Oklahoma State Students Hit Home Run With First Flypack Production

By Carolyn Braff

Last year at this time, Oklahoma State University’s sports-degree program lacked the equipment that would enable students to transition from Sports Media Club participants to aspiring production professionals. This semester, thanks to the persistence of Associate Professor Marc Krein and a generous financial grant, the students pulled off their first streaming production, utilizing a mobile production flypack to produce a four-camera shoot of a women’s softball game, complete with four channels of EVS and a full half-hour pregame show.

“We were able to implement this beyond our expectations,” Krein explains. “There was some serious engineering going on when you’ve got to put that flypack together. We labeled everything, took it out in the field, got the correct power, fired it up, and said wow, this thing works!”

A student crew of 17 — the members of OSU’s advanced sports-broadcast-production course — met the crew call at 10 a.m. for that day’s 5 p.m. softball game. Krein brought in a professional director, Fox Sports’ Tim Cushing, to train the students, and Krein himself is an experienced EVS operator, but on game day, the students did the entire production themselves.

“This was our crescendo,” Krein says of the semester-long course. “We’ve been working all semester to get this together, making bumpers, billboards, teases, packages, opens, and credits. They did a site survey, helped decide how to build the flypack unit — it was a whole course designed specifically for this one event. The kids took it really seriously.”

Some humor was required, however, as the students began to take the equipment out of boxes and assemble the flypack inside of the 16-foot truck Krein rented to serve as the mobile production unit. The fact that Krein asked for equipment for a flypack — rather than a full production truck — helped him make his pitch to the grant committee.

“Part of the reason I got this grant was because I said we don’t need a truck; we can just wheel this wherever we want to go,” Krein explains. “We’re not tied to a truck and not tied to the expense of a truck. I rented a truck, and it cost me $62 for the day. The rest of the time we’re not paying for maintenance or all the obvious sustainables on a truck.”

Not having a truck does have its downsides, however, which Krein and his crew found out the hard way while unpacking what felt like miles of cable.

“It was really a spaghetti factory of wires going everywhere,” he says. “Once we get specialized mults, it will be a lot better. Invariably, we would get really close to completing the setup, and then we would make one change in preferences and someone would say, ‘We lost camera one!’ The setup was a lot more physical than any of us thought.”

With the exception of four Sony HVR-Z1U and HVR-S270U cameras, a jib, and a portable teleprompter, all of the equipment for the Remote Oklahoma State University Streaming Control Operation (ROSCO) was paid for through the grant Krein obtained. Among other elements, ROSCO’s flypack equipment includes a Grass Valley 12-input Indigo Audio-Video mixer, Kramer vertical interval switchers for EVS and master control, Datavideo CG-100 character-generator software, Sennheiser microphones, and Sony LCD monitors.
The production was streamed through Cowboy MVP, the OSU athletic department’s subscription streaming service. Cowboy MVP productions generally rely on a single camera tied into the radio announcer’s feed, but, based on the success of the ROSCO production, Cowboy MVP may soon be boasting four-camera productions.

“They would love it if we did every game,” Krein explains. “We’re in the process of negotiating to do more events like this, trying to figure out what it costs us to do it. We’re not in it to make money, but we certainly have some expenditures, and we want to cover our costs. The athletic department has been more than happy to accommodate us on these events, so it’s a good thing for everybody.”

Krein’s production was so successful, in fact, that the Special Olympics likely will be employing his services in three weeks, when the group uses Oklahoma State’s football stadium for an event.

“We’re probably going to be asked to provide the feed for the JumboTron,” Krein says. “We’re also going to do a lot of high school sporting events next year because the high schools never get this kind of coverage. They are very accommodating where working with athletic directors at large universities can be a challenge.”

Krein envisions having students take the flypack to high school football and basketball events next fall and winter to produce an over-the-air feed that local television stations can sell. Talks are already in the works to make that vision a reality.

“I would encourage anybody who is thinking about doing this, especially the small private colleges, to jump in and do it,” Krein says. “They can pay for the equipment investment in very little time.”

To see photos from ROSCO’s first live streaming production, click here: http://blip.tv/file/1983390

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