From the Production Chair: Swimming Broadcast Challenges

When most of us begin “cutting our teeth” in TV, we’re given a handful of (relatively) simple, common sense rules:

  1. Make sure your camera is level.
  2. Follow the action unless told otherwise.
  3. Always properly wrap and unwrap your cords.
  4. Avoid water coming in contact with your gear at all costs.

So when building MidcoSN’s inaugural winter high school sports schedule, I decided we should ignore that last rule and put our new gear as close to its kryptonite, as soon as possible, by covering a prep swimming & diving meet. On Wednesday, November 29, MidcoSN will be live broadcasting the Swimming & Diving Quad from Lawrence’s Indoor Aquatic Center, starting at 2:30 PM.

Why swimming and diving? I have always said that you can’t say you’re committed to covering high school sports if you don’t do everything you can to show as many activities from as many of your programs as possible. Also, from a programming stand point, it stands out. Aside from years with the Summer Olympics, how often do you find competitive swimming or diving when scrolling through your Midco channels?

To prepare for Wednesday afternoon’s broadcast, we met with Lawrence’s IAC earlier in the week. They explained the logistics of bleachers, timekeepers and overall flow that would be pertinent to know. From there, it’s deciding the best places for our cameras to tell the story to the viewers who aren’t there.

Camera placements – especially in an event like this – make or break it for the viewer. If a camera is too low or at an awkward angle, it can cause an unrealistic vantage point of the action and sometimes disorient the viewer. We kept that in mind during our walk-through, so that wherever we put our cameras, they would be able to tell the audience what was happening, even if our announcers’ mics dropped out.

Remember when I mentioned that water and TV equipment don’t mix well? That’s another factor to add to the equation. You can have the perfect camera placement, but it won’t matter if your camera unit is going to short out because you decided to put it in the “splash zone.” All of those things being tallied in, we feel like we should be able to give any viewer a quality grasp of the action taking place before them.

However, that’s just the meat and potatoes of the broadcast – all important pieces to make sure things work, but not the most exciting. We decided we needed to add some dessert to our broadcasting pallet – and so we’re adding an underwater camera. (Note: this was written before testing the camera for the broadcast, so this may end up blowing up in our face, but what’s the fun in not trying?).

We researched housing units that would fit our Go-Pro camera, keep our camera safe and dry, and also be watertight enough for the broadcast cable to send the signal back for the program. Our engineer, Taylor – who I should mention is the vehicle by which all of the grandiose ideas we come up with actually get put into action – found a unit that would work with the ability to go forty feet under water (so even if it sinks, we should have nice pictures of its trip to the pool floor).

As I recap the events leading up to our broadcast, Taylor is currently constructing the piece that will secure the camera to the pool wall so that we can actually get a quality shot of the underwater action. Ideally, viewers will be able to see the kickturns of the swimmers from the perspective of lane one, as well as the depth in which the competitors take their turns and the water the divers impact below the surface.

Prior to Wednesday’s broadcast, there are still plenty of moving pieces that may change, alter, or altogether toss out the pre-planned process that has been laid out – which in TV is pretty common. The good thing is our broadcast team as a whole is about as excited as I have seen to produce a game since we started in early September.

In TV, you want to make good content – games people want to see – and you want challenges that you find a workaround for. No one wants a simple broadcast. Those are boring. We want to be creative, and we want a good game/meet/event every time out.

Check out the meet – and the rest of our live broadcasts this season – to see everything we have to offer. 

Kyle Haas
MidcoSN Coordinating Producer

Filed Under High School | Swimming