Engineering the Perfect Shot
It's the last home basketball game of the season, and you can sense how much they want to be at their best. Though their outward demeanor is focused, calm, and determined, there is a palpable undercurrent of excitement for the game to get started. You can almost hear them pleading, "Put me in, Coach!"
But this isn't the players' starting lineup chomping at the bit to take the court. This is another team altogether— the devoted camera operators, mostly graduate engineering students and mostly hailing from India—who work for the Department of Athletics filming men's and women's hoops. While nearly 20 male and female graduate engineers make up the entire squad, today's game is covered by just five cameramen, including one operations management and information systems graduate student from the Leavey School of Business and a rookie, Benjamin Mullen, a sophomore civil engineering student.
Cameramen Vishak Aprameya Shivakumar Kanakapura and Yash Tamakuwala are both computer science and engineering master's students. "I enjoy photography," Tamakuwala said, "and I've always been a basketball fan (I referee for intramural games). So when one of my friends suggested I apply for this job, I decided to do it. There's nothing more fun than shooting what you want to see." Kanakapura also heard about the job through a friend. "I do photography as a hobby and have been covering events for Swades, the Indian Students Association at SCU, so this job was suitable for me. It's been great to get to go to the games and play with the camera. As an engineer, the mathematics of photography is interesting to me. I basically follow the rule of thirds, a well-known technique for composing an image, as I'm filming. The object should lead the subject viewing the frame into the shot to make the subject hold onto the frame," he said.
For Vemuluru Venkata Sri Harsha, who is working toward his mechanical engineering master's degree in robotics and mechatronics, basketball was all new. "It's a fast game and it was most challenging at first predicting when they were going to pass, but it's pretty much simple now," he said. The amateur camera operators credit their supervisors, David Gentile, video manager, and Tom Carine, videographer, with creating a supportive environment where they can learn and grow outside the world of engineering.
"Filming a sport like basketball, which is full of very quick, herky-jerky bursts of action is challenging," said Carine. "These guys have keen, analytical minds; they want to know how the camera works, how to get the best shots, why do you do it like this, why not do it like that... They really absorb information like nobody's business—they're sponges and then they put the pieces of the puzzle together."
Finally, the moment has come ... the buzzer rings and the game begins. The crew goes to work—focusing their attention on the action on the court and the voice in their ears as Tom directs them from the control booth. "Camera 2, you're live on the big screen."