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Scott Vik – Director, Sports Video

Washington State University

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Sports TV Jobs: Hi I’m Brian Clapp Founder of SportsTVJobs.com – Since 1997 Scott Vik has been the director of sports video at Washington State University overseeing all Athletic Department video support and coordinating student involvement in game day operations for campus athletic events, Scott thanks for a moment of your time

Scott Vik, Director Sports Video Washington State University: Great to be here

Sports TV Jobs: The Sports Video program has been a part of Washington State since the early 1980’s can you give us a little background on the program and how students can get involved?

Vik: Sure the Sports Video program at Washington State University has been an ongoing tradition which has evolved as time has gone on. KWSU used to be the primary carrier of Fox Sports Northwest for a lot of years, things have evolved in the last few years where we are doing more webcasts and in house displays, less broadcast kind of stuff. The core principles have really stayed here, where the students drive the broadcast productions. They fill 90-100% of the broadcast production positions still, so it’s a great opportunity for students to get hands on real world kind of sports TV production, it’s just that the medium has changed a little bit. But like I said the core principle remains, this is a student run broadcast operation where students will run camera and do important positions on the sports TV production crew.

Sports TV Jobs: In the Sports TV Industry we all know that it’s a tangible business where you need to get some hands on experience, it sounds like being part of the Washington State Sports Video Program these students get exposed to the urgency, the pace and the intensity of a live sports production, right?

Vik: Exactly, you hit the nail on the head, you can talk about it and watch tape, but until you get in that real world live experience when the pressure is on and a guy hits a game winning home run and you have to make sure it’s covered and the graphics are right etc. you can’t replicate that. You’ve got that live experience here that you need to be involved in to get the experience. The second part is you have to have, not top of the line equipment, but equipment that is relevant to the industry and be able to get your hands on that stuff. As part of the sports video program at Washington State University  you get exposure to that equipment so when you get out in the real world you aren’t trying to find out what does what, you’ve done it. You know that if you are the low 3rd camera for a baseball game then your responsibilities are A, B and C so you know when that situation comes up now, you’ve got it figured out. That’s what we offer to the students here at Washington State, the opportunity to experience to live sports with real world hands on experience.

Sports TV Jobs: Technology has changed so much since you were promoted to Sports Video Director at Washington State in 1997, as you alluded to the sports video program has transitioned to more of a digital broadcast world doing more webcasts – how is that experience different from a traditional commercial broadcast?

Vik: Yes definitely, web stuff kind of frees you up a little bit, you aren’t locked into to commercial format where you have to have a 60 or 90 second break. If something happens, like a pitcher warms up faster than you expected, in a commercial broadcast you are kind of stuck, in a webcast we can be more agile and come back after a 38 second break it doesn’t matter.

One of the other big differences is that on a webcast you just don’t have as many viewers which I count as a benefit to be honest. It enhances the learning experience, you can cover some secondary sports with some secondary skill people and its not hyper-critical if a mistake happens because you just don’t have the number of viewers. If you misspell a name or get a graphic wrong, while I’m going to be upset about it because I want our shows to look as good as they can, it’s not the end of the world.

Sports TV Jobs: You’ve hired student crews over the years to do various live sports productions whether on webcasts on for commercial TV broadcasts, what do you think are the most important attributes for a student to have in order to develop a career in sports TV production?

Vik: Probably step one is just to have that passion for it, some students once in a while will rise to the top. You want to make sure you have students that you can count on, if crew call is at 6am on a Sunday morning you have to have some confidence in that student that they aren’t going to be out on Saturday night until 3am and then try to come to work at 6am. You have to have somebody with the passion who is willing to commit to the timeframes that we have to deal with in sports broadcasting.

The second thing is there are certain skill attributes that you either have or you don’t have, I’m surprised over the years that there are always some people that you don’t peg right off but boy this guy can really run a camera well, or some people that just have a head for stats and computer graphics. What we provide at WSU is the opportunity for the cream to rise and for those people with a passion for it, as well as for people to find their niche, maybe camera isn’t their spot maybe it’s audio or graphics – so we give students an opportunity to find their way.

Sports TV Jobs: Take me back a little bit, you’re a proud alumnus of Washington State, say you’re a 15-16 year old kid with a passion for sports and broadcasting why would you choose to go to Washington State?

Vik: That’s a pretty easy one, I don’t know about across the country, but definitely in the state of Washington, the northwest and possible the west coast Washington State has a significant communications department that is tied in with the athletic department and allows you to get hands on with the equipment. You can be in the Edward R Murrow School of communication and produce some shows on Cable 8 our campus TV station, you can run a camera for a Pac-10 football game. It may be for the video board of for a webcast, but you’re still running a camera for a Pac-10 Football game, that’s a pretty big deal. If you then graduate and say hey here’s what I’ve done. You’ve been able to run a camera for major college athletics and show that you’ve done that to a future employer vs. a kid that has read about it, hand down you win that one.

Sports TV Jobs: Lets talk about success rate – the most important part of any education is being able to turn it into an actual paying career after graduation! How successful have students graduating from WSU broadcasting been at getting jobs in the sports industry? 

Vik: I don’t have numbers for you but we have a lot off students that come through and if you have that passion for it there are great opportunities here for you to get that taste of the sports TV business and then off you go. There are camera people around on the ESPN level, the national level, people doing stuff video board level like for the Mariners. There are successful producers, directors, on air talent and all that kind of thing. It’s pretty cool because it started here, they got their hands on it and that passion developed and so there you go they are working out in the real world getting paid for Sports TV stuff, which is what they want to be doing and that’s pretty cool.

Sports TV Jobs.com: A really important part of that is the network graduates of Washington State build with one another, after they graduate some go the ESPN some go on to professional teams, local TV and now they have a cohesive network that they can rely on and learn from throughout their career – that’s really important.

Vik: You’re absolutely right Brian, we’ve touched on a couple of times here that hands-on experience is so important but it’s also about who you know. The old cliché it’s not what you know but who you know applies. As you move through the sports job industry, you know I got my first job out of college not just because of what I knew, which certainly helped, but because of who I knew so I called around and found out there was an opening and next thing there I was. Networking is a big deal as you move on throughout your career. Matter of fact, when we have issues or a TV question I’ll often reach out to a former student who may be working at the Mariners or ESPN and ask them “how do you guys do this?” You know if we’re having a problem with something at the local level you can be sure that at the Mariners level they’ve got it figured out, so the network works both ways.

Sports TV Jobs: Scott hanks so much for your time!

Vik: Thanks you’ve very welcome thanks for a little bit of time to brag about the Sports Video Program here at Washington State University and Athletics and the opportunities we provide students to learn sports broadcasting.