Setting the Screen

A Nebraska High School broadcasts live video footage during basketball and volleyball games.

Warrior VisionWarrior Vision Steve Williams spent much of the past six years as a teacher in the industrial technology department at Schuyler (Neb.) Central High School helping his students broadcast home basketball and volleyball games live on a local government-access cable channel. As part of that operation, Williams' class added "Warrior Vision" - a 10-by-10-foot retractable flat-screen, rear-projection panel that hangs from the ceiling at one end of the school's main competition gymnasium. Inspired by the University of Nebraska's "HuskerVision" and named after Central's team nickname, Warrior Vision added an element of big-time sports to the 460-student school, providing two-camera video footage for spectators.

But when school administrators feared TV broadcasts were cutting into door receipts, they stopped airing them, and Warrior Vision - in place since the 2000-01 basketball season - became something else entirely.

The video element remains in place in the gym, airing real-time game footage. "We cannot use it for instant replay or anything having to do with officials' calls. It's strictly for entertainment purposes," says Williams, Central's former athletic director. Now, he says, the real draw of Warrior Vision is the revenue possibilities it presents.

Earlier this year, Williams' students began soliciting local banks, convenience stores and restaurants to buy commercials for broadcast during breaks in the live action. It's an attempt to generate more money for Central's general fund, which keeps Warrior Vision in the public eye. For $100 a year, businesses are guaranteed airtime at every game, with an option to renew the same ad for the following season for an additional $50. Despite having sold about a dozen commercials that are played on a DVD player hooked up to the gymnasium's audio system, the students have yet to take in as much revenue as they had hoped. "Our problem," Williams admits with a smile, "is that we just don't charge enough."

Fortunately, operational costs associated with Warrior Vision are minimal. After the initial $10,000 setup, current expenses include only paying for tapes, annual camera replacement and two video operators. Once run by students, who eventually became hamstrung by time constraints with outside jobs and other school activities, Warrior Vision is now manned by one adult, who owns a local video-production business and hired a student helper. They are paid to program commercials and operate a single camera from a balcony.

Warrior Vision has certainly boosted school spirit. "There's nothing else like it in Nebraska," Williams says. "Visiting-team fans come in and are impressed, too." But it also takes up a great deal of his and his students' time. "The making of a commercial may take as long as 30 hours," he says. "I have students for one-and-a-half hours per day. So you have to have students to lead the project with a burning desire to commit their time and energy to the betterment of the community, school and students. A big reward is that I taught students who have chosen video production as a career."

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