Western Michigan’s Bronco Productions Teams With FOR-A on Envivo Replay Purchase

The Variant Systems solution also provides a teaching tool for a student-run staff

When Western Michigan University earned immense publicity by winning the 2015 Bahama Bowl and 2016 Mid-American Conference championship, as well as playing in the 2017 Cotton Bowl after a perfect regular season, the folks at Bronco Productions knew that they had to flex their tech muscles. To put an exclamation point on the football team’s run of success, the program looked to FOR-A to seal the deal on Variant Systems Group’s Envivo replay slow-motion playback solution.

“The overall quality of the production — being able to show more replays and quickly import footage that was created beforehand — has been very nice,” says Thomas Delves, director, Bronco Productions.

Making a Decision
When looking to make the production leap, the staff at Western Michigan had a precise procedure for weighing their options.

“Some of the three big things that Devon [Doxey, assistant director, Bronco Productions] and I talked about was a price point that could work with our budget, someone that we could call very quickly if we needed service, and something that is easy to train student workers on while also having a professional feel to it,” Delves says. “If [a student] wants to be a [professional] replay operator, they can go out in the field and have experience with something that is similar to what you would see in a production truck.”

The Envivo replay solution allows slow-motion capture for Broncos Productions.

After noticing all that Envivo replay platform has to offer, Delves and his team decided to pull the trigger on the purchase by contacting FOR-A, the product’s exclusive vendor for North, Central, and South America. Variant Systems has also helped the crew get settled in.

“Working with FOR-A was super easy,” Doxey says. “They’ve been great. If you have any questions, everyone is really at the ready to answer those things. Olaf [Bahr, VP, marketing/co-founder, Variant Systems] has been amazing. [For] something as small as wanting to change the name of our two panels to Brown and Gold, our school colors, he had custom buttons sent to us in three days. We knew we were buying a new product, and we knew we’d run into odd things.”

Slowing Things Down
The replay server is modeled for quick accessibility and efficient functionality. A touchscreen interface enables students to perform easy navigation. As for slowing down replays, multiple inputs allow six of the seven or eight cameras in their complement to have slow-motion capability. Besides slowing down game footage, the Envivo helps the students organize their content in a fast-paced environment.

Western Michigan played Wisconsin in the 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

“How clips and bins are laid out is pretty much that way in any system that you use,” Doxey explains. “It’s being able to teach them how to organize and label correctly, being able to do a dual playlist. Other examples include doing a pregame [show] or going back-to-back for both teams with multiple playlists going on [simultaneously] rather than just one. It’s been very helpful when teaching them that ‘Hey, this is how it’s done in the professional world.’”

The Envivo replay is housed in the university-owned mobile production unit. Although Bronco Productions does 45 to 50 live games a year, the Envivo is reserved mostly for the in-venue videoboard show for the six football home games and ESPN broadcasts.

Eyes on the Future
Despite the technological advantages of having the Envivo in their arsenal, Delves and Bronco Productions take a holistic approach to their broadcasts. With full-time students accounting for 90% of game-day staff (the other 10% are freelancers who graduated from the program), the system is used as a teaching tool for a career after school.

“Getting more replay operators comfortable with [the system] is the goal,” notes Delves. “You have these students for only four years, and that’s if you get them as a freshman, which is really tough. Just being able to train and get more people is going to make for a better production.”

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