How Austin Hansen — Loyola Chicago’s One-Man Video Band — Stepped Up During the Ramblers’ Improbable Final Four Run
In his first year at the school, the video-production pro faced a wild March
It has been a month since Loyola Chicago captivated the sports world with its incredible trip to the Final Four, and Austin Hansen is still glowing (now that he has finally caught up on some sleep, that is). The Ramblers’ director of video production hasn’t even completed his first year on the job, and he has already experienced a lifetime of memories captured through his camera lens.
Telling the story of the men’s basketball team’s Cinderella run was a unique and captivating challenge for the Iowa native, but he more than delivered on the sport’s biggest stage, producing content that took Ramblers fans behind the scenes of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The incredible part of it all? He did it, largely, on his own.
In fact, his role didn’t even exist prior to his arrival at the university last June. Unlike his counterparts at, say, Kansas or Michigan, Hansen didn’t have a “team” that he worked with on the Final Four in San Antonio. He did it all: shooting, editing, archiving, posting. The works.
Others who work at mid-major schools can certainly relate. So how in the world did he pull it off?
“It’s a game-by-game thing,” says Hansen. “It was such a big deal for us to even win the conference this year. This team hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament for 33 years. You can never plan for something like this. Like the team, you take it game by game.”
When it comes to producing content during a historic moment for his school, Hansen acknowledges that it can be easy to be sucked in to biting off more than you can chew. With limited resources, he says it was important to pick his battles and not lose focus on what he has done best.
“Always keep in check with your style,” Hansen suggests. “It can be tempting as you get deeper in a run like this to want to do something new and big. Stick with your style. Trust yourself. Create what you think people would want to watch. Make it your own. You know what your fans want. At the end of the day, see what’s going to make your content unique.”
That was a common trend seen across the other schools — Villanova, Kansas, and Michigan — at the Final Four. With such a massive media presence to tell their versions of the most popular storylines, the most important thing an athletic department team can do is leverage its relationship with the team and the access that affords, using it to differentiate itself through their content.
“You don’t want to leave anything out or miss anything,” Hansen points out, adding, “But you have to focus yourself. I tried to take five or so things that happened in a given day and crunch it down. What can I produce that ESPN, CBS, or WGN aren’t seeing? What can our fans see that’s total inside access?”
One of his favorite pieces was one where he told the story of Rambler players’ seeing the Final Four court inside the Alamodome for the first time. It perfectly reflected the type of highly personal content he hoped to create.
“It felt like the Hoosiers’ moment, stepping onto a big court,” he says. “This wasn’t any beautiful, crazy footage, but it was authentic reactions that no one was going to be able to see on the news or during the game broadcast.”
His strategy clearly worked. The Ramblers’ YouTube channel and athletic department website saw huge spikes in viewership. The team’s Twitter followers ballooned by 20,000 in a 24-hour period after it qualified for the Final Four.
Typically (when the men’s basketball team isn’t shocking the world), Hansen serves as the chief liaison for all Ramblers live event productions for ESPN3 and any nationally televised games. The department expects around 80 productions this academic year. He also oversees all in-venue videoboard entertainment, which this year included a new set of displays at the school’s basketball and volleyball building, Gentile Arena. He also is responsible for creating all the video content that appears on the school’s various social platforms.
During the NCAA Tournament, Hansen shot with a couple of different cameras. He has two Panasonic LUMIX G DMC‑GH4 cameras that can shoot both in 4K and at up to 96 fps for slow motion. He also has a shoulder-mount Sony camera that he uses to capture traditional game highlights.
“I couldn’t have done it without the technology,” he says. “I don’t have cutting-edge equipment or anything crazy, but it’s just enough to get the job done. I’m super thankful for that. That made my life really smooth, knowing that I could trust my equipment.”
Hansen admitted that singlehandedly tackling a project like the Final Four can be extremely scary and overwhelming. Loyola Chicago now joins the ranks of the George Masons and Virginia Commonwealths as mid-majors to go this deep into the tournament. So, for the next school that may experience this, he would offer this advice to its video director: have a responsible plan and take your cameras with you literally everywhere you go.
“Get as much footage as possible,” he recommends. “I carried my camera absolutely everywhere. Even if I wasn’t going to a shoot or an event, I’d bring it. I was getting shots of the River Walk, outside the Dome, the exterior of the Alamo. There were Rambler flags hanging outside these local restaurants, which is absolutely crazy for us because we hardly see that in Rogers Park [in Chicago]. You don’t have to make everything into a piece, but shoot as much as possible. Take advantage of this opportunity. And definitely back everything up!”
On a lighter note, Hansen advises that his counterparts relish the moment. There’s a lot of work to be done, he points out, but allow yourself a moment to drink it all in.
“Enjoy the experience,” he says. “Even if I look nerdy, I’m not afraid to stick my camera on a monopod and take a selfie at center court. I looked so dumb doing it, but, hey, it’s one of my favorite photos. We’re at the Final Four!”