The S.A.R. High School Broadcasting Club in Bronx, New York was started in 2015 and is now one of the most popular clubs at the school.
The club leverages the schools access to Google Apps for Education to provide students with online tools that extend the clubs online collaboration capabilities. Every student at the S.A.R. School has an iPad and a school-issued Google email address. From online scheduling to website management, the school’s Google suite of online tools enables students to work on extracurricular activities in sync with their fellow students and faculty members. Josh Lewis, the broadcast club manager, says “We are a Google Apps for Education school, and every student has their own school email address from us. The club can use Google Apps to give students access to shared documents.” Lewis explained to me that the club uses Google Sites to help students get involved with the club’s website development. “After a couple of years of archiving all of our videos on YouTube... We also found that there were also a lot of pictures and the school didn’t have an official athletic website. So, we sort of melded the broadcasting and athletics website with team rosters, videos, and game setlists all in one place… Google Sites is free and it’s on our school domain. Google Sites are just like Google Docs where I can share control of certain portions of the site for students to interact with and update.” The club’s website can be found at broadcasting.SARHighSchool.org. If you go to this address, you will see that this subdomain simply forwards to the Google Sites address set up by the Google Apps for Education suite. The club's website has become the home for all of the sports broadcasts that the club is a part of. 70% of the 40-50 student members for the S.A.R. High School Broadcast Club are announcers for sports games. The broadcast club’s website has been organized to make it easy for ABC2 – Accelerated Broadcast Club Curriculum 55 sports team and drama club members to find access to the broadcasts that they were part of.
At the S.A.R High School Lewis told me “When we livestream sports games we use the built in Wirecast scoreboards.” Wirecast’s built in scoreboard titles allow the broadcast club customize each scoreboard with game information. Lewis can match the school colors, add team names and even bring in a clock using a separate camera. The second camera is then cropped within Wirecast and overlaid on the scoreboard itself. Lewis gave me this tip “If you do this [overlay a camera feed on your scoreboard] you might want to mute the camera that you overlay, so you don't hear the crowd noise or people standing near the camera. It's best practice to always have the scoreboard up on the top layer in Wirecast so it's always on top of the camera feed… You can also use Wirecast with keyboard shortcuts to help keep score during the game.” After about one year of broadcasting the school’s sports teams, Lewis started getting calls from coaches asking where they could find the recorded video. Lewis estimated that for every 5 people watching live, there are perhaps 100 people who watch the video replay on-demand. “Even if we only have 5 or 10 people watching live, our videos will generally have a couple hundred views the next day on YouTube” says Lewis. This is of course because not everyone can watch the broadcast clubs’ content while it’s live. Many of the student-athletes study the video after the broadcast to improve ABC2 – Accelerated Broadcast Club Curriculum 63 upon their skills. Lewis told me that “The students are watching the video after it has been streamed and the coaches are watching as well. They are breaking down parts of the game and determining where they could have done better... Certain coaches will email the students a link to the live stream and say, please watch the live stream again and breakdown certain players on the opposing team… When we live stream a game, and then later on in the season we play that same team again… there are certain sports such as Volleyball, where you can really gain a competitive advantage, looking at certain players, for example, one player may only serve short or they only serve long.”
Many schools like to have a PTZ camera operator work directly next to a technical director that is running the video production software. This is a great way to have one student queuing up the potential camera viewpoints and another student working the switching software. It’s considered best practice to pan, tilt and zoom a camera off-screen. This is done by moving the camera while its still in preview and therefore hidden from your audience. In this way, your audience may not realize that you have just one or two PTZ cameras, because they are continually seeing new angles and viewpoints from inside your studio as your director transitions to each pre-adjusted PTZ camera position. Many video production software systems including Wirecast, vMix, Livestream Studio, OBS, and the NewTek TriCaster now feature built-in pan, tilt and zoom ABC2 – Accelerated Broadcast Club Curriculum 45 camera support. This means that the video production operator can set up multiple camera positions as selectable presets directly inside the software.
