Broadcast Pix Tackles High School Football in HD

In Texas, high school football is kind of a big deal. When the season begins for the Westlake High School Chaparrals Aug. 28, student videographers from the Austin school will shoot the games in high-definition using a new Broadcast Pix Slate 5016Ghh integrated production system, part of a renovation of the school’s 25-year-old Westlake Community Performing Arts Center.

Westlake High School students will use a Broadcast Pix Slate 5016Ghh integrated production system to to cover football games in HD.

At football games, student members of the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew handle all production aspects of the game coverage, from pulling cables to directing the show. Westlake students had been working with a makeshift control room setup at the stadium built around an old analog switcher and a basic graphics system. All video inserts, from bumps to commercials, were fed via a DVD player.

“It was pretty clumsy,” recalled David Poole, managing director of the PAC. “We were looking for something that was more inclusive but affordable. Broadcast Pix gave us a big bang for our buck.”

The new Slate 5016Ghh system was purchased through Omega Broadcast Group, a Broadcast Pix dealer based in North Austin, Texas. 

The upcoming football season will be the team’s seventh with video coverage and its first in HD. According to Poole, the Westlake video program was developed after the school district renovated the football stadium and added a video board—and officials suddenly realized they needed to produce content for it. He said it took two seasons to refine the production process with his student crew, but for the past five years the school’s football coverage has been replayed on Sunday nights locally on Time Warner Cable.

One of the cable company’s conditions for airing the football games, however, is that Westlake shoots the team’s away games as well. As a result, the control room equipment has to be housed in flypacks that can be transported to other stadiums. “What the Broadcast Pix offered was the all-in-one functionality in a compact package,” said Jeff Strange, Westlake technical supervisor. “Plus, it has a rack-mountable workstation with a separate, functional control surface.” 

Beyond the built-in HD Inscriber CG, clip and graphic stores and multiview, Westlake is taking advantage of the Slate 5016Ghh’s integrated router. Each game will be recorded to HDV tape, hard disk and Panasonic P2 solid-state memory, as well as three additional Panasonic P2 decks for slow-motion replays. A DVCAM version is also recorded for Time Warner Cable, because the game is still broadcast in SD (although it is presented in 16:9).

The recent renovation, funded by a local bond issue, also included fiber connectivity to the football stadium, which allowed Poole to move the control room to the PAC across campus and use the video equipment for other projects. “The mission was to bring the facility back up to current standards, but also prepare us for the next 10 to 20 years,” said Poole. “In addition to enhancing school and community productions at the PAC, the new system will benefit students by providing learning opportunities in a state-of-the-art performing arts venue and at sporting events, two settings that require different production skills.” 

Football games will be shot using four Sony HDC1400R cameras with Fujinon lenses. Westlake also invested in two Sony PDW-700 camcorders that are permanently installed in the PAC’s auditorium, which has been renovated to support a six-camera production. A Yamaha digital audio mixer in the PAC handles audio for home games; on the road, the crew uses a small Mackie mixer.

Travis Favaron, a Westlake senior and president of the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew for the upcoming school year, will lead the football video crew this fall. He also operated the Slate system for its first production last April, the annual recital of the school’s dance team at the PAC. “I ran that show without any formal training,” he said. “I was extremely impressed with how easy it was to use.”