CSMA Master Class: Firing Up the Oregon Ducks
Since its inception, the College Sports Media Awards have recognized the best in class in the college sports production arena. As technology and production techniques improve, the ability to create high quality video on any budget has proliferated significantly. At the College Sports Video Summit, six universities and two professional networks were honored for their work in sports-related video content. Each Thursday this summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at these personalities and programs that have raised the bar for what college sports video is capable of.
He could have been done with this project.
Oregon University Athletics video coordinator Steve Pohl is checking a box at airport security as he prepares to board his flight to Phoenix for last January’s BCS National Championship Game. The box contains his entire editing computer.
Most people wouldn’t drag all of that hardware onto a 938-mile flight. Most people would have finalized everything before leaving the friendly confines of their Eugene office.
Most people don’t have the relentless attention to detail that Pohl has.
“We were down there for about nine days,” says Pohl, who set up his system in his hotel room and worked around practices and meetings. “I didn’t want to push to get it finished and then sit on it for a week and wish I could have made changes or add stuff.”
Sure, he could have been done with this project, but this one was important.
Who knew that a video coordinator could play a role in a 12-0 regular season and a BCS title game berth? Pohl’s productions aren’t aimed at stadium spectators or television viewers — though both could certainly appreciate his work. Pohl’s videos are, in a sense, his pregame speech to the Oregon Ducks football team.
Two hours before each game, the team is treated to a two-to-three minute video with highlights from the previous week, all shot in an “NFL Films”-type format. What head coach Chip Kelly does with words, Pohl does with moving images: fire up one of the top teams in college football.
So when it came to getting the Ducks amped for their BCS title game date with the Auburn Tigers, Pohl wanted to go big, and while Oregon may have fallen just short of a victory, Pohl’s video Win the Day – Fast, Hard, Finish took home the trophy as the best in College Athletics – Special Feature at the College Sports Media Awards in June.
A Full Season’s Work
As the Ducks reeled off win after win last fall, a national title game berth was became more likely and the wheels in Pohl’s head were spinning. After the team locked down a perfect regular season, he began to turn his vision for a video into reality.
Using the team’s motto as its namesake, Win the Day – Fast, Hard, Finish is a flashy, exciting display of tight shots of Oregon football highlights positioned around an actor dressed as an Oregon football player climbing up a stairwell that is meant to symbolize the Ducks season.
“I thought of a mountain but thought that might be too hard to shoot with the time that we had,” laughed Pohl, a member of the Oregon staff since 1996. “So it kind of came to a stairwell and I just thought of each level [of the stairwell] being a certain [game].”
Win the Day – Fast, Hard, Finish evolved into a “Best of” compilation of all of the videos Pohl had made for the team throughout the season and served as a springboard for the squad as they prepped on game day to battle for a national title.
Much of the game highlight footage is very tight shots taken by Pohl and his staff on a Panasonic HPX-500 P2 HD Camcorder with a 22x lens he would rent from Bexel each week. Knowing that he would have melts and highlights from various networks covering the games, Pohl focused on capturing close, more thematic images.
“I think that’s maybe what’s a little bit different,” admits Pohl. “We’re not trying to get the whole game, we’re just trying to get shots. So we may shoot the entire game, but only 30-40% of the shots are really going to be something good that I’m going to be able to use. If I miss anything, I will go to the melt [supplied by the Oregon Sports Network] or I can find it some other way. Getting the melt and maybe an upper cam shot really allows us to get some unique shots and get in there close [when we film].”
Wealth of Time
With 37 days between the Ducks regular season finale at Oregon State and the title game, Pohl was spoiled for time — he typically puts together his weekly videos in a matter of three or four days. This allowed him the creative freedom to go out into the Portland area to shoot original footage of a speeding sports car and an actor racing up a flight of stairs to fulfill his plan
To shoot much of the footage, Pohl deployed a Canon EOS 7D SLR camera with various wide angle lenses and positioned Go Pro cameras to get shots on the car. The stairwell scenes were all shot on the third floor of an architectural building that works closely with the university. The coloring and any added elements were all handled in Adobe After Effects. For the final shot of the Oregon player overlooking University of Phoenix Stadium, a green screen was used.
“It was just a collaboration of people loaning us the space to do it,” says Pohl. “Everyone was so accommodating and it just worked out great.”
Having a Vision
Pohl’s award-winning video is the result of hard work, a microscopic attention to detail, and a creative mind. He believes that schools looking to start or advance their own video productions simply need to set out with a well-constructed vision.
“Havie a plan of what you want and than stick to it and follow it through,” says Pohl. “You’re going to miss some big plays and that’s just the way the ball rolls but you’re going to get some awesome shots. I think those shots mixed in with some of the regular shots that you would get on a melt or from the broadcast really helps whatever piece you’re trying to put together.”