Sennheiser has teamed up with FOX Sports to reverse that trend with an immensely practical, hands-on, trial-by-fire introduction to real-world sports broadcasting for promising students of telecommunications.
David Missall, Sennheiser Director of Market Development for the Eastern region, originated the program and selected its first student, junior Michael Stevens of Ball State University, to work with industry veteran Fred Aldous in the FOX Sports mix truck at the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race in Charlotte, North Carolina
“I don’t see a lot of people coming up behind my generation,” said Aldous, who holds the dual titles of FOX Sports audio consultant and senior mixer. “Most students are fixated on breaking into the music, recording or live sound markets. I think it’s important to show students that there are careers outside of the music business – and good careers at that.”
At the same time, Missall kept hearing the same plea from the schools and universities he visited: help us find jobs for our talented students! “It’s well-known that the broadcast industry is struggling with a shallow talent pool,” said Missall. “With the contacts that we have at Sennheiser, I said why don’t we start connecting the broadcasters with the universities? Everyone would benefit.”
Missall approached Ball State University communications professors to find the most promising student who would benefit from the experience of working at Aldous’ side for two frenetic days. After a series of phone interviews, Missall selected Stevens.
In support of his expressed interest in broadcasting, the junior had already worked with the Ball State Sports Network as a utility technician, a camera operator, and as a technical director. Scaling that experience up to the level of FOX Sports at a NASCAR event would undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.
In addition to his many technical accomplishments, Aldous is an avid and infectious teacher. “Fred has done everything, and he has the patience to teach,” said Missall. “He is one of those special people that you want to work with who will foster this relationship between the schools and the broadcasters.” Aldous promised, not only to instruct but, to give Stevens full access to the FOX Sports mobile complex.
Sennheiser paid for Stevens’ travel, hotel and expenses for the intense, two-day experience. “I was surprised at how much actually goes into that broadcast,” Stevens said. “I had the idea that there was a main TV and a sub switch for video replays, but it’s so much more than that. FOX had four trucks, and they were all equally important. It was really cool to see how all the components interacted.”
As it turned out, the production was held hostage by rainy weather, which provided its own unscripted education. “The problem with the rain is that we were still on the air doing rain fill and, even after the network on Sunday chose to go to alternate programming, we still did updates every 10-15 minutes,” Aldous explained.
“There wasn’t a lot of time to go deep into a lot of things just because we had our obligations to do on-air updates. But the good thing for Michael was that he got to see us in full operating mode, which is total and controlled chaos.”
He continued: “Even though we originally wanted someone focused on audio, it was a benefit that he knew so much about so many different areas, because he got the big picture. I put him in the room with the producers and directors so he could get a better perspective on the interaction that they have. He sat with my effects mixer, the radio mixer. He saw how our graphics interact. It was to our benefit that he had a good basic understanding of television production.”
“What Sennheiser is doing with FOX is a blessing for people like me who want to get into this business,” Stevens said. “The experience really put into perspective what it takes to do a big show for a huge network like FOX. Without having seen it first-hand, I wouldn’t have appreciated its magnitude. If Sennheiser can keep doing this for students, there are going to be a lot of people – like me! – sold on the fact that they want to do live sports broadcasting.”
Based on this initial success, Sennheiser plans to repeat the unique internship program on an annual or semi-annual basis.