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NNPS-TV creates 'Tower Power' video for EDC

video-recording the spokesperson
NNPS-TV Producer Nik Long and Station Manager Jim Anklam record Verizon Wireless spokesperson Carrie Spencer at the Mobile Switching Center.
Kevin Nelhuebel photos

The NNPS-TV production team has just finished shooting and producing a new Elementary Engineering Design Challenge "intro video," this time working with Verizon Wireless on the "Tower Power" challenge.

NNPS-TV uses their expertise to create these videos for Design Challenges, which are held four times a year. Each elementary school sends a four-student team to compete in a challenge, like constructing a cell tower.

NNPS-TV's video is played at the start, giving the students background information before the challenge begins.

The TV team worked closely with the EDC partner and the NNPS STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Curriculum and Development department to create the video.

Kevin Nelhuebel, Instructional Specialist for Curriculum & Instruction; Tami Byron, Instructional Supervisor for Curriculum & Development; Jim Anklam, NNPS-TV Station Manager; and Nik Long, NNPS-TV Producer all worked on the script, which changed a number of times throughout the process.

Anklam and Long went on the shoots, which took them to various locations around Newport News. The goal was to get footage of the four types of cell towers that the students would be learning about during the EDC.

flying the droneAnklam flies the drone at one of the sites.

The four types of cell towers are: lattice towers, monopole towers, guyed towers, and concealed towers, and the TV team was able to get shots of each for the video. One was even right outside NNPS-TV's door, at Todd Stadium (guyed tower).

"The folks at Verizon Wireless were really excited to be working alongside Newport News Public Schools, and be part of presenting this Design Challenge," said Long.  "They even pointed us in the right direction, helping us figure out the best towers to grab footage of."

In addition to getting shots of all the towers, the TV team recorded the Verizon Wireless spokespersons at the Mobile Switching Center, which houses a fascinating configuration of servers, batteries, and cables. The calls and texts of all of Hampton Roads' Verizon Wireless customers are processed there.

The team recorded Director of System Performance Carrie Spencer inside the Mobile Switching Center and Director of Network Assurance Tim Dykstra outside the building at the base of a cell tower.

The production team used the drone - actually two different drones (not at the same time) - to fly around the towers and the Mobile Switching Center to get the footage they needed. One of the drones can be controlled by a single operator, but the "Inspire" drone requires two people to fly it and control the camera. This particular video utilized a lot of shots from the drones.

The team also used their Osmo camera, which is their new favorite gadget. It is basically a drone camera on a hand-held stick. The small camera is in a three-axis gimbal on a long handle, so the camera is supported in a way that it does not bounce or jiggle. It is used for smooth movement shots.

tower with drone
The NNPS-TV drone flies near a cell tower, recording video for the Verizon Wireless Elementary Engineering Design Challenge.

The drones and the Osmo camera are made by DJI.

The intro video was cut together by NNPS-TV Production Specialist Aaron Moore, who has been the editor of every one of the EDC intro videos, which now number 11, including one for middle school students. Moore edits the visuals according to the script, selecting the right shots and adding special effects, all to go seamlessly with the audio. For "Tower Power," he had a lot of different footage to use, with the four towers, two spokespersons, and stock footage.

"Without the drone, it would have been really boring," said Moore. "They definitely did a good job with the footage."

Anklam agreed. "This was one of those videos that the drone just made it look excellent," he said. Without it, "it would have been a completely different view."

Moore and the STEM team were pleased with the final product. Moore spends so much time working on small segments of the video and tiny details, that sometimes even he is impressed by how good it looks all together.

"It came out pretty cool," he said, which is perfect for the fourth- and fifth-graders who watch it.

The "Tower Power" Elementary Engineering Design Challenge was held at Newsome Park November 3. In addition to creating the intro video, the NNPS-TV covered the Design Challenge itself, which will be used in an upcoming show.

'Tower Power' video: