It doesn’t matter if you work in sales, coaching, merchandising or some other sports discipline, the root of the sports industry is always the event.
But the way we watch and engage with the event is modifying, the audience experience is no longer limited to a certain time or even a certain location. No longer are viewers anchored to their couch or stuck in a bar, they are mobile and the event is going with them.
Sports production has to keep up with the change, and the new growth cycle in employment is in digital sports production. One university has set out to stay ahead of the curve, developing a program catered to this shift in event consumption, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
Ball State is known for their immersive learning principles, launching the nation’s first fully immersive sports media and production program, Sports Link back in 2009. Now they are raising the bar again with a Digital Sports Production sequence.
To find out more about this innovative program we spoke with Chris Taylor, Director of Sports Link and Digital Sports Production:
Immersive Learning is the name of the game at Ball State – what does that mean to you and how does this technique prepare students differently than other programs?
Taylor: To put it simply, immersive learning means “real-world projects for real-world clients” and that defines sports production perfectly.
To me, it truly is what makes Ball State so different than any other school. You take the classroom learning, but then you apply it in real settings for academic credit.
I come from the sports side, not the academic side, so I run our program like it’s a business. Sports producers and content creators are true storytellers, true creative people. But sports is also a business.
That’s what our immersive learning programs do best, they allows you to be creative, yet realistic, you can push the limits and maybe get away with things because you are “learning”.
I am learning every day and it has to be that way for our program and students. They push me, I push them and together we produce some pretty amazing stuff. I am very proud of that.
It all started with Sports Link– now that the program has been around for a few years, do you find graduates are finding jobs a little easier based on having hands-on experience?
Taylor: Absolutely. No question. We have students (now alumni) who will attest to it.
They are basically getting as much as four years’ worth of portfolio material and experience in live event production, sports shows, writing, producing, hosting and more – all with professional standards in mind and for a client (BSU Athletics, Fox College Sports, Comcast, etc).
The best learning environment is one where a student can be trusted, yet challenged. I trust our students and challenge them to be different. Our program allows us to do this.
Technology is changing the way sports are viewed and information is disseminated – at Ball State you are keeping up with this trend by creating a digital sports production program – tell us more about what that will entail.
Taylor: Using the immersive learning model of Ball State Sports Link, the new Digital Sports Production sequence will specialize in multiple areas. The program’s students produce a broad range of content from live remote productions, live- to-tape events, television programs, student-athlete features and webcasts. Other facets of the program will include radio, social media, podcasts and the use of mobile technology and interactivity via the web.
Students in Digital Sports Production will gain industry-accepted experience in the following areas:
• Live game, cross-platform productions with the use of Ball State’s 40-foot HD production truck
• Studio show and feature story production and storytelling on multiple platforms
• Post-production and editing
• Engineering and broadcast operations
• Archiving and logging footage
• Operation of field and live production cameras, mobile production units
• Operation of replay and broadcast graphic systems
• Non-linear editing with Final Cut Pro or the equivalent
• Building and design of graphics and animations in Adobe Creative Suite
• Cross-platform delivery methods, formats, compression and encoding
• Producing sports content for cross-platforms including broadcast, online, mobile and tablet applications
Looking back at your most successful students, was there a certain trait or skill that made them attractive to employers?
Taylor: To me there definitely traits which are found in our successful students. Creativity goes without question. How can you tell a story, we emphasis layered-storytelling, in a way no one else has. Or how do you visually and creatively tell this story so it informs AND entertains. It’s the same for our live broadcasts, every game is a story; how do we best “tell/produce” this story. You have to be creative.
While creativity can’t be measured, the area which can is dependability and leadership. At the end of the day, sports is a deadline-oriented business. Can you meet deadlines and prioritize your schedule so you are getting the best work from yourself AND others?
Successful students can prioritize, are dependable and are great leaders.