by Dennis Dalman
When Brian Lommel was setting up his video gear for a hockey game, a woman walked over to him with tears in her eyes and thanked him.
She told Lommel that, thanks to him, her son’s grandmother, who lives in a Southern state, was finally able to watch her grandson play hockey – the first time she was able to see him play.
A Sartell resident, Lommel is executive producer/owner, along with co-owner Jason Bambenek, of Bitstream Productions, which he founded in November of last year. Lommel, 53, has a degree in marketing from St. Cloud State University.
Since that time, he – with help from wife Donna – has videotaped almost 120 mainly hockey games for broadcast on YouTube. Most of the local games were played at the Bernick’s Arena in Sartell. At first, Lommel’s son Jonathan was his video assistant, but when he landed a full-time job elsewhere, Donna gladly agreed to help as assistant videographer, and there they were every weekend from November through late March, filming the games.
The groups Lommels work with as videographers are Sartell Youth Hockey, Storm’n Sabres Girls High School Hockey Team, St. John’s University Club Hockey Team, Sauk Rapids/Sartell Lacrosse Team, St. Cloud Muskies Amateur Baseball, A110 Athletics, Western Collegiate Club Hockey Association and Minnesota Warriors Hockey.
Hockey seems to run in the blood of the Lommel family. Brian and son Jonathan are goaltenders for the Hockey Finders League. Daughter Jayden plays for the Storm’n Sabres hockey team and while wife Donna never played hockey, she was a cheerleader for the hockey team when she was a student at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. The oldest Lommel daughter, Jordan, doesn’t play hockey, but she loves to dance.
It was his love of hockey and his two decades of expertise with technology and videography that convinced Lommel to form his production company. When he worked years ago for Best Buy, he missed so many of Jayden’s games and felt bad about it. He was also keenly aware of how many parents, siblings and relatives of hockey players had to miss games because of busy scheduling conflicts or other reasons.
Wouldn’t it be nice, he thought, if he could create professional video productions of the games for all to see when time allowed? His instinct was right on the mark. Bitstream Productions’ games coverage now averages 350 views each game, with some as many as 1,000 views, including some games watched as far away as Afghanistan. The productions are also big hits with coaches and players who watch the games to study the plays and to improve their skills.
“I always thought these local teams don’t get as much coverage as they deserve,” Lommel said. “It’s important to tell their stories, their playing, on video.”
The fans of Bitstream wholeheartedly agree. For example, a neighbor told Lommel she was stunned to see her young son up so early one morning, eating cereal in his room – such a rarity because usually she would have to coax, cajole and all-but-pry him out of bed in the mornings. That morning, she discovered, he was avidly watching a Bitstream video of him and his Mites teammates playing hockey.
And it’s not just hockey fans who enjoy Bitstream productions. The Lommels have also recorded amateur baseball and lacrosse games. In fact, in late July, they’ll record 12 games for the Waite Park Babe Ruth Association.
Lommel’s company has two mottoes: “Bringing Action to You!” and “Changing the Way We Watch Youth Sports.” He had seen other amateur sports productions on YouTube, but most often they lacked quality. Lommel was determined to do it the right way and so he worked very hard to tweak his skills and to find just the right technological solutions. He and Donna do the recording, but they also have unmanned cameras stationed here and there at a field or arena. Lommel also does productions of nonsporting events, complete with post-production services.
“It takes a lot of prep work,” he said. “We have to plot out the camera positions, prepare a lot of graphics, work in the logos and advertisements. The whole thing is an ongoing process of discovery and invention, and sometimes we find ourselves doing things on the fly. I used to take a photo of the scoreboard and then superimpose it, but now I can do it automatically right from the camera. We can also do slow motion now. The (hockey) goal cameras we figured out could be placed on glass with suction cups.”
Bitstream Productions is a full-time job for Brian and Donna Lommel, with huge help from co-owner Bambenek, who is superb at strategizing the business, Lommel noted.
“My job is an example of that saying about finding something you love and it won’t feel like work,” Lommel said. “That’s it exactly.”
To sample some of the Lommels’ works, visit www.bitstreamproductions.live
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.