Penn State Students Webcast THON 46-Hour Dance Marathon

The Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State campus is home to the school’s basketball teams, as well as a venue for many concerts and entertainment events. But this past weekend, it was site of THON, a 46-hour dance marathon that is the culmination of a year-long effort to raise funds for the fight against pediatric cancer. This year, a crew of nearly 100 students produced a Webcast that covered the entire event.

Maria Cabrera-Baukus, senior lecturer of telecommunications in the College of Communications, produced the Webcast. “I have a Webcasting class with 15 students,” she explains. “Each student produces part of the Webcast.”

She divides the event into three- or four-hour segments, handing control to each student. Other students from the College of Communications take on responsibilities of camera operator, audio, director, TD, and interviewer. A total of 96 students made up the staff for this year’s Webcast.

In addition to the live coverage, students produced taped packages to run throughout the event.

“My job as the Webcast producer is to plan the whole production,” says Cabrera-Baukus, “but my main job as a professor is to train my students for Webcast productions on their own.”

Three cameras cover the event, with a control room set up in one of the center’s suites. NewTek’s TriCaster, which Cabrera-Baukus calls “that magic little box,” is used for the Web stream. “We put our packages into there. We put our graphics in there with the THON logo that the students designed.” Penn State’s public-television station, WPSU, provided the Internet connection. The Webcast was also available on the campus cable channel.

This marked the fourth year that Cabrera-Baukus has produced the Web event. New this year was a coordinated effort with the online campus radio station, which also covers the dance, using commentators from the radio feed during the Webcast. It was also the first year that the Web production had access to an audio feed from the stage and video playback from the on-stage presentations.

Cabrera-Baukus estimates a total of 528 student work-hours to create the Webcast, plus an additional 180 hours of preproduction. She reports that the Webcast received more that 290,000 hits during the marathon, nearly triple that of previous years.

THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raised a record-breaking $7,838,054.

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