Coming to you live, from your local high school

A former biology lab at Paul VI High School, Haddonfield, is a studio of sorts, complete with green screen, computers, monitors, headsets, microphones, wires and camera equipment.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

HADDONFIELD — Tuesday evening, Jan. 16.

As the high school girls’ squads of Paul VI and Camden Catholic, Cherry Hill, battled it out on the basketball court here for first place in the Olympic Conference, Paul VI teacher Richard Daniels’ Advanced Television pupils were engaged in their own drama.

Junior Joey Dieva called every pass, dribble, shot and block from the bleachers. From the sidelines, senior Grace Narducci and junior Morrissey Walsh interviewed players and coaches before, during and after the action. Behind the monitors, junior Nick Iadonisi worked the cameras, while senior Sophia DiCapua acted as “switcher,” literally calling out the shots from the control room, the best angles to be highlighted during that night’s broadcast.

Just another night for Paul VI’s YouTube Livestream team.

Several Catholic secondary schools in the Diocese of Camden livestream events. The set-up at Paul VI is among the most sophisticated.

For the past year and a half, the school has provided live coverage of various school events, including its own Masses, morning show, sports contests and commencement ceremonies, on its YouTube Channel “PVI News.”

The content is made possible due to the hard work from Daniels, and his Advanced Television, and Television 1 class students.

What was once a biology lab has now been converted to a studio of sorts, complete with green screen, computers, monitors, headsets, microphones, wires and enough camera equipment to rival KYW, for the students to work and create.

“This is our own little world,” says Sophia with a smile as she demonstrates her expertise in the control room, where half a dozen monitors and computers make you feel like you are in an ESPN booth. With one hand on the mouse, she deftly demonstrates how to switch between camera shots, drop in a graphic or turn up the sound.

She says, “I spend all my free periods here, by choice,” whether putting time in before and after school hours for livestream footage, or editing reel for the year-end senior awards banquet. “It’s something I’m going to take to college with me.”

“This is a college-intensive course at the high school level,” Daniels says of his Advanced Television class.

When they graduate, students “will have a step up in the communications field, in getting internships and jobs,” he says.

Daniels has taught this course for eight years, but only since the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year have his students begun livestreaming content. From anywhere they are with an internet connection, the Paul VI school community and alumni can watch the Eagles sports teams in action on the court, gridiron, or diamond as its happening. As well, last year’s commencement exercises were streamed for those who couldn’t see the graduates receive their diplomas in person.

“One student’s grandmother was in the hospital and watched him receive his diploma from her bed,” Daniels says. “It meant so much to her.”

Principal Sister Marianne McCann calls the course relevant and needed for today’s ever-connected masses.

“There’s no reason not to have this in the age of social media,” she says. “I’m lucky to have talented faculty working with talented students.”

Students have also created slick commercials for upcoming games not unlike ones you’d see on ESPN or Fox Sports, with thumping hip-hop tunes, and quick cuts from highlight reels to player close-ups.

“What we’re doing is unlike any other,” said Iadonisi, adding that “we’re making physical records of our high school experiences.”

The students have created an impressive body of work, but Daniels believes his course “has only scratched the surface” on its capabilities for students. “It’s still in its baby steps,” he says.