TCU Goes Pro With Sports Broadcasting Program

By Carolyn
After 10 years of casually offering sports
broadcasting courses through its Radio-TV-Film department, Texas Christian
University is going pro, offering a full-fledged sports broadcasting major
beginning next year. To ensure its students receive proper hands-on training,
TCU’s former video coordinator has moved his office from the athletic
department to the communications department, bringing his 14 years of sports
broadcasting experience with him.
Class At A Time
Chuck Lamendola, instructor of Radio-TV-Film and
studio/video production supervisor, put the first sports broadcasting class on
the TCU books in 1998. He has been adding courses ever since, both
theory-based, like Broadcasting and Sports in a Global Society, as well as
production-based, hands-on courses like Post-Production for Sports and
Producing Remote Sports Broadcasts.
“In the first basic production class, they’ll learn
to do audio, video, set up cameras, and everything that they currently learn on
the fly in remote sports production,” explains Lamendola, who has been at TCU
for 14 years. “We will try to give them a taste of all the technical stuff they
need to know, so that way when they got to the next course, they would have at
least a basic idea of what they’re doing.”
Mike Martin helps move students beyond the basics. Now
a full-time professor of sports broadcasting after spending a 12-year career as
the athletic department’s video coordinator, Martin has the experience to
provide hands-on training, while still helping out the athletic department as
“Because of my contacts with athletics, I’ve been
able to get students more involved with athletic productions,” Martin explains.
“I can bring those resources that are available within athletics over here to
the Radio-TV-Film Department.”
Hands On
“I think the best thing about the program is it
gives students a lot of real world experience,” Martin says. “We can teach them
theory, they can read books, but probably the best aspect of our program is
they get hands-on experience. They’re the ones producing, directing, serving as
full crew members on our shows.”
That hands-on experience comes on a fully digital
production facility equipped with four Sony XDCAM 35 cameras, Panasonic P2 HD
cameras, Sony DVCAM, a 2-channel EVS system, a Ross switcher, and coming soon, a
Chyron character generator.
“We haven’t had a real need for it because all the
graphics that we use on the scoreboard have been pre-built,” Lamendola says. “Those
are built on our pretty simplistic character generator that we have now.”
The control room is connected to TCU’s football,
baseball, basketball, and track venues via fiber, which was a tough task,
considering its geographic location.
“We run all our video boards from the same control
room, and we are as far from athletics as anybody on campus,” Martin explains.
“They’re in the southwest corner and we’re in northeast corner of campus, so
building this control room was quite expensive because of the fiber runs.”
TCU formerly used a 48-foot, five-camera production
truck that rolled from venue to venue, but “we ran it into the ground,”
Lamendola says. “Because we’re in
it gets so bloody hot in the summertime, the truck was sitting out there in the
100 degree heat without proper air conditioning. We decided last summer that
rather than upgrade the truck, we would pull all that production into one
Students now produce shows for all four sports out
of that facility, either in a full-on production role or as an apprentice to
hired professionals.
For football productions, each student is assigned
a mentor from the well-credentialed freelance staff. This year’s football
director also directs Dallas Stars games at the American
Airlines Center,
one producer does MLS games for F.C. Dallas at
Pizza Hut Park, and the other produces Dallas
Mavericks games for ESPN. TCU students then fill in the blanks, acting as
camera and tape operators, and shadowing the paid crew.
“For the first game we have pretty much a full paid
crew and the students shadow, but at halftime we turn the cameras over to the
students,” Lamendola explains. “By game two, the students are operating the
cameras, both handheld and fixed positions, TD, and everything else.”
Due to sponsorship obligations, professionals
always produce and direct the shows, but students fill every other production
role, rotating through positions until they have tried each one.
For 2009, Lamendola hopes to add soccer and
swimming to the students’ production slate, along with some coaches’ shows. As
a member of the Mountain West Conference, The Mtn. television network would be
the perfect distribution point for TCU students’ work.
“From our spring documentary class, Mike is trying
to get two or three high-quality documentaries that we can offer to the
Mountain West Network, to see if they’ll air them,” Lamendola says.
The HD Jump
Before the 2008 football season kicked off, TCU
replaced its football stadium’s video board with an HD version, but with the
control room still SD, an upgrade is certainly forthcoming.
“We’re in the process of mapping out a plan to
convert all our gear to high def, which is going to take a little while and
take some money,” Martin says. “We’re always researching, since the technology
seems to change overnight. In my previous position I was responsible for all
the gear, so I have a lot of experience doing that.”
As a private university, TCU must rely on the
generosity of donors, as well as some help from the athletic department, to
budget out that upgrade, but with the board already in place, Lamendola and
Martin are optimistic about the imminent arrival of HD-capable gear.

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