, but, when some outdoor events started to take place again this year, BCC Live explored new production workflows supported by our cloud-based graphics.”
BCC Live’s biggest need was to bridge the gap between its control room and facility in Boulder and the event taking place in Europe. In addition, with the competition shown on linear television in Frankfurt and nearby areas as well as digitally on Facebook in North America, the production team wanted to streamline operations as much as possible. After outsourcing design of the on-air templates, Baños and his team were tasked with generating real-time data that could be ingested into the live-graphics playout. As with marquee racing events like the Tour de France, BCC Live wanted viewers to have pertinent and accurate information available throughout the event.
“We needed to add in the assets that we provide other [linear] companies,” says Camacho. “We also had to execute them ourselves for the live stream, so Flowics was a great tool for us. Gabriel helped us put together some really cool API integrations where we turned live data feeds into real-time, on-air graphics.”
With Flowics on board and a technological foundation in place, BCC Live had a wide-ranging arsenal of graphics that were shown throughout the live stream. Some were the more traditional elements, such as a running clock showing total time of the race or the IRONMAN logo in the top corner of the screen, but others required more synchronization between MYLAPS, the competition’s timing system, and the live feed from Frankfurt. The complex details included the time between the race leader and those behind them, individual timed intervals and how a competitor is doing on certain sections of the course, and a comprehensive leaderboard. To make sure the activations were on point, Camacho and the Flowics crew leveraged API Connector to keep a running tab of data through Google Sheets.
“That was the big key for us,” says Camacho, “because, among other different types of data providers that Flowics offers, one of them is Google Sheets. We had a master Google Sheet for IRONMAN that had a bunch of different tabs. So long as it was in there, I knew that Flowics would be able to push whatever it was into a graphic.”
Given the length of the event, the live stream needed to maintain the attention of the fans. Other than real-time data that viewers used to reorient themselves after stepping away for a moment, graphics also spurred interaction by asking questions that prompted responses in the live chat within Facebook Watch.
“Our hosts were talking through the race, but they also had a live feed in our studio, with comments coming through. If they saw, ‘Why does that rider not have a water bottle?,’ they could say, ‘Hey, I see you’re asking about this water bottle. They hit a railroad track about 20 miles back, and it fell out,’” says Camacho. “They might have training advice or say, “What do you want to see on our broadcast next week? Vote in our poll right now.”
When the race concluded, BCC Live saw that real-time data, informative graphics, and the communal nature of the social-media platform made for an impressive event for both avid fans and newcomers to the sport.
“The [sentiment] that drove a lot of our decisions was being able to tune into the live stream and knowing everything you needed to know about the race,” says Camacho. “We also [considered] how, if someone logged in, noticed the live video, and didn’t know anything about triathlon, we could get them to stay and be interested to possibly follow the sport more. It was important to have a fun and engaging experience.”
Moving forward, Flowics is looking to simplify workflows even further through additional integration with top data and statistics providers. The company has already announced a partnership with Stats Perform and is looking to continue its growth in the live-sports sector.
“We’re planning to integrate more data providers into our system,” says Baños. “This is the backbone of our product strategy. In the future, we want to build these native connectors [for live productions] in the same way that we’re doing it with other data providers.”