published Sunday, January 26th, 2014

UTC's Owen Seaton to work at Olympic Games

Owen Seaton works in the video control room before the Lady Mocs' Southern Conference basketball game against Terriers on Jan. 18 at McKenzie Arena. Seaton will work at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Owen Seaton works in the video control room before the Lady Mocs' Southern Conference basketball game against Terriers on Jan. 18 at McKenzie Arena. Seaton will work at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

The weather forecast for Sochi, Russia, this week predicts high temperatures as much as 20 degrees warmer than they will be in Chattanooga.

But regardless of the 50s weather at the resort city on the Black Sea, the winter Olympic Games are coming. The opening ceremony will be held Feb. 6 and competition will run through Feb. 23, and Chattanooga's Owen Seaton will play a part in trying to make the event a success.

Seaton, director of creative services for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic department, leaves Wednesday for Russia, where he will direct the video board display at the Alder Arena Skating Center, site of the individual and team pursuit speed skating competition.

"It's an exciting opportunity," Seaton said. "I'm glad to have the chance to go."

Seaton will spend the first several days in Sochi building his video control room. A crew of four to five will assist him throughout the games, making sure everything runs smoothly.

"The first several days will be putting everything together, working with NBC and the other international television partners," he said. "Once the events start, you're directing the video board show for the spectators. Like any other live sporting event, it's a mixture of live cameras, replays, graphics, those sorts of things.

"And obviously because it's the Olympics, the medal ceremony is the big moment at every venue, so there will be lots of rehearsals to make sure the protocol is correct. There's actually an Olympic protocol office to help make sure that all goes right."

At UTC, Seaton is in charge of the MocsVision crew that handles the video display boards for Mocs sporting events at McKenzie Arena and Finley Stadium.

It was in this role that Seaton drew the attention of Bob Becker, executive vice president of Van Wagner Big Screen Network Productions, a Raleigh, N.C., company that provides video board services for several major sporting events in the United States and around the world.

Seaton worked with Becker when Chattanooga hosted the NCAA Division I Football Championship. Finley Stadium was home to the event from 1997 through 2009, and Becker said Seaton's work at UTC showed that he had the skills to work larger events.

"He's a hard worker and very competent at what he does, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to put on a good show," Becker said Friday by phone from Hawaii, where his company will provide the video production for today's Pro Bowl. "That's what we look for. Owen is a guy that will be there at 7 in the morning and won't leave the venue until 3 the next morning. That's the quality that you look for to do this."

Van Wagner is the primary video production company for the NFL, working the past 30 Super Bowls, as well as working with the NHL and every NCAA championship event. Seaton previously worked the video boards for the soccer competition for the 2011 Asian Games in Qatar.

"We're very fortunate to have found this niche to provide live event entertainment for all these events, and this will be our sixth Olympic Games," Becker said. "We started back in Los Angeles a long time ago [1984], Salt Lake [2002], Athens [2004], Torino [2006], Vancouver [2010] and now Sochi."

Seaton will miss six UTC home basketball games while in Sochi, but a chance to work an Olympic Games was too good to pass up.

"When the Olympic offer came, [UTC athletic director] David [Blackburn] said, 'It's the Olympics, and you don't get that call very often, so you need to go,'" Seaton said.

"But we have a great crew here, and our production coordinator [Leah Gill] has been here since 2007, so I have total faith in those guys. It's great to know that I won't have to worry about things back here while I'm gone."

Becker said that Van Wagner Big Screen Network Productions will send about 30 people to Sochi to run the video boards and the various events, and he expects the remote location will be a test of his team's abilities over the course of the games.

"It is quite an undertaking. Russia is not an easy country to get in and out of, not an easy place to get around," he said. "It's a very small footprint for an Olympic Games and poses some logistical challenges. We're very fortunate that we have some very good people who know how to do this for our Olympic Games.

"The beauty of the Olympic Games is that it's in a different place every time, but that poses challenges that we have to deal with."

Seaton has overseen the video upgrades at McKenzie Arena in recent years, including the installation of video boards in 2007 as well as more improvements in recent years and others planned for the future. He feels that working the Winter Olympics, while challenging, still depends on the basic production skills he uses every day in his work at UTC.

"The underlying principles are the same at any venue," he said. "You want to engage the person in the seat and get them as close to the action as you can, get them replays in a timely manner and communicate whatever information you need to communicate between events or at halftime or whatever the format may be.

"If you pull our game script [at UTC] and compare it to any other script, the skeleton is the same in almost all events."

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jftanner.

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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