Pressures of Production - The NFHS Network Heads to Ireland

Posted by Jacob Plunkett on 8/25/16 4:35 PM


The NFHS Network is proud to broadcast high school sports from all across the country; but come Friday, September 2nd, we'll be able to add "International Broadcast" to our resume.

The NFHS Network will be traveling to Dublin, Ireland to broadcast three high school football games in the Aer Lingus American Football Showcase

Watch the American Football Showcase

The opportunity to go overseas and stream the game back to family, friends and fans back home in the States is an exciting one, but it doesn't come without its challenges.

We recently sat down with Michael White, our VP of Production & Programming, to get a feel for everything that goes into an undertaking of this magnitude:


What does this opportunity mean to the NFHS Network and the schools playing?

The American Football Showcast in Dublin Ireland will be the first three international high school sporting events produced and carried live in the history of the NFHS Network. In other words, there's a lot riding on these games and the broadcasts so that all of the families back in States and around the world can be there watching all of the action unfold Live. It's as big of a deal to our NFHS Network crew as it is to all of the schools and teams who are competing. For most of the schools, it will be the first sporting event on international soil in school history. Many of these schools have been competing for over a hundred years. It's the chance of a lifetime to go abroad and take care of business on the field and from the broadcast booth. Anytime you have a chance to be a part of history being made I think that's very exciting.


Being that you can’t visit the site beforehand, what kind of prep has gone into putting together this broadcast?

As with any live broadcast you try to anticipate every variable that could come your way and trip you up. We're thinking about everything from Irish electricity standards to transatlantic internet streaming transmission to driving on the wrong side of the road!  Fortunately, 2 of the 4 of us going have experience driving on the left side of the road in Australia. We're looking to eliminate risk and bring enough extra gear to give us some level of redundancy at all key crew positions. As with any broadcast that we do, our biggest concern is transmission and making sure the live broadcast is reaching the consumer. We're bringing along a couple different pieces of technology to help give us some level of comfort on that front. That said, the first order of business on Wednesday afternoon when we arrive at Donnybrook stadium will be to test our transmission.


How beneficial is it that we have a school going over to Ireland to help us out?

The shows would not be happening without Westminster's school broadcast program...WCAT. An endeavor like this has to make business sense and, as you might expect, the cost of flying our crews over to Dublin isn't cheap. WCAT's involvement was the exact piece that the NFHS Network needed to feel good about making the investment in producing these games. We hope WCAT will feel like they've been involved in the broadcasting opportunity of a lifetime and we're all looking forward to telling the war stories of our success over seas.


How many days in advance are you sending your equipment?

After months of planning, there has been a solid couple weeks of gear planning and assembling the "fly pack" that we'll take with us. We're actually breaking the gear up into 10 or so bags and cases that weigh 50 pounds or less to avoid huge baggage overages. The gear will actually be traveling with us on the Tuesday prior to the games on Friday. WCAT has, once again, offered to help us carry bags with the 12 broadcast students and faculty that they will have traveling to help keep the costs down. Thanks again in advance to the WCAT crew!


How big is the team going over?

We will be traveling with a 4 person crew from the NFHS Network. In addition to our staffers, we'll have the 10 student broadcasters from Westminster's WCAT. We'll have a NFHS Network producer, director, engineer and graphics/replay staffer coming but our plan is to really put the WCAT team on the "hot seat" and mentor them to operate as many positions as everyone is comfortable with. The best way to learn on a production crew is to be given the opportunity to show what you can do at any given position. We plan to give WCAT that opportunity and we expect their crew will rise to the challenge.


How do you go about preparing for the differences in technology over there?

Due to the fact that we're traveling all of our gear, the actual production technology will be familiar and on US standards vs. pal. However, Irish electricity is different from the US standard. We're flying over a 5000 watt power transformer to make sure we don't have any issues with the power. The transformer is really just for safety as we've found that many things like laptops and cameras have a range of power that will work both in the US and Ireland. Our biggest obstacle was making sure that we have bandwidth available on a transatlantic data pipe to get a live stream back to the US. We're working with a couple of the technology partners that we have supporting our streaming platform to assure that we'll be in the best position for success on this front. However, I'll be very happy and breathing a sigh of relief once we're actually able to test and confirm live video in the US.


What gives you the most anxiety over broadcasting in a different country?

There's no question that the most anxiety will be assuring that we're pumping live streaming American High School football out of Ireland and back to the families, friends, communities and fans tuning in across the US and the rest of the world!


There you have it. Tune in Friday, September 2nd for our first International Broadcast! And watch high school football ALL SEASON LONG on the NFHS Network - THE PLACE for High School Sports!

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Topics: SBP, football, High School Football, ireland


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