SVG College Q&A: University of Colorado’s Eric Pelloni, Assistant Director of BuffVision
A discussion of BuffVision's role in CU Athletics, the impact of CU's joining the Pac-12, and more
In fall 2012, the University of Colorado in Boulder installed five HD videoboards at Folsom Field, home of CU Buffs football, as well as a BuffVision HD control room inside the Coors Events Center, home to men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, to power the displays at both venues. The Folsom Field boards replaced aging SD displays that dated to the mid 1990s and, along with the launch of Pac-12 Networks the same year, provided BuffVision with the technological firepower to take its in-stadium and live-streaming production operations to the next level.
More than three years later, BuffVision continues to raise the bar both in-venue and online, producing videoboard shows for every event at Folsom Field and Coors Events Center, live-streaming more on-campus events than ever, and creating loads of original content for CUBuffs.com, Pac-12 Digital Networks, and YouTube and social outlets. Staffed by just three full-timers — Director Deric Swanson, Assistant Director Eric Pelloni, and Specialist Max Benz — BuffVision is able to accomplish all this, thanks to a host of freelancers and student workers, shrewd technical-equipment decisions, and no shortage of ingenuity.
SVG sat down with Pelloni, now in his 10th year as BuffVision assistant director (although he has been involved for the better part of 15 years, previously as a freelancer), to discuss how the BuffVision program has evolved over the past decade, the impact of the Pac-12 Networks launch and facilities upgrade in 2012, BuffVision’s sizable impact on recruiting, and the importance of adapting to the ever changing video-consumption habits of the CU Buffs fanbase.
What has been the biggest change in BuffVision’s role in CU Athletics over the past decade?
The biggest change has been producing more content for the Web. When I first started, we weren’t cranking out videos all the time for the Web; it was more of a bonus. We started off just streaming basketball games and producing highlights for the Web, but there wasn’t a whole lot of content for the Website. I think the biggest thing is just the type of content that we produce now and the volume of content that we’re producing. We’re almost a newsgathering service at this point. We’re telling our stories, and we’re telling them as quickly as possible.
We’re covering every sport and trying to create content for every sport. Plus, we have board shows for all of our events. So, for the three of us to churn out that much volume, I think is pretty amazing. There is a good balance of really good quality for the amount of time that we have to spend on each individual thing. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a full-throttle sprint from August until March. I think people are surprised when they see how much really good video we create.
What role do students play in BuffVision Production, and how do you recruit them?
We pay our students, and we end up with five to eight kids that rotate through and five or six freelancers. We usually have three or four students that are our go-to workers, and then we use them to recruit others who might be interested in working with us. We always tell the kids we bring in [that] we don’t hire and we don’t fire anybody and we’re not going to teach you how to do it; we’re just going to make you better. When we need you to go out and shoot tennis and put together a package, you learn how to edit and put things together on your own. We’re going to bring you in, and we’re going to give you an opportunity, give you access to an edit bay, a camera, and gear. If the kid kind of gets it and they’re interested, then they become one of our core kids.
And then, we’ve got the journalism school, which has a production class that requires students to sign up and work a game for us. For example, if a student comes to work a slash camera or learn replay on volleyball and realizes they want to be a part of this, then we get students that way. You want somebody who’s reliable, really wants to be there, and sees the opportunity to get better. You’re not going to become a better camera operator because I taught you; you’re going to become a better camera operator because I’m going to give you 40 opportunities to run camera. A handful of our student workers have moved on to [work professionally], so it’s really nice that we’re able to teach them a little bit and be more prepared when they go out there in the real world.
How has CU’s move to the Pac-12 and the launch of Pac-12 Networks impacted your operation?
Our relationship with Pac-12 Networks is great. They’ve given us a lot of resources to extend our brand and our reach and our videos, and we get a lot more eyeballs. Our streaming product is awesome since they provided us with the tools to be able to do high-quality streaming. Our brand is out there on the networks with so many games being on TV constantly, so we get great exposure. [And] we now have a great facility that allows us to produce tons of content for CUBuffs.com and the Pac-12 Website. We’ve got multiple avenues to push out our content and tell our stories, and it’s really changed the way we do things. There is no limit to what we want to do: we can just think it up, and we can do it.
What storage and asset-management infrastructure did you install when the new control room launched in 2012?
When we built this control room, the biggest priority was installing shared storage. So we got an EditShare server, and all of our games are live-ingested straight to that. Or, If it’s on TV, we record it and make a melt of it; everything gets ingested live straight to our EditShare. And then we have LTO backup, so we can archive things off of our server. We knew the most important thing on a daily basis for production was a shared-storage solution, [allowing us to] save money elsewhere so we could get our EditShare server. Prior to that, we had a sneakernet of four or five hard drives hooked up to everyone’s computer, and, if I needed to edit a men’s-basketball feature, I had to go find clips and drag them to my hard drive. Now I go to the men’s-basketball folder, and six of us can cut with the same footage at the same time.
Everything lives on EditShare, but we also utilize Dropbox a lot for our finished pieces. That way, if someone needs a feature, I can literally pull out my phone [and] send the link over, and then they can just download it. We do a lot of that especially for Pac-12 when they see a great soccer win and ask to get the highlights.
What major technological leaps forward have you seen, and how have they impacted BuffVision’s operation?
Everything we do now is HD. We’ve moved to shooting a lot of our features on the DSLR cameras just to add that cinematic look to our productions without spending massive amounts of money on equipment and still be to do run-and-gun–style [production].
On the other side, the technology has changed so much and so fast. Now you shoot something on your iPhone, edit it, put it up on the Website, and it looks just as good [as if it was shot with a camera]. The banquet video for soccer this year had an entire segment that was slo-mo video that I shot on my iPhone, and it looked great.
How has the type of content you produce changed in recent years?
A lot of the short-form content is really playing well right now. We don’t do a lot of five- to 10-minute videos anymore because fewer people are going to watch it. We are doing a lot of one- to two-minute features people can consume quickly on their phone. So, for us, it’s really easy to tailor what we’re doing to whatever is hot, [whether] it’s putting a short video on Snapchat or Twitter or Facebook or a long-format video for TV. We can just do whatever we want; that’s the beauty of it.
What role does BuffVision play in recruiting student athletes?
Every single thing we do ends up having something to do with recruiting, because what we put out there is what those potential recruits see first. The coaches need good video that shows off the culture of the program, shows the kids what that coach is like, what practice is like, what being inside the locker room is like, what it’s like to travel with the team. They want to know all of those things. So we create video to show that, and there is a whole social-media plan that we’re just part of. We can feed our Website the video, but, at the same time, we are feeding their recruiting efforts.