Live from Nevada Union! Live broadcast program provides learning through community collaboration
As I popped my head into the press box at Nevada Union’s Hooper Stadium to get a glimpse at “MinerVision,” the high school’s new livestreaming production of Friday night football, I saw several familiar faces at work.
One of those took me way back, to my days as a sportswriter, when Joey Cena and I used to chat on the sidelines. His passion for the game — any game, for that matter — was obvious when the pint-sized ball boy would ask me to check scores on my smartphone to see how his Dodgers or Lakers were doing.
Last Friday night, though, the roles were reversed, as I checked with him on how Nevada Union’s Miners were doing.
As more fans are learning each week, Cena can quickly bring them up to speed on the Miners, and in real time, as he is one of several students working on livestreaming broadcasts known as MinerVision. The live broadcast effort, available on Facebook, is a groundbreaking program for the school and the students involved, thanks largely to some seriously committed collaborative efforts from local businesses and professionals.
Cena, a junior, said his interest in broadcast journalism began while watching sports and realizing he had a knack for knowing what needed to be said by the TV play-by-play and color commentators.
“I’d be watching a game and say something about what had happened, and then the people on TV would say the same thing,” Cena said. “Journalism is something I always wanted to look into. But now with this experience, I’m really thinking about doing it. I plan on pursuing it more.”
That’s music to the ears of all the adults involved in Nevada Union’s “stream team.” After all, providing such an experience is why they’ve pulled together the equipment and expertise to make it happen.
“I think there are a lot of people interested in giving back here,” said Greg Kulaga, an applications specialist with video software company Telestream and someone who has helped make MinerVision happen. “There are so many video folks in this town. Why wouldn’t you want to get those kids using your products and then have them come to work for your company one day?”
Kulaga says he was new to town when he heard word of the project back in February. With the blessing and encouragement of Scott Murray, Telestream’s VP of marketing and desktop products, Kulaga’s co-workers Andrew Haley and Shawn Ryley got the conversation going with Nevada Union staff through its Partnership Academy Advisory Board and teacher Brad Dal Bon, who teaches the academy’s broadcast program and coaches football.
“He was so busy with his teaching and coaching that they really needed somebody else to step up and take the reins (of Telestream’s Wirecast livestream program) to advise them of what they’d need, to help organize the meetings and the students in order to make it a sustainable program,” said Kulaga, who had experience working with high school livestreaming broadcasts through his former employer TheCube.com in Chicago.
“Most of my work there was done as an adviser on the phone, so I was interested in getting to work in the field with a local school,” he said. “I’ve learned it’s a lot harder to actually bring all these things together into reality than it is to advise.”
Kulaga said NU Athletic Director Jeff Dellis delivered key contacts in bringing area businesses and professionals together to support the students. AJA Video donated $3,000 worth of equipment, including a capture box and connectors. Kulaga said Telestream President Dan Castles greenlighted $2,500 worth of cameras and audio equipment to support the cause, which also has benefited from many volunteer hours from the company’s employees.
In addition to Kulaga, Haley and Ryley, Telestream intern Trevor Bryant, a 2013 Nevada Union graduate, donates his time to help students with the broadcasts — even though a 21 year old likely has plenty of other options on a Friday night than to hang out at his old high school.
“I just saw it as a great opportunity to learn,” Bryant said. “It’s completely different for me to have to be live at a certain time. The stress is so much more intense than me just sitting here in the office and practicing and practicing.
“I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. Since I started doing it, and realizing it was going be largely about kids and inspiring kids who want to learn about streaming, it just makes it much more worth it for me. And they see us motivated to put out a good product with what we’re working on. That’s where it really hits home for me.”
Talent to spare
Riley Hough is one of those kids. On Friday night, the junior was behind the camera to capture homecoming-game action between the Miners and Sierra Foothill League foe Rocklin. Though he had experience in theater, Hough said he was intrigued by the opportunity to learn something new and now wonders whether he might have a future in the broadcast business.
“It’s interesting, something new, and maybe also something I’d like to do as a career,” Hough said from his position on the camera platform. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of a team that makes things happen.”
