The Sports Machine - Into the Grind: Football

In my opinion, September is the hardest month of the school year.

Outside of my grandmother’s birthday and Labor day, there is nothing to look forward to. While some say that the spring months without a break in classes is the worst, at least it is starting to warm up - September has nothing. The students feel this in the classroom and in the field.

September is the mid point of our season and the students are comfortable doing their jobs… It’s time to shake it up. September I move my students around in their positions. Camera ops become tech directors, tech directors, A1, etc… It is usually quite the adventure but it helps to build the team and makes better employees because they are cross trained.

This year, we are adding multiple field level cameras with the IDX CW1. The CW1 with the optional L-battery adapter is actually lighter than I thought it would be and doesn’t interfere with the camera operator as much as I expected. This is a great addition to what we do because our program is based around providing coaching footage and the field level cameras add a huge degree of professionalism to our broadcasts. The CW1 also adds the opportunity for me to impress the 180 rule into the students (this will come in handy during basketball season).

The 180 rule, in a nutshell, is the concept that all of the cameras should be on the same side of a 180 degree line in order to prevent confusion for the viewers. For example, if a camera is set up on one side of the field and is following an athlete running right to left and the next shot is on a camera on the opposite side of the field, the athlete would then be running left to right. I tell my crews that the uprights are an imaginary line that they may not cross. They are to stay on the near side of the field in order to maintain the 180 rule.

The IDX system is quite easy to setup as well. Simply make all of the connections, power up, and you are good to go. Pairing between the devices took very little time. I am certain that there is a delay in the image but I can’t see it. There is no loss of quality at all. The transmitter requires a power source to give 5v power. I used a portable phone charging device. I strapped it to the microphone handle and was ready to do. The transmitter worked for over an hour on the phone charger. I have not been able to do a truly long battery test with the L-battery adapter but we have a couple of day long events coming up where I will be able to truly put it to the test.

Having field cameras allows me to involve the crowd more into the broadcast. In the past, we have had 2 cameras high in the pressbox only focusing on the game. Now, we will be able to cut to shots of the crowd celebrating, the band playing and other things that make the Friday night football experience. This is often the thing that I believe we miss most or is most abused in the presentation of high school sports. The broadcast either leaves out the “non-sports” elements or stays on them a little too long.

I will also start to work in replay when possible in September. When possible is the key phrase there as I have to have the right person to do replay. Timing and attention to detail are essential for this position. You can’t just throw anyone into that spot.

We don’t have a dedicated replay system like a 3 play or Zeplay. We have a couple of computers with Wirecast 6. Wirecast is a software switcher that has a ton of tools for broadcasters. Our main wirecast box has a Blackmagic Design decklink duo with SDI inputs. The decklink duo is setup with SDI in and out so I run our Two high position cameras (tight and wide) into the decklink and through to the Blackmagic Design ATEM Studio to serve as 2 inputs. The computer also has a secondary output that is HDMI. I run the HDMI out to be a source in the ATEM as well - this will be the program out of the wirecast software. Wirecast 6 has replay built in. It will capture 30 second clips of the program window and store them automatically. When a play that you want replay happens, you hit the replay button at the top of the screen. Wirecast then takes that 30 clip and places it where you told it to in your set-up (There are TOO many options for this article). After the clip is placed, the student can trim it, determine playback speed and fire it when the director calls. Again - THIS TAKES THE RIGHT STUDENT…

We have not updated to Wirecast 7 but it can do replay with each input. It can ISO record and replay every input. This is more in line with the higher end replay servers at a fraction of a fraction of the cost!

Replay is a lot of fun but can be very stressful. It adds a huge layer of professionalism to your broadcasts and can give your more advanced students the challenge they desire. For those that have another sponsorship need, you can set Wirecast so that when you click the replay button, you not only get the footage but you can also place a sponsor logo/message with the video.

The key to a great broadcast is finding that balance between on the field action and the elements of the event that matter to those there. Remember, your audience at home wants to feel like they are at the game so make sure you cover all of the essential elements of the entire event.

Next month, we talk about prepping for the weather and basketball season!


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.