CSMA Master Class: Purdue’s Hall of Music Productions Blends Sports, Entertainment

The SVG/NACDA College Sports Media Awards celebrate the best in college sports-video production. As technology and techniques evolve, the ability to create high-quality video on any budget has proliferated significantly. At the SVG College Sports Summit in May, 16 productions from across the country were honored for their excellence and overall contribution to the industry. This summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at the personalities and programs that have raised the bar in college sports video.

In the eyes of Stephen Hall, there’s no difference between a run off left tackle and an exit stage right. It’s all entertainment.

WATCH: Purdue Football Open 2013

WATCH: Purdue Football Open 2013

That mindset is behind the success of Purdue University’s Hall of Music Productions, of which Hall has been the director since the mid 90s. You’d be hard-pressed to find a college campus where the performing arts and athletics are so closely connected, and you’d be even harder-pressed to find an arts department having a greater impact on sports and video.

“We work in show business,” says Hall. “In many ways, an athletic event is just another version of live entertainment for people to come and enjoy. It’s the same thing as going to a Broadway show. Those principles we try to apply to an athletic event, and I think that’s allowed us to do some creative things and think outside the box when approaching a videoboard show.”

That creative flair and eye for both the dramatic and the cinematic was at the core of Hall of Music Productions’ 2014 SVG/NACDA College Sports Media Award-winning piece, an in-venue videoboard intro for the Boilermakers football team. You want blue-collar? Look no further than this gritty and grimy tribute to an industrious group of underdogs looking to slay the dragons of the Big Ten.

Holding Ground
Even as college sports video has changed dramatically around it (the advent of digital networks, the launch of the Big Ten Network, insanely lucrative television-rights contracts), Hall of Music Productions has maintained its status as Purdue Athletics’ video-production house of choice for the better part of two decades.

Hall of Music Productions director Stephen Hall accepted the College Sports Media Award for Outstanding Promo, PSA, Tease, or Marketing Campaign in the Collegiate Athletics division at the ceremony in May.

Hall of Music Productions director Stephen Hall accepted the College Sports Media Award for Outstanding Promo, PSA, Tease, or Marketing Campaign in the Collegiate Athletics division at the ceremony in May.

Hall of Music handles university and athletics-department projects ranging from supplying a single microphone for a lecture to providing a 40-person crew for an in-stadium production. So how has Hall of Music maintained this role?

“I believe it’s the level of service and the quality of the product that we give them,” says Hall. “When you’re running any business, you want to make it so your client never even thinks of looking elsewhere.”

Hall of Music Productions began as an idea in Hall’s head more than 20 years ago, when he looked to grow his small performing-arts department’s gear and supplies and its impact on the university at large.

“As with anything associated with technology, that was expensive,” he observes. “So to try and stay on top of the technology, it became clear what we needed to do was invest in portable gear, so that we could move around wherever we needed it. Out of that thinking, we determined that, to stay viable as an important part of the university, we needed to expand what we do. We decided to become the university’s production company.”

Down and Dirty
One of Hall of Music’s chief responsibilities for Purdue Athletics is to run the in-venue entertainment and videoboard show at Ross-Ade Stadium on Boilermaker Football game days. That includes the exciting annual task of producing the video that accompanies the team’s entrance onto the field.

Hall of Music Productions shot Purdue players in an abandoned power plant of the school's campus for the team's 2013 stadium intro video.

Hall of Music Productions shot Purdue players in an abandoned power plant of the school’s campus for the team’s 2013 stadium intro video.

For the 2013 edition, Hall of Music Creative Director Scott Horton racked his brain to develop a piece that met Head Coach Darrell Hazell’s request to portray the team as a grounded group of hard-workers. The team’s moniker made that theme a natural fit.

“The real history of what a Boilermaker is, they work and get dirty,” says Hall. “Once we knew what coach’s thinking was, we brainstormed and ideas come from Scott like water from a tap.”

After clearing it with campus safety, Horton had the idea to use an old abandoned power plant that was previously home to an iconic smokestack that was a bit of a campus landmark back in the day. Today, the smokestack has been taken down, and the structure is little more than an old building scheduled for demolition next spring.

The building’s insides turned out to be a gold mine for Horton and Hall’s vision. There were loads of built-in props: levels, nobs, chains, a coal cart, and, sure enough, dormant boilers.

“It turned out to be a beautiful set,” says Hall. “That’s the beauty of having a good creative team. You see what things you have and how you can use them.”

All major camera work done with little more than DLR cameras, the building needed proper lighting, and the project was edited on Apple Final Cut Pro.

Horton got creative with GoPro cameras, too, grabbing some of the piece’s point-of-view shots. For one, he affixed a GoPro on the end of a shovel, looking up at a player shoveling coal into the boiler.

Working with Coach Hazzell proved to be a valuable strategy. He was pleased with the piece and ensured that the team viewed the final project prior to the first game of the year.

“What makes us successful is the partnerships and collaborative relationships we have established,” says Hall. “We’ve always believed that, if you can establish a partnership and a collaborative relationship, you can work together on things and it’s more like you’ve both got something to gain. In the end, it makes a better product.”

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 sports video. Join us at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta May 27-29, 2015, for the seventh-annual SVG College Sports Summit.

To read past CSMA Master Class profiles: click here.

For more college news, visit www.sportsvideo.org/college.