Basketball Shots: The Secret to Videoing for the NBA

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You control people, toy with their emotions. With a simple signal you can make thousands gasp in horror or shout with excitement. The energy of the crowd rises in waves, sending some into a wild frenzy and causing others to freeze in place—and it’s all because of you.

No, you’re not some sort of hypnotist; you’re the person behind the camera at Golden State Warriors games.   

We had the chance to speak with the Control Manager and Senior Producer Mike Rodriguez (and husband to Elizabeth, Senior Account Manager of the Talent Solutions Group here at AfterCollege) about what it’s like videoing for the NBA.  

Kellen McKillop: Let’s start with your education. Where did you go to school and what was your major?

Mike Rodriguez: West Valley College, Saratoga and finished up at San Jose State. There was a radio / television / and film program there. Went through that and graduated in 2008.

Kellen McKillop: So, you kind of always knew you wanted to go into video producing?

Mike Rodriguez: Um, no actually. I was always interested in computers and that type of thing. Video was kind of like a hobby all through high school. I kind of went through my first couple years of college thinking that it was not really a way to make a living.

KM: Right!

MR: As I went on, I didn’t really like what I was doing. I was pursuing a little bit of the computer side and wasn’t really enjoying that, but then an opportunity presented itself at the Giants, a film internship, and that’s where I really kind of realized, there’s actually a lot out there. This could be a viable way to go.

KM: Oh, cool. So, how did you hear about that internship with the Giants?

MR: That actually was something that just sort of fell into my lap. Somebody that I knew heard about something that was going on. It was mid-season and it started with just being kind of like a tour. I just went up there for a day to shadow someone and it turned into them actually picking me up for the rest of that season.

KM: That’s great. So then after that internship, is that when you decided to switch schools to San Jose State?

MR: Um, that’s when I definitely decided I wanted to go for the video production side of the major. Yeah, that really changed my whole outlook on it. Changed my whole path in college.

KM: And would you mind walking me through what a typical day is like for you?

MR: Yeah, sure. I mean, um, it really varies in this industry. It’s kind of like a project by project type of setting where different things are going on every week, but I guess I could go through a game day.

KM: Yeah, that would be good.

MR: Okay, so a game day would be basically coming in, if we’re doing a night game, coming in the morning and first thing I would do is check all of the equipment, making sure everything in the control room is working properly, talking to each other, and making sure that everything looks good there.

And then I’ll start loading in assists for the show which usually come in the day prior or that morning. So I’ll be gathering assists. Then the crew will arrive and we’ll set up cameras. We’ll do a lot of tests and run-throughs and planning for the show and then get right into it. Kind of a non-stop day.

KM: So how does filming sports footage differ from other types of videoing that you… I mean I’ve played around with a camera, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about filming a moving game!

MR: I guess what I’d say to that is there’s no script. When you’re covering a game you have to be kind of prepared for all kinds of random things that could happen and just be ready to cover it or get a camera here or there if something were to happen that’s not right in front of you. But, I mean, that’s the big difference, we don’t control the space and we can’t do a take two if we miss it the first time. So we have to be prepared.

KM: Are there any techniques that you use to prepare?

MR: Well, the equipment that we use is specialized for live television. So we have six to eight cameras all going at the same time. All of them are recording into a central area of the control room where one person can look and watch all the cameras at once and be able to do replays and that type of thing. So if four cameras didn’t get it, then maybe two cameras did.

KM: Gotcha. Okay, so on game days you shoot the games, but there’s not a game every day, obviously, so what are some other things you would shoot for the Warriors?

MR: I do a lot of promotional videos. A lot of marketing type stuff. We’ll do one for web or in the arena or a lot of times it will play during the broadcast as well.

KM: And are there different styles for each one?

MR: Yeah, yeah it depends on the mood of what we’re doing. Sports has a big range from very exciting to very emotional pieces. If we’re talking about a former player that’s maybe brought into the hall of fame this year, we’d do more of an emotional piece on that. Maybe we’d do a more uplifting and, like, kid-friendly piece to promote some of our camps or some of the things we do that are targeted toward a younger audience. So it varies in styles.

