We want to start by thanking all of you for taking the time to complete the survey.
As we prepare content for each issue, we want to make certain that we are meeting your needs in the classroom and in the field.
Over 200 people took our survey about sports production and gave us a great glimpse into the world of video production in the schools. Of those that responded, over 60% are running programs with 5 or more years experience. This shows our great experience base to pull from but it also shows that 40% of the respondents are relatively new programs. This balance is great because we can use the experience of the more experienced programs with the new ideas and techniques from the new programs to reach out students more effectively.
The next interesting element of the survey is the balance between teachers that identified themselves as "TV/Video Production" teachers and "Broadcast Journalism" teachers. The mix is almost 75/25 respectively. This fact shows the growth of programs from tools to disseminate morning announcements to more advanced programs providing a variety of video solutions for their students, schools, and communities.
Getting into the meat of the survey, the question "Is your program producing sports events now?" shows a greater gap than all other responses of the survey. The responses were split with 51% of respondents answering "yes" and 49% reporting that they do not produce sports events.
Those that said they are broadcasting sports love football and basketball with each sport representing over 85% of the responses. Volleyball comes in 3rd with over 52%. The shocking stat about the types of sports covered is that 17% of programs stream swim meets. That shocks me primarily because swimming is so far off of my program's radar. Schools in our area have swim teams but there is no coverage (I see an opportunity!).
Before we talk about the programs who aren't producing sports, let's look at how those that produce events are handling them.
The press box is king when it comes to production but that is changing rapidly with the growth of IP and fiber production tools. Currently, the press box, production room, and "anywhere we can set up" lead the way for production locations. The next area of growth for high school sports production will be the installation and application of IP based production tools. This will open the production environments to include a wider variety of locations including central based production rooms. There are a few that have mobile production units such as a trailer or rv. If that’s you, I’m jealous.
In my opinion, the most important part of a sportscast is the audio elements. From on-air talent to ambient sound, audio brings the viewer to the game like nothing else can. Respondents seemed to all have the same answer; "It depends." Football and basketball both seem to get the love again when it comes to audio. Most said that football and basketball have play by play either from students or local radio while other sports, volleyball, softball, etc, were either silent or just ambient sound. This is completely understandable. We do the same thing. Our students know more about football and basketball than they do the other sports and therefore are more comfortable calling them. This also prevents issues like I experienced several weeks ago when a student doing play by play for a softball game blew a call horribly. The play was a 3 run homerun by a senior on senior night to evoke the run rule to win the game against the crosstown school. The call was "and she hits it foul." I love putting my students in the situation to make mistakes because they learn more by those mistakes than anything I will simply tell them but sometimes this is at the cost of a high quality broadcast. Student play by play can be laborious and droning so we often in an effort to create "better" shows just forgo the play by play. As I write this, I am convicted as my conscience reminds me that creating better broadcasts comes from bettering my students.
Now that I am humbled by audio, let's move to the picture. At this point, most are streaming in HD. This is not surprising as the ease of use and CDN networks are getting strong. The shock for me was the number of multiple camera shoots. Over 80% of you that answered said you are doing multiple camera shoots. THIS IS GREAT! As students prepare for the next step in their career, it is essential they get the "big show" experience. Wireless video solutions have not penetrated the school video market yet but I imagine it is coming as the prices come down on those devices. Again, there is a certain level of fear when it comes to wireless video that prevents some from giving it a try.
Those using multi-cam shoots use a variety of switchers from Wirecast, to Tricaster, to Ross Carbonite, the range in price and capabilities is extremely wide. The good thing is that the students are getting experience with a variety of tools and opportunities to understand the concepts needed to produce pro level broadcasts. The use of a switcher teaches not only the technical needs of a broadcast but the programming and aesthetics needed.
Outside of audio and video concerns, the viewer experience is next impacted by the use of graphics during the broadcast. Over 40% of those who are streaming do not add graphics to their broadcasts. I am speculating but I imagine the addition equipment, training, and focus are what scare people away from adding graphics. There are several solutions to the graphics problem in terms of putting them on the broadcast but the focus required is often the biggest deterrent. This is not something that I can help with other than to suggest finding "that" kid that wants to be an athlete but has no shot. They want to be a part of the team so bad they will do whatever it takes to make an impact.
Now, it's time to talk to you that aren't streaming sports events... I will not get "preachy" and try to harass but I do want to make the case for broadcasting sports. I also don't want to step on toes but I may. Before I start, please understand my heart in this plea. My heart as a teacher beats to give more students more opportunities to chase the career of their choice. My heart is often my handicap as I commit too much too many times. I am always looking for opportunities at the "next" level for my students. Defining the next level is difficult because I don't push my students to go to college or into the workforce. They have to make those choices but it is my job to make them aware of those choices.
Sports production is one of the fastest growing areas in video production across the nation. Each year, I attend the Sports Video Group's College Summit in Atlanta. Brandon Costa and his team with the college initiative released a study in 2014 that highlights the growth of broadcasting across all college sports. According to the 2014 Sports Video Group Media Report, post-secondary institutions created 85% more content in 2014 than 2013. While this was impressive in 2014, imagine what that number is now with the addition of social media streaming and other video elements.
According to Costa's 2016 NACDA Report, "The barrier to entry of live video production has dropped dramatically, thanks to the democratization of production. Gear is cheaper and easier to use and the Internet has made distribution simpler than ever." This is true at the high school and middle school levels as well. As teachers, giving our students the opportunity to experience the tools and techniques needed for success at the next level should be a major focus of our programs.
The other focus of our program should be to grow our program. With the exception of those at schools that solely focus on the arts or other programs, Sports is the paramount high school experience. Driving awareness of our programs can easily be accomplished by partnering with sports programs and presenting them to the public. I look at our sports teams as miniature marketing departments. Each player on the court or field has at least 1 fan who will be excited to experience their favorite player's games. The engagement with fans via broadcasts can grow your program incredibly by showing people who may not be interested in what happens inside the school walls what your program can do.
Producing live broadcasts is a scary topic for some. The unknown is the worst part - trust me I know - but once those fears are overcome, a successful program that creates successful professionals is not hard to attain. I am not suggesting that you jump in and produce every game for every sport. I highly suggest you start with one camera and a computer and see what you can come up with that works for you and your students. Start small and grow slow. It is hard to let go of the type A personality that is naturally a part of all teachers but make sure you do what you can do and not compare your program with others that have been on the air for a while.
I thank you again for all of your feedback about sports productions and I assure you that the team here at SchoolVideoNews.com will work to bring you content that matters.
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.