CSMA Master Class: At Northern Illinois, Huskie Pride Is More Than Just Lip Service

CSMA2013-wufooSince its inception, the College Sports Media Awards have recognized the best 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 SVG College Sports Summit in May, 16 productions were honored for their contribution to sports video. This summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at the personalities and programs that have raised the bar for what college sports video is capable of.


Usually, it’s the crazy ideas that turn into something special.

At Northern Illinois University, the crazy idea came from soccer student-athletes Mike Mascitti, Rocco Taglia, and Courtney Ksiazek: a Lip-Dub video. Relatively popular across the Internet these days — see “Call Me Maybe” — it seemed a simple idea at first. The catch, though? The entire NIU athletic department was to be involved.

So, on the night the video was shot, Aaron Vermedal, instructional multimedia developer at NIU Media Services and camera operator for the shoot for NIU LipDub, was understandably a little overcome when it all came together.

“That final shot where you see all the students on the balcony, I couldn’t see that because I’ve got my back to it following Victor E. Huskie out of the building,” he says. “When I turned around and saw a sea of students just screaming their lungs out with all the NIU pride, my stomach just dropped. It as one of the coolest things to shoot.”

The project brought together hundreds of student-athletes, and, in one shot, on just the third take, the NIU Media Services team pulled it off.

Crazy? Yes. But, as it turned out, very possible. The result was a final project that showed off NIU Pride at its finest and earned the NIU Media Services Department the SVG/NACDA College Sports Media Award (CSMA) for Best Special Feature in the Collegiate Athletics division.

Running Routes
Few videos in the entire CSMA competition begged the question ‘how did they do that?’ more than NIU Lipdub. One continuous shot, hundreds of athletes spread throughout a single building, all singing along to the same song. It must have been a nightmare to coordinate, right?

NIU Lip Dub won the CSMA for Best Special Feature in the Collegiate Athletics division. From left: Rachel Wicks, Patrick Gorman, and Aaron Vermedal accepted at the ceremony.

NIU Lip Dub won the CSMA for Best Special Feature in the Collegiate Athletics division. From left: Rachel Wicks, Patrick Gorman, and Aaron Vermedal accepted at the ceremony.

“Getting everyone together was the part that actually happened the quickest, oddly enough,” says Vermedal.

The tough part, he acknowledges, was the choreography. To prepare, Vermedal and NIU Media Services producer/director Rachel Wicks drew up a game plan that would have impressed even then-Huskie football coach Dave Doeren.

Although the challenges of getting a couple hundred athletes into one building and to know the words to the same song are obvious, Vermedal and Wicks broke the song [Outasight’s “Tonight Is the Night”] into pieces and split each of the teams into segments of the building with different roles.

Leaders of each group/team were determined, and Vermedal relayed the planning information via e-mail. Only a pair of two-hour meetings were needed to effectively lay the groundwork.

Then came the implementation. “It was a party in the front and chaos in the back,” laughs Vermedal.

Vermedal ran the camera, a Sony NX Cam, with student Jason Horn behind him holding a boom box over his head blasting the song. Wicks served as essentially the traffic cop, keeping Vermedal on pace.

“Ten seconds until the corner. 4,3, 2, go! Go! GO!” she was screaming in his ear. Amazingly, on just the third take, they had what they wanted.

“We couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of our student-athletes,” says Patrick Gorman, video coordinator, Convocation Center, at NIU Media Services.When we accepted the award, we felt it was important to say that. Without them and their positive attitudes, we never would have been able to accomplish that video.”

The video debuted at NIU Athletics’ Victors Event — an internal awards show — and quickly became the most viral video the department had ever produced.

“The reception was overwhelmingly positive,” says Gorman. “The student-athletes loved it.”

Campus-Wide Support
NIU Media Services is undergoing an upgrade this summer. The department, which supports live productions in football and men’s and women’s basketball, is getting a brand-new videoboard at Huskie Stadium, home of the NIU football team. The board is being currently being installed.

With the screen is coming a new HD control room designed by Stadia Video Group, with integration assistance from Diversified Systems. From that new control, which will debut in September, NIU Media Services will run videoboard productions for football at Huskie Stadium and men’s and women’s basketball at the Convocation Center.

This upcoming academic year, NIU Media Services will stream to the school’s athletics Website every home men’s and women’s basketball game and any football game not picked up by the conference’s TV partner, ESPN. The group also provides wide-ranging postproduction support, capturing footage and creating highlight videos for all the university’s athletic programs.

The department also assists teams in training. A new indoor football facility is under construction, and NIU Media Services is installing four robotic cameras in the building to film all practices and provide training and scouting video for coaches.

SAVE THE DATE: More than 500 attendees were on hand at this year’s SVG College Sports Summit. Don’t miss out on the top networking and idea-sharing content and technology event in the college industry. Join us at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta on May 28 and 29, 2014, for the sixth-annual SVG College Sports Summit.

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