A studio fit for ESPN

By: Dominic Chamberlain

Sports Editor

You can tell a good television production from a bad one.  When you watched last night’s NFL season opener between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers you saw a professional sports broadcast at the highest production level possible.  But when you watch your local High School football team on local access television, you get half of the production the folks at NBC put on last night, if that.  

Along at the top of the sports production world is ESPN, they are after all the worldwide leader in sports. If you need proof just watch any broadcast they put on the air. Everything from their weekly Monday Night Football broadcasts to their NBA coverage and even down to the Little League World Series is top notch television.  

Over the summer, Canisius got a studio fit for those types of broadcasts.

Take a trip into Science Hall and walk down past the plant wall to the room filled with monitors, computers and boards with flashing lights and buttons.  If you turn around and walk back to the plant wall and look to the right of the bay of computers, you will see a room with a big green wall and three robotic cameras.  All of this is now available to Canisius and its students to put on those high quality broadcasts.

First we need to clear the air on something; this is not an ESPN studio. This studio is more of a classroom for Canisius that is capable of putting on ESPN quality broadcasts, which it will through a deal with ESPN3.

This will include the graphics you are accustom to seeing on ESPN broadcasts, as well as the capability to make the same camera shots you see on those broadcasts.  However you won’t see professional cameramen or producers at these games; these games will be put on by Canisius students.

This semester there is one class responsible for putting on the broadcasts; JRN 359 taught by Sam Hallett. Hallett comes from the University of Maine where he worked in the production of football, soccer, basketball, hockey, softball, and baseball games for the school. Here at Canisius, in addition to teaching the class, Hallett is the Director of Digital Media for the Athletic Communications Department. It’s safe to say Canisius found a guy who knows his stuff to help run our state of the art studio.

“I think they did it right,” Hallett said in reference to the studio. “There were no corners cut. When they went to do this, they got the specs from ESPN3 and they put in a system and speced out exactly what they asked for.”

The studio contains top of the line technology; everything from three play replay, a Ross Carbonite switcher, and Hitachi cameras. If you don’t know what those are you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that they are good.

“It’s all state of the art,” said Hallett. “It’s top of the line. It’s what you’ll see at any station you go to; I mean we could do an NBA game out of our room if we wanted to.”

Obviously the Buffalo Braves left for California many years ago so if we wanted to do an NBA game we will have to wait until Terry Pegula decides to buy another sports franchise. For now the class will focus on putting on ESPN3 productions of our Volleyball team, Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams, and the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams once they start their seasons.

Since these productions will be run by students, the studio will need to attract students and it already has. Last year’s class that produced Canisius’ sports games had about 15 students in it.  The class now has 25 students and most of which are not journalism majors. Most students are in sports management and are taking the class purely out of the interest in sports and tying ESPN3’s name to the class seems to be a major selling point.

“There are seven freshman journalism majors who tell me that they will be part of the sports broadcast & journalism concentration, which is being offered for the first time beginning this fall,” said Catherine Foster who is the director of the journalism program here at Canisius. “And I’m in contact with a dozen or so high school students from throughout the area who are asking for information, and to come shadow students, so there is clearly a lot of interest in this new academic program.”

Having potential students be interested in our journalism program that was up in the air around this time last year is great for the longevity of the program. Although this studio and new equipment is here to help teach students about sports production, the students won’t be the only people benefiting from the gear.

The Athletic Communications department will also be using the new equipment and studio to make their jobs that much easier as described by Athletic Multimedia Graduate Assistant Ben Woody. “Personally things are going to work much better for me,” said Woody. “Last year I used to oversee all of the web-streaming for most of our sports. I was always solving problems and trouble shooting and running around figuring things out on top of shooting and producing feature video content and documentaries. This (new studio and equipment) will allow me to really focus on producing more, well rounded, athletic video content and documentaries.”

All of this means that students and fans of Canisius athletics will be receiving athletic content like they never have before. Better productions for live events, documentaries that will compare to things you see on ESPN’s 30 for 30, and a whole bunch of sports related shows are in the talks including recap shows as well as interviews with players.

It’s an exciting time for Canisius athletics as a whole as the school year starts up again.  Teams will be excited to get back into the swing of the season and fans should be excited to watch those teams like they never have before. And since Canisius seems to be churning out prospective professional athletes with Keegan Asmundson getting a chance with the Sabres in the Prospect Challenge this weekend and former basketball player Chris Manhertz signing with the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad, it seems like professionals in the sports production field could be next.

“These students will be able to take first hand skills and experiences that they learn in our studio into the real world,” said Woody. “This really makes Canisius unique from a whole new standpoint in that sense. Students will want to come here for this, and employers will want to hire them because of this. It’s a win win.”

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