Last year, our boys basketball team won the state championship.
They had a star studded team. We did a “moderately ok” job of producing games for them. This year is going to be different. We are going to aim for “ok.”
Last year’s broadcasts were a mix of pixellot shows and manually produced shows. With Pixellot, you get a consistency and reliability that can’t be beat. I don’t think the camera got off track for more than 20 seconds the entire season. I know that the developers have worked diligently in the offseason to make improvements so I am excited to see what’s in store for this year. I will use the pixellot for all of my sub varsity games. I’m sorry but there are few pains worse than a freshmen or jv girls basketball game. Not being sexist but it’s almost more than I can stomach! I will let the pixellot camera take care of it. The broadcasts will have a graphic overlay with the time and score and audio from the gym so it will actually be a better broadcast than most varsity programs will have (and the coaches will have footage to use!).
I will use the pixellot for a good number of our varsity games as well but I will add a play by play announcer to the mix. With the pixellot, it’s almost too easy… run a cable from your mixer to the pixellot computer and it’s done.
For the big games, we will TRY to use our network to produce from a central control room. Our tricaster is in a completely different building as the gym but I think it’s going to work out well. The initial tests all look great. I’m a little nervous about communication and graphics. We are going to start simple so we can work out the kinks.
Communication is going to be interesting to start because to be perfectly honest, I don’t have a plan. My camera op is going to be a guy who has been my number one go to guy so I am not worried about him covering the game. I am worried about the play by play announcers. We are going to do a couple of games without them to get the technology worked out with the camera and hopefully by then, I’ll have a plan.
As for graphics, I am going to go with Titler Live from NewBlue FX. I am actually pretty excited about this. Here’s the plan. The actual graphics operator will be in the “control room” with the tech director and me but I will have another person in the gym keeping time and score updated. Titler Live allows you to control their scoreboard tools remotely via a web interface. So I will have a person in the gym with just the remote interface open and they will push the score back to the control room. From there, I will be able to tell the graphics operator which graphics to push and hopefully we can produce an amazing show!
I am also planning for the spring semester. We are on block schedule so I only have 3 classes and they are all introduction classes. My first and fourth period will be first year video production and my third period will be an introduction to digital media.
Intro to digital media is the first class in our animation pathway. In the past, this has been a class where we made cartoons and other animations while learning the basics of photoshop, after effects, and character animator. I am going to change my approach this spring. As our pathway has grown, I have found that the need to create content to promote things within the school. I am also seeing the explosion of social media job opportunities across the board and want the students to be able to try to fill those jobs. We will focus a lot on the reason for social media marketing while helping the students learn the tools and techniques needed to create great content.
For my first year tv production classes, we are going to produce the news…. And a lot of it! We are going to do two news shows each day. One will be pushed to the school as a part of the announcements, etc and the other will only go to our social media sites. I am not doing this because I am a glutton for punishment and like asking “what’s the point?” I am doing this to make sure that my students all have the same experience. My fear is that if I teach different things that in the next year, they will get together and not have a common language, goals, skill set, and abilities. The shows will have very similar content but the social media shows can go a lot longer so we will work to push some of the longer form projects in the social media broadcast.
I am hoping that for Christmas Newtek will update the Premium Access to be able to set different aspect ratios so we can do vertical shows for the social media experience. They have talked about this for a while but no one, despite my many inquiries, can give me a timetable for when that will be available. This will be a game changer for us because right now we have to take the footage into premiere pro and edit it so it will be vertical. This means we lose our graphics and most of our video elements - or make the whole video fit inside the framework and waste a ton of digital space on the viewer’s device.
November is going to be a great month. A late in the month week off for Thanksgiving means that when we come back there will only be a couple of weeks left in the semester. I hope your semester is fling by just as mine has.
Next month, I will have an update on the central control room for basketball and talk about how I am going to close out the semester and try to keep the kids engaged.
Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year.
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.