HuskerVision hones video,
audio skills outside classroom

By Lane Hickenbottom
J Alumni News staff

Big screens have hit the big time at the University of Nebraska.

Anyone who has gone to a home football game in the last five years or a home basketball game within the past season has seen the mammoth screens. They have changed the game atmosphere, providing entertainment and information to fans during breaks in the action on the field or floor.

HuskerVision, an NU Athletics Department entity that produces the big screen show, has created a new way for fans to enjoy the game.

“I think the whole game atmosphere has changed,” said Jeff Schmahl, director of HuskerVision.

But big screens have also provided a new educational opportunity for broadcasting students.

Schmahl, a 1978 broadcasting alum, has been instrumental in keeping Nebraska on the cutting edge of big screen productions. As a leader in the relatively new industry, HuskerVision gives the 20 to 25 broadcasting students it employs an advantage when they go out into the job field.

Students get a chance to participate in each aspect of the production from shooting video to editing the final product. Schmahl said he plans to begin hiring advertising students, too, because sponsorship has become increasingly important to big screen productions.

Students already working at HuskerVision are enthusiastic about their jobs.

“It’s about the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” said sophomore broadcasting student Mike Maryott. “You get to travel and work with teams, but mainly you get to work with the machines. You get experience that will make you very valuable.”

Maryott said HuskerVision is a strong supplement to his in-class education.

“When you get into your broadcasting classes, you are ahead of everybody, and the teachers know it,” Maryott said, joking that in return he thinks he has to work harder for a good grade.

Scott Cunning, another sophomore broadcasting major, agreed with Maryott.
“If it were to be compared to class, it would have to be one step above. It helps make class easier,” Cunning said. “At HuskerVision you get an education times two and experience times 10. You learn to deal with the pressures and the deadlines associated with the field.”

Broadcasting lecturer Rick Alloway said he was a big supporter of HuskerVision
“It’s every bit as complex as a major broadcast,” Alloway said of HuskerVision’s productions. “It gradually morphed into its own play-by-play of the game. It’s not just a replay. It’s an entire telecast of the game.”

This translates into better job opportunities for COJMC graduates.

“Jeff [Schmahl] is able to place people because of his contacts with other big screen productions,” Alloway said.
Andy Young is just one recent graduate whose HuskerVision experience helped him land a job. After graduating in December 1999, Young was hired by the New York Mets as an associate producer of their big screen productions.

“HuskerVision was a key part in my education, and I was able to get hands-on experience,” Young said. “I was able to work in the field every day and see how things were done. At the same time I was able to work on my skills.”

&Young said his Nebraska experience more than prepared him for his job.

Young said he did the same type of work and used the same type of equipment at the Mets that he had done and used HuskerVision. “The University of Nebraska is on top of the class in terms of equipment and the way they do the things they do.”Alloway agreed.

“The skills that we are teaching people in audio and video are applicable [at HuskerVision],” Alloway said. “Any experience students can get in their field as undergraduates is extremely valuable.”

Providing a learning environment is important to Schmahl, too.

“From day one, Bill Byrne’s philosophy and my philosophy is to not forget that we are the University of Nebraska,” Schmahl said. “We are an educational facility.”

Schmahl said broadcasting is an extremely competitive field. Experience at HuskerVision helps COJMC students stay in front of the pack.

“Usually you have to go out and pay your dues, but we are finding that our graduates are going out and getting pretty high level jobs.”