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Fighting Irish Digital Media Prepares for National Signing Day

Feb 5, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

Our dedicated FIDM crew will be running the show from this control room. Our dedicated FIDM crew will be running the show from this control room.

It’s a day when recruiting nuts take the morning off to watch Twitter and read message boards, when diehard football fans anxiously await the hat choice of 17-year-old kids, and it’s the one time per year where we dust off the fax machines to welcome the letters of intent of future All-Americans and team captains.

I’m talking, of course, about National Signing Day.

In 2013 and this technological age, it’s a little surprising no one has figured out a way for prospective student-athletes to tweet their commitment to a university.

But while we will rely on the relatively primitive setup of a fax machine for the official word tomorrow morning, Fighting Irish Digital Media is set to debut some new features for its 2013 National Signing Day show on UND.com.

FIDM’s annual show will kick off at 7 am ET, and for the first time ever, we’ll have three different sets. Jack Nolan will be over at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where he’ll sit down with head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish assistants to discuss the 2013 recruiting class. Jack will also be the on the pulse of that fax machine, notifying us each time a letter is received and cleared through our compliance office.

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My office for Wednesday morning.

Yours truly will be spending some time in front of the camera, reporting live from our social media headquarters, where I will be sharing fans’ reactions throughout the day. Make sure to follow @NDFootball and @NDSportsBlogger, and use #SigningDayND so we can find your tweets easily.

And Ryan Camden will be hosting from our brand-new virtual set, breaking down the roster and recruiting class, talking about the themes of the day and welcoming a few special guests to the studio.

I recently caught up with my good friend and colleague to talk about the virtual studio, which is certain to come as a nice surprise for those who have been watching our show in years past.

As one of the newest departments within Notre Dame athletics and housed in a new facility (located where the old varsity shop was in the Joyce Center), FIDM is driven to be on the forefront of technology, while constantly telling the story of Notre Dame’s student-athletes and teams. With direction from digital media program director Dan Skendzel and lead technologist Scott Rinehart, we have made tremendous strides since moving into our new space in Sept. 2012.

Though Ryan will be sitting at a desk in our studio (see below), to our viewers watching at home, it will look like he’s behind a fancy Sportscenter-style set.

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From a green screen…to a fancy virtual set.

“Utilizing this for this kind of show with this kind of audience really solidifies what we’re trying to accomplish from a technology standpoint,” Ryan said. “And it really gives us that official feel of an ESPNU or NFL RedZone, where it kind of makes it look bigger than it is…and that’s not to say Signing Day isn’t important, but it makes it feel important. It makes it seem big and loud and boisterous.”

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Gary Paczesny setting up a camera in our social media headquarters.

FIDM will be using a TriCaster to produce the show from the control room in our facility. The TriCaster is a system for video switching, live streaming and broadcasting, that will allow us to go back and forth between sets, while also including graphics and inserting other videos.

The TriCaster has many customizable virtual sets built into it, and FIDM was able to tailor it to fit the show.

“We were able to edit a lot of pieces to give it our Notre Dame football feel that we were trying to accomplish,” he said. “That’s one thing we definitely wanted to do. Once you see it, you’ll see that’s a very warming and welcoming, romantic set. We want to welcome the viewers.”

The technology utilizes a green screen, not unlike what meteorologists have been using for years. If you watch Fighting Irish Xtra, better known as “The FIX,” you might recognize a similar set-up.

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Jack Nolan and producer Nathan Bush going over notes for the Signing Day show.

“With the rise of YouTube and mobile sharing and Vimeo, you’re seeing a lot of stuff go that way because it’s convenient, it’s easy. You sit in front of a green screen and light it well and you key it out.”

While there will be countless ways to follow National Signing Day, if you’re a Notre Dame fan, we hope you check out our show on UND.com, as we’ll have the most in-depth and exclusive coverage of the Fighting Irish.

From press conferences to live sporting events to National Signing Day (our longest broadcast and most-watched production), our new facility and growing fleet of gadgets, equipment and technology are just the beginning of an exciting future for FIDM.

“It’s going to be really neat. When you see it, you need to think that it’s only two cameras and me sitting in front of a green screen. And it’s going to feel a lot bigger than that. Like I said, it’s really cool because it allows us to build something that no one else has. It’s particularly unique to Fighting Irish Digital Media, UND.com and Notre Dame.”

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