Academics

Communications students ready to launch rebranded webcast of THON

College of Communications senior Marielena Balouris, an executive producer for 46 LIVE, steps in front of the camera for a segment that will be part of the THON webcast. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In the week leading up to 46 LIVE, the rebranded and revamped webcast of the Penn State Dance Marathon, the finishing touches are being put into place.

“I don’t feel like we’re rushing,” said executive producer and director Dan Balton. “I feel like we’re in a pretty good situation. Basically, we have all the elements that we need. Now, it’s just putting them in place so they are ready to go for THON weekend.”

The THON webcast is conducted by students in the College of Communications. Typically, it draws thousands of viewers worldwide as people use it to connect and be a part of the effort to raise money to battle pediatric cancer.

The webcast kicks off from the Bryce Jordan Center with a pre-show at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, and runs through the end of THON on Sunday, Feb. 22. Along with http://webcast.thon.org, links to the webcast when it's live can be found at comm.psu.edu and thon.org.

In addition, 46 LIVE plans an active social media presence @FortySixLIVE on Twitter. 

According to Balton, the final week leading up to the event consists of scheduling time slots for the crew, scripting certain parts of the show, finishing edits on pre-shot videos and dancer interviews, and figuring out where segments will go. Members of the 46 LIVE team have THON’s schedule, so they can create an accompanying timeline of what they will be covering.

46 LIVE has nailed down its crew members and picked a cast of 20 people who will serve as on-air talent. At any given time, there will be between one and three people on camera. In total, there are around 15 positions that 46 LIVE has to account for at any given minute of THON. According to Balton, there is no bad time to be on camera.

“With THON, there is no weird hour,” said Balton. “There is constantly stuff going on. There is no primetime for THON. There are 46 hours of sporadic events going on.”

Members of 46 LIVE have already worked around 550 combined man-hours. Balton expects that number to increase to more than 1,000 hours following THON weekend. The group has also conducted more than 40 interviews, exceeding its goal of 30, and has compiled well over 100 gigabytes of raw video.

The hard work will come to fruition when 46 LIVE begins to set up at 10 a.m. Friday. While Balton is confident, he knows there will be hiccups along the way. The cast can’t replicate the Bryce Jordan Center and simulating how the event will go is a challenge.

“We know how to cover our tracks should something go wrong,” said Balton. “In a way, that makes me feel confident because those things that I am worried about, if they do happen, we will be able to up with a pretty quick way to work around it and solve that problem.”

Balton is certain about the people involved in the project.

““I’m working with the most talented people I have met at Penn State,” said Balton. “The faculty I have been working with has been nothing but supportive. THON has been extremely accommodating. For this being a very bold, new idea, I think it was a big risk for them and they trusted us and have been fantastic. I think we are set up to do something really incredible THON weekend. I have to be excited about that.”

Balton said success of the event will be based on if 46 LIVE did everything it could to make the webcast everything they wanted it to be.

Regardless, the event will be life-changing and influential.

“This is not just some production,” said Balton. “This is not just some show. This is a production that is covering an event that really affects tons of people’s lives.”

Last Updated June 02, 2021