Bowen's Experience In Video Production Benefits Fresno State
June 29, 2005
FRESNO, Calif.- Todd Bowen's daughter, Kristin, has just graduated from Buchanan High School.
As she walks down the aisle to accept her diploma, no doubt Todd is probably reminiscing about the last four years while also looking forward to the future.
"So I'm sitting there at the ceremony and I can't stop looking around," recalls Bowen. "First thing that catches my eye- they have three digital cameras shooting the ceremony to make tapes available for sale. One of those three cameras was on a big crane jib arm. And I start laughing to myself. They've got these $3,000-4,000 cameras and one of them is hanging on the end of an $80,000 jib. It really just seemed kind of funny to me to tell you the truth."
Kristin- this is not to imply your dad was not paying attention on that special day. He surely was. Those are the things you notice when you have been immersed in your work for so long. As a result, your work becomes your passion. What else would you expect from someone who responds with "I hate to say it- I'm just video all the time" when asked about hobbies or outside interests.
Such is the life for Bowen, coordinator of broadcast and video production at Fresno State.
Bowen's first position at Fresno State was as the athletic women's video coordinator in 2000. In that role, Bowen's responsibilities included but were not limited to: shooting and breaking down film for volleyball, basketball and softball, developing highlight reels and game tapes for coaches and producing highlight packages for annual team banquets. With Bowen's real background being in production, he was often called on to help create commercials for the Bulldog Shop or season-ticket sales.
Two years later, Bowen was appointed coordinator of broadcast and video production and transferred his belongings from an "everything-everywhere" office in the North Gym annex to an "everything-you-need-right-here-at-your-fingertips" control room in the new Save Mart Center.
"Todd is very valuable to the department," said Steve Weakland, assistant athletics director for communications and supervisor of the department's video services. "He works behind the scenes and does a great job in an area that brings a lot of visibility and fan enjoyment. Todd has spearheaded the video board systems for the Save Mart Center and Bulldog Stadium. He worked to help us secure the equipment, coordinate the installation and oversees production on game days. Like many of our employees, he is an incredibly hard worker."
Bowen's journey into the video production field began back in 1984 when he started shooting for KMPH as a news cameraman. After shooting news for about a year and a half, a position opened up in the production department for Pappas Teleproductions. That's when the fun began. Various film projects, shooting out of helicopters while live on the scene, traveling to different companies or plants and putting tapes together- all of those made the job fun.
"I was first assigned to Visalia production and produced commercials in the south valley," said Bowen, who was born in West Covina, grew up in Fresno and now lives in Clovis. "Sometimes I would crank out five or six commercials a day- mass commercial production. A lot of it was not quantity but quality. Throughout my time there I must have made thousands of television commercials and training tapes, presentation tapes, sales and promotions ads, etc. So naturally it was fun to come to Fresno State and produce highlight films and things of that nature in an athletic department setting."
Fresno State has utilized Bowen's long-standing relationship with television production, as he plays a vital role in the telecasts for Bulldog football and men's basketball. Bowen's experience makes him a valuable asset to the production of the program, whether it involves pitching creative ideas to the station or tweaking graphics or logos on the telecast.
"Todd's position is one that does not get a lot of recognition because he is always behind the scenes," said Steve Sullivan, general manager of Bulldog Sports Properties, which is responsible for the overall management of Fresno State Athletics media rights packages and corporate partnership program. "Still, he rolls up his sleeves and is a real team player. The communication between our office and Todd has been phenomenal. We speak on a daily basis and he is very responsive to answering our questions and helping us build the best possible telecast. Todd is very knowledgeable and his experience in this area is a real plus."
When you are at the controls and you basically have all the power, it can be both overwhelming and entertaining. In Bowen's case, it's just a lot of fun.
Bowen is reminded of a men's basketball game last season at the Save Mart Center. It looked as if Bulldog center Mustafa Al-Sayyad cleanly blocked a shot, however seconds later he was whistled for goaltending. Bowen remembers showing different angles of the replay on the video board, resulting in a loud chorus of "boos" from the home crowd that he could hear from his control room.
"And as the referee is running back down the court on the next possession, he turns and says to Jake (assistant media relations director Jake Bragonier)- `you better tell your video board guy to watch it."
"So it came back to me," said Bowen, "and I had one thought: tell him to make the right call next time."
While Bowen acknowledges that there is a home court advantage when it comes to the video board (magnifying cheap shots or fouls from the other team, catching opposing coaches in the middle of a tirade, etc.), the main objective remains the same: build enthusiasm and keep the fans entertained.
The Red Wave faithful has experienced another dimension in entertainment at Bulldog Stadium in recent years. Some would argue that it began on a Sunday night in September of 2001. Nationally-ranked Oregon State, the nation's No. 1 preseason pick by Sports Illustrated, visited Bulldog Stadium. In what would go down as one of the most memorable wins in school history with a 44-24 Bulldog victory, the atmosphere that night was enhanced as the video board made its debut. The video board would return for a few contests the following year, once in 2003 and back again in 2004 for the entire season.
"It helped me because Scott (former athletics director Scott Johnson) really liked the idea," stated Bowen. "The fact that he wanted it made it easier to get started because you have somebody in a management position that is excited about a project that you can do. At that point, you feel like it can become a reality."
It was not an easy task, however. In 2002, the video board was rented from Daktronics, flown in on a crane and run by generators. Last season's video board (the screen is 16.5 x 22 feet and weighs close to 20,000 lbs.) was supported by a concrete slab structure. Occasionally, a module within the board will fail causing a stripe or small box to appear. When that module fails, the data stream is killed. That requires a trained technician to climb the back of the scaffolding in the middle of the game, jump-start the data, replace the dead module and connect everything together again. Bowen and his staff are constantly working to perfect the system, which he says has turned out to be a great asset.
"At first we were able to tap into ESPN's feed and use a lot of their replays," explains Bowen. "When they would show a replay of the other team we covered it up and if it was our guys, we were all over it. Last year was our first real season of doing it ourselves. We had a production truck, developed graphics for sponsorships and transitioned in and out of replays."
Like any other feature at a new venue, the video board at the Save Mart Center presented challenges when the facility opened in October of 2002. Before Bowen's editing station (complete with multiple tape decks and additional production equipment) was moved into the arena, he found himself working countless hours in order to make everything operational. Working with a limited staff, Bowen and current athletic women's video coordinator Tong Xiong, would do everything from set-up cameras to running cable.
"A few times we have been down to the wire, last-minute, still scrambling," said Xiong, "and Todd miraculously comes in and fixes the problem. He is very intelligent. Whether we are out at football, basketball or anything video-related, it has been a relief to have him around and learn from him."
Things are different at the Save Mart Center now. Anything that requires video board production- sans concerts- is coordinated through Todd and his staff. They are responsible for supplying a camera crew, editors and replay personnel and will also format sponsorship logos and graphics with a background.
Bowen and his wife Kim, have three sons (Brock- 21, Blake- 20, Brandon- 6) and two daughters (Kristin- 17, Bonnie- 16). He enjoys water-skiing, spending time with his family and vacationing at Pismo Beach.