As Senior Assistant Athletic Director for Video Operations and Anchor Down Productions, Steven Parks leads a staff of seven talented videographers. The Nashville native and father of two started shooting Vandy football practices while he was still a student at Middle Tennessee State. Eighteen years later, he’s running the show.
I grew up in Hermitage, so I’ve been in Nashville all my life, which is not very common in this building.
As a kid, I wasn’t into sports. I was really interested in anything that had to do with building, whether it was Legos or building different contraptions in the backyard with my brothers. We had a lot of HO-scale trains and a huge train table in the basement that we would play with all the time.
My dad is a retired police officer and firefighter so he always had different types of radios in his car. That was always interesting to me.
I went to McGavock High School and was involved in drafting classes. At that time, I was thinking I’d be an architect. While I was in high school, I started getting involved with audio for my church, mixing audio for youth events. That led into doing more things in video.
I went to MTSU and started out studying audio engineering and transitioned to digital animation about halfway through. When I first got into that, I was thinking about working in motion pictures. It was while I was at MTSU that I started working here at Vanderbilt part time for the football program. That’s where I grew that knowledge of video and leaning more toward the video side of things. I was hired here in Spring 2001.
The excitement of the game atmosphere was the initial draw. Now, after being at Vanderbilt for so long and getting to know the student-athletes and the focus on education, that whole aspect has really grown on me. It’s an exciting endeavor knowing we’re making a difference in people’s lives.
Back in 2001 we were still shooting everything on video tape. Once a tape had reached the end of its life cycle, we didn’t want it to get in the wrong hands, so we would have to zap all the tapes. We had a large electromagnet and ran the tapes across it and erased all the footage on there and then disposed of the tape. It would take hours. We would zap tapes until the electromagnet would get too hot and shut down and we’d take a break. We actually still have the machine in a closet here.
A few years ago, we changed the setup to where the sports have specific video personnel to cover all their coaching video needs. Our focus in this department now is on all of our live in-game production, SEC Network production, and longform videos. We shed any of the coaching video responsibilities to those sports-specific video coordinators. We produce Revealed, Fueling the Commodores, all the in-game content, intro videos, promos, headshots, as well as all of our SEC Network and digital telecasts.
Seeing the live broadcasts go off without a hitch and getting the fans fired up during games are rewarding aspects of the job. We work hand in hand with the marketing department. During a game, we’re relaying information back and forth, including what video we want to play or which song to play with a particular graphic or which live shot of the crowd to shoot in order to get a reaction and fire them up. It’s a joint process and that’s the fun part.
My wife Adrienne and I have been married for 13 years. She is an educational advocate for a local nonprofit agency. She assists families who have students with disabilities as they seek services and support in the students’ schools. She helps the families navigate through the process and helps them get the resources they need so the students can succeed.
We have two children, and we just like spending time together. There are so many games and events at Vanderbilt that it’s hard sometimes, so we value the time we have at home together.
Video takes a lot of work. A lot goes into the shooting of the videos from lighting to audio to choosing the right camera, the right lens, the right angles. Some people think video is like a Polaroid picture and it just comes out. But it takes a lot of time, effort and planning before you even shoot the first shot.
My biggest philosophy for managing this department is the importance of working together. We can’t get any of the work done just by ourselves. We have to work together as a group. We get to know each other well. We’re a family. That might sound cliché, but we spend a lot of time together so working well together is important so we can produce the best quality videos and telecasts.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss