Video Transforms Manhattan College SID’s Job

When Stephen Dombroski was hired as an assistant sports information director at Siena College in 2006, video had nothing to do with the job description. Four years later, he is the assistant director of communications and marketing at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY, video is central to his job, and he learns something every day, on the job.

“In the few years that I’ve been in this business, video has really transformed the industry,” Dombroski says. “Everybody has seen their job responsibilities completely change. At our level, it does have people scrambling to try to learn as quickly as possible. A lot of what I’ve learned has been self-taught, picking up things from what other schools in our league are doing. Video has really taken off a lot more quickly than I ever could have imagined, and we have to balance that with all of our other responsibilities.”

In addition to his sports-information work, Dombroski is responsible for producing Web streams of all men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, and volleyball games, as well as spring outdoor sports. With just three full-time staff members, he relies on student help to produce the 75% of Manhattan’s video productions that are done completely in-house. For men’s and women’s basketball, his office works closely with an outside video-production company, Jim Houston Productions, which executes the logistics of the more complex productions.

“Our athletic director, Bob Byrnes, was ahead of the curve with his forward vision to introduce a full season of live men’s and women’s basketball Web streams to Manhattan fans back in 2007-08,” Dombroski says. “This set the standard for live video productions here at Manhattan, and it influenced other conference schools to follow suit.”

Basic Equipment, Quality Streams
Manhattan’s outdoor sports are streamed via Windows Media Encoder through a laptop, overseen by a student assistant. Live play-by-play is added, but the streams are fairly basic.

“We’re not even operating on the TriCaster platform yet,” Dombroski points out. “That’s how basic it can be. I think a lot of people in my position at schools this size are still trying to get a grasp on the most efficient and easiest way to provide video for their fans, without breaking the bank. We’re doing this with as little as a video camera and a laptop, and the content is still pretty good.”

Most college athletic Websites are run by an outside provider, such as CBS College or NeuLion, with the backend video capabilities to support productions like Dombroski’s. Manhattan College works with JumpTV, which relies on Flash to stream the videos his team creates. Thanks to the Flip camera, those videos are steadily increasing in number.

“The Flip cam has been one of our best resources to this point,” he explains. “It’s probably the easiest way for a school at our level to provide video content.”

With Adobe Premier editing software and a crew of about 20 student workers, including some recruited from the department of communication, Dombroski’s department creates a variety of Web features. Those features benefit not only the athletic department, by bringing the expertise of upperclassmen communication majors to the production, but the students as well, by giving them field experience and clips for their portfolios.

A Marketing Platform
Video is important to Dombroski not just to keep alumni and parents engaged but to market the college and earn some multiplatform exposure as well.

“Being in New York City, it’s so difficult to get television time, so we put a lot of emphasis on the Web,” he says. “We’re working on creating a brand for Manhattan, promoting ourselves with logos before and after every video. Video over the Web has really allowed schools to market themselves whatever way they want to, and we’re trying to take advantage of that.”

The Search for Quality
The toughest part of Dombroski’s job is finding quality, both in his student workers and in the equipment he uses.

“I think finding equipment is our biggest challenge at this point,” he says. “In addition to all of our other job responsibilities, it’s really important to have basic equipment that can provide us with good-quality video that’s easily compatible with our platform.”

To find that equipment, Dombroski relies on word of mouth, especially within the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and gatherings like SVG’s College Sports Video Summit.

“The College Sports Video Summit is a really good conference that people can really benefit from,” he says. “Especially at our level, for people who need to learn about producing video, that conference is a great opportunity to learn.”

New Faces on the Video Lineup
Dombroski plans to make several improvements to this year’s production slate, beginning with a student-athlete thought of the day.

“This will be a way to introduce our student-athletes to our general fan base and utilize different media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to load that content,” he explains. “It’s relatively easy to do, will give our students some recognition, and provide regular video content. Plus, it’s interesting to our fan base.”

Dombroski is also developing a biweekly Web show that recaps Manhattan athletics, using both Flip-cam footage and captured content from the live Web streams. The MAAC has also launched a league video blog (http://www.maacvideo.blogspot.com/), for which Dombroski is providing as much content as possible.

“Last year, it got off the ground,” he says. “This year, everybody seems to be doing a much better job at updating and providing content for it. I think as everybody gets more familiar with how to do video, how it makes more sense for them, it’s going to continue to get better.”

Dombroski hopes to eventually upgrade his equipment to the NewTek TriCaster and provide a more advanced streaming experience, but, as it stands, Manhattan provides an example of how effective content can come out of minimal resources.

“You can make the streams as basic or as complicated as you want them,” he says. “It doesn’t matter the size of your school; you can utilize student workers and basic resources to provide video content. And it can be pretty good content, even with these resources.”

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