Thinking Outside The Box

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In my last blog post I recapped our team’s trip to Orlando for the 2013 NACDA Convention. While that was the main focus of our trip, we also had the chance to take in an Orlando Predators arena football game while we were there at Amway Center.

On this trip were myself, Dan and Mike. The amount of games that we have produced together over the last five years is well in the hundreds. Not only that, but we’ve actually done many arena football games together as well. Back before the AFL and the AF2 kind of absorbed into one league, we did the game production for the AF2’s Mahoning Valley Thunder. I also have worked with the AFL’s Cleveland Gladiators, both producing/directing their game presentation and also currently doing the PA announcing. Moral of the story…we’ve seen a lot of arena football shows.

That’s what made this trip to see the Predators game operations so interesting. It was an opportunity to see a show in an entirely different environment, in a different part of the country, and as fans. Obviously playing in a new building, the Predators have phenomenal boards and they had plenty of nice graphics that they ran on those boards.

For the most part the video portion of their show was pretty low-key. Not a lot of movie/video clips, but relying heavily on a really good mix of music and fan shots to carry the show. Nothing groundbreaking here… But it worked just fine.

Where they strayed radically different from what any of us had seen before though was in regards to their PA announcer. I mentioned that I do the PA announcing for the Gladiators, and I also do it for the Cleveland Indians and Lake Erie Monsters. My style tends to be more conservative and “professional.” I like to let the game tell the story and try my best not to get in the way. The job is to convey information. I generally believe that when people don’t really notice the PA announcer, they’re doing a good job.

The Predators PA announcer could not be more opposite of this. He is the show. He essentially has an open mic all game long. He gave his personal commentary about what was happening on the field, penalty calls, sarcastically jeered the visiting team (who happened to be the Gladiators) occasionally, and even talked directly at the fans in specific sections and critiqued the music choices the DJ was playing.

Because of my style as a PA guy, I absolutely wanted to hate this. However…I loved it. It could not have worked better for an arena football game. The guy had the voice for it, the personality for it, and it added a lot to the experience. Truly, we all sat there just waiting to hear what he was going to say next throughout the game.

Now, successfully pulling this type of style off is definitely not easy. You have to constantly toe that fine line of seeing how far you can go before overstepping any boundaries or rules. You also have to have the type of personality where it’s not annoying and the fans won’t be sick of hearing you over the course of three hours. Also important…it was arena football. It would never fly or be appropriate for any other sport. But in the AFL, a sport that admittedly is filled with a lot of stoppages and down-time, it added a lot to the show and kept the game from feeling like it was dragging. For a league that prides itself on being on the “extreme” side and also only has a small number of home games, it worked.

So what’s the lesson in this? Not only that I liked it, but that if you work in production (not only in sports), you can’t be closed-minded and ever think that you have the industry mastered and can stop trying to learn. Regardless of how big or small the operation, if you watch other people do what you do on a daily basis and can’t take away a single new idea or technique, then you’re probably not going in with an open mind.

Even if you don’t immediately use or implement them, it’s always great to file these types of ideas and lessons away for future experiences. Just having that different perspective can change the way you think as you plan your own productions and try to make them as effective and as cutting-edge as possible. You never know when you’ll see something that you haven’t seen before.

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