SVG-U Q&A: Tim Asher, Producer/Director, University of Kentucky

In the 23 football
seasons that Tim Asher has worked as producer/director at the University of
Kentucky, he has overseen a host of improvements. With seven-camera streaming
operations in place for football games and streams set up for volleyball,
women’s basketball, gymnastics, and baseball, Kentucky’s digital output grows
annually. As the athletic department continues its changeover to HD, Asher sat
down with SVG-U to discuss streaming operations, staffing considerations, and
the budget-constrained hi-def challenge.
sports content do you currently stream on your Website?
We’re streaming quite a bit through UK Extreme
Access on our Website, which is newly managed by IMG. We stream our football
games with the exact same feed that we’re feeding the video boards in the
stadium, so that’s a full-blown production with seven cameras, graphics, the
whole nine yards.
For each of our events in Memorial Coliseum, where
we also have a video board, we take an output off our control room there to
stream volleyball, women’s basketball, and gymnastics. We also do baseball in
the spring. For football and women’s basketball, we stream every game that is
not on network television.
On top of that, we post any type of highlight video
for all of the different sports. Those are all free. Some of it is internal
stuff that we’re using, some is external, but we try to post everything that
we’re doing. We have a lot of passionate fans that can’t always get to Lexington
for a sporting event, so we post a lot of different things up there, and it
allows them an insider’s access to the programs.
equipment do you have access to for your productions?
For our football feeds, we’re using a television
truck that is outside the stadium, Stokes Production Services’ Enterprise mobile
unit. We use seven Sony cameras [with frame sync for the university-owned Telex
Camlink wireless camera system] and Canon 40x and 60x lenses. The truck is also
equipped with a Grass Valley Kayak HD switcher, Abekas A-42 Still Store, Chyron
Duet, three Sony BVW-75 Beta SP VTRs, a four-channel EVS XT[2] server, and a
40-input Soundcraft audio console.
We’re shooting everything in 16:9, and it’s a
pretty full-blown production. There’s not much difference between what’s going
on in our truck and next door in the broadcast truck, except that ours is being
aimed at a different audience, the 74,000 people that are in the stands.
supports your Website and streaming operations?
IMG has just acquired the rights to our Website [formerly
run by CBS College Sports Network], and they run it for us. We provide them
with an audio and video feed of the radio play-by-play and the video-board
coverage of each of the games, and they put the content onto the site for us.
staffs your productions?
The sports video department has a staff of five,
and we also hire a number of freelancers. All of our camera people are
freelance, and the reason we’re able to get such good people is, we’re able to
guarantee eight days at home, so they don’t have to travel. Commonwealth
Stadium is also prewired with Triax, so our setup and teardown are a whole lot
We could not get our jobs done without the students.
We have a really good relationship with the communications department here on
campus, and we actively recruit people for internships and actual shooting of
practices. We have eight kids this fall that are shooting football practices
and another eight that are working with us on the video-board side. They’re
pulling cables on the sidelines, running cameras at the volleyball games, running
graphics, starting to figure out real production values. I try to let them get
their hands into it, figure out what they’re good at, and make sure they have a
successful stint here with our staff that they can use to get a job.
from your Website, do you make your video content available elsewhere?
We post everything on our Website and some on
YouTube. We’re not going out and posting it in the different places that we
could, because our fans make sure it gets out there and gets posted with a link.
Our fans are so passionate, they want other people to see the stuff that we’re
doing, so we don’t really pursue a lot of the other avenues to get that stuff
out there.
Within our facility, we are playing a lot of videos
on our digital signage system. In our basketball facility, we run videos off of
hard drive, and we are able to change those videos depending upon what sport
has a recruit coming through the door. Using video, we can very quickly change
the look of our facility from one sport to another.
What is
your timeframe for moving to HD?
We have a Mitsubishi Diamond Vision video board
that is eight years old. We are in the process of working through where we’re
headed next. Obviously, the 16:9 video productions get you in the ballpark, but
it doesn’t have the pop that an HD board would have.
This July, we will probably start a total revamp of
our stadium, which will include expansion, a new HD video board, as well as
changing our press box and some suites. It’s probably a 16- to 18-month
project, which means next fall we’ll have to deal with a whole lot of
construction going on. But we feel it will be well worth the headache that
that’s going to bring.
We are already acquiring some materials in HD;
we’re doing a lot of 1080i right now. And I’m personally intrigued with 1080p;
I think it looks gorgeous. We have already determined that we will make the
change over to XDCAM HD, and we have started to integrate some of those cameras
into our production. We have already upgraded all of our editors as well.
What is
your biggest challenge to extending your offerings?
As with any educational scenario, budgets are
always a challenge. We took a 60% hit on last year’s budget, so we could not
move into HD nearly as fast as we hoped. The biggest challenge for us is
securing those dollars to go out and buy the new cameras and things it takes to
get us to the next level.
We are finding that we have to share footage among
different editors more and more. We are currently archiving everything onto
DVCAM and logging each of the tapes with timecode numbers, using a different
DVCAM master for each sport. We just bought another computer, so I think we are
a couple of weeks away from capturing everything on external terabyte drives.
That way, we’ll be able to take a hard drive from one editor to the other, plug
it in, and be able to pull footage in a much more efficient fashion. Shared
resources are going to be big down the road, especially in HD.

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