Frank Answers Fridays: August 29, 2014

Blog Date: 
Friday, August 29, 2014 - 10:43

I want to thank the FIRST Marketing folks for helping me remove the spray paint and bumper stickers from the Frank Answers Fridays logo used last time. I’ll just say this – the vandals will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of my imagination.

The first question I answer below was pretty easy, so I decided to do two this week.

Today’s first good question come from Kevin Pardus, a mentor from FRC Team 2890, The Hawk Collective, from Chesapeake, VA, USA:

Question:

Frank,

The initial Open Capacity numbers for Regional events this season seem to show a very distinct pattern, they are 5 teams less than those of the past several years for the same events.  In previous seasons, the difference between the initial Open Capacity number and the number of teams finally allowed to attend an event was approximately 10 teams.  This allowed the Regional event committees flexibility to add Rookie and local teams prior to Veteran and wait-listed teams who were not quick at registering early.  This upcoming season, the initial Open Capacity numbers for Regional events compared to the numbers for the same events in previous seasons, seem to be approximately 15 teams less than the historical attendance levels for those same events.  So, basically there will be 5 teams less being able to lock-in their first event registration (25 Sep-23 Oct) per Regional event this season or 5 more teams on the wait-list for each event then in past seasons.

Why is this change being implemented this season?

v/r,

Kevin Pardus

Answer:

You have the reasoning for why we set aside a quantity of slots at each Regional exactly right. We call this number the ‘reserve capacity’. It helps us make sure Rookie and local team needs are taken care of. We know how hard it is to be a Rookie team, especially one that registers later, and recognize that if a local team can’t get into a nearby event, that may mean a substantial increase in costs for them. At the same time, we know many teams enjoy traveling to more distant events, so we don’t want to lock them out completely when registration opens. The number we pick for the reserve capacity is an attempt to balance these interests. In our discussions with Regional Directors, there was some concern that a standard reserve capacity of 10 would not be adequate for the 2015 season, as some events are getting very tight, so we’ve bumped it up to 15. 

This number is flexible, so events with special needs may see even higher reserves.  As an example, some teams may be recipients of grants that require them to play in their home state. We want to support needs like this as best we can.

It’s important to remember that, as with all our changes for 2015, we’ll be keeping an eye on how things go. If we find the reserve of 15 is too high, next season we can bring it back down.

Today’s second good question come from Wil Payne, a mentor from FRC Team 422, The Mech Tech Dragons, from Richmond, VA, USA:

Question: 

Frank-

I'm Wil Payne, a mentor from Team 422, The Mech Tech Dragons, in Richmond Virginia.

A growing contingent of the FRC community, myself included, believe that a key to future growth of the sport to the point it is "mainstream" is reliant on developing a strong, unified media presence that casual observers can understand, especially at flagship regionals, region/state championships, and or course, the Championship Event.

As it stands, there are regions that are outperforming World Championships in terms of setting up and maintaining a quality broadcast. This isn't meant to be derogatory to the work staff does at HQ and the volunteers at champs, just what I believe to be an honest observation. I do know, however, that your FRC staff and HQ staff in general have been making incredible strides in improving multiple aspects of our banner program and the other 3 programs. Has there been a discussion at HQ about creating and executing broadcast standards for FIRST events? If so, is there any planned community improvement? If no to either question, Why?

Sorry this got a little wordy, I was just trying to get my thoughts together on this and I thought it would be important to provide some background the the question even if I might have gotten carried away.

Also, it took some digging to find the proper email address to ask this question. Maybe post it at the end of your blogs again?

-Wil Payne

Answer:

Hi Wil. I agree with you. FIRST needs to up its game when it comes to broadcasting our events.  This is widely recognized here at HQ. Collin Fultz, FRC Team Advocate, is leading a team to work on improved broadcast of FRC events leading up to the FIRST Championship, though as you point out, many are already doing better with this than we are at Championship right now. We’ve been working with some of these areas to learn best practices. Our FIRST Championship planning team is also working on some new and exciting broadcast activities for the Championship itself.

In many ways, FIRST Championship is easier for HQ to get our arms around with respect to broadcast quality than local events. While it is much larger, FIRST HQ has direct responsibility for the full process at Championship and access to the necessary resources. At local events, some elements, such as the bandwidth of the network, can vary greatly, and options may be limited, even with the best intentions of the local organizers. We will have over 100 local events in 2015, and many will be in high school gyms. In some of those schools, you take what you can get with respect to bandwidth, and there is no cell service available even if you wanted to use a mobile hotspot to bypass the school’s connection. Also, with the number of events we are dealing with as the HQ organization, we need to be extra careful in making sure we are following all the rules. In our broadcasts, can we include a live audio feed at events that may pick up copyrighted music playing in the background? Is it 'OK' or 'not OK' for us to show the faces of spectators who didn't necessarily agree to be photographed? Is a warning sign as spectators walk in enough? Remember, unlike many sporting events, we don't require tickets, so spectators haven't purchased anything that comes with a full set of "Terms and Conditions'. What about international events - are the rules in Mexico, Israel and Canada the same as we have in the United States?

I believe these and other challenges can be solved in one way or another, and we are working through them now. I'd love to have a system in which every FRC event is broadcast with multiple (viewer-selected) camera angles in HD, viewers can easily find and watch every broadcast they wish, and all matches are archived by year, event, match, and team number, forever. We are some way from this dream right now, but we are making progress. We'll keep everyone informed as things move forward.

And yes, we can again start listing the address folks should use to ask a question!

Frank

Frank Answers Fridays is a weekly-ish blog feature where I’ll be answering ‘good questions’ from the FRC community. You can e-mail your questions to goodfrcquestion@usfirst.org. Please include your nameteam number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.

Comments

Frank, would it be possible maybe to reach out to other sponsors for broadcasting Championships? The obvious stand out to me is Comcast NBCUniversal. They could certainly put out a world class broadcast for the FIRST Championship

Can I request that First headquarters distribute the software / workflow necessary for all regionals to upload match video to YouTube (or equivalent)? As you said, one can't be sure every regional has enough bandwidth for a live stream (even some that did this year suffered under load). However you can reasonably expect that organizers can find the (significantly reduced) bandwidth to upload video in batch - even after the event if necessary. IRI did an excellent job this year of posting "instant archives" to YouTube.

Hi Brendan – Part of the webcasting project includes working with the folks that are doing a good job of both live streaming and preserving the matches. This is definitely on our radar, and we agree that it’s a valuable tool for use in strategy, marketing, etc. Thank you!

Need to checkout what the Little League Baseball World Series does for their games reference non-ticketed spectators on the "hill" being shown during broadcasts. Howard J. Lamade Stadium seats about 3,300. Seating is also available on the famous “hill” overlooking the outfield fence of Lamade Stadium, where no ticket is required and accommodates up to 30,000 more fans. Various games were broadcast on either ABC, ESPN/2/3, etc. Every broadcast I watched on ABC showed the crowds on the “hill”, so need to find out how spectators were informed and the Little League and networks were covered.

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