SB Nation spent many years building itself up through the power of the written word. Our specialty was allowing a fan's perspective to come through in high-quality writing. We hope we've done that well. Along the way we added more visual features like professional photography, but even that wasn't enough for where we wanted to go. At SB Nation, we wanted a full presentation of the way people like to consume their sports news, so the inevitable was video.
For over a year and a half, SB Nation has been creating video on a whole range of subjects, all of it in some way, large or small, related to the sports world. Boy, how it's grown. From the early days of learning on the job to the polished production that we see today.
I decided to check in on the video team at SB Nation and see how they were doing, so I hit up an old friend, Michael Bean, who has been with the group from its inception and serves as a producer. He kindly answered some questions for me.
1. When and how did video get started at SB Nation? What were the early days like?
MB: SB Nation dove head first into video in January 2012 when YouTube selected us to be a part of their Original Channel program. The channel officially launched in March after our team spent two challenging but fun months rigging up our old studio and piloting our slate of shows. The early days were certainly different than today. For starters, there is heat and hot water at our current space, luxuries we were forced to do without two winters ago. But there was nevertheless a very palpable feeling of excitement and optimism knowing we were fortunate enough to be a part of what we knew would be an important, new chapter for SB Nation. Chad Mumm, Vox Media's creative director, and Kyle Kramer, our head of production, deserve lots of credit for hiring a talented team, and then instilling a culture that was very fun despite all the hard work and long hours.
2. Recently you guys moved into new digs. How has that worked out and how has it helped with production?
MB: We moved in February and are all extremely appreciative to have the tools and environment needed to take our productions to the next level in 2013. First and foremost, we were excited to finally have enterprise-grade internet connectivity, which we were simply unable to acquire given the infrastructure of our previous space. But on a more serious note, the move was huge in several key ways: it brought the video teams of SB Nation, The Verge and Polygon all under one roof which has allowed for collaboration, sharing of resources, and engineering of systems that will remain viable for quite some time; secondly, though we all miss the 'home' feel and look of the last studio, having two legit studios here has allowed for some creative set design.
3. What's the process for finding a story, how do you guys decide on what to produce?
MB: Good question, and I'm not sure there's enough time or space to answer from every angle, but most importantly, we are in the capable hands of Matt Ufford. Matt, who's been writing about sports and pop culture for the better part of a decade now, was hired last year to be on-camera talent. He still fills that role, but he's also now SB Nation's editorial producer for video. He and Dan Rubenstein are the brains behind our editorial decisions, with plenty of input from SB Nation's editorial director Spencer Hall. This ensures that the voice of our content aligns with that on SBNation.com.
Now, it's worth noting that we're no longer focused exclusively on building our YouTube channel (we still publish there and have actually been laying foundations of an affiliate network comprised of some of YouTube's best and most establish channels). Instead we're focused on programming for SBNation.com, which essentially means less experimenting and instead committing to series and shows. A quick tour of the site and you'll come across one of our daily or weekly shows (The Daily Win, Three Reasons Why, our NFL interview show Uffsides, the hilarious Dan on Fire, or the end of week Halfy Hour). We have a new weekly live fantasy football show in the works for this coming NFL season, as well as a new college football show. Both promise to be outstanding and reflective of our development as a studio editorially, creatively and technically.
When opportunities arise, we'll also still do features like the exclusive one-on-one with Kenny Anderson, or our behind-the-scenes look at the MetLife Blimp. And last but certainly not least, we are producing custom series for brands like the eight-part series with Wade Boggs and Jeep that is coming to a successful end this week. So, all told there's something for everybody and expect even more effective integration of video into SB Nation this fall and in 2014.
4. What are a couple of the best vids you guys ever produced?
MB: Tough question! Hard not to pick one of the videos produced by Stephen Greenwood who's now working mostly with The Verge. His piece on a thoroughbred horse named Dullahan was amazing; our very first video where Matt went to the Westminster Dog Show is also on the short list; Matt's monologue on March Madness this year was great; this hand-drawn and animated look at Triple Crown history and lineage highlights the artistic talent of our studio; and really any of the Dan on Fire episodes are emblematic of the fun, unique ways in which our producers and talent manage to entertain.
5. What are the upcoming plans for SB Nation Video?
MB: I think I've about covered that in previous questions but I think it's safe to say that video is here to stay on SB Nation so check out our work regularly on dot com, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and please by all means send feedback, suggestions and video ideas to Matt Ufford (firstname.lastname@example.org) or myself (email@example.com).
Thanks Michael! I definitely recommend everybody check out SB Nation Video, they are doing some phenomenal work. So hit the links that Michael provided above in his answer to question five and immerse yourself in some funny, poignant, and topical video. For examples, I've embedded a couple below.