A Look Behind the Lens

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“Camera two, zoom in,” the director requests from behind his table in the cafeteria, sheltered from the rush of the basketball game. He communicates with his team from behind a computer screen and through headphones, in order to capture footage of the game. The student operating the camera zooms in, narrowing the focus of the camera on the three-point line, just before the Wildcats score.

Wildcat Productions is a club at LHS, composed of a group of students who record and edit footage for sports teams, fine arts performances and various other school events. The Wildcat Productions studio is located at the top of a staircase in the athletic storage room between the Field House and West Gym. Students meet there for their club meetings, which take place about once a week on Tuesdays after school. The club is led by Mr. Daniel Treptow, who is also a video engineer at LHS.

Currently, Wildcat Productions has 31 members, the vast majority of which are male. At the moment, there are five girls in the club. More students show up for the club meetings in the fall; in the spring, usually 10-15 students show up, according to Mr. Treptow.

In addition to the work Wildcat Productions creates for LHS events, the club also participates in a festival, located at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. This year, the club submitted a Band Jam highlight reel by Connor Pseja; three clips of basketball broadcasts (one directed by Chase Pulaski and two directed by Pseja); a girls basketball promotion video by Eli McEwan; a basketball “Silent Seven” promotion by Jack Holland; as well as a music video by Luke Neimann. In addition, the club submitted a commercial made by Pseja for Milkcow, an ice cream shop located in Vernon Hills.

However, the majority of their time is spent on the filming and editing of athletics and fine arts at LHS.

As an executive member of Wildcat Productions, Pulaski, a sophomore, enjoys these events and being a part of the club. He said he enjoys doing the broadcasts because they are fun and relaxed. He also likes spending time with the other members in the club.

At some events, such as the football and basketball games, the students work multiple cameras, collaborate to capture different angles and combine their footage to create a final product.

“[One of my favorite parts of leading the club is] giving students the chance to work together as a team, and then seeing it all come together at the end of the day. Sometimes you  have 25 kids at once…It works the same as any other team or any other sport, where they just try to make the best possible production at the end of the day,” noted Mr. Treptow.

The club members use headsets and microphones to communicate with one another. “We have headsets…that have a button that allows them to be silenced from the actual stream. They can talk specifically to the director of the broadcast,” said Holland, a freshman. “For basketball, the director is in the cafeteria, and for football, we are near the activity pass entrance. [The director usually] manages the cameras, like they will tell camera one to ‘get this side of the field, get the kick off,’ camera two to ‘get [closer],’ cameras three and four are in-between shots mostly. [The director will also] tell the technical director what to do.” The technical director is the one who physically changes which camera view is being shown.

Not only is communication necessary to film the games and get the correct camera angles, but the students also collaborate to learn and teach one another. It is not possible for Mr. Treptow to be at every camera at once, so students shadow other students.

Pseja, a junior and executive member of the club, explained: “A lot of the [now-graduated] upperclassmen have taught me because I came in not knowing very much. Slowly, through the broadcasts and doing all of the fine arts events, I just learned all of the stuff. [Mr. Treptow] has taught me a lot and he teaches everyone but we…rely on each other to teach. So [this year], we taught a lot of the freshmen and new sophomores how to use everything. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but we all help out.”

When the students are unable to answer a question for one another, Mr. Treptow, who went to Columbia College of Chicago and studied television directing productions, is their go-to person.

 

 

THROUGH THE YEARS:

Although the club has had a presence at LHS for a long period of time, there have been various changes with it along the way. For example, the club has been run by various leaders other than Mr. Treptow, including by Mr. Don Johnson, a current security guard. Mr. Treptow acquired the position as the club leader approximately four years ago, and even then, the club was very different from today.

“About four years ago, it used to be called Cat TV,” noted Mr. Treptow. “We needed to come up with a new name, something more relevant… I feel [with] what we do now for YouTube…. TV didn’t make sense anymore. Nothing we did was TV. It hasn’t been that way in 15 years.”

After deciding to rename the club Wildcat Productions, Mr. Treptow realized the name was not the only outdated thing about the club; the equipment was as well.

“When I [first got to LHS], the equipment they were using was really dated. I’m sure it was awesome at one point in time… but it was eye-opening, like, ‘Why were they still using this?’” stated Mr. Treptow.

He was not the only one who remembers the outdated equipment.

“We upgrade our setup and resources every so often. When I was a freshman, some of our broadcasting equipment was older and we’ve upgraded it so there’s more options [now],” Pseja explained. “[For example,] there are more options for graphics in the broadcasts and there’s more ease of access with doing things.”

All of the students in the club share a common interest for technology and filmography. Some students, like sophomore Jake Neumann, knew of the club even before he went to LHS because of an older sibling, and decided that he wanted to partake in the activity as well. Other students, like Pseja, joined the club because they see themselves in a future career related to the club.

“I’ve known since probably fifth or sixth grade that I’ve wanted to do something media-related and somewhere in film. When I was in eighth grade orientation, I saw the booth that was set up and I saw all of the cool equipment, and I knew I wanted to join it,” reminisced Pseja.

Regardless of what motivated students to get involved, there is a strong bond between the students, and frequently students meet in the studio just to hang out with one another.

“I used to go every day [to hang out after school], but I have lacrosse now so [I go] pretty much whenever I don’t have lacrosse,” stated Neumann. “We mostly just do Photoshop. It’s really fun, actually.”

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