One hundred gifted fifth-graders took turns reading sports play-by-play in front of the camera and helping operate industry-standard digital video, audio and graphics controls Tuesday morning at Georgia Southern University’s Paulson Stadium.
The students, from the QUEST program in the Bulloch County Board of Education’s nine elementary schools, were welcomed by the staff of the university’s Multimedia Development Center. The MDC, led by professionals but employing many Georgia Southern students, produces the in-stadium video of Eagles football games and works with ESPN3 on coverage of other sports. The center also creates commercials and videos of academic and research programs.
ESPN and GS Eagles logos appeared on monitors between segments of the fifth-graders’ simulated broadcast.
“It’s really important for us to give young people an opportunity to see the type of careers available in high technology and how Georgia Southern is a leader in this area, and this really gives Georgia Southern an opportunity to give back and show some of the young people in this area some neat career choices,” said Multimedia Development Center Director Art Berger.
Inside the green room, where things that match the wall color tend to disappear onscreen to allow for substituting other backgrounds, Berger told students about his own career path. He started working with computers “way back” in high school. Then, after getting a college degree in architecture and art history, he went to Los Angeles to work in the film industry for a couple of years, before returning to Atlanta.
There, he was director of presentations for Turner Broadcasting/AOL, which put him in close contact with Cartoon Network content. Some hands went up when he asked if the children had heard of “Samurai Jack” but many more hands, and some wows, went up when he mentioned “Powerpuff Girls.”
“So, when I was your age I thought about my career,” Berger said. “What do I need to be able to do that? What do I need to learn now?”
In the control room
Much of Tuesday’s production experience took place inside the MDC’s new master control room.
Sallie Zetterower Elementary School fifth-grader Bailey Bryson, 10, exclaimed, “This is so cool!” while working with software that lets a replay operator change the speed of recorded video.
Bryson wished that she and classmates had this when they did a class project, creating videos of their own myths explaining humanity’s desire to fly, explained her QUEST teacher, Diane Ward.
Sallie Zetterower’s QUEST students are familiar with video production concepts, but are accustomed to using iPads and Chromebooks.
“It’s not just shooting a video and showing it,” Ward said. “They get into editing, voice-over, learning how to splice it, to make it polished for their audience.”
Another of her students, Thom Mortimore, 11, was adjusting the audio control board and seemed fascinated with it. Mortimore won a second-place award in video production at the Georgia Educational Technology Affair two years ago and placed third at the state event last year. He received first-place honors in the Bulloch County Technology Fair both years.
His third-grade project was a stop-motion video using Legos. His fourth-grade project was based on the digital game Minecraft.
“I want to become an engineer of some sort,” Mortimore said. “I want to be a lot of things when I grow up.”
QUEST teachers such as Ward and Julia P. Bryant Elementary School’s Ellen Cowart see intellectually gifted students for QUEST one day a week, for a full day. QUEST stands for Quality Unique Experiences in Study and Thought.
“We do a lot of problem solving, critical thinking, higher-order thinking skills, project-based learning,” Cowart said.
Like an ESPN truck
Although not a teaching department of the university, the Multimedia Development Center provides training and practical experience for the Georgia Southern students who get jobs there. About 15 students at a time work for the center.
The new control room, completed just in time for the start of the current football season, is equipped like an ESPN production truck but is large enough to function like a classroom, said Jeremiah Womble, the MDC’s head engineer. Besides the video seen on the scoreboard and screens in the stadium during football games, the room is used to control Internet streaming for basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball and softball.
“We modeled it after an ESPN3, ESPN2 broadcast truck to have all of the same functions that our students would expect to see in the real world,” Womble said.
Allen Lincoln, 30, has been a student employee at the center for four years. He came to Georgia Southern midway to his bachelor’s degree in information technology and will receive his Master of Business Administration in December. He started as a camera operator, moved into production and is now a graduate assistant and assistant engineer.
He has a job offer pending from CNN in Atlanta, where he will be an operations engineer.
“The Media Development Center definitely helps out with the experience aspect of it,” Lincoln said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.