AMERICA’S GAME CAPTURED BY KESSLER
A conversation with Zachary Dudka of the St. Louis Rams
First off – tell us a little about what working for an NFL team, more specifically the St. Louis Ram’s video team is like.
Working for the St. Louis Rams can still be surreal for me at times. I just finished my third season with the Rams and I still get goose bumps on game days during the national anthem and our player intros. It’s very exciting. In the end though, it’s still a job and it can be very grueling during the season. I would define our group as a mix between a production house and a news station. Sometimes we get a lot of time to produce feature videos but there are also times when we need our content shot, edited, and delivered the same day, so we get experience with a lot of different styles and aspects of video production.
KU: How many people are on the video team, what are their roles?
There are ten people in the Rams Broadcasting Network:
3 Video Producers. 2 Motion Graphic Designers. 1 Media Specialist (on camera talent), 3 Video Trainees and a Director of Broadcasting.
Our three producers do it all- they write, shoot, edit, and everything in between. They are mostly found working as the main editors on our television shows during the season, but they also fill in on any shoots that come up. The trainees help the producers during the season; their main focus is to assist the video department wherever needed. They usually take the reigns on shooting pressers, player one-on-ones with our Rams reporter, and shooting/editing our community features, as well as logging highlights. The motion graphics team creates graphics utilized for in-game entertainment including our led banners, noise meters, crowd pumps, and other graphics for our home games. They also help develop the look and feel of our features and television shows by creating bumpers, lower thirds, and any effects that might be needed for each specific video. Our Media Specialist acts as our in-stadium hostess as well as media personality for some of our online segments and television shows.
KU: What is your role with the team?
I am one of our Video Producers. My role differs from our other producers a little bit because I also manage our digital content for “NFL Now” and during the season I act as our stage manager in stadium, which means that during each home game I coordinate all of the events that take place on the field (e.g. national anthem performances, contests, halftime shows, etc.).
KU: What type of projects do you focus on most?
During the season, I focus on a few weekly recurring projects. Before each game, I create a game trailer (similar to a movie trailer) to showcase our upcoming matchup. Another piece I work on is “Fisher Up Front,” a weekly show with our head coach where he reflects on the previous week’s matchup and also shares his thoughts going into the next game. In the offseason, we all focus on creating content about big NFL events such as the Senior Bowl, Pro Bowl, Combine, and Draft.
KU: You guys have won a couple Emmy’s, what were those projects and what was that experience like, winning such a well known award for your work?
The majority of the Emmys we’ve won have been for our television shows. We have three shows: Rams360, RamsNation, and What to Watch. Rams360 is a documentary style show that showcases a week in the life of a Rams player, RamsNation is a magazine style show, and What to Watch is an Xs and Os style pre-game show with our play-by-play announcers that breaks down the upcoming matchup. It’s a nice bonus to be rewarded for work that we’re doing and to know that people are recognizing the pieces we produce.
KU: You guys were Kessler customers before we connected, how did you hear about us and what made you use Kessler gear?
I am an Indiana native and that’s where I attended college. When I started to do video work in college, everyone at school was already singing Kessler’s praises (it helps to have them in your backyard). I got interested in Kessler at school, where I had the ability to check out Kessler gear and try the equipment out for myself. I remember being instantly impressed at how much better Kessler gear worked than some of the other products I had been using. The reason I wanted to use Kessler gear with the St. Louis Rams was because I had already experienced the quality first hand, so when our other sliders and jibs weren’t holding up to the daily wear and tear, I knew where we needed to go. We needed a product that could withstand the abuse we put our gear through during the season and I knew we were getting that with Kessler.
KU: Where in your workflow does the Kessler gear get the most work?
We shoot with a lot of different cameras and mount them to many different types of equipment. One of our biggest challenges before switching to Kessler was the time we’d lose changing the plates on our cameras for each individual tripod. During a game, you don’t have time to waste because you don’t want to miss any action. The Kessler Kwik-Release plates have been our saviors. We have one attached to just about anything we need; tripods, monopods, steadicams, sliders, jib, etc. On game day or at on-location shoots, we run around a lot trying to get a variety of shots, so not having to worry about bringing a screw driver with you or making sure you have the correct plate on the bottom of the camera can make a world of difference in set-up time.
KU: What’s your favorite piece of Kessler gear?
Currently my favorite piece of Kessler gear is the Second Shooter. It might be one of the most versatile filmmaking tools I have ever used. The time-lapsing function alone makes this tool worth using, but the ability to have a second angle when shooting interviews solo really helps give the piece a higher production value as well. Another function of the Second Shooter that I enjoy is the ability to set the slider to a specific speed to ensure all of the slider shots will be the same, which really helps in editing.
KU: It seems like your team has so many different styles of shooting to consider, i.e. live events, set-up interviews, b-roll – what are the challenges of shooting such diverse content?
Shooting diverse content certainly does have its challenges. One of the biggest challenges we run into while trying to shoot a variety of events in a day is time. Everyone in the NFL is on a schedule, whether it be coaches or players or the game itself. Time is never really on our side, so our biggest challenge is making sure we are prepared for each shoot, whether it’s having two different sets setup at the same time or making sure we pack enough batteries and cards for multiple shoots in a day. This is also where the Kessler Kwik Release plates come in handy. It’s nice to know that we can have the studio set up and have a camera down on the practice field and be able to come upstairs and not have to worry about which plate is on the camera- we can just pop it in and go.