Blog post:Frank Answers Fridays: August 29, 2014

The other Frank does it a again

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

It’s great to see that FIRST is addressing their broadcasting issue. I’ll be interested to see their final approach on the matter.

2015 is really shaping up to be a great season!
(Assuming we get that water game…)

It would be good if FIRST broadcast in a media form that can been seen on IPhones and IPads as well.

Wow, great questions asked and answered… Especially the second one.

I think a goal for broadcasting at championships would be to have an NFL RedZone/ESPN College Gameday mashup format in addition to the main/traditional feed and a full field view (maybe even toss in a couple pit cams and a “flyover” on the room of the dome). I don’t think that’s supposed to be in this post though so I’ll shut up and get back to work.

The even registration process was an issue before, and seems like it may be an even bigger one now. This is especially true in California. Some veteran teams who attend two events have to make the decision of which to register for first, at the risk of missing out on available spots at the other. It’s not an easy decision to make, and as far as I know, there is no great method to predict one’s likelihood of getting into any particular even when capacity is raised for second-round registrations.

So the bottom line is, I can’t be sure where to register first because I’m not sure what will be full or open during the second registration window. How do we fix this?

This is one of the biggest problems we face as a “middle-resourced” team. We now have enough sustained funds to attend two events, but are not able to travel extensively…so when the viable choices fill up, where do we go? To compound this, many of those nearby choices end up in back to back weeks…something we would really rather not do (and I’m sure our schools would rather us not do as well.)

I’m not sure a bigger reserve is the answer to this problem…seems to me it’s going to make it worse. The only answer I can see is either bigger events, or more events.

I’d also like to point out the want for a stream dedicated to teaching the rules and basic strategy of the game. Have an announcer or two who don’t focus on a play-by-play and instead explain a bit more of the “why” during the match. It can be the same video feed, but if they could do their own replays between matches that’d be even better.

Even if a venue isn’t able to broadcast/stream matches live, I would love them to at least be recorded and uploaded to YouTube like Michigan State Champs does. Having match video for posterity is important IMO.

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. **
http://www.llbws.org/visitors/tickets.htm

As always, admission onto the Little League Baseball World Series complex is free and there is no cost for Little League Baseball World Series tickets.

Howard J. Lamade Stadium, where the final rounds of the Little League Baseball World Series have been played every year since 1959, seats approximately 3,300. ***The hillside terraces just beyond the outfield fence of Lamade stadium, which offers excellent viewing, can accommodate up to 30,000 more fans. ***Little League Volunteer Stadium, where early round games are also played, seats about 3,000.

There is limited General Public seating in Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium for all games.

Seating for Thursday, August 14 to Thursday, August 21, General Public seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the game(s). General Public seating tickets/passes may be distributed prior to the respective games by Little League Baseball World Series ushers/personnel upon entering Lamade Stadium/Volunteer Stadium to assist World Series ushers/personnel in coordinating seating. These General Public tickets/passes, if utilized, are not available in advance.

General Public tickets, if available, for Saturday, August 23, which includes the International Championship Game and the United States Championship Game, may be obtained at the Will Call Window which is located behind Lamade Stadium towards the third base side. General Public tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and each individual in line may obtain only one ticket.

General Public seating, for Sunday, August 24, which includes the Consolation game and the Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game, is not available. General Public tickets for these games were distributed through the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series Ticket Lottery.

Seating is also available on the famous “hill” or terraces overlooking the outfield fence of Lamade Stadium, where no ticket is required. Souvenir tickets for the terraces are available at the Will Call Window. (Again, however, these tickets are not required for seating on the terraces.)

Various games were broadcast on either ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN3/Longhorn Network/NESN/etc. Every broadcast I watched on ABC showed the crowds on the*** “hill” ***– so need to find out how the spectators were informed and the Little League and the networks were covered.

I do not think you are going to see much in the way of either bigger or more events within 600 miles of Raleigh this year.

Several East Coast Regional events (DC and Chesapeake) were downsized for last season’s competitions. The DC event was moved from the Washington Convention Center to the Patriot Center @ GMU, while the Chesapeake event was moved from the Baltimore Convention Center to the Comcast Center @ UMD. So the prospect for bigger events looks bleak for the upcoming season.

And the only new Regional event on the East Coast seems to be located in Georgia (see post below), a possible NC Regional clone - size wise (number of teams being allowed to attend).