It’s a team that extends beyond the NU campus, Kulaga said. For example, Jim Heck, who has a long history in video — dating back to original industry giant Grass Valley Group through his current work with NCTV — not only has offered his broadcast expertise but also actually built the platforms from which Hough and his fellow camera crew operate.
Jim Adams, a longtime broadcaster with TouchDown Productions, has been working alongside Cena in the broadcast booth, where they both take direction from students serving as game-day producers like Drew Laferriere.
Jorge Velasquez, a Grass Valley resident and longtime cameraman for KCRA-3 in Sacramento, has also lent his talents to the student crew. Before the first Friday night kicked off, he showed them the ropes in capturing video clips during NU football’s media day. That “B-roll” footage is used during the live broadcast, he said.
“The kids brought some gear (and) I helped with some of my gear, a wireless mic and a sun shade,” Velasquez said. “We talked about how to best get this done; and two days later we managed to get it taped. I helped facilitate; they did the rest.
“I see myself much like the students, interested in learning how this whole livestream thing works, (while) giving them advice about camera work, etc.,” Velasquez said. “These kids are fearless, not afraid to put in long hours (and they have) great attitudes.”
Live from Hooper Stadium
For now, the team is broadcasting only home games, including this week’s SFL clash with perennial power Del Oro. Road trips, though a possibility down the road, expect to offer ample technical trouble to work out, particularly in terms of connectivity, Bryant said.
So far, the broadcasts have drawn more than 3,000 views, with typically more than 100 watching the livestream at any single time. Kulaga said the largest concurrent audience reached so far was 141 viewers, when Nevada Union went into double overtime against Napa on Sept. 16. As the game is being broadcast, viewers are able share comments, likes or other Facebook “reactions.” Bryant said he particularly enjoys seeing posts from fellow alumni all across the country.
“I love to see comments like “Class of ’83 here. Feels like home! I haven’t been to that field since high school!” he said.
Building audience is also part of the learning process in the production. Kulaga said Nevada Union student Rebecca Funk has been leading that effort via social media.
“She’s doing a great job with organic marketing,” Kulaga said. “She’s blasting it out to everybody she knows, telling them to like us and to follow the Facebook page so they get updates when we’re live.”
Though the production is off the ground — with two varsity contests and a powder puff game now in the can — it remains a work in progress as students learn new skills week by week, including the addition of features like instant replay soon. The team plans to continue with other sporting events after football season, including NU basketball games.
In coming weeks, a state-of-the-art scoreboard, made possible by community sponsorship, will be installed and allow the livestream coverage to be displayed for fans on hand, something Dellis said expands the educational opportunity of the program.
“Two and half years ago, we realized the Hooper Stadium scoreboard was on its last legs,” Dellis said. “As we became more educated we realized that a new scoreboard had profound educational capacity for our students. Technology, marketing, camera work, directing, TV production … the opportunities were endless.
“Additionally, we saw an opportunity to enhance our fundraising efforts. Ad sales to the myriad events held in the stadium: commencement ceremonies, athletic events, school assemblies, Turkey Trot, Every 15 Minutes and (potentially) concerts and movies in the park. Sky’s the limit …”
Those fundraising and educational opportunities are geared to eventually hand the whole operation off to Nevada Union students, Kulaga said.
“We’re propping it up right now, but ultimately we want to pass it off to the students,” Kulaga said. “I told Joey Cena, ‘You’re going to be the president of this club and you’re going to pass it on generation to generation, by making it a self-sustainable program.”
Kulaga said he hopes the industry connections companies such as Telestream have made, including the likes of ESPN and the New York Yankees, will also eventually lead to more open doors for members of the MinerVision broadcasts.
“We’d like to leverage those and get those students some opportunities,” he said. “I mean, they’re now building a portfolio in high school that most students don’t get to do until college. That’s an amazing start for them.”
Cena, for one, is thrilled to have that opportunity. And after weeks of work to help get the team ready for primetime, he’s fired up for whatever comes next.
“It’s been tremendous,” Cena said. “It’s all been an amazing experience to have.
“We’ve been working on this since the summer and now we’re just going for it.”
Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.
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