CSMA Master Class: Texas A&M’s 12th Man Productions Takes the Big Stage

CSMA2013-wufooSince its inception, the College Sports Media Awards have recognized the best in the college-sports–production arena. As technology and production techniques improve, the ability to create high-quality video on any budget has proliferated significantly. At the SVG College Sports Summit in May, 16 productions were honored for their contribution to sports video. This summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at the personalities and programs that have raised the bar for what college sports video is capable of.

“We won!”

When Andy Richardson, director of Texas A&M’s 12th Man Productions, read this short but oh so sweet text message last spring, he couldn’t help reflecting.

VIDEO: Watch an episode of 12th Man Productions' award-winning series, Welcome to the SEC

VIDEO: Watch an episode of 12th Man Productions’ award-winning series, Welcome to the SEC

To him, it seems like just yesterday that he was a one-man band, using machine-to-machine editing to put together episodes of R.C. Slocum’s Coach’s Show in 1993. Today, Richardson is director of a staff of 11 that’s taking home national recognition the li kes of the SVG/NACDA College Sports Media Award for best Program Series in Collegiate Athletics.

A summer ago, Texas A&M, Richardson’s alma mater and home for the past two decades, made the big leap into the nation’s premier college athletics conference, the SEC. To celebrate the big moment, 12th Man Productions put together a total team effort to produce a seven-part series titled Welcome to the SEC, an effort that reminds Richardson just how far things have come in College Station.

“This staff has grown from just me to a staff of very talented people that work here. When we got the text that we had won, we were all obviously very excited and honored to represent the school.”

New Kid on the Block
The move to the SEC was an exciting but uncertain time for the Aggies. No one was quite sure how the school would fit in to the firmly established conference landscape that boasted such historic programs as Alabama, Florida, LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee.

12th Man Productons' producer and editor Cade Key catches some footage at Aggies football practice.

12th Man Productions producer and editor Cade Key catches some footage at Aggies football practice.

That led to a brainstorming session in spring 2012 where 12th Man Productions weighed the opportunity it had to help facilitate the culture shock that was sure to come.

Born from those talks was Welcome to the SEC, a series that counted down the final seven days to A&M’s officially becoming a member of the SEC on July 1, 2012.

“[The series] was something for A&M fans to get acclimated to the SEC and fans of other SEC teams to get to know some of the traditions we have and what A&M is all about,” says Cade Key, producer/editor at 12th Man Productions. “We wanted to show them what they were getting themselves into by adding us.”

Video Production Manager Buddy Kimberlin agrees. “Yeah, we wanted it to go both ways,” he says. “Obviously, we’re the new guys, and they all know each other and what everybody does. We wanted to show off our traditions as well.”

To do that, the 12th Man Productions team drove around town with a Canon 5D, grabbing scenic shots of the campus and College Station and interviewing fans and residents on their memories of some of the Aggies’ most treasured traditions and their thoughts on the big conference move.

12th Man Productions six Sony XDCams that it uses for shooting in the field.

12th Man Productions six Sony XDCams that it uses for shooting in the field in addition to a Canon 5D and 7D.

In addition, the production crew set up interviews and shoots with the coach and selected players from every athletics program at Texas A&M. All in all, a total of 50 interviews were shot, countless hours of B-roll was acquired, and a laundry list of historic clips were pulled from the department’s tape archives. The seven editors on staff than divvied up the episodes and went to work assembling them on Avid Media Composer 5.

“[The move to the SEC] has been hectic for us working, but, as an A&M fan, it has been exciting,” says Kimberlin, who started his career as traveling videographer with the Aggies men’s basketball team. “You’re always watching all of these schools like Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn on TV. Now we’re there, and it’s something new.”

Says Key, “It’s been pretty crazy, and special. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. It was very up in the air, but it was what A&M needed at the time. It reinvigorated the school and the athletic program.”

Big Changes Ahead
It’s important to note that 12th Man Productions, which has existed in its current form since 2006, is way more than simply a postproduction house. The department is responsible for producing in-venue videoboard shows for football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball and also streams more than 200 live events a year to the Web for fans to view on AggieAthletics.com, whose operation also falls under the 12th Man umbrella.

Gig 'Em! Texas A&M's 12th Man Productions won the CSMA for Best Video Marketing Campaign. (From left to right) Cade Key, Charlene Callaway, and Brandon Law accepted.

Gig ‘Em! Texas A&M’s 12th Man Productions won the CSMA for Best Video Marketing Campaign. (From left to right) Cade Key, Charlene Callaway, and Brandon Law accepted.

The department is also on the verge of some huge changes in-house. Following the Aggies’ final regular-season home football game on Nov. 9, Kyle Field will undergo a massive, $450 million renovation project that will include an HD video screen and give 12th Man Productions three control rooms and new office space.

“All of this is part of the process as we prepare to help facilitate the new SEC Network,” says Richardson. “As a member institution, we want to position ourselves best to be able to help provide content as ESPN needs it.”

12th Man is more than ready for the hi-def switch. The department already creates content in HD, shooting with Canon 5Ds and 7Ds and Sony XD cams in the field.

To help assist with the transition, Texas A&M is working on the technological specs of the renovated stadium with WJHW, a consulting firm out of Dallas that has worked with some of the biggest venue builds and renovations of the past decade, including Cowboys Stadium, new Yankee Stadium, and Dodgers Stadium.

As Richardson reflects on those long-ago days of working alone splicing tape, around him, it’s another year of big changes in College Station. It’s another reminder of just how far things have come.

SAVE THE DATE: More than 500 attendees were on hand at this year’s SVG College Sports Summit. Don’t miss out on the top networking and idea-sharing content and technology event in the college industry. Join us at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta on May 28 and 29, 2014, for the sixth-annual SVG College Sports Summit.