Ian Fuller at the S.A.R High School Broadcast Club told me “Before we got the camera (PTZOptics 20X-NDI), everything was very manual. Where you always had to manually make sure that you got the right shots which was very hard with all of the fast action. Now that we have the PTZ camera, for the basketball games we have camera presets. We have presets for each side of the court, for foul shots and presets for the team sidelines. Those help to get the perfect angle at that moment, because we don’t have to manually try to move the camera. It makes it much easier to do and also it’s a lot smoother than before.” Fuller has been in the broadcast club for over a year now, and he has increasingly become more competent with the live streaming software and hardware equipment. “I first started with this club using the camera. From there I started to learn how to use the live streaming software (Wirecast). Then I could start to control what is being shown on the live stream. I really like the PTZ camera. It’s very easy to move around and smoothly follow the players for Paul W. Richards 46 basketball between each side of the court. One thing that I think is great is the zoom on this camera. Sometimes during half time we will zoom into a the coaches area for an interview. Sometimes we will do coach interviews and other times we will run commercials during the breaks. Inside Wirecast I am in control of what we do.”
I had the chance to interview Joseph DaCorta, who is the athletics director at the S.A.R High School. DaCorta shared with me some insights on how both coaches and students are using the live streamed video of their games. “There are plenty of times that a coach will take the team into a classroom setting, to view the recorded footage from a game. They will rewind it and say ‘hey guys check out the type of defense that they are playing’... any particular sporting event that our teams are playing in, they can recall video from the live stream and dissect the film… to use it to our advantage” DaCorta told me. I asked DaCorta if any of his student-athletes are proactively using the recorded videos to help secure scholarships with college scouts, who may not be able to make it to view the student games in person. DaCorta told me “Absolutely… one of my Baseball guys asked for help from the broadcast club to create a highlight reel. It’s a great way to send out a quick video to a college scout and say ‘hey coach, I’ve been accepted, I’m looking to become a part of the team’… that’s the first thing coaches are going to look at. Depending on where these students are applying to go to college nationwide… it can be very tough for these scouts to come out and take a look at a student’s game.” DaCorta asked me to sit down with Valerie Gryzlo who is the S.A.R High School’s head coach for multiple sports teams. Gryzlo helped me learn more about how coaches are reviewing the recorded video footage to improve athlete performance and their competitive edge against other teams in the league. Gryzlo told me “I usually send the footage to my girls via email, and break it down… I explain what I need them to watch out for in the footage. It helps me, to help them understand what is going on during the game.” Most importantly Gryzlo told me that “The video footage helps the ABC2 – Accelerated Broadcast Club Curriculum 65 athletes visualize everything throughout the game from my standpoint.” Gryzlo also reflected on her own experiences as an athlete “When I used to play, we never had footage from cameras recording our games. We would have to take footage manually, to show us what we needed to improve upon. But game mode and game experience are so much more helpful for the kids. Because a lot of these kids are now visual learners, and they need to see it to see themselves and put it all together. It’s almost like having another assistant coach on staff.”
Almost all of the sports teams at S.A.R are reviewing past recordings to analyze their opponents before a big game. Gryzlo told me “For Basketball we are looking at the way the defense is run, and watching to see if a player goes a certain way with the direction of their dribbling… for Softball, we break it down to review the way that certain pitchers are consistently throwing… In the batter's box, the footage may affect where I ask my players to stand when they are up at bat… depending on how the opponent's team is set up in the outfield... If I know that their defense is hugging the right, I am going to tell my players to move their body positioning into a direction where they hit it to the left side… the video footage helps when we are strategizing about playing other teams.”
The value of the video playback has been so great that the broadcasting club has started to lend out tripods so that students can record sporting events the club is not scheduled to be part of. At the S.A.R. High School, every student has an iPad, so the broadcast club gives out specific iPad tripods that students can use. “The Wrestling team probably uses the video playback the most. Each player whether they won or lost has a million things that they can break down in their match. Some the wrestlers will come and borrow iPad tripods to record the matches themselves. So even if we are not live streaming the event as a school, the students themselves are starting to record their own practices and matches.” Lewis explained to me that the same trends are happening across other sports as well where the students and coaches are asking to have their sporting events recorded on video. Even outside of sports, the broadcast club has been involved in producing videos for the drama and theater students as well. Over the years since 2014, the club has produced hundreds of hours of live broadcasts that include drama and theatrical performances. Students that have graduated from S.A.R. High School starting in 2014 can look back on these highlights from their high school careers in ways that older generations could only dream of. Using recorded video drama students can benefit from seeing the production from the viewpoint of an audience member. Watching their performances from different perspectives help students as they prepare for an upcoming live performance. “There is something about seeing a drama performance that you were a part of from a bird's eye view that adds significant perspective for student performers,” says Lewis. The same is true for almost any sports team.