Casting their net over skifields and beaches

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Some people go up mountains to ski – techies from nzXsports.com go up to bring the action to internet viewers.

They pipe about half a dozen events a year to the internet live. Recent examples last winter included the Burton Open at Snow Park and elements of the national free-ski championships.

Such live video entails hiring four camera operators, typically from $500 a day each. Staff often tow gear, including a generator and satellite dish, up the mountain in a rescue sled.

A technician sits in a tent in the snow with a wireless network piping video to his computer via a switch.

This puts all four views on screen simultaneously. He chooses the picture to go out.

It’s processed into Flash, piped through the nearby dish to a satellite, down-linked at Auckland, and fed into the internet in Wellington.

Christchurch-based Martyn Davies says it takes 15-30min to get the dish lined up and running. Then people can watch on the internet with a delay of about 46sec.

The dish needs clear line-of-sight to the satellite, so the base can sometimes be in a ski carpark, says Davies, one of nzXsports.com’s content development, content creation and design team.

The company began net-casting ski video for on-demand viewing about nine years ago. At first it drew a tiny audience but broadband takeup changed this.

Now thousands can watch streaming video on a bad-weather day. On a nice day, many prefer to ski themselves.

On-demand video, which viewers call up when it suits, can attract audiences of 20,000-30,000. For this, the crew works more like a news team, assembling high-definition clips for four or five minutes of net viewing.

The company has diversified into surfing videos and Davies says it will consider any outdoor event, usually on contract, though sometimes via joint ventures.

The firm has 48 webcams on New Zealand mountains and beaches.

The most challenging is at Wanaka’s Treble Cone skifield on Sunset Ridge. Solar powered, with a pan-tilt-view camera, it links to the net via Telecom’s high-speed cellphone network.

The Treble Cone webcam, like those at Snow Park and most ski areas, is a joint venture.

“We might provide the hardware and they provide something for us to bolt it to, whether a rock or a building.”

The company has webcams on most club skifields. Remarkables and Coronet Peak upgraded webcams to their own equipment but still give nzXsports.com access to the pictures.

Snow activities have been harder to video stream than surfing. Davies says equipment became small enough only in the last two or three years.

Surfing has streamed on the net for five or six years and in NZ for four years. This summer, the company has only one surfing stream event on its schedule – the long-board nationals at Port Waikato. Gear for a surf shoot fits into one Subaru.

The Wellington-headquartered private company has seven employees, three of them in Christchurch. It keeps a modest profile as it follows the typical internet model of driving for innovation and revenue growth.

Infratil’s managing director, Lloyd Morrison, is on the board.

Neill Birss will chase up your biz tips: neillb@maxnet.co.nz