Barrington High School's acclaimed television program has gained donated professional-grade equipment expected to provide greater opportunities for students to learn the broadcasting craft.
Known as BHS-TV, the 11-year-old program now has a customized state-of-the-art van with production equipment similar to what's found in professional live news trucks. The private Barrington 220 Educational Foundation raised most of the $140,000 for the van and equipment, with some money coming from an individual donor.
Along with sports, and other school and community events, the van likely will assist in productions for nonprofit organizations. The equipment has the capability of taking feeds from 10 cameras and allows for instant replay, slow motion, graphics, online streaming and a satellite uplink for students in the video production curriculum.
"We're very fortunate, thanks to the educational foundation, to have the equipment," instructor Jeff Doles said. "And the students and I are going to make sure to maximize our opportunities and kind of pay it forward. We do a lot of charity work, and I'm sure we'll use the truck to help raise funds for local and nationwide charities."
Junior Ben Pokorny worked play-by-play when the van was used for the first time to cover last Friday's first-round playoff football game at Barrington High. Streamed over BHS-TV's YouTube channel, fans got to watch a high-definition -- not fuzzy -- live broadcast as Barrington defeated Glenbrook South High School.
Pokorny, who wants to study broadcast journalism in college, said he's grateful to be in a high school TV program with a production van for live broadcasts. He said he expects to have "a big leg up" on his peers with broadcasting aspirations when they get to college because of what's provided at BHS-TV.
"Previously in the booth, I would have to have all of the switching equipment and camera controls with me," he said during a break Tuesday. "So, I'd be focusing on broadcasting the game while at the same time trying to control camera views and audio. But now, we have guys down in the truck that are able to do that and I'm able to focus more so on the game."
One of Pokorny's guys in the BHS-TV van for the inaugural upgraded broadcast Friday was junior Cameron Cox, a director of cinematography who also is a technical troubleshooter. Cox selected the shots seen on the livestream as part of a production team that included a director, producer and graphics manager.
Cox is excited about the opportunities the van and new production equipment will provide.
"For now, every livestream is always an improvement," Cox said. "We'll become stronger after every livestream. We can see the errors from the past livestreams, and we can perfect on those errors. We are planning on building with more cameras and sideline reports in the future, trying to be more professional as time goes on."
BHS-TV students, who produce a biweekly news program, have received upward of 50 excellence awards from the National Television Academy, won 30 national competitions and been invited twice to the White House. The students also have produced more than 5,000 videos.
"I think that with this truck, we are provided a great thing from the community," Pokorny said. "And I think that the best part about it is that what we do goes directly back to them. The product of our work is for the community to enjoy, for the school to enjoy."