Covering over 90 per cent of all live sporting events.
That’s the promise made by Peter ‘Dutch’ VandenBerg, who’s heading up broadcasting for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
It’s a daunting task, says VandenBerg, but one that he is ready to take on with gusto along with a team of Niagara College Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film (BRTF) students and alumni at his side.
By the time Canada’s largest amateur sporting event rolls around from August 6 to 21, the BRTF Professor and Program Coordinator will have a crew of about 100 staff in place to help him realize his vision of producing the most fulsome sports coverage in Canada Games history.
“We’re really excited about playing [what] I think is a significant role in how people can participate, engage, watch and support the Games,” said VandenBerg. “We’re transitioning away from a traditional broadcast linear landscape – which is some things on TV – to a complete coverage online and live.”
So, how does one prepare for such a task?
For starters, VandenBerg and his network of NC students and grads have delivered many noteworthy productions for major sporting events in the past, such as the 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championship, and the 2019 Canadian Wrestling Trials.
It’s also been a long time coming for VandenBerg, who has been involved with the Games for about five years. He played a role in Niagara’s bid, put together a successful production proposal before Niagara College was officially named the Experiential and Digital Production partner of the Niagara 2022 Games, and travelled to Red Deer, Alberta in 2019 to learn from the last host society.
This past January, VandenBerg pressed the pause button on his teaching duties at the College – temporarily – to focus on his role as Chair of Broadcast Operations and Production Services for the Games. In this role, which he views as a significant professional development opportunity, VandenBerg is responsible for the full production design of the transformational sporting event. This means everything from the creative vision and equipment to contingency planning and crew.
It’s the latter that gets VandenBerg excited the most, as he’s building a team that will include current students and alumni from the BRTF program who will support production both behind and in front of the camera – a once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunity for these up and coming broadcast professionals.
“These events are the stepping stone to what [students] want to do for a career and it gives them that glimpse into the professional world,” said VandenBerg.
One student benefiting from the experience is Carter Hendriks, who is graduating from the BRTF program this June. Hendriks completed an internship with VandenBerg and the Games during his final semester from January to April 2022. As part of his role as intern, Hendriks tested gear and worked on figuring out the production spaces for the Games. He was recently hired on as paid staff and looks forward to continuing on with the Games crew.
“I’m excited most about doing something in a way that’s never been done before; covering as much as we’re covering not being a big production company (and) making it work in a creative way with the resources we have,” he said.
A big part of the crew’s strategy to cover as much content as possible within budget constraints, is to leverage new broadcast technologies, such as robotic camera technology where one operator can control multiple cameras. Flight packs, which are portable control rooms built on-location, will also be used to offset the challenges that come with covering live sports in 18 different locations across Niagara and as far as Etobicoke.
The crew’s busiest day will see 20 concurrent live productions – leveraging the latest technology will allow the team to pull such coverage off.
Harnessing the trailblazing, welcoming and innovative spirit of both the College and the Canada Summer Games teams, will also bring a few firsts to the Games’ programming.
Coverage will be provided in both English and French, when possible, to offer programming that is inclusive for a Canadian audience. Another highlight will be a daily recap show, where competition results and milestones will be featured, along with as many athlete stories as possible – VandenBerg anticipates that this offering will be the crown jewel of the production program.
Although the legacy of the Games will be felt by the Niagara community for years to come through investments like new and improved sport facilities, VandenBerg learned from colleague Michele O’Keefe, NC’s Director of Athletics and Student Engagement who is a Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games Board Member and Legacy Committee Chair, that the legacy piece is so much bigger than just bricks and mortar.
As a result of the Games partnership, NC’s BRTF program will benefit from some new equipment, new technical knowledge acquired by faculty and returning students, and the overall opportunity to showcase the creativity and talents of the College-led production crew to the world.
“There will be students who enrol in broadcasting in years to come that will benefit from what did in 2022. That legacy is really important.”
VandenBerg also hopes the 2022 production design will provide a framework for other host societies to use and make their own when planning their broadcast programs in the future.
“My legacy vision is that PEI will be able to do because we built this plan, and Newfoundland will be able to do the same thing because we built this plan. I’m hoping my whole team that’s involved in this will be as proud of that aspect as I am.”
Shortly after production wraps at the end of August, VandenBerg and some of his student crew will return to the BRTF classroom to begin a new academic year, bringing back valuable experiences to share with other students to help inspire the next generation of broadcast professionals.
And that, for VandenBerg, makes the daunting project of leading the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games production team worthwhile. “It’s all for the kids,” he says.
Coverage of the Games will be available on the Niagara 2022 website, as well the CBC Gem app and through other broadcast partners.