There is no rest for the weary in high school sports productions. Seasons always overlap.
Our first basketball game is 7 days after our last regular season football game so I have to be prepared to cover up to 6 games on one night and three of those are playoff games… Basketball in my opinion is much easier to pull off but you can’t just put someone in the gym with a camera and get good footage. If you run into the same problem that I will have for the first week or two of basketball games, pull some of your more mature younger students and start getting them into the fold with some of the veteran students. For our most basic setup, basketball can be done with two students (or One very good, experienced student). You have to make the call. As I tell my crews, the most important thing for us is the coaching footage so by any means necessary, get the coaching footage.
Basketball games are easier to shoot because there are no weather concerns and there is a lot less gear…. mostly just less cable. The key to basketball footage is the same as most team sports, get a high and close to the center of the court as possible. We have shot in gyms that only have 4 rows of bleachers and we have shot in collegiate arenas. As long as you get positioned high enough to cover the entire court unobstructed you will be fine. Do the best you can with this. Every gym is very different. Our 3 schools have the most diverse gyms in terms of design imaginable. Rockdale has a new gym (3 or so years old). It is big, open, has an overhead scoreboard, camera cutout positions, power… everything you need. Salem has one of the most interesting gyms I have ever seen. Imagine a basketball court where the length of the court has an area about 50 feet wide on either side and the width about 10 feet and they cut that area out and dropped it down 12 feet. The stands are still on the top level, with the exception of the student section, and there is a waist high glass divider. Our camera ops get harassed by spectators all the time because we have to set up between the fans and the game. Heritage is an older guy. It is best classified as a bandbox. There are about 10 rows of wooden bleachers that go right to the edge of the playing surface. While there is an area for the camera operators to set up and sit. It is a tight fit and if they aren’t careful, they will get the back of a lot of heads in their shots. Every gym is different so you have to make do with what you have. Make sure you have enough extension cords for both power and your camera signal to run the length of the court. You never know where your power supply will be (One gym we shoot in only has power under the scorer’s table) or where you may have to set up your computers/switchers.
Basketball season also means Holiday Tournaments. During most of the season, our boys and girls teams play the same opponents on the same nights. So, my crew rides with the girls team to the game and the boys team home from the game. Two games for the price of one when it comes to travel plans. Unfortunately for us, the holidays mean our teams typically split up and they play on opposite sides of the state. Last year, the Five of the Six teams we shot for went in different directions. The one team that stayed home hosted a tournament, which we shot every game of, and the others literally covered the corners of the state. You have to make a choice. Big time production or cover your contractual obligations with the teams. I typically go barebones. One camera and one person are all you need to make the games happen. That’s often all I can send.
The other element when it comes to holiday tournaments: The students want breaks too. I pay my students more during the holidays to make it worth their while. I also talk openly with the parents about the expectations prior to the holidays. Open lines of communication are essential in all aspects of production but more important during the holidays.
Next month, how to thank your staff and our first wrestling meet.
Tom 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.