When driving to the big game just isn’t an option, a laptop, an internet connection, and a lunch break may allow for the next best thing: Virtual participation.
During this year’s OFSAA girls’ A volleyball championships—an event hosted by Hamilton District Christian High School—family members and friends could watch their favourite athletes on the court compete in real time, via the OFSAA website.
That live coverage wouldn’t have existed without Harry Blyleven’s Grade 10 communications class, members of which worked hard to film and live stream the tournament online. It all started with a driving question that the class explored earlier in the school year: How can we make the girls volleyball championship an exceptional event for spectators and athletes? When the first semester came to a close and the class ended, Blyleven’s (former) Communications Technology students were still eager to see their OFSAA project through.
And, it’s a good thing they did.
Filming and live streaming the event made a difference to spectators, says Jonah, a grade 10 student in charge of one of the OFSAA streaming locations. “Especially those who didn’t have a chance to come to Hamilton and watch it live. We had some people from the teams giving shout-outs to “the fans at home.”
“I think that teams were encouraged to do better because their home schools would be watching and cheering them on,” adds Jacob, another HDCH student who helped his classmates operate the TriCaster—a portable device for broadcasting, live streaming, and recording a network-style production.
Along with operating three different cameras, Blyleven’s students needed to ensure that the coverage was fit for online streaming. The tournament was to be filmed from a variety of angles. Onscreen graphics and sound quality had to be up to par.
When it comes to filming and streaming a live event, there’s little room for error, Blyleven pointed out. Fortunately, his students have welcomed the chance to practice. Since September HDCH students have live streamed a smattering hometown games, the Ontario college volleyball championships and the recent SOSSA championship.
In his recent Hamilton Spectator article, HDCH parent Scott Radley describes the trend of online streaming as “TSN for Teens, by teens.”
“It costs the host school nothing except volunteer hours,” he writes, “But it’s making school sports accessible in a way it never has been before.”
That accessibility is advantageous on a number of levels. For some athletes at the school events like OFSAA serve as a sort of culminating experience—filming the event “makes the student athletes feel important, especially since this is the highest level of sports they might ever reach,” says Jonah.
For others, regional tournaments might serve as a launch pad. Jacob notes that live streaming leads to wider audiences, and in turn, increases the chance of qualified athletes receiving scholarships from scouts who might otherwise not see them play.
If those recruits happened to be in the crowd during the March 2015 OFSAA volleyball games, they’d likely have been impressed by the excellent team work happening on and off the court.
“It takes many people to run an event like OFSAA,” says Jacob. “We had six people on the TriCaster crew and there were many more who were refs, score keepers and team hosts.”
Now that a few weeks have passed since the tournament both Jonah and Jacob have a few words of advice to offer others interested in live streaming a major sports event.
“Test all hardware and software multiple times before any big events. Multiple times,” urges Jonah.
“Take time to learn the program well and be prepared for unforeseen troubles,” says Jacob. “Always test everything awhile before the event starts. At OFSAA the first day it took two hours to get the commercials and other little things to work. Always keep a fairly large capacity usb drive near by because they are very useful. Bring extra cord, having too much is better than not having enough.”
Although filming was an exciting way for HDCH students to make the most of their hosting opportunity, members of Blyleven’s Communications class were busy with other jobs as well. They designed banners, produced print material, and created logos for the event. Efforts from the student body (as a whole) created a tangible spirit of hospitality in the building, and visitors took note.
I’m so impressed at how gracious the @HDCH_Info student ambassadors have been during @OFSAAVball, tweeted Adrianne Sprogis.
Love being able to watch @HDCH_Info in the #ofsaagvba tournament online! wrote HDCH alumni, Sara Lodewyks. She ends her tweet with words that have filled the HDCH gym many times: Go knights!
Did you read Scott Radley’s Hamilton Spectator article about OFSAA film crews from HDCH? Click here to check it out!