Sports Broadcast Audio Education, Part 2: Schools Step Up Their Game

Formal academic environments for broadcast-audio education continue to expand in number and quality. At a July AES conference on audio education at Middle Tennessee State University, the broadcast facilities at numerous colleges and universities were often cited as integral parts of their audio-education infrastructure. The experiences at two for-profit schools, Full Sail University and the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, suggest that interest in broadcast audio as a career path is on the rise, stimulating additional investment in the facilities used to teach those skills, in the process creating more forward momentum.

At Full Sail, in the Orlando area, about 300 students are enrolled in broadcast courses, up from 250 last year, according to Corey Jacobs, course director of AV technologies. The school uses some of the capabilities of its $2.2 million live–event-production facility, as well as further leveraging a two-plus-year-long relationship with ESPN, which recently moved its Full Sail University Sports Lab Powered by ESPN facility to larger quarters on the campus. The space is used to develop technology enhancements, including virtual applications; allows students to collaborate on promo spots and other content for ESPN, ABC, and Golf Channel; and enables mentoring by ESPN’s Emerging Technology team. Kevin Cleary, senior audio producer, ESPN remote production, has consulted to the program and regularly lectures there.

The school also has an apprenticeship program in place with NEP, which has hired several Full Sail graduates since the program began two years ago. Live remote sports shows are simulated with periodic visits to an area bowling alley, where broadcast gear is moved via flypacks designed to emulate truck panels for patching.

The program  is part of the school’s Show Production Bachelor of Science Degree Program; tuition totals $78,000.

Evolution of the Curriculum
The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS), near Phoenix, plans to inaugurate its own broadcast-audio program this fall, once routine regulatory and accreditation requirements are finalized. The expanded curriculum will add six weeks to the current 30 weeks students spend on campus, with the current $18,600 tuition increasing accordingly. Students will also be required to complete a 280-hour internship as a graduation requirement for the school’s certificate program.

Digital Department Director Robert Brock says it’s a logical evolution of the school’s core curriculum, which, in recent years, has added live sound, game audio, and postproduction to its original music-production agenda. The curriculum was developed in consultation with Emmy Award winner and Fox Sports audio consultant/senior mixer Fred Aldous, who is coordinating students’ and faculty’s observation of live Fox Sports Net of Arizona broadcasts of Diamondbacks games at Chase Field.

“Sports is going to be a heavy angle in the broadcast-audio program,” says Brock. “Comms are going to be a particularly intensive component of that. [Doing] a fast-paced broadcast mix while listening to instructions from a director and producer in your ear — that’s not something students have ever experienced.”

Partnerships with manufacturers, he says, are important for establishing the broadcast-audio program, which will be part of the school’s core curriculum and not an elective. Those already in place include intercom equipment from RTS, Studio Technologies, Sennheiser, and a unique collaboration with Studer: the Swiss-based console manufacturer’s recently launched online Studer Broadcast Academy will use content developed by and for the CRAS broadcast-audio curriculum. Students will also have Studer’s Virtual Vista software loaded onto their Mac Pro laptops, allowing them to emulate the experience of working on an actual console in addition to their hands-on time at the two Vista desks the school recently purchased as part of the broadcast expansion. One of the consoles will eventually be housed in a purpose-built 40-ft. mobile-production trailer currently under construction by custom builder BMS Navigo in consultation with Aldous and Kevin Callahan, who until recently had been EIC on Game Creek’s Fox trucks.

Placements
Both schools say creating more internship and apprenticeship opportunities is key to the success of expanded broadcast-audio programs. Brock says CRAS is trying a variety of avenues, including building relationships through such events as the SVG League Summit.

Full Sail’s Jacobs says that, although ESPN and NEP can absorb several graduates each year, the number of postgraduate positions in broadcast audio is still relatively small and he’d like to see them increase as the number of students showing interest grows. “It’s still new and it’s low on the pie chart of [overall] placements,” he says. “But that’s going to change over time.”

Brock looks back at some of the outings that students have taken to sports-broadcast remote venues and notes that there were few A1s under the age of 50. “This is a business that’s going to need new faces in the future,” he says. “We think we can fill that need by exposing students to how exciting live broadcast sports can be.”