March 12, 2019 by Brian Leopold
It’s a warm Friday evening in October and in rural, northern Georgia that can mean only one thing; high school football. At Warriors Stadium, the sun begins its retreat behind the distant hilltops. A cloud of mosquitoes drifts up to meet the muggy air, lured in by the blinding glare of stadium lights. The White County High School Marching Band takes its place, while a steady stream of fans file into the concrete grandstand to stake out a claim to their usual bleacher seats. Football night. It’s a Friday night ritual played out in a thousand small towns across the United States, not just Cleveland.
Big Things Happening in a Small Town
But in Cleveland, a town of 3,800, ninety miles northeast of Atlanta, Friday night football looks a little different. Something unusual is going on in Cleveland, something everyone in town points to with pride, something beyond the fate of the football team or the marching band.
The first clue that something very special is going on in Cleveland, Georgia is sitting on the concrete apron behind the main bleachers, right near the bustling concession stand. A marble-topped anchor desk basks in the orange sunset light, and behind the desk, four people wearing microphones talk enthusiastically about the upcoming game, discussing the Warriors’ best strategy for victory tonight, and dissecting their opponent’s weaknesses. Three of the participants in the heated conversation are obviously White County High School students, and one, a grizzled, gray-haired man, looks and sounds like some sort of coaching expert. Some sort of live pre-game show is going on. Facing the desk, two student operators crouch behind wireless cameras, whirling to the left or right in response to commands from an unseen director.
Are You Ready for Some Football?
According to the graphic emblazoned on the front of the anchor desk, this is the White County High School Warriors’ pregame show, brought to you by WTVN, the Warrior Television Network.
Inside the WTVN control facility, located within the high school building, a red brick structure visible across campus from the stadium, Charles Dewalt, Executive Director of the school district’s broadcast programs and Kayla Everett, Broadcast Video Instructor at White County High School, watch a talented crew of student production experts broadcast Around the Region, the live pre-game show, as they do for every home football game. The three student show hosts mull over the Warrior’s chances for victory tonight, along with the grizzled football expert, who turns out to be a former high school coach. As darkness finally falls, the pre-game show begins to wind down and the crew prepares for the main, event, a full-blown football broadcast.
“We have the national anthem, everyone,” Dewalt calls out in the control room. “Let’s wrap this up.” The crew passes the message on to the pre-game show talent via IFB and the broadcast moves inside the stadium, where a separate camera crew and announcer team is poised to provide live coverage of the game itself. The play-by-play announcer and color commentator spring into action, seamlessly making the transition to the game broadcast. Five cameras equipped with NewTek Connect Spark™ devices line the roof of the stadium press box, and two additional cameras sporting Teradek Bolt 600 wireless video systems are stationed throughout the stadium, all transmitting signals back to the control facility wirelessly. The 3Play® operator drums his fingers on the counter top in the control facility, anxious to provide instant replays for the broadcast.
For many of the students, at White County High School, Friday night is less about high school football and more about high school football broadcasts. The team of students involved in the Warrior TV organization at White County High School rivals the size of the football team or marching band.
Everyone in Cleveland, Georgia, knows about Warrior TV, regardless of whether they have a school-age son or daughter who plays sports or not.
“It’s hard not to know about Warrior TV,” Mitchel Barrett, a retired teacher tells me. According to Barrett, the network’s broadcasts, available over the Internet or, in a limited fashion, on the local cable system, provide an invaluable service to the community. “The service is well regarded in our town. People count on these broadcasts. I know a woman who has to use a walker, and she can’t always get to her son’s games. Thanks to Warrior TV, she can watch the games at home.” I hear another story about a military father, deployed overseas, who watches all of his son’s games with his unit in the Middle East. And thanks to state-of-the-art technology provided by NewTek products, the high school football broadcasts produced in White County rival games produced on the highest levels.
“NewTek products are everywhere here,” Charles Dewalt tells me. “Everything we do is NDI-based. All of our cameras run off Connect Spark devices. (NewTek’s revolutionary device that allows a signal from a camera or other video output to be wirelessly transmitted as an NDI® source.) That signal is plugged in to any jack anywhere within our network of seven schools. The farthest site in the district almost eight miles away, and that signal reaches all the way back to our control center as if we were standing right there. We have IFB’s for all our talent, just like the big-time broadcasters. We have our NewTek TriCaster, TC1 doing all the switching. We have a NewTek 3Play for instant replays. In our studio, we have a total of six NewTek PTZ1 cameras that run NDI, all equipped with teleprompters.”