KM: And then to jump back kind of to the beginning, when we were talking about your internship with the Giants, how did you end up with the Warriors?

MR: So, the video / television / film industry is really about networking, knowing a lot of people in your area, working on a project by project basis. If you’re a freelancer, it’s kind of a lot about trying to network with different people. The Warriors thing just kind of fell in because I had worked for the 49ers and a lot of Stanford and Cal games and I kind of ended up making a little bit of a name for myself in a really specific area of sports production. So that’s kind of how that fell into place.

KM: So, what are your favorite parts of your job?

MR: Well, it’s really cool to be able to be doing a show and have your audience right there. That’s what a lot of live TV shows… I mean, you could have a studio audience and everything, but it’s not the same as 20,000 people watching your show in its final product right in front of them. And seeing their reactions and hearing them get loud, laugh at funny things that you do. You know, scream and get excited when we’re trying to bring the energy up for like a fourth quarter situation in a close game. That part’s really exciting and I think it’s probably my favorite part of the job.

KM: Yeah, that sounds really fun. So, what are some of the challenges that you would face at your job?

MR: Well, when I produce a show, my main priority is making sure the crowd is entertained and they’re having a good time at the event, keeping the energy level up and managing the energy in the building.

Now, I usually have to mix in corporate partnerships or sponsors and that type of thing into my programing. It’s about finding a balance between what’s an advertisement and asking, “How can I make an advertisement into something that is also fun for people?”

You’re not just sitting there watching a commercial. You’re watching something entertaining that just happens to have a brand attached to it, or something along those lines.

KM: Mm okay, that’s definitely a balance that you have to find. You also help to run the internship program?

MR: Yeah, yeah I do.

KM: I was wondering if you could tell me about what you look for in students who apply.

MR: Yeah. Well, I mean, above all it’s passion for what you do. This is an art and technology type of hybrid job and I, first and foremost, look for people who are just passionate about doing the work on the video side. I’m not necessarily interested in people who like sports and that’s kind of where I came from, too. I wasn’t really that interested in sports when I started, but having a passion for the art and what you do, even if you like or don’t like sports, you can succeed and go a long way just by having passion.

KM: That’s actually interesting. It sounds like you did a lot of sports-related video internships but then you say you weren’t that interested in sports when you first started. How did it [your career path] end up being so sports oriented?

MR: Well, I think that’s part of the network that I fell into and I just kept getting more work in different sports venues. And like I said before, what I like about the job is being able to have a connection with an audience that’s right there. That really kind of drove me to do better and figure out more creative ways to engage that audience and succeed in that kind of role.

KM: Yeah, it’s so cool. You would think that from behind a screen you wouldn’t be interacting [with the audience] but you actually, totally are. Do you have any advice for students and recent graduates who are interested in working in this field apart from, you know, networking and really being passionate about the art?

MR: Yeah, I think, um, get outside of your comfort zone. That’s kind of what I’m saying about me not really liking sports at first and then here I am because a lot of the time you’ll learn more if you’re outside of your comfort zone.

KM: Yeah. Then kind of on a creative, outside of work perspective, do you do any sort of video work outside of your day job?

MR: Yeah, I still do some work for the 49ers. So, opening Levi’s stadium on Sunday was kind of a big deal project for months. I mean, I guess that’s still part of my video work but it’s outside of my full-time job.

KM: So you just do contract work for them?

MR: I do, yeah.

KM: Okay, so how does your day job (if at all) how does it motivate you to continue work outside of it or inspire you to do these other projects?

MR: Yeah, I mean, I guess I’m lucky enough to have a job that I really enjoy and a landscape that I really enjoy. So I guess I don’t really think of doing work outside of work because I’m having fun at my job.

Homework time! Mike talks about how his love of videoing overshadowed his impartiality to sports. Remember this as you tackle different projects or encounter different internships. Don’t reject something just because it’s outside your normal interests. Bring passion and creativity into every project.

Mike also mentions how important it is to build networks in this industry. Check out all of our networking content on the AfterCollege Blog for some creative ideas on how you can start networking.

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