With a video camera in hand, Nacogdoches High School senior Samuel Helmke is getting hands on experience that could one day help him turn his interest in sports broadcast into a career.

Homecoming night, Samuel manned the remote camera and roamed the sideline during the football game against Lindale, collecting video at field level that complemented cameras positioned in Dragon Stadium’s press box.

“I may be running on the sideline with a 30-pound camera, but I love it,” said Samuel, who plans to attend SFA or the University of Texas.

The homecoming game Oct. 5 served as the official debut for a new video board installed at Dragon Stadium. It replaces a scoreboard that was more than 30-years-old and tended to shut down when it rained. Tonight’s the last home game of the season for the Dragons and the season finale for the video board crew.

Samuel and the rest of the audio-visual crew worked feverishly the past few weeks to get up to speed on the high-tech equipment that powers the display.

Thirteen students are involved with operations of the video board – they work in shifts on Friday nights and, for additional practice, produce video from middle school football on Tuesdays and freshmen and junior varsity games on Thursdays.

Installing the video display did more than replace an old scoreboard with a video display, interim NISD Superintendent Alton Frailey said.

“We started a new program,” he said. “The press box has become a classroom.”

From the outset, there was interest in a student-run program for operating the new video board, said NHS marketing and media teacher Jacob Lusk.

“We distributed applications to students enrolled in multimedia and marketing classes at the beginning of the year,” Lusk said. “Students had to be recommended by one of our multimedia or marketing teachers. Many students were interested in joining from the very start.

“I had students come to my classroom throughout those first two weeks of school asking for more information.”

And on the first night, the crew passed its test with flying colors, Lusk said.

“They are truly talented individuals,” he said. “This was a high-stakes production, and the students knew it… I had a couple students actually come to my room during lunch to run through the pregame homecoming script and brainstorm possible camera angles.”

Student workers also remained laser-focused on the task at hand.

“We had nine students work that game, and they had their game faces on the entire time,” Lusk said. “I’m extremely proud of these young people for learning and adapting as quickly as they did.”

Sophomore Isaiah Wright serves as technical director, the job that pulls together the entire production. During the first game, it was Isaiah making calls on which cameras displayed on-screen not to mention when to bring in instant replays and graphics.

Students went through a crash course in order to get up and running in time for the Homecoming game, Isaiah said, but nearly everything came off without a hitch.

“I was pretty nervous that night,” he said. “But I think I have a pretty good rhythm of it now.”

While many of the students had already taken audio-visual courses at NHS, senior Scott Brown came with experience of having played for the Dragons and operated cameras that capture video used by coaches to analyze game action, said Lusk.

Now Scott is work with the video board team, operating the camera in the press box that provides a “tight view” of the action on the field.

Collecting the best picture available for fans is Scott’s goal.

“I want to get them right into the meat of the football game,” he said.

Operating the camera and working with the crew proved energizing for Scott. “The experience itself was just amazing,” he said.

For Lusk, getting the new video board operational was a joint effort, with career and Technical Education Director Don Hasley and Automotive Technology Instructor Aaron Cabaniss contributing their time.

“The three of us together have spent several hours after school collaborating, preparing and planning,” Lusk said.

The video production crew that operates the scoreboard on Fridays is a part of a larger emerging multimedia program at NHS, Lusk said.

“Amber Mims, who teaches multiple sections of audio/video, graphic design, and animation, has set up a production studio in the school,” said Lusk. “Her students will use the studio as a secondary classroom and will record a weekly news show for the school. It’s the first time NHS has had a multi-camera studio.”

Though the home football season ends tonight, NHS students will continue operating the board once soccer season gets underway this winter.

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