Technology: the mere word strikes fear in the minds of some, while filling others with unbridled excitement! Since the dawn of mankind we as a race of humans have striven to make life easier. Technology has played a huge role in our history as we have constantly looked for better ways to perform everyday tasks.
In the world of pool and billiards, technology has also been ever present. Though the main premise of the game has not changed much, technology has changed the way things are done. How many different types of specialty tips are now available? Low deflection shafts, zero-deflection shafts, jump cues, break cues, balls made from different composites to react and perform more consistently, even the cloth has been through a tremendous evolution! Through it all though, pocket billiards is still played on a table which is half as wide as it is long, with 6 pockets. The basic and most popular games have remained timeless, 8-ball and 9-ball. Though leagues have tweaked them from their original formats, if you walk into just about any honky-tonk in rural America and try to play by league rules, you will likely be leaving very quickly and hopefully under your own power!
The technology on which I would like to focus today involves the world of electronics. We have the internet. We have smart phones with cameras able to shoot still photos or videos. We have social media, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, to name a few. On these platforms we are able to share with the world anything and everything we want! We have gone from a once private society to one which seemingly begs for attention by posting even the most minute and insignificant of daily activities for all to see! Despite all the users and abusers, social media addicts and trolls, this technology now plays a huge role in our ancient game! This is evident by all the pool related group pages and websites spewing out tons of information for any and all who want to know where the next big tournament will be held, who has the cheapest LD shaft, and yes, pictures of the unknown pool player who is moving across the country torturing everyone he plays!
Let’s narrow it down just a bit more. Most all of the social media platforms give the ability of “live-streaming” to the user. With live-streaming the user can simply use the video camera on a smart phone to broadcast live video through a social media platform. Also available is live-streaming through web sites and broadcast equipment, which may not be as easily accessible to the average “Joe,” but with a little research one can learn without taking on the lifelong debt of a student loan!
Within the last couple of years, live-streaming has grown tremendously around pool. Action games or 2-man tournaments as some are called, and also multi player tournaments can now be viewed from the small local tournaments to the large international tournaments. This has also raised some controversy between the players and the streamers as to privacy and who owns the rights to their image and what-not. But that is a topic for a completely different discussion. There are a few live-streamers out there who have risen above the rest and made quite a name for themselves. What they do differently than the rest is what makes their streams the most sought after with viewers willing to subscribe and pay for access. These streamers have such a following, venue owners will even hire them to set up at their venue and broadcast events and action just for the exposure!
It has become quite common now for someone to have a camera set up at a local tournament to live-stream the activity. I’m sure most everyone reading this blog has seen them. I find it very difficult to sit and watch some of these streams. If there is someone playing whom I know, I might watch for a couple minutes, but they just don’t hold my attention like some of the bigger productions. What is the difference? Aside from the fact that the “bigger guy” has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on his equipment there are a few things which these small local guys can learn from them. I think first, and foremost is camera angle and position. So many of these local tournaments have the camera sitting on a table or on a tripod which raises it to maybe head level of the average man. What does that look like to the viewer? It is very two dimensional. The table, the balls, the angles, cannot be seen well enough to know exactly what is happening. It is usually set up right next to the tournament director’s table so there is a lot of traffic. Players checking on their matches, reporting results, or just visiting with the director will often stand right in front of the camera. That is truly annoying! If I’m actually watching and people keep walking or standing in front of the camera I’m going to lose interest real quick! If you pay for a live-stream you will notice the main camera is positioned way above the table giving the viewer optimum visibility. So, on the local level, if you have only one camera, try to get it positioned as high as possible and directed toward one table to give the viewers the best view possible of the action. This alone, I believe, will boost interest and viewers numbers tremendously!
Secondly, if you can afford another camera, do it! The more, the merrier! Showing the same table from a couple different angles adds so much to the viewing experience. Even if it has to be shown on a split screen, giving the viewers more than one angle of the same shot is golden!
Thirdly, I think the biggest feature which sets apart the “big guys” from the locals, is commentating. Even with a prime view of the table from multiple angles the stream can become bland and boring with no sound or just the low murmur of the crowd. Having someone who knows a little about the game to do some commentating on the action will liven up the broadcast, holding the viewers’ interest even longer.
Last, but definitely not least, think about the matches which will be played on your “TV table.” The viewers don’t want to watch a couple players who keep missing, scratching, missing some more, dragging the match out for an extended period of time! Granted, those players are in every tournament and we want to encourage them to play, but from a production standpoint, putting them on the TV table is not a good idea. Give the viewers a good match up to watch! Two guys who will put multi racks together, or who are known for a lock down safety game will make for good viewing. If I’m watching a girl who can’t make a bridge, playing against a guy who just wants to get in her pants, I’m moving on. Although, I guess that could potentially get real interesting! The point is: put content on the screen that is worth watching.
Technology is here to stay. Some may love it, and others hate it. Me? I’m on the fence, though I’m learning to accept it. Using what we have as tools to better promote, better educate, and better the game overall is how we embrace this rapidly growing wave of technology which is upon us.
Live-streaming your events will undoubtedly attract attention and generate interest. Live-streaming like a professional will set you apart from the other local guys streaming from their phones propped up against a beer bottle!
This is the lag…
Hit ‘em good, my friends!
Author: Kelvin Greenleaf
Editor: Shaylyn Troop