CSVS 2010: ‘Flipumentaries’ and the Art of Economical Video Production

Many of the college sports video staffs around the country are being asked to produce more video than ever on nearly nonexistent budgets. At SVG’s second-annual College Sports Video Summit (CSVS) on Tuesday, several of the top collegiate sports-video experts revealed a few strategies to accomplish just that.

Flipumentaries
“We’ve started doing flipumentaries,” reported J. Stern, assistant athletics director for Ole Miss Sports Productions, University of Mississippi. “Give a $150 Flip camera to a student athlete. He shoots, I edit, and our post guys put graphics on it. Then you follow up the with an advertiser that wants, say, 10 flipumentaries per year and will pay for that. Bottom line is, you have to make money and you can really sell this.”

David Hougland, director of sports broadcasting, Texas Tech University, agreed, noting that differentiating your video content and providing fans an inside look can add an entirely new dimension to a school’s coverage. “Give your viewers something they don’t get to see on a daily basis. What you see every day [on campus] may not be boring to the public,” he pointed out. “Give them Flip cameras, give them anything that provides a different [perspective].”

Social Media Galore
Innovative and low-budget assets like Flip camcorders have created an entirely new source of video content at colleges and universities around the country. Besides flipumentaries, several post video to social-media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

“YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, and other [social media] are free and a great way to get your video out there,” said Jack McDonald, director of athletics, Quinnipiac University.  “But,” he cautioned, “if it’s not up there in 24 hours, it’s like an old newspaper, and it really doesn’t matter. These sites are available to all of you. It just takes a few minutes to get up there. When it comes down to it, all parents want to see [their] child, so it is worth the effort, if just for that.”

Big Ten Schools Have All the Fun
Big Ten schools have an obvious leg up in the production sector in the form of the Big Ten Network. The conference sports network can provide technological advice to each of its member schools as well as equipment for events.

“If we’re going to do something or try something, the Big Ten [Network] are the experts, so we can run it by them first,” said Jim Nachtman, director of broadcast operations, Penn State. “We don’t have the money to make mistakes because we are a self-supportive program; every dollar we spend we have to raise. So we need to be sure of our [investments].

“Another big advantage,” he added, “is SVG. We can come together and share and pick each other’s brain. It gives you have a collection of people and technologies, so we can avoid taking so many risks and make the right decisions.”

FTP to the Rescue
Even with the extensive growth in streaming video, many schools continue to struggle with distributing their video to local TV stations for mainstream exposure. Stern’s solution is to put the onus on the stations rather than on the university’s video department.

“We started using FTP this year for every station in Mississippi, and, if stations in Mississippi can do it, then I guarantee you that everyone can,” he said. “We do HD and SD video and make it available [via FTP]. If there’s a sporting event on campus, the stations have been trained to go to our FTP site and grab the video. We bought a 4-TB file server for $500. That’s instead of the $30K we used to pay for a satellite [connection in the past].”

Gauge Online Results
Google Analytics has also become a nearly universal solution for measuring Website traffic and generating advertising revenue at colleges and universities. Both Ole Miss and Quinnipiac already employ the comprehensive Internet tracking service.

“For us, Google Analytics has been our answer [for gauging success],” said Quinnipiac’s McDonald. “We went from 3.5 million to 5 million page views last year, largely because of [Google Analytics]. If we tag every one of those views, we can measure it pretty easily and really build on that.”

The Best Advice
When asked for the best advice he could give to college video professionals, Stern responded: “Don’t take it personal. The hardest part is convincing your athletics director what you do. They’re always asking what do you do because they just don’t get it. Don’t take it personal, because they’re never going to get it.”