“… with 12:25 left in the second period, the Fuel lead Kalamazoo 2-1. You’re listening to Indy Fuel hockey.” For years, the outcue is a signal to the station producer to fire up the next station break.
But what if there is no station and no producer, because you – the play-by-play announcer – have that role?
That’s the reality for many broadcasters in the 2010s, especially those who broadcast online. The broadcast originates in the booth and is fed to the internet directly from there, without a producer playing middle man (or woman).
When I did my first webcast in 2006, we were a two-man show feeding the Internet directly from our broadcast position. But, whether I’m doing high school football or professional hockey, I want to have our broadcast sound and feel as much of a professional production as possible.
So how do you make it work when you’re on your own, but want to uphold that professional standard without a producer helping you along? Here’s how I approach that problem:
First: Plan the broadcast
I map out every single sponsor break before a game to ensure we meet all of our sponsor obligations. Plan backwards. In football and high school basketball, you know you’re going to have two one-minute quarter breaks and it’s likely teams will call at least four full timeouts per game. I start with those six 60-second breaks.
Add in breaks as you have sponsors. Our high school football broadcasts have so many sponsors, we also take a break after each score and at the start, middle and end of halftime, as well as at the end of the game.
When I do ECHL hockey, our format is easy because we have two 70-second timeouts per period, so I build the broadcast around those six in-game breaks, plus three breaks each intermission (one at the start, middle and finish), one in postgame and two in pregame.
If your association/league or school has any PSAs, add those as they can provide easy filler if you need more content.
Second: Schedule the breaks
I put my sponsor breaks in order of how they’re going to be played, so the next one is always ready, rather than having specific times.
If your sponsors have nothing but copy, it doesn’t take much to record a 30-second commercial. Record them into Audacity, then add a music bed (there are plenty of public domain production music sites that can provide some instrumental music beds).
Another alternative is to live-read all of your spots, but that ensures YOU never have a break for your voice, or time to chat with your analyst.
BONUS: Offer to trade spots with other broadcasters to provide variety. I’ve done spots for broadcasters in other states in exchange for having them read spots for us.
We have multiple options. I use ZaraRadio, which is free DJ software, and put all of our pre-recorded elements – including the pregame coach interviews – into a playlist. One of the nice things about Zara is that you can put in “stop” commands at the end of each break and it will stop playing, so you don’t have to worry about the next spot starting too early on you.
I’ve also used iTunes – but you have to be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t keep going – and a compact disc with all of the breaks in order. Others have used the spots queued into a playlist on their iPhone or iPod.
Whatever you use, have it handy at your broadcast location and connect its headphone jack into the “LINE IN” on your board.
Trial and error works. I used multiple formats before settling on Zara. Whatever you use, make sure YOU are comfortable with it. From that, you can create a professional-sounding broadcast.
Andrew Smith is in his second year as the play-by-play voice of the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. He also has been broadcasting and covering sports in Central Indiana for nearly 20 years.