Live From Final Four: Virginia’s Video Team Is a One-Two Punch of Capture and Edit

Redemptive tournament run has brought special content moments for the Hoos

A college athletic department’s video-production team may never expect to make a Final Four. But it had better be ready when it happens.

For the University of Virginia’s Video Services department, this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a particularly special run to document in recent college-basketball memory: a program that suffered through being the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 seed a year ago has found redemption this year in a trip to the hallowed Final Four.

According to Mike Szlamowicz, director of video services, live events, and ACC Network, University of Virginia, it’s a season that has been rife with special video moments.

“I think, after the Elite Eight game, it was a moment of catharsis for the program and the fanbase,” he recalls. “We got back to Charlottesville the next day, and being able to have content that the whole UVA fanbase across the world can use to share in the excitement that the guys were feeling and the fans at the Welcome Home were having was special.

“I think we were able to do a good job of constantly putting out stuff, between photos, social, and video of the guys celebrating, clutching the trophy,” he continues. “It was a surreal, this-is-really-happening moment, and I think we were in a position where we were able to put together some great stuff around the excitement of the team coming back home after going to the Final Four.”

The UVA video team is running lean and mean at this year’s Final Four, with a two-man team of Szlamowicz and Director of Video Services, Post Production, and Recruiting Ryan Mahanes. With other sports events going on back on campus (and with the challenge of sending very large raw files from the site), the duo is handling all shooting, editing, and posting from the media workroom in the bowels of U.S. Bank Stadium.

The team’s camera arsenal is highlighted by a Red Epic Mysterium-X (outfitted with a standard 24-105mm photo lens) that will be used primarily for shooting the game action on Saturday (and, potentially, Monday evening).

As is protocol for all four schools represented at this Final Four, one video shooter is allowed to be positioned at a designated location beneath one of the baskets. During the game, that shooter will be Mahanes for UVA and, to make the most of the NCAA-imposed rights limitations, Szlamowicz will edit throughout the game. Mahanes will even run back to the media workroom during Under-8 timeouts to swap cards so that Szlamowicz can have a finished product ready to go when the rights window reopens following the end of the game.

Onsite at the Final Four, shooting and editing video content for the University of Virginia Athletics Department are Ryan Mahanes (left) and Mike Szlamowicz.

Szlamowicz and Mahanes are also shooting behind-the-scenes content from throughout the weekend with a Canon XC15. Its small form factor has proved ideal for run-and-gun shooting at an event of this nature. They also use a Panasonic AG-HPX500 shoulder-mount camera for typical interview and locker-room shoots. All video content is being edited on Adobe Premiere.

This whole experience is a new one for the UVA Video Services crew, with the men’s program making its first Final Four since 1984. So there’s a bit of figuring out going on here in Minneapolis, but Szlamowicz is confident that, if his team sticks with what got them here, they will be just fine.

“It’s a bigger stage, and there’s more stuff happening, but it isn’t anything too different than what we’ve done,” he explains. “It’s just trying to position ourselves in such a way to have our workflow be as efficient as possible, to have as much capture going on as possible. The reason we are here is to make everyone associated with UVA basketball feel like they are part of the experience, whether they are here or not. We keep that in mind, and, while it’s awesome to be here, this is a business trip.”

Adds Mahanes, “And doing all of those things while maintaining a constant look and a constant voice is really important. We want you to be able to look at something that we produced and recognize that as Virginia basketball.”