Newport News Public Schools TV and the Telecommunications Center

Student TV camera operator with tripod in crowd at graduation

Across the country this spring, college commencements were especially meaningful. The Class of 2024, which was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, was able to have the traditional graduation ceremonies that they missed out on four years ago.

At Christopher Newport University, graduates participated in their unique commencement format, which ironically was first adopted during the pandemic.

The "Commencement Experience" is a non-traditional graduation event that features two sessions for graduates to receive their diploma covers, so it is less crowded and more personal. Graduates participate in either the morning or the afternoon session, after all graduates take part in the degree conferral ceremony.

The Telecom crew has adapted to the new format, handling video production of the day-long event including the processional, degree conferral ceremony, and recessional, plus the Grad Walk, where the graduates have their names called and get to walk across the stage. For this, the guests move to the front to have a close-up view of their graduate.

The Telecom team has been covering commencement at CNU for over 15 years, including the traditional style and the modified version the past few years.

The crew livestreamed their content through CNU's YouTube channel, and their camera work was displayed on the giant video screens at the event.

It's a great opportunity for TV students to gain a lot of hands-on experience; oftentimes they can try out different crew jobs.

The day before graduation, the Telecom crew brought the large TV truck to campus and set up their production equipment outside.

Crew call was at 6 a.m. the Saturday of graduation.

Telecom Supervisor Ray Price served as Producer/Director and also filled in as Camera Operator when needed. Telecom Instructor Carl Daniels, Jr. was Assistant Director and Technical Director, and handled graphics. Telecom Broadcast Engineer Mansoor Ahmed handled engineering and audio.

Telecom students who were part of the crew were mostly camera operators: Donovan Crowder, Chase Willett (Woodside High juniors), Joshua Ray (Heritage junior), and Ryan Hedgepeth (Woodside Senior). Ethan Clinkenbeard (Woodside Senior) served as Camera Operator/Technical Director.

Telecom alumni worked on the production as well. Muriel Gamble was Camera Operator and handled the Character Generator, Brandon K. Hedgepeth was the Streaming Coordinator and audio technician, while Joshua Stuck served as Technical Director.

The crew, a mix of experienced workers and students working CNU commencement for the first time, combined for a team effort.

When there was a technical issue, it was a teaching moment.

"We overcame it and we are happy with it," said Price.

"That's what I like," he continued. "Stuff happens, but you come through it. You learn from it. That's good for teaching."