For Valparaiso sports fans that don’t get the chance to come watch in person, they have the opportunity to stream games on ESPN. However, the process that goes into making these streams possible is beyond amazing to say the least. One of the craziest facts is that the majority of the crew is primarily student based.
For a typical weekend game in the ARC, the main crew call for an ESPN broadcast begins three hours before the game. The crew set up as many as eight cameras around the arena, depending on the crew size. From the camera, the wires, called fibre cables, connect to the broadcasting booth. Microphones are also attached to the cameras to provide audio to the stream.
An hour before each game is broadcasted, the crew starts their “Transmission Fax.” This is when the crew get on the phone with the main ESPN control center that is based out in Bristol, Connecticut. They run through all of the different aspects of the broadcast and see that everything is up to standard and is working properly.
“We prepare ourselves for broadcasts by doing a systems check with them. We will show them all of our camera angles, we will verify that we have two sources of audio coming through. We will show them some graphics to make sure that they are up to their specifications. We usually run through our transition graphics and we usually do a lip-sync test,” former alumni and director Karl Berner said. “For example, we will usually play a commercial in which people are talking, and on the other end they will watch the video and listen to the audio and make sure everything is all synced up.”
Once the game begins, the whole team is in a constant state of focus. Camera operators on the track and on the court following the action every second of the way. The broadcasting team is constantly making graphics and are in constant communication with everyone on the crew.
As the game ends, the broadcast team give about two minutes of airtime for the analysts to recap and wrap everything up. The broadcasting team will display some analytical graphics and highlights for the viewers to see. Given that each sport is different, the wrap up tends to be slightly different time-wise.
Once the broadcast ends, the crew put away the equipment. This phase takes about an hour. Wires, cameras, and microphones are wrapped up and put away properly. In the control room, the crew throw away old game notes, turn off monitors, clean their desk areas, and lock everything up. The day ends with the crew meeting to discuss what happened and what went wrong and what could be improved upon.
In one day’s work of a weekend game, the crew’s total work time goes for about five to seven hours.
One interesting position that many may not know are the camera grips. On the court, camera operators have cameras that have fibre cables that need to be attended to. Grips handle the cables with a technique that is called “over under”, which is when they handle the cables in an organized way. Grips also watch out for unknown variables that could affect the court cameras.
“When a cable is attached to a wire, it is a grips job to make sure nobody is tripping over it. You are a second set of eyes for your camera. Let’s say that a basketball is coming towards the camera: usually when someone is working a camera, they have one eye closed. As a grip, you can pull someone back or push them aside if a ball comes their way,” said freshman Olivia Makar.
For the students, the benefits come in many different perspectives. One of them is the educational benefit. Many of the students are in classes about television broadcasting, and what they learn in the classroom helps them out in the field, making that knowledgeable about their job extremely beneficial.
Another benefit of the job is the long term impact the job provides. The students are able to build upon a foundation of different skills that can allow them to find jobs in television that they enjoy to work in.
“It has given me a better direction towards my future. This whole job and experience is kind of the reason why I decided to go to Valpo in the end, because I heard about this [job]. It has definitely given me a clearer focus on what I want to do in the future. I am grateful for that,” said sophomore Chris Gere.
If you are interested in learning more about the ESPN+ broadcasting team, contact Ron Blatz at firstname.lastname@example.org