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AMG: 10 Years of Technological Exploration

March 3rd, 2015

When people today consider South Kent School’s Advanced Media Group, they likely think of the hard-working group of students who follow our athletic teams and broadcast games with live commentary for all to enjoy. At this point in the history of the program, broadcasting has become almost seamless and it is known that South Kent utilizes the latest technology such as broadcasting from iPads, leveraging mobile technology, and flying drones with GoPros to gather high quality footage.

With many schools beginning programs like AMG, South Kent celebrates its tenth year, having begun videotaping school sporting events in 2003-2004. Chief Information Officer and Director of Admissions Gonzalo Garcia-Pedroso ‘95 has been on the Hillside to see the evolution of technology at South Kent firsthand. “We had a parent and previous trustee, Benny Wallace P ‘01, who started filming and putting together compilation videos,” Garcia-Pedroso said. “He gave us Adobe Premiere and a computer to use the software on, so students started filming games and then putting them on DVD’s to send out to college coaches, alumni, parents and fans.”

The program quickly transformed with the rapid technological changes in the early 2000’s. “We got to the point where people no longer wanted to wait for a DVD,” Garcia-Pedroso explained. “So we said, ‘Okay, we need better technology.’ And an alumnus sent us a check.” Advanced Media Group purchased the school’s first NewTek Tricaster with that donation and performed South Kent’s first successful live broadcast at a school football game in the fall of 2007. With Head of School Andrew Vadnais and Associate Head of School Richard Chavka commentating, students filming and producing with their gear in the trunk of a car, South Kent School’s live broadcasting began. “That’s where it started. We didn’t know how many people were watching,” Garcia-Pedroso said.

It wasn’t until the 2008 New England ice hockey quarterfinals versus Salisbury School that members of AMG began to realize how far the broadcasts were reaching. “We had people sending photos of them watching it in their offices, boardrooms and homes,” Garcia-Pedroso said. “It wasn’t just parents, but alumni were engaged as well.”

Merrick McQuilling '09 conducts an interview in AMG

The students involved felt that impact directly. “It was rewarding seeing how our broadcasts were able to draw attention to many of South Kent’s finest athletes,” South Kent and AMG alumnus Merrick McQuilling ‘09 said. “My favorite memory of AMG was the excitement and joy it brought to the people watching our broadcasts. We were able to bring our content to so many viewers around the world.”

Preparing Students for the Future

Gonzalo Garcia-Pedroso '95 with Jesse Bruen '09 in 2007

From the beginning, students have been an integral part of this hands-on program, with those in leadership giving guidance while also promoting the principle of self-reliance. When alumnus and current Director of Advanced Media Group Jesse Bruen ‘09 was a student, he remembers having the ability to explore his interests freely. “There were times when I was thrown into situations and just needed to learn on my own,” Bruen said. “That was when I think I realized that if I had the right resources, I could figure it out.”

AMG grew with more broadcasts and better equipment, going from originally covering 30 annual games to now 180 in an academic year. “It was true challenge-based learning,” Garcia-Pedroso said. “I would say, ‘Guys, they want us to broadcast from the field; how do we do that? They want us to do instant replay; how do we do that?’ We would present a task and then the kids, with mentors, would Google it, try it hands-on, and make it work.”

Bruen went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in the arts with a concentration in video production at Sewanee: The University of the South. He credits AMG for putting him “a step ahead” after South Kent. “AMG gave me a leg up in college,” he said. “A lot of the time in school, students were very caught up with making the technical side work, and asked, ‘How do I do this?’ rather than, ‘What can I do with this?’ That obstacle was taken away for me. I was able to explore the creative side.”

Many other alumni also cite AMG as a key point of preparation for college and the workforce. “AMG was my first experience doing live broadcasts. I can look back now after having worked in broadcast television for 3 years and can say that AMG definitely helped plant the seed which my career sprouted from,” Multimedia Sales Executive John Miller ‘08 said. “After leaving the Hillside, I found that the experience I received from the AMG program gave me a clear direction for what I wanted to study in college. I was one of only two students in my broadcast communications major who had previous live-broadcast experience.”

John Miller '08 at KOMO-TV

Having this skillset was vital for Miller, who started his professional career at Seattle’s ABC affiliate station, KOMO-TV. “At KOMO, I worked on the production crew, operating the teleprompter and cameras for our live newscasts. I was also the Floor Director for our 4 p.m. news until this past year, when I transitioned from production to work as an advertising sales executive for the station,” Miller said. “Although it is more of a desk job, I still get to use my production skills by writing and producing commercials for my clients. I actually took the camera out to shoot and edit a commercial for a new client last month.”

McQuilling found the use of advanced technology at South Kent to be invaluable as as well. “AMG prepared me for my future broadcasting-related experiences by familiarizing me with the elements of a television broadcast and industry-leading, media-related software and equipment,” McQuilling said. “Being at the forefront of broadcasting private school events ensured that I was always trained in the latest technology.”


Ford Stratton '17 commentating at the annual Cardinals vs. Cancer Prep Basketball game

Today, AMG has gone beyond broadcasting athletics to cover school events such as the annual Galileo Trial, musical performances, and school theater dramas such as the Nativity Play and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Students join AMG for various reasons, but they all leave with new and honed skills that are exceedingly relevant in the 21st century. “I've always done athletics like soccer and I wanted to try something different,” 3-year AMG member Van Christian Lupardi ‘15 explained. “When I went to go check out the AMG room for the first time, they were setting up an ‘Iron Man’ arm to film an example of a complex system.”

Prefect Sergey Goldobin ‘15 has been involved in AMG for 4 years. “What brought me to AMG was the possibility to do something related to technology and also to bring the amazing sports level that we have here to the world,” he said. “I like producing events live, and handling emergencies like when the power goes out. The ability to make instant decisions based on changing circumstances is a very useful skill.”

In Goldobin’s words, “We try to making the level of the broadcast as good as something on ESPN. We challenge ourselves to take the tech as far as it can go.”

Garcia-Pedroso, who remembers being part of the first computer-aided design (CAD) class at South Kent in 1994, has seen the School evolve on the forefront of ever-changing technology. “I was here when we first got the internet,” he said. “And now, it’s a beautiful thing to see students continue on this path more than ever, with a 1-to-1 iPad program, 99% e-textbook adoption, and better-than-ever AMG broadcasts.”

So, in 2014, South Kent School celebrates 10 years with AMG and 91 years of educating boys. We honor the past and look forward to pushing the boundaries of hands-on, educational exploration in the future.

Posted in the category General.

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