By Katie Oostman, Contributing Writer
Mark Troyer was watching the Asbury men’s soccer team on his computer as usual on Sep 5. However, what he saw online was anything but the usual. Within minutes, he headed to the field to discover that a crew of thirteen students with a four-camera flypack (a smaller technical setup) had replaced the normal single camera scan of the field. The soccer game stream was produced, directed and shot like an actual sports broadcast.
Troyer wasn’t the only one surprised at the appearance of cables on the field and commentary on the web stream; however, for the students heading up the project, that first game was the culmination of a year of work. Asbury alumni Taylor Florian and Daniel Gibbons were the pioneers of broadcasting AU sports teams in a professional, independent manner. They worked with small systems and minimal support to cover basketball and a few other sports.
Unwilling to let their hard work be in vain, Vada Bennett, a junior in the media communication department, stepped up.
“Asbury’s sport flypack is the hope of many that has finally come together,” Bennett said. “I’ve been bugging Don Mink and Jim Owens since my freshman year for more live TV capability.” Bennett, with the help of her family’s company Richfield Video Productions (RVP), supported Highbridge Film Festival’s webcast least year. She explains that the interest sparked by its success allowed for more support to make flypack productions a consistent occurrence.
It is one thing to set up a camera and record an event; it is quite a different thing to set up four with microphones, graphics and commentators, and combine them all in a logical manner to stream live to the World Wide Web. Bennett attributes the initial success of the flypack to the support of the media communication staff, enthusiastic students and her background with RVP.
Bennett explained, “RVP is a video production company based in Shelbyville, Ky., that focuses on Saddlebred and Morgan horses. We travel around the country producing multi-camera webcasts using a flypack of week-long horse shows for viewers across the world.” When technology evolved from digital to analog, Bennett’s parents looked to her, a child of the web generation, to help upgrade the company. Five years later, there isn’t an aspect of the technical setup she has not designed from the ground up. As RVP’s setup is nearly identical to Asbury’s, Bennett, with the help of the media communications engineering team, was able to turn a vision into reality.
The flypack’s success is not only technical; Bennett recognizes story must be integrated in order for the show to be interesting and relevant. “To build a show you have to have the content first,” she said. “Then you have to decide how you want to present it, and what you’re going to add to it to convey the story. Then, you need to go to your engineer and make sure you have the technical capability to do what you want.”
So far, the flypack crew has covered soccer, volleyball and basketball. The crew rotates based on students’ availability and desire to learn new positions. Bennett has already trained two technical managers to take her place so that the flypack can continue to grow. The Asbury sports teams covered appreciate a new way to review their performance, and even visiting teams grow excited with the possibility of having their friends and families watch from home.
Bennett and those heading up the flypack webcasts are constantly looking to add to their show and their crew. “We can use absolutely every emphasis in the media communication department,” she said. She described that performance emphasis students can become commentators, while production emphasis students put together the actual show. Meanwhile, film emphasis students help make packages ready and multimedia students make static and motion graphics. “The best part about these webcasts is that they can be literally whatever we as students want them to be,” Bennett added, “so if you have a skill set that you want to practice, chances are it can be incorporated into the flypack.”
The beauty of a flypack production is that it can be taken almost anywhere. Once students have an understanding for its technical capabilities, they have the freedom to choose their content and generate their own shows. This creates the opportunity for exploration as well as a platform on which to be recognized. Bennett appreciates the opportunities the flypack has given her to apply what she has learned in the classroom to a real situation where she has the pressure to make or break the show. She hopes others will seize the chance to experience the same.
“I hope the flypack crew grows to be something that is checked out as often as equipment for films is,” she said. “I hope that we can incorporate the entirety of the focuses within the media communication major, and that we can expand to not only doing sports, but coming up with other great, creative ideas for things to cover.”
If you are interested in learning more, email Don Mink: firstname.lastname@example.org