There’s no doubt that designing, building, and executing a quality video display production is a team effort. From camera operators, to graphic designers and technical directors it takes many areas of expertise to produce a well-polished show. Leading a production team takes a different level of skills that Daktronics offers in our Event Producers.
Event Producers are dedicated to ensuring a top-notch video display show by managing many aspects of the control room. We sat down with Katie Windham, Daktronics Event Producer for James Madison University in Harrisburg, Virginia to gain perspective on the process.
The Control Panel: How and when did you get started in your Daktronics Event Producer position?
Katie Windham: I started with Daktronics as a freshman in college in 2005 and I landed a position in Creative Services as a video production student. That’s where I was introduced to the world of event production. I worked on the crew for South Dakota State University as well as the crew for the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. Then I was offered an internship in Creative Services and out of that, there was an Event Producer position available to support Agustina College in Sioux Falls which I gladly accepted. I was there for two years and the position at JMU became available and here I am!
The Control Panel: What sports and events are you responsible for at JMU?
Katie Windham: I am the outlier in the Event Producer group because I work solely with football. Most Daktronics Event Producers at the collegiate level are responsible for multiple sports across campus, but I’m responsible for just football, however I’m on-site year round.
The Control Panel: So what keeps you busy the remaining months of the year?
Katie Windham: Haha! I get that question a lot! We usually start planning for the football season in February, which is crazy early compared to everyone else, but that’s the beauty of not having to worry about other sports; I can be focused on football year round. We start talking about plans for the next season, consult with Daktronics Creative Services to design content and display looks, as well as reviewing what we can improve on. We evaluate the previous season then I work with JMU athletic and marketing staff to get our content list together so when May comes around we can start gathering our content and load it on the system; that way we don’t have to rush to get things last-minute in August.
The Control Panel: Walk us through a typical game day in the control room.
Katie Windham: During a game week every day is a little different. Usually I come in early in the week to get my content list together, I clean up computers from the previous game, I start creating and loading content for the week, I create and update all my Show Control buttons. If there’s ever anything to troubleshoot, I troubleshoot that early in the week. JMU and I co-write our game day script which is different from a lot of sites. I’ll write my part early in the week, then marketing will go in and fill their portion in later in the week. On Thursdays of game week, we have a large athletics meeting, and afterward I get athletics and Learfield together in the control room to go through the entire script to ensure a smooth show.
The Control Panel: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced that you’ve been able to overcome?
Katie Windham: The biggest challenge I’ve faced was last year when my replay machine decided to stop working about 30 minutes prior to kickoff. After a few minutes of troubleshooting it was pretty apparent that it was toast. Fortunately, we have a separate web stream production located in the same control room as us, so I was able to take a DA feed of their replay machine and we were able to piggyback off their replay for the first half of the game. By halftime, my game day engineer discovered an internal fan had died, so we jury-rigged a pedestal fan that we had lying around the room to blow cool air on the machine to bring it back to life for the second half. The timing of that failure made for an intense pregame when I had to get a solution in place for replay but also continue to coordinate the band, graphics on the board, team run-out…it was tough!
The Control Panel: In a situation like that…how do you remain calm and professional?
Katie Windham: Take a moment to step back and breath. I think that is the biggest thing that helps me. Even if there’s chaos and no time. Take just three seconds to stop and think. It’s easy for problems to escalate quickly and go downhill in a live production environment and it does no good to let a control room turn into a yelling match.
The Control Panel: What’s your most memorable moment as an Event Producer?
Katie Windham: As far as a game day moment, it’s every time we absolutely nail our intro video sequence. We have several moving parts that must be timed out exactly for it to look the way it’s supposed to, and when we can nail that perfectly it’s amazing!
The Control Panel: I think many producers would agree there because the intro video is a critical element to most video board shows. Thanks Katie so much for sharing your insight to this unique position.
Katie Windham: Thank you!