Much More Than Football
But Friday night football broadcasts are far from the only thing Warrior TV produces. Every school year, the broadcast service produces over 340 programs, programs that run the gamut from drama to politics to public affairs. “Warrior TV is far more than football,” Barrett says. “They broadcast all the high school plays, all sorts of athletic events, graduation. You name it, and they cover it.”
The White County School System broadcast production program has come a long way in a short amount of time. The program was launched only nine years ago with five hand-picked students. Since those humble beginnings, the program has grown in leaps and bounds every year, until today, television production classes begin at the middle school in White County. And once the students make the move to the high school, they can take eight full semesters of production classes. And for students who can’t find a place in their class schedule for video production, there is also a club that gives students access to video production.
“Our students want to be part of this program because they recognize that there is excellence here,” instructor Kayla Everett tells me. “They see the quality of what we produce, and say, ’Wow, high school students can do that?’ I think the students believe it’s cool to be involved in what we do, whether they’re in a production class or a member of the club.
A Warrior TV Veteran Returns Home
Everett has plenty of experience with the program, since she was one of the original five students chosen to be part of Charles Dewalt’s fledgling program back in 2008. Thanks to Warrior TV, Everett went on to major in journalism and mass communications in college, and after graduation, felt obliged to return to Cleveland to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of White County High School media students. Even though Everett has only been back in Cleveland for two years now, she says she’s seen the program continue to grow, especially at the club level.
“The year before I came back,” she says, “there were about 20 students in the club. But this year, because they’ve seen the quality of the work we put out, the equipment we are using, and the places we get to go, I’ve had about 60 people join the club in the first two weeks of school, and they’re still coming in. You get a combination of students participating here that normally wouldn’t interact outside of the club. Then, once they get here, they find out they are able to produce something really great.”
All the awards the program has won are another testament to the program success. “We’ve won eleven national production awards,” Dewalt tells me, “along with sixteen honorable mentions. It’s one of the most popular programs in our school district, and people from all over the country come to visit us, eager to find out how a media program in a small town in Georgia can do such great things.” Dewalt is quick to credit a large part of the program success to the NewTek products found everywhere within the White County School District’s media program.
“We’ve been with NewTek from the beginning,” Dewalt says. “Initially, I was able to convince the Board of Education to go with a TriCaster 455 as our first box. Now, we’ve moved up to the TriCaster TC1. Back in the early days, we didn’t even know what NDI was. Everything was SDI. It’s been a long journey, with a lot of change, but it’s always been a NewTek change. We’ve continued to stay on the cutting edge of whatever NewTek did. We look at every new technology from NewTek, and if we have the funds, we jump on-board, and go head over heels, using our local vendor, Amitrace, out of Atlanta, who is phenomenal. Everything here is all NewTek.
“For example, we have a mobile production unit now has a TriCaster Advanced in. It has its own power and its own Internet, so we need nothing. We can pull up the middle of downtown Cleveland for a hometown parade, or in downtown Atlanta; it doesn’t matter. We just set up our cameras, start the generator, and we’re ready to broadcast back to our control center with a signal or feed.”
NewTek’s Connect Spark Facilitates Trouble-Free Live Broadcasts from Anywhere in the District
Using NewTek’s revolutionary NDI technology along with Connect Spark units also allows White County students to produce simple one-camera productions as well. “NDI is so reliable, I can send a ninth grader with a camera with the Connect Spark attached to it all the way to the far end of this campus, and that student can broadcast live within minutes, by plugging into a network drop. Audio and video comes back to the control center, and we’re ready to go live. We have had zero problems with NewTek products. The technology always works. We plug it in, and it functions. It’s been very easy for the students to understand. And it’s the newest wave of technology, equipment they’ll be using after they leave here.”
Everyone in Cleveland agrees, Warrior TV has been an unqualified success, graduating scores of students like Kayla Everett who might not have gone on to seek higher education without the experience they got in White County’s program. Countless students from Warrior TV have gone on to college or film school, majored in journalism or communications, and then, gone on from there to find employment in the media and video production field. According to Charles Dewalt, their success can be directly correlated to the success of NewTek equipment used by the Warrior TV program. “Using NewTek products, everything flows together seamlessly,” Dewalt says. “We have one product line, one vendor, and that’s the reason everything works so well.”
And this year, the Warriors TV program upgraded to Dante audio, which Dewalt says has made a big difference. “Dante audio simplified all the variables, and took away tons of cables, just like moving to NDI did for video.”
A Commitment to Excellence
Dewalt is quick to credit the local school district for having faith in his program, and making the commitment to provide the necessary investment to ensure the program’s success. According to White County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Laurie Burkett, the money spent to sustain the program pays off in the lives of the students who participate.
