CSVS 2011: SIDs Advise Baby Steps When Getting Into Video

Mark Kwolek, associate director of athletic public relations/director of new media at the University of Richmond, had one piece of advice for athletic departments looking to leap into video production: “Start simple.”

At SVG’s College Sports Video Summit in Atlanta this week, Kwolek joined other current and former sports information directors on a panel titled “Expanding the Job Title: Tips and Tricks From SIDs Turned Video Experts” to discuss both overcoming the challenges and enjoying the thrills of introducing their departments to video.

It can be tempting for SIDs to “go big” right out of the gate when introducing video elements to their Websites and press releases, but, with most media relations departments operating on minimal staffs and shoestring budgets, slow and steady wins the race.

“I dove right in and started with basically doing a Hard Knocks-style show for our men’s basketball team,” said Kwolek. “I would not recommend doing something like that right away. Instead, if you are looking to make that jump into adding video to your site, just putting up a goal from a soccer game [can work]. Start with that and then expand to that goal with video of an interview with that player over it. Then, before you know it, you will be doing full-game recaps.”

Embrace the Role
Despite the fact that a vast majority of SIDs don’t have a background in video production, much of the responsibility for sports-video production landed on their already crowded plates. That led to a lot of learning on the job.

“It’s tough, because we’re classically trained in writing press releases and designing media guides,” said Mark Fratto, senior associate athletic director for communications at St. John’s University. “For a lot of us, we started as cavemen, and now there’s a need to produce all of this video. Taking the first step can be the biggest challenge.”

For Kwolek, his first step while at the University of Rhode Island meant contacting an old high school friend for help and advice.

“He filmed highlights for us, and I was trying to use Windows Movie Maker,” laughed Kwolek. “ He showed me a few things, and now, all these years later, I’m using [Apple] Final Cut [Pro] and making these videos I never could have imagined making when I started.”

The simplified, step-by-step approach can make the seemingly overwhelming task of beginning video production much more manageable.

“The equipment needed to do video these days is pretty basic: a couple cameras, Flip cams,” noted Steven Dombroski, assistant AD for communications and marketing at Manhattan College. “Evaluate those resources and see what you need for what you want to accomplish. And be consistent with it, too. You want your fans to know that, if they go to your Website, they will see original content and that it’s not hit or miss.”

With more and more college athletic Websites looking to monetize this video content, the role of the SID has changed drastically.

“It’s a part of your job now,” said Roger Dunaway, assistant AD for athletic communications at Tulane University. “You might as well make the most of it.”

It Comes Down to Content
It can be intimidating for media relations departments to confidently approach an art form that they and their staffs have little to no experience in. However, overwhelming gear choices and technological obstacles aside, it still comes down to one thing that SIDs know very well: content.

“Creative content is trying to engage your fans in content that they can’t get anywhere else,” explained Chris Taylor, instructor of telecommunications/sports immersion and media at Ball State University. “The appetite for sports fans is unlike anything else.”

Start with simple raw highlight video, the panelists suggested.

“We don’t have time as a staff to sit there and do a lot of editing. Just use raw video of highlights, interviews, whatever,” Dunaway advised.

Among the examples of content that the panelists provided were highlight videos, post-game press conferences and interviews, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and player video blogs. That work could eventually lead to multicamera live streaming broadcasts of games over the Internet, according to the panelists.

“One of the first things we did was buy ourselves Flip cams,” said Dunaway. “We then took a different approach and bought Flip cams for each of our sports programs. We obviously can’t be on the road everywhere with every team, so we trained them how to use the cameras and told them to just film. When they were out for national championships, our golf team went on a tour of Washington, DC, and one of our freshmen started walking up to people asking them if they knew where Tulane is. It was great footage, and we got some great answers.”

Students as Staff
Athletic departments are certainly not short on ideas when it comes to original programming. The massive challenge is finding the time and the personnel to implement those ideas.

“With such a small department, we rely on student help,” said Manhattan College’s Dombroski. “There’s a lot of stress on us as media professionals to provide them training, but you’d be surprised how quickly kids pick this stuff up. Some of our students weren’t even in the school of communications.”

Not only is student assistance financially efficient, but it also helps universities fulfill their ultimate goal of providing a highly educational experience for the student body.

Taylor’s work in creating Ball State Sports Link epitomizes building a video program from the ground up while utilizing student help. Working as an SID at the time, Taylor contacted the communications school and inquired about borrowing a camera and a student operator to begin posting some videos to go along with his press releases. That approach has grown into one of the top student-run sports-production programs in the country, with students producing and broadcasting live games and programs for local television affiliates.

“My biggest piece of advice is to befriend the staff and students of your university’s communications school,” said Taylor. “There’s usually help on campus somewhere. It can be done. Even at a mid-major, Ball State-level, it can be done.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the College Sports Video Summit.

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