Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 2
Aug 3, 2011 1:54 PM,
with Bennett Liles
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Covering video for football and basketball in the same control room with a 24-hour turn-around demands flexibility and at Southern Illinois University they made it work with fiber optics from Telecast Fiber Systems and training students as production crew. Director of video services Chris Hagstrom is going to wrap up his talk about how they brought it all together—coming up on the SVC podcast.
Chris, thanks for being back with me for the SVC podcast from the video services team at Southern Illinois University. We were talking earlier about the fiber upgrades that you had done in the football and basketball venues there. A tremendous system—a Copperhead from Telecast Fiber; I wanted to get into some of the more production details on this because you’re using students—obviously a high-demand situation for them a great example of inner departmental cooperation. You’ve got fiber linking the control room to the venues but you were telling me that it’s quite a distance to string cable.
Yes, it’s 750yds. away from our football stadium to our basketball arena and the basketball arena is where the control room is housed, so the distance was quite great and one of the problems that sometimes gets posed is yes we have our cameras that are shooting the action but one of the things that sometimes you’re wondering about is the video board itself and you’re making sure that the signal is getting there so one of the things that we’re hoping to do in the future is to have some kind of safety cam, not a manned camera, it’s just a camera that shoots the video board just so we’re confident—a confidence cam if you will—that we know that the signal is getting to the video board and the quality of the video board looks good. But we’re really happy though the fact that we used one facility—it basically came down to, “Do we want one facility in football and one facility in basketball and lower end equipment, lower grade equipment, so we can have more? Or do we put it all into one room but go high-end, go HD?” And that made the most sense because fans are so demanding out there now a days. They want everything crystal clear—they want everything right here right now and we felt that putting everything into one room going in the high-end of equipment was the best way to do that. [Timestamp: 2:31]
What sort of equipment and capabilities do you have in that control room?
We actually…our control room handles all of the video production for the venue itself. We have a director, we have a replay operator, a video board operator which controls the video board for football, and then the video board as well as all our little side boards and rings for basketball. We also have our CCU operator that controls the camera’s color, black level, and iris, and of course myself in there as the producer putting everything together and connecting all those different people where our director just focuses on the camera I’ll focus on the overall presentation of the events whether it’s the game itself, the videos that are being played. And then we also have a Python system from Telecast which we can also utilize…let’s say ESPN comes in to do a game, we can pull their camera feeds from our truck dock which is where one of the other Pythons is held, send it up to our control room and we can also do the same and send them any signal from us back down to them. So at one point in time we had about eight cameras available for us when we utilized our feed from the Python to ESPN. [Timestamp: 3:49]
And you mentioned you’ve got students on the production crew. Where do you break them in? Do you start them off on camera or how do you rotate people into that?
It’s really, really unique because last year we had a brand-new facility—it was finished on September 1st and September 2nd was when our first game was, so that time we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare the students but we did have the equipment available just not hooked up and ready to run so we had them practice on the cameras…we actually had just plugged an SDI feed out of the camera not using the Copperhead system but going right into a mixer I borrowed from our Mass Com department and I able to see what they were trying to look for and explain to them what they need to look for when it comes to producing a football game. A lot of times the students that we get in are already well-versed in a camera but they’re not familiar as far as sports production so it’s almost a trial by error. We’ll put some of our veterans on camera for first part of a game and switch to maybe some new camera operators for the second half and there’s a little bit of a learning curve there but the students I had this year picked up all of our direction quickly, the fans really didn’t notice a lot of change when we went from one camera to another and we were just really pleased with how quickly they picked up on learning—not just the camera side but also do…they do the Replay, they direct the game, they run the video board so they’re involved in 99% of the operation of the game. [Timestamp: 5:2]
And I’m sure they’re highly motivated with all of the people waiting in line to get those production crew jobs. Are there other ways that the video services people work with other departments in the university?
Yes, we just recently produced our chancellor’s installation for the web. We had set up our camera system and then we also received some other equipment from the Missouri Valley Conference who are looking to get all of their different teams to webcast every single sport. Now part of that was getting a TriCaster which of course is made by the same company that makes the Replay and so we utilized the TriCaster as far as the actual web streaming of her events and with that new TriCaster system we’ve been asked by a lot of different departments on campus to help with their future events and I know that in the future we’ll be helping out with our Mass Com departments future events that they have. They’re helping them webcast those, the student center also webcasts events and we’ll be helping out with them. So there’s a lot of different areas on campus we’re excited to help out and to teach them what we know from a sports venue production to applying it for a speaker or the Paul Simon public policy is to—when they have special guest speakers coming in to really become very important on campus when it comes to going into the next century, if you will, when it comes to webcasting. [Timestamp: 6:43]
Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 2
Aug 3, 2011 1:54 PM,
with Bennett Liles
And we were talking about video pretty much but how do you handle audio in the control room there? How far does your mic capability reach out?
