Broadcasting in 2020

Brianna Carmack and Katya Tarabrina, Editor-in-Chiefs

A year ago, Manhattan High basketball games met in a gym completely full of fans cheering for the Indians, a pep band blasting tunes from the corner of the gym, concessions being sold in the lobby and full teams of cheerleaders and dancers on the floor. 

This year, COVID-19 restrictions mean basketball is limited to teams, officials and a small contingent of cheerleaders. To help fans follow their team, a crew of digital media students from Kristy Nyp’s Video Production class are livestreaming the games, as well as wrestling meets and other activities.

The broadcast team got to the gym for last Saturday’s games around 1 p.m. to set up three cameras, a computer control room and an announcers desk in the north gym. By the start of the J.V. girls game at 2:30 p.m. they were ready to stream the game to the Mentor’s YouTube channel, Manhattan Mentor Student Media. 

Live audiences are prohibited at winter sporting events this season due to the Kansas State High Schools Activities Association’s decision to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines. So, with the livestreams being the only outlet for parents and students to watch the games, the people in charge feel a bit of pressure to get everything right.

“There’s a bit of pressure, I feel, but honestly it comes down to trusting your team, getting to know them and instructing them on what their jobs are supposed to do,” senior Bryan Gross said. “If you can do that efficiently, you can alleviate that pressure and make it a pretty smooth experience. One that is not really stressful and is just fun.”

Gross and and a few of the other Video Production students have had experience livestreaming the football games. The experience of live streaming football — a more slow-paced game than basketball — was different because of the differences between the two sports. 

“Football’s a bit slower paced, so you kind of can follow the action a bit more,” Gross said. “You already know what you want to do with the camera since you can data predict the players movements a bit more. However, with basketball due to it being a more fast paced sport, you can’t really predict how you want your camera crew to follow the action. Or you don’t really know what shots you should cut to next because of the fast pace.”

The crew used various transitions throughout live streaming the football games. However, when the team tried to use those same effects, the quality was more choppy due to basketball being more fast paced.

“In the beginning, I kind of applied our same principles that we used for football by using a lot of fade techniques,” Gross said. “I eventually realized that that kind of led to a choppy experience just due to how fast paced the sport is. So eventually, our crew went to just doing cuts and we did fades for special transitions such as then taking a shot at the baskets after a foul or something.”

Streaming in a multi-camera environment requires two to three people in the “control room,” which is set up in the hallway outside of the gym, as well as three or four camera operators. Gross was the director of Saturday’s show. He’s one of a handful of students who are trained to run the TriCaster, a switcher that lets him mix video and audio streams coming from multiple cameras, microphones and recordings, as well as add graphics such as scores and transitions.

Because of the small size of the Video Production class, extra workers have been recruited, particularly to serve as on-air announcers, or talent. Seniors Dil Ranaweera, Jeremiah Belin and Jon Grove and junior Grant Snowden took on announcing for Saturday’s games. 

“For the first game of the season, especially for the first year with commentary, it was pretty good for us because we got to each other’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of commentary,” Belin said. 

The first game that had announcers involved was the girls Varsity basketball game. With it being the group’s first time announcing together, there were some technical difficulties that they faced in the beginning. However, the second round of announcing was performed better since they had that prior experience of announcing the girls Varsity game.

“The girls game was kind of more getting used to each other, so it was kind of supposed to be bad at first,” Belin said. “Over the next couple minutes, it was kind of like ‘okay, this guy is good at this thing, the other guy’s got this thing.’”

To help them polish their work, Nyp has arranged for a training with a professional sports announcer. Dave Barnett, a sportscaster at the University of North Texas and announcer for Fox Sports, to present in a Zoom session on Wednesday morning for any student interested in learning about sports announcing. 

“Having a serious audio/video strand in our Digital Media pathway has been my goal for a long time,” Nyp said. “I want to help the students have the equipment and information they need to be able to do this kind of journalism. And broadcasting sports is just fun.”

The first set of games wasn’t meant to be perfect since the crew is still figuring out what works best in that type of setting. Plus, with the addition of announcers, there are some new things to try and figure out in order to make the audio quality perfect. 

“Getting our audio down is definitely probably a priority,” Gross said. “I feel like there wasn’t a lot of communication between us and the announcers. There was plenty of communication between me and the camera guys, but there didn’t really feel like there was a strong link to the announcers.”

The Video Production team feels more ready than before to livestream the next winter sporting event. They are excited because of how positive the reception of the first set of games was.

“I know one of the basketball player’s moms that I know texted me and she said that the media group did a very good job with the commentary,” Belin said. “She was very impressed with what we were doing. I remember getting so many text messages from classmates and maybe even some teachers.”

The Video Production team is currently understaffed. Therefore, they highly encourage anyone who has interest in sports announcing, live streaming and audio and video technology to participate in an event with them. They hope to include different techniques in the future in order to step up the quality of their livestream.

“When you’re doing a stream just remember to stick to what you necessarily want from it,” Gross said. “You’re the director. It’s your show. Of course you have to adhere to the strict rules of the game, but if you just stick to what you want and you can work with your crew effectively, you can make amazing production out of anything.”