Blackmagic Design hits the target for Darts in Motion

Dutchmen Robbert van Loon and Paul Oberink’s connection with darts began when they were cameramen for SBS6 in the Netherlands. After the broadcaster dropped its coverage of the major British Darts Organisation (BDO) events in 2009, Robbert and Paul setup Darts in Motion, a low-cost live production solution for smaller darts tournaments.

Alongside Darts in Motion, Robbert also worked as a freelance cameraman for RTL after it began broadcasting the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) tournaments. Robbert’s influence within the PDC grew, and the relationships he’d built whilst working freelance opened the door to Darts in Motion producing a live online stream of one of the body’s European tour events.

Broadcast infrastructure from Blackmagic Design has been an integral part of the multicam workflow used in this live production. The camera chain consists of seven PTZ HD cameras connected via SDI to Blackmagic’s Compact Videohub 40×40 router, whilst an ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher with ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel is used to produce a master output.

“To give ourselves maximum mobility and flexibility we built our PPU systems into two 14 HE racks on wheels,” explains Robbert. “Live production being what it is, each job we do for the PDC can have differing requirements. That means we can be working with anything from as few as six inputs all the way up to 16. Because of that we designed a separate SDI input panel as a bridge between our camera and graphics chain and the 40×40 router from Blackmagic. This has given our production team much easier access to the SDI connections, and means that if someone was to pull too hard and damage a connector, then the router itself remains undamaged.”

“In addition to those sources, we also have a software solution that we wrote and developed ourselves to handle graphics playout, including live scores in the lower right hand corner, and in between matches we show schedules and results of all the other various matches,” explains Robbert. “This is run on a laptop with USB3 and output via a Blackmagic UltraStudio SDI capture device straight into an SDI input on the ATEM switcher.

“Using the ATEM’s built in Multiviewer, we then live switch the PGM feed using Blackmagic’s ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel and overlay graphics using the ATEM’s upstream keyer (USK). Each of the camera operators and spotter (graphics) is supplied with their own monitor, taking a reference input from the Compact Videohub via a Mini Converter SDI to HDMI from Blackmagic.”

The production team then has to duplicate the clean PGM feed, using an SDI Distributor from Blackmagic Design, for a number of different purposes, including an online streaming device. “This is essentially an UltraStudio Mini Recorder, connected via Thunderbolt to a Mac Mini operating Wirecast,” says Robbert. “We also have to supply copies of the same PGM feed to the commentator positions, big screens in the venue and television screens in the players’ and officials’ lounge.”

Another copy of the PGM is also recorded in Quicktime ProRes HQ on a Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio SSD broadcast deck for archive purposes, while a second HyperDeck Studio is used to record a backup of the PGM in ProRes LT. Darts in Motion also record isolated camera feeds when needed using a HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorder for post editing purposes.

“One of the features we really like on the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher is SuperSource. It’s perfect for showing the famous darts ‘split shot.’ On the left you have a close up of the ’20’ on a dartboard while on the right you have a second shot of the player taking his throw,” explains Robert. “In years gone by a cameraman would need to adjust his shot every time the split was on. Now we adjust the shots with the ATEM’s built in DVE player. This is a big improvement.”

Traditionally PGM was streamed online via YouTube. Earlier this year, the PDC sold the exclusive rights to betting firms such as Coral and Bet365, who can now stream tournaments live on their websites. The PDC continues to stream live content produced by Darts in Motion through its own website, via Live PDC, a paid-for subscription channel.

Darts in Motion has already been involved with events in the Netherlands and Germany in 2014, and are now preparing for tournaments in Austria and Gibraltar alongside three more in Germany later in the year.

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