We actually utilize everything that comes from football and basketball via their audio mixers but we only have a small Mackie mixer which is a 12-channel Mackie mixer, but we have an audio patch panel which we can patch all the different feeds from football to us and then all the different feeds from basketball to us via the same mixer. The audio operator in football will actually send me one line that controls all the microphones so we have an national anthem singer, if you have multiple…like the band for example, it’s miced—they’ll all come in on one line to me and I can adjust that level, and Mike Rosby who is our audio operator, he’s on the other end making sure the levels are balanced when they’re coming back to me so I don’t have the band up so loud and the national anthem singer so quiet and then we also have our radio play-by-play feed that comes in on another channel—we just pull it off the tuner. It made the most sense for our men’s basketball and football games, women’s basketball we don’t get a great signal so we take a direct feed from our…our radio play-by-play guy on the courtside area and that just comes up into our control room in one of…in…from one of the boxes that we have on the floor and then of course you have your crowd mic, you’ve got your replay, audio, you have your audio that you want to go to your recording devices, so there’s many different patches that we have but it all just comes in on a small Mackie mixer and for what we needed that was as big as we needed. [Timestamp: 8:2]
Yeah, audio is a big part of that—a lot bigger than most fans realize until the second they don’t have it but this is a huge project with all of the fiber that was installed. How long did this whole upgrade project take from the very beginning until you’re ready to fire it up for football and basketball?
Well, the facility itself took about a year to about a year and a half to completely build football, but as far the installation for video that only took three months for both facilities. It was a project that they got into their room a little later than they wanted, but they spent a lot of hours upgrading and putting all of equipment in so the fact that they were able to run all the fiber and build the control room in just three months was phenomenal—for football and basketball was about a month later and once they finished football, obviously it wasn’t that difficult to finish basketball because all the components were there it was just a matter of running the fiber. But when I was talking to our installers from TF Sports, Ron Stevens and Steve Hutchins, they were telling me that they were going to do whatever it took to get that completed before our first game in enough time for us to train when it came to basketball—football they did everything they could and they got up and running by our first game and I think that just gives a testament to Texas Star for how fantastic of a company they are to work with because they will get your deadline and no matter what happens they’ll meet it on time. [Timestamp: 9:44]
Yeah, that always makes a big difference when you have good communication and everybody’s on the same wavelength about what and when and what order everything has to be done. So did any surprises come along during the installation or any of the initial production where you had to work something differently?
No, actually it was a pretty smooth project install. There were a couple of hurdles that they had to work with from working with the local unions in the area but overall the project was a big success…it was a major success for SIU, for Texas Star and they’ve got this facility upgrade as one of their features that they talk about now that talks about implementing fiber so we’re really happy just to be a part of Texas Star’s pitch if you will and…like I said before they didn’t get into the project for installing video until about May or actually June rather when the control room was finally finished from a brick and mortar standpoint and then June, July, and August when it finally got installed so really nothing out of the ordinary for the install. [Timestamp: 10:48]
So what’s coming up for SIU and the video services team? Have you got anything in the works that you didn’t get to this time and you’ve put on the wish list?
Well, you know, we really wish we could upgrade more but at this point in time we’ve got everything that we need. We’re going to work on more of the webcast side now as we’re going to be focusing on webcast and volleyball games and trying to improve the baseball to softball webcasts but as of right now we’ve got everything that we need and maybe a few years down the road we’ll look to see what we can upgrade but we’re pretty happy with what we have now. [Timestamp: 11:21]
Well, that sounds like you’ve got plenty to work with and a good talent pool from the students on production positions and that must be a really busy place when you’ve got ball games in full swing—thanks for taking time to tell us about it. Chris Hagstrom with video services for athletics at Southern Illinois University.
Bennett, I appreciate the time talking with you and hopefully this gives an idea for somebody that’s out there looking to upgrade their facilities and gives them some insight into what it’s going to take. [Timestamp: 11:47]