The Sports Machine:The March to Baseball Season

The constant drumming of balls on the hardwood is over.

We produced over 70 games this season and I still wake in the middle of the night with the haunting howls of cheerleaders’ “R. E. R-E-B. REB-O-U-N-D. REBOUND GET IT” echoing through recesses of my mind. Basketball season is the toughest of the seasons in terms of scheduling. It is the only sport that crosses two major holiday breaks (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and gets busier during those times. Basketball also has the daunting task of region tournaments to deal with. For me, this is the biggest nightmare.

We served two schools basketball programs this year by providing their coaching footage. It’s great during the heart of the season when both teams are playing at the same place inWhite01 back to back games but the region tournament throws all of that out the door! Even the games within the same school are screwy. My schedule the second week of February looked like this:

Monday: SHS Boys @ Eastside to play North Clayton at 4:30pm
Tuesday: SHS Girls @ North Clayton to play Eastside at 6:30pm
Wednesday: RCHS Girls @ Archer to play South Gwinnett at 7:00pm
RCHS Boys @ Archer to play Shiloh at 8:30pm
Thursday: SHS Girls @ Woodward to play North Clayton at 7:30pm
Friday: RCHS Girls @ Archer to play Newton at 4:00pm
SHS Girls @ Woodward to play Luella at 4:00pm
Saturday: RCHS Girls @ Archer to play Grayson at 3:00pm

This schedule is enough to make anyone’s eyes spin but if you take into account that these games are all around an hour away from our building and I am trying to put people on busses to get to places to get on busses to get to the game, it makes me long for a break. Also, if you have done anything with sports tournaments you know that after the first game (and sometimes that one) nothing starts on time. That RCHS boys game that was schedule to start at 8:30 actually started at 9:15pm.

I am thankful everyday for my students that allow me to just worry about getting them to the right bus at the right time with the right gear and they take care of the rest. I started basketball season with six students that were excited to work and ended with 1 original member and another that I pulled from one of my football crews! Basketball is my favorite sport to produce but it is a long season.

My favorite sport overall to watch/ play/ shoot/ coach/ is baseball. I changed career several years ago to be able to spend more time with my family and I spend a couple days a week from March to October on the baseball field with my son and the team I get to help coach. I am excited about this baseball season because we are only going to produce fourteen games! That’s right, ONLY FOURTEEN games. We are in the midst of a transition from trying to be everywhere for everything to a more focused attack on producing sports for three schools in three separate classifications.

We are going to do one, maybe two, shows a week. These shows will be multiple camera, student play by play/color, no replay broadcasts. We are getting down to the basics. I am also focusing on learning to maximize new, to us, technologies as we start using fiber for the first time. I have tested in the studio and am finally comfortable enough with the Blackmagic Design Studio Converter and Camera Converter to give it a shot in the field. I really love the idea of my creativity being the limit in how far and where I can put a camera. Right now, we are going with three cameras at normal positions (home plate, 1st base, and 3rd base) but in the near future, we will have a center field camera.

White02I am also really excited because we have built a new mobile case that I think will reduce our set up time and make is look and sound better when we get on site. The case is a Odessey case with a table built into the covers. (http://www.odysseygear.com/odyssey-products/fzgs1116wdlxbl.html) The is a ton of rack space and we will have a ton of gear in the case. Right now, we have a Yamaha MG166c board, ATEM Production Studio 4K, and BMD Studio Converter. There is WAY too much space for these things but I plan to add a headphone amp, monitors, and other elements as we move forward.

This will make us look better as we won’t have to carry two or three bags of gear for all of the production stuff. We will be able to roll the case out, set up the side table and two laptops (1 for ATEM Control and another for PlayOn! Producer by NFHS Network) to stream the games.

We are going to start simple as I want to focus on the students getting a feel for the game before we start throwing instant replay and additional cameras into the mix. I feel like this year we have exploded in a ton of areas but I have failed to make sure the students understand the camera scenarios for each sport. In football and basketball it is pretty simple, follow the play with a wide shot, cut to a hero shot, cut to action off the field, back to the wide shot before the next play - repeat as necessary. Baseball is far more complex. The camera scenarios change every at bat and sometimes with every pitch. For example, one of my pet peeves is to see a batter’s back while they are at the plate. If you have a right handed batter at the plate, you want to shoot down the 1stWhite04 baseline so you can see his face, etc as he prepares or reacts to a swing or pitch. But if you have a runner on 3rd, you have to keep in mind that you want to be able to see their face as they get up from a throw to the base from the pitcher or as they get their lead to potentially score the tying run. I want focus on making sure the students understand the need and their role more than us being able to potentially show replay of a homerun or strike out.

I am also going to simplify our broadcast so my students that want to learn play by play or color can just focus on the things they need to get better and not have to worry if we are going to show a replay or other element.

The other reason I am going to simplify what we do is that I am testing our Game Of The Week model I plan to fully implement in the fall for football. The past several years, our main source of income has come from the coaching footage and I have not worried too much about sponsorships unless we had a specific thing we were trying to purchase or do. This spring, we are going to lean solely on sponsorships to fund our broadcasts. There are several reasons for this and not the least of which is the stress involved with making sure you have people, equipment, etc at up to nine shows a week for three different schools.

Next month, I’ll discuss the baseball grind and the most important thing you should do in April!


TomWhiteHeadshot 175Tom White is a video production teacher at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers. GA. Tom is also the director of the Sports Broadcast Institute, which is One of Five Georgia Governor’s Innovation in Education award winning programs and the NFHS Network Best Overall Program. The Sports Broadcast Institute works to  produce live broadcasts, newscasts, sports documentaries and more for the Three schools, Rockdale Co, Salem, and Heritage High schools, that the career academy serves. Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.