A broadcast built by students
Earlier this month, while some of Minnesota's best high school football players competed for a shot at the state title, a team of students from Rosemount High School worked long hours behind the scenes to make sure anybody with an Internet connection could see them play.
The students, members of the digital video and Irish Update classes at RHS, have been making the trip to the dome for the past four years as part of a program run by Grand Stadium, the company that produces the Internet broadcasts of the state football tournament and other high school sporting events. For most of the day, RHS students were responsible for running cameras, cuing up slow-motion instant replays, even conducting sideline interviews. Basically, if it had to be done to get the broadcast online, there's a good chance a Rosemount student was doing it.
RHS students work with Grand Stadium on other, smaller events during the year. But the state football tournament is their biggest production.
"I think it's really exciting for them, because they see the field on TV, but now they get to be behind the scenes," said Irish Update teacher Jim Norris. "We can film football games here at school, but it's of course not the same as working at the Metrodome."
Students who participate have a chance to travel to the offices of Channel 45, the station that broadcasts the tournament, for some preparation prior to game day. They learn the basics of covering a live sporting event and get an introduction to the equipment they will use so they will be more comfortable when the cameras are rolling. Students who think they might want to conduct sideline interviews get some tips on preparing their questions and performing on camera.
RHS student Preston Webb knew right away that's the job he wanted. Webb wants to be a broadcast journalist someday. He doesn't know exactly what he wants to do. He just knows he wants to be on camera. The football tournament experience was a good way to get a feel for exactly what that means.
Webb spent one game asking coaches and players questions at halftime. He spent another working behind the scenes with audio/visual equipment. He enjoyed the experience, and said he didn't get nervous knowing his work was going out to an audience that last year was never smaller than 10,000 and sometimes reached 30,000 or more.
"I didn't really think about that too much," he said.
Nicolette Sorensen had a less career-oriented reason for taking part in the webcast. She wants to go into animation as a career and was in the digital film class because RHS was no longer offering the animation class it once had. She signed up for the trip to the because she thought she would enjoy the experience and spent her day in the broadcast truck running instant replays. It was her job to watch shots from several of the cameras at work in the dome and let the webcast director know when she had something good.
Sorensen knows her football. She had to learn about the game for her role as a cheerleader. But she said keeping up with everything could be tricky.
"The learning curve was big, but it was fast, too," she said. "The pressure was definitely on. You could feel it, especially in the beginning."
Matthew Weber was responsible for getting a lot of those shots Sorensen spent her day evaluating. He ran a sideline camera for one game and a stationary camera for another. On the sideline, it was his job to capture the game as well as shots of players, coaches and fans. That required a lot of fast movement hauling a camera that started to get heavy by the end of the game.
Still, Weber said he preferred being on the sideline to being stuck in one place.
"With the stationary camera you just kind of stand there and zoom in on the action," he said. "You have more freedom with the sideline camera to get creative on the shot."
Capturing all of the games made for a long day for the RHS students. They left school at 7:30 a.m. and didn't get back until 11 p.m. Nobody seemed to mind too much, though. When Grand Stadium asked for volunteers to fill some vacancies for more games a few days later, several students asked to go back.