Anytime there is live production, technical issues are bound to happen.
Sports Crew, a group made up of mostly ISU students who are responsible for live-streaming all ISU home football, basketball and volleyball games, face technical issues almost every game.
This season is no different, and the problems started as early as the first home football game.
When the game was about to start, they got a call from the Big Sky replay booth, saying they weren’t receiving signal from one of the cameras.
“Everyone was running around with their heads cut off, like chickens basically,” said Sports Crew member Maddy Leavitt. “Cameras had to be switched, so we were running up and down the bleachers at Holt trying to get everything working.”
The call came in six minutes before kickoff and the problem was fixed by the end of the first quarter.
“That was my first game ever, so it was pretty insane,” Leavitt said.
These broadcasts are streamed over the internet through platforms such as Pluto TV and WatchBigSky.com, which makes them viewable all over the world.
Footage captured by the sports crew is shared with the Big Sky replay booth, where officials review the captured footage to determine what to rule during close and controversial plays, such as an ISU football game vs. Montana in 2015 that ended with the Griz scoring a touchdown on the play’s final game.
Footage captured has occasionally been featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter. In another 2015 football game, the crew captured a one-handed touchdown grab by ISU’s Madison Mangum, which made it on SportsCenter’s top ten plays.
Sports Crew also helps ISU stay in compliance with Big Sky rules that say each school must broadcast its own home games to make them accessible not only to fans, but to the visiting school as well.
“It’s just a really cool program,” said John Young, Director of Sports Production. “It’s just really exciting to see people who go from beginner, to intermediate, to basically expert in the course of half a season.”
Sports Crew started in 2010 and has been going ever since. During that time, they have gone through several changes, which have included changes in leadership, camera position, increased crew sizes and transitioning to high definition broadcasts.
This year, Sports Crew underwent an expansion, which expanded the number of crews from two to three. These crews are each made up of six or seven different students. In addition to expanding, a lot of members are new to Sports Crew this year.
“Spring of 2017, we had about three seniors graduate,” said Chris Cardona, an ISU graduate and four-year Sports Crew Member. “We lost a lot of leadership and a lot of experience.”
Cardona said he agreed to stay on the crew after graduating because they were in need of someone with experience to help run the broadcasts and train all the new members.
Bringing in more people has made it easier for Sports Crew members to have days off.
“I think that’s part of the reason [Young] also brought in so many more people,” Cardona said.
Cardona said in the past people have quit because of the large workload, and being able to give more days off has helped solve this problem.
Each broadcast, the equipment has to be set up from scratch and taken back down. Because of the large amount of equipment, there’s almost always at least one thing not working the way it should be. That same equipment is regularly transferred from Holt Arena to Reed Gym.
“Everything is connected the way we think, but it’s still not getting signal,” Young said. “And then we’ve got 45 minutes before the game to figure out, ‘What’s wrong here?’”
This constant need for troubleshooting gives the student crew members the opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot quickly in a professional environment while on the job.
“Any amateur can run a camera when everything is working,” Young said. “The pro is the guy who knows how, when it’s not working, to figure out how to get it working.”