New livestreaming equipment brings athletics to more spectators

District gets equipment to live stream sporting events

The+Pixellot+camera+unit+is+currently+installed+on+the+front+of+the+stadium+press+box.

Keith Pawlowski

The Pixellot camera unit is currently installed on the front of the stadium press box.

Keith Pawlowski, News Editor

In late August, current regulations from the Pennsylvania state legislature stated that spectators would not be allowed at sporting events, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation led the Freedom High school (FHS) and Freedom Middle School (FMS) to start looking into other ways to make sure parents and supporters could watch student athletes play. 

As of Sept. 13, the school administration decided the best option was with a company called the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Network. The company offers a streaming service for fans across the country to watch participating schools’ sporting events.

FHS Athletic Director John Rosa was behind the operation to bring such a service to FHS. To get Freedom’s sports games on the network, special equipment offered by NFHS Network that they called “Pixellot” needed to be installed. To avoid a $2,500 installation fee, the school district staff installed the necessary equipment themselves. 

“The setup was a little involved,” Rosa said. “Our technology department with Mrs. Dohanich did a great job getting the proper internet connection out there to the press box.” After that, network employees arrived at the school to calibrate the cameras to the stadium dimensions to ensure proper functioning.

With cameras installed, the school can broadcast and record any event at the stadium. A separate unit was also installed in the high school gym for volleyball and basketball. The cameras can broadcast completely automatically,  and can track the ball without any need for manual operation. 

With the installation fee out of the equation, the unit itself comes at no real upfront cost to the school district. The catch is that individuals who want to watch the stream network will have to pay $11.99 a month or $69.99 a year. This year, however,  district parent Steve Maslek and his company CIM donated an annual subscription for the whole school district. With this purchase, both live feeds and on-demand recordings of past events can be accessed through the website, nfhsnetwork.com.

On Sept. 10, the camera saw its first use to stream the senior night celebration. The following day,  the camera broadcast the home football game against New Brighton. Faculty also set up a projector against the side of the middle school for fans to come and watch the live stream.

Another added benefit comes when other schools have cameras as well. Although relatively few schools have them currently, FASD can still be broadcast as an away team at other stadiums. The hosting school district has to pay for subscriptions in order to view them for free.

Going forward, the camera will be in use for years to come, even after limits set by the pandemic have lifted.

“We don’t own the cameras right now, but we are in an agreement to have them installed for a minimum of five years,” Rosa said. 

After this time, school is at liberty to keep the camera in operation until the end of its life. Paying for the subscription is the only financial constraint present. Even in the future when the limits on stadium capacity are lifted, the cameras will continue to be of use to the school district.