“If you come and sit in a classroom and feel the excitement of the students, watch them do a live broadcast, you realize that you can’t put a price tag on that enthusiasm,” Burkett says. “I believe for some of our students, the program is the only reason they come to school every day, the only reason they want to do math and science. It’s programs like Warrior TV that hook kids in, and make them excited about coming to school.”
Charlie Dewalt agrees. “Every night, when I lay my head on the pillow, I know I did the right thing nine years ago by deciding to go with NewTek products. And yeah, we had to invest a little money, but it’s paid off. It’s the right thing to do, and if you’re really going to provide students with a valuable training experience that will help them in the future, then you have to go all in, and purchasing NewTek products was the right way to do it.”
Warriors TV Fast Facts
Key Equipment Used at Warrior TV Studio Control Room Facility
- NewTek TriCaster TC1
- Blackmagic 20x20 Smart Videohub
- NewTek 3Play 3P1 Instant Replay System with Control Surface
- TriCaster Mini SDI with Control Surface
- NewTek LivePanel
- Two Black Magic SmartView Duos (Program and Preview monitors)
- One 65” Program TV
- One 48 Port POE+ Switch
- Two 42” TVs. One is used for Instant Replay, the other one is used for scoreboard views
- Behringer X32 40-Channel, 25-Bus Digital Mixing Console with Dante 32-Channel Expansion Card
- Two: JBL Model # LSR305 Speakers for sound in the control room.
- Two APC Smart-UPS 750VA 600W 120V Rack/Tower LCD Battery Backup Power Supplies (SMX750)
- Unity Base with 16 licenses for IFB, and Com Sets-Runs on Mac Mini with OSX
- One Windows 10 computer with NewBlue FX Titler Live 3 Broadcast
- Two: Shure Microflex Advance 4-Channel Dante Mics, each with a Line Audio Network Interface Unit (XLR Inputs)
- One: Shure Microflex Advance 4-Channel Dante Mic with a Line Audio Network Interface Unit (XLR Outputs)
- One Windows 10 computer running NewTek Live Text for additional CG graphics
Key Equipment Used at Warrior TV Studio
- Three: Manfrotto 504HD Camera Heads, each with a 546B 2-Stage Aluminum Tripod System
- Three: ikan PT3700 Teleprompter systems
- Three: Manfrotto 114MV Cine/Video Dollies
- Four iKan Studio Monitors Ikan with DH7 7” 4K Signal Support 1920x1200 HDMI
- 4 x NewTek NDI PTZ1 Cameras (3 on teleprompters, 1 on Kessler Crane)
- One: Kessler Crane-10’
- Five: Sony ECM-44B - Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphones
- One: Behringer SD8 - I/O Stage Box with 8 Preamps
- 2 rackmount Ferman Surge Protectors
- 2 Low Profile studio server racks on wheels
- One: 42” studio monitor
- Two: Auray ABP-59B Aluminum Telescoping Booms with Boom mics
- One 24 Port POE+ switch
- 24 iKan IDMX500 Studio Lights
- 4 CHAUVET- Color DMX Control Lights
- 4 LBX30-Lyra 1 x 3 Bi-Color Studio Soft Panel LED Lights w/ DMX Control
- Sennheiser ew 100 ENG G4 Wireless Reports Packs with 3 Rhode Reporter microphones
- Kessler Pocket Dolly System
Key Equipment Used on Warrior TV Mobile Remote Unit
- 18’ enclosed tandem axle trailer with led lighting
- One: 42” Program monitor
- Two: 27” Program and multiview monitors
- 1-Windows 10 computer running Dante Audio Virtual Audio card for audio control.
- Closed wireless network for broadcast location
- 7000-watt Power supply generator mounted on a trailer
- TriCaster 460 Advanced Edition with Control Surface and Tine Warp replay system
- Windows 10 Laptop running NewTek LiveText for Scoreboard and lower third graphics
- Teradek Bond 2- with six Mifi cards for broadcasting signals from remote locations back to Network Operation Center located at White County High School Control Facility, where it reaches Sputnik and then, is transmitted to an ingest server.
- Four Bruno Tripods model #KH25
Key Equipment Used in Warrior TV Radio Station Facility
- Behringer X32 40-Channel Compact Mixing console
- One Windows 10 Computer with Dual 17” monitors
- Simian Automated Radio Software
- Three Heil PR40 Gold Dynamic Microphones
- Three Heil Shock Mounts
- Three ProBoom Gold Microphone Arms with Risers
White County High School + NewTek - Infographic that explains the story behind the White County High School’s award-winning broadcasting program.
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