SDPB: We Cheer for South Dakota

South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) is a vital community resource producing and broadcasting high-quality, commercial-free programs and valuable community outreach projects that educate, enlighten and entertain.  SDPB is the best source for South Dakota history, documentaries, in-depth news programming and conversations with thinkers and newsmakers.  SDPB features news and information on stories that preserve the past, examine the present and look ahead to the future.

SDPB Online can be accessed at SDPB.org. Besides archiving all SDPB Television and Radio programs, SDPB.org also has full coverage of all South Dakota High School Activities Association sanctioned tournaments. Girls State Basketball begins tomorrow, March 12, in Huron (B), Watertown (A), and Brookings (AA). Tune into sdpb.org/basketball for more information on coverage of all three tournaments.  (Boys State Basketball begins March 19!)

Adapted and updated from the SDPB Magazine from last March, the below article details the work that goes into covering the basketball tournaments at SDPB.

We Cheer for South Dakota

SDPB Television and SDPB Online cover some 30 high school achievement events every school year. You’ve seen our broadcasts on television or checked the stats and photos online. What you don’t see is the massive effort behind the scenes.

Every department contributes – you see staff members in blue polo shirts announcing games, wearing headphones, running cameras, taking photos, selling DVDs, troubleshooting equipment, and directing broadcasts. It’s not a simple task.

“The extent of our event coverage is unique to public broadcasting and SDPB,” says Fritz Miller, Director of Marketing. “The aim is to give students recognition for the effort they put into activities.”

One of our toughest challenges is covering the Girls and Boys basketball tournaments – 72 games over the course of two weeks played in six different venues in six different cities.
Here’s how we do it.

“We start planning for the next school year as soon as track finishes up in the spring,” according to Production Manager Bradley Van Osdel. “We have to know where to place trucks, what our engineering requirements will be, where to put cameras, dozens of little details.” Each site provides unique challenges and opportunities. This year, we’ll head to Huron, Watertown and Brookings for the March 12-14 Girls tournaments; and Aberdeen, Rapid City and Sioux Falls for the March 19-21 Boys tournaments. Each tournament involves three games running more or less at the same time, utilizing all three of SDPB’s television channels.

Marketing steps in weeks before the tournaments with promos and articles on when and where – which games are on which SDPB channel. TV Production develops hundreds of pages of graphics for on-screen broadcasts, and works with media coordinators at schools to find students to help run cameras – typically four per venue.

Travel is a huge part of the preparation process. Administrative assistants must arrange travel plans for staff from Television, Engineering, Online, Marketing and Radio; this includes booking hotel rooms and coordinating transportation.

“We typically reserve 28 to 30 rooms each week for crew members and announcers, which, depending on the city, is not always that easy, and we usually have two to three vehicles at each site,” says Production Assistant Kim Kelly.

We gather our equipment and pack it into one of the three mobile production facilities –   SDPB’s production truck and two trailers. We prepare dozens of boxes, pack our bags and hit the road.

The three production and engineering crews travel on Wednesday, the day before each tournament begins, and begin the set-up process. Placing cameras, running cable, entering team rosters and final graphic creations makes Wednesday a long day. Engineering oversees the installation and calibration of equipment with the help of the TV crew, and makes sure the signal can get to our main operation control center in Vermillion – where more production staff are on hand – for statewide broadcast.

Thursday through Saturday are broadcast days where the crew not only does the standard game coverage, but also uploads graphics for each day, trains all high school students who operate cameras, and coordinates with tournament directors to make sure TV time outs are done and half time awards and entertainment are covered.

During each activity, it’s “all hands on deck.” Each site has anywhere from five to a dozen TV and Engineering staff members at a time. The online department ensures that online streaming of events is running smoothly, as well as taking photos and updating the SDPB social media with scores, results, and highlights. Marketing is on hand at each game location to talk with fans and sell DVDs of the games.

We all do our best to capture all of the action and excitement without taking away from the stars of the show – the high school participants.

“We don’t need to be front and center. Our goal is to put the spotlight on the high school students,” says Bob Bosse, Director of Television. “Watching events should be just as thrilling whether you’re at home or there in the arena.”

When Saturday night, March 21, comes and all the tournaments are complete, the crews will work late into the night to strike all of the equipment, load up the vehicles, and head home, usually the next morning.

Back in Vermillion, there’s unloading and maintenance and technicians are busy making DVDs. But there’s not much time to rest. The next crew is gearing up for All-State Band March 26-28.

A special thanks goes out to Allison McNamera, a previous SDPB intern, for supplying us with this article!

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Learn more about SDPB Television, SDPB Radio, SDPB Online Services, and SDPB Education and Outreach by visiting sdpb.org.

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