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MC22 broadcast puts local athletes in state spotlight

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As of today, they’ve all moved on to Madrid, where Woodward-Granger visits tonight for high school football action.

But one week ago, the crew for Mediacom’s MC22 Central Iowa Game of the Week was pulling into Creston shortly after school was dismissed, to set up for their tape-delayed broadcast of the big homecoming matchup with Harlan.

The last airing on MC 22, the local cable channel, was 7:30 a.m. today. It was shown multiple times over the past week. But, it remains available to Mediacom customers for “a month or two” on its Video on Demand (VOD) service, according to Lance Herbold, MC22 producer.

The production is well-done for a local broadcast. The wide shots are steady and follow the action, and the close-up replay shots are crisp, with some nice slow-motion effects on the crucial phases of the replay.

Herbold said the quality of the telecast starts with all of the preparation work in the days leading up to the event.

“We meet in July and try to schedule the first five or six weeks of our games,” Herbold said. “We leave the last four weeks open in hopes that we can pick some games that might be compelling from a playoff standpoint.

“Once we’re into the season, I usually contact the schools and verify the date, to make sure they know that we are coming. We make sure we have the ability to bring our truck onto the facility and that they can accommodate our on-air talent set up with our spotters and statisticians, and cameras.”

The busy week is full of collecting statistical information on the teams, figuring which players might be talked about at the top of the show, conducting conference calls with coaches for background, and writing scripts and “formats” for game night.

“It’s all about hitting the ground running, so you have everything you need for a good broadcast,” Herbold said.

Setting the scene

The opening of the Creston/O-M vs. Harlan broadcast indicates the preparation was thorough on these southwest Iowa rivals.

“The tornado that came through Creston last spring came virtually without warning. Luckily, no lives were lost. But the damage would be severe. Today, the city and the school continue to rebuild and repair. Amidst the construction, the Panther football team is building what it hopes is a winning tradition.

Harlan is no stranger to success. Very few schools can boast having the success on the field of the Cyclones in the Curt Bladt era. Despite an altered offensive philosophy, Harlan continues to be one of the state’s most dangerous teams.

Tonight we bring you to one of the best districts in all of Iowa high school football. Next on MC 22.”

As that on-air opening began, Creston News Advertiser photos of the April 14 tornado aftermath on the school campus were shown on-screen.

Typically, the broadcast focuses on something involving the host school during halftime. In this case, they were interested in following up on the updates still under way at the school’s athletic facilities from the tornado damage. Jeff Bevins, CHS activities director, did an on-screen interview during the halftime segment.

Broadcasting the game itself is a very busy enterprise by numerous people on one of five MC22 games across the state on a typical Friday night. There are four cameras shooting the action.

Two were located at the very top corners of the home bleachers, so some space was set aside on a packed homecoming night. Those two high cameras follow the full game, while two other cameras feature “isolation” looks. One was a hand-held camera following along the sideline, while the other one was stationed atop a scaffolding in the south end zone.

Since team personnel were on a scaffolding there already, and MC22 tries to work alone in those areas to avoid unnecessary movements, Akin Building Center of Creston provided an additional scaffolding for the broadcast. That camera angle gave some terrific replay angles, especially on scoring plays such as Brandon Phipps’ exciting 87-yard interception return early in the game.

While it’s not high-definition quality on the basic game action, the close-up replay looks were crystal clear.

“We’re still using some standard def equipment,” Herbold said. “But we’re constantly stringing together new pieces of equipment that are at least HD compatible, or up-gradable. The tighter shots do look better. We are also making some updates within the system locally that will hopefully improve our picture quality.”

Herbold is the producer in the truck speaking into the ears of broadcasters B.J. Schaben and Kirk Darrow, while the director calls out the changes in shots and communicates with videotape people.

Broadcast duo

While those production folks are kind of the unsung “offensive linemen” behind the scenes of a successful broadcast, the attention of viewers typically falls on the “quarterback and running back,” as in Schaben for play-by-play description, and Darrow for analysis and interviews.

Schaben, a seed corn salesman by day, has an extensive background in radio and television work. In fact, the week of the Creston game, it was announced he’d won an Upper Midwest Region Emmy Award in Minneapolis.

Representing Mediacom’s MC22 and Cyclone Television Network, Schaben’s award was for on-camera sports play-by-play.

Darrow is a retired high school football coach. Most of his career was spent in Ames, but he actually started not far away at Earlham. He is in the Iowa Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and knows many of the coaches he deals with on Friday nights now.

“We brought him on a few years ago,” Herbold said. “He and B.J. used to do some radio broadcasts together at KASI in Ames. He gives us that knowledge base, that information base, you just can’t get from everybody.”

As I watched the live-to-tape broadcast, I was impressed. Sure, there were a few mistakes — Creston’s last win before last year was not in 1975, but actually 1997 — and a few names were misspelled in the lineup graphics. But, overall I was impressed with the conversion of graphics, camera shots and on-air broadcast.

In fact, the broadcast team in the booth was much better than what I listened to the next day on ESPN2 for the Iowa-Minnesota game. Certainly, they were better prepared with background on the two teams.

It was a treat for the community to watch their kids on TV like that, and especially for the kids themselves to have that opportunity. My wife and I remarked how neat it would have been to have that to save when our kids were playing.

“To have them come in for a big game with Harlan, a quality opponent, and to have Creston seen by the entire state of Iowa is outstanding for our program,” coach Brian Morrison said.

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