Max Negin chalks up seventh Olympics with broadcast work at Tokyo games

The assistant professor of cinema and television arts is helping produce “Tokyo LIVE,” a program airing on NBC’s Peacock streaming service that features live events, highlights and athlete interviews.

As millions around the world have watched the Olympics during the past two weeks, Max Negin is watching, too. But instead of one TV set, the assistant professor of cinema and television arts is watching the international competition on several – as he works the Olympics for the seventh time this summer in Tokyo.

Assistant Professor Max Negin sits in an NBC control room while helping produce “Tokyo LIVE,” a program airing on the Peacock streaming service.

Negin is working on “Tokyo LIVE,” a show on NBC’s Peacock streaming service hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila of NBC’s popular “American Ninja Warrior” program. The show contains live events, highlights and interviews with athletes and NBC commentators. Negin’s role is to edit and roll packages and highlights.

“Being live for five to seven hours means a very focused and dedicated group of people all have to communicate and pull in the same direction to handle sudden changes, such as breaking stories or amazing moments,” Negin said. “What I am doing now is more of what I do in a typical freelance situation — working a live event and navigating things happening in real time, while turning them around and successfully editing something in a quick fashion.”

Negin worked his first Olympic games with NBC in Beijing in 2008, and with each new Olympics come new shifts, new duties and new technologies. This year offers the unique experience of processing digital media for a live broadcast. Additionally, NBC is covering events in venues that are devoid of fans, which has required a creative approach to bring in the cheering, hugs and tears that would typically follow each victory.

“The men’s artistic gymnastics all-around competition was won by a Japanese gymnast, and if this had been a typical Olympics, that would have been an amazing crowd scene to have,” Negin said.

NBC has brought video of fans and family members who are watching events remotely into the broadcast to help tell the complete story as those cheers go up from around the world. “You still have that moment of family connections and the emotional release when someone does something amazing,” he said. “They are definitely approaching it creatively. NBC was very conscious about how to keep the families of the athletes as part of their storytelling.”

Of course this year, there’s the added layer of the health and safety precautions being taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After arriving in Tokyo before the start of the games, Negin was required to quarantine within the compound for 14 days. As of Friday, July 30, he had been tested for the virus six times.

Negin said leading up to the games, there was an uncertainty about whether they were actually going to go on, given the continued impact from the pandemic globally. That sense of uncertainty — about whether the games will make it to the closing ceremony without being majorly disrupted by the pandemic or even cancelled, has persisted in Tokyo, he said.

“There is something in the air that this is a precarious public health situation, and you have that thought in the back of your mind that maybe this will be over tomorrow because of an outbreak,” Negin said. “I feel a lot of personal responsibility, and so many people here feel that responsibility, to take the steps we all need to take to be healthy and safe.”

Negin’s role provides the opportunity for him to work side-by-side with many high-level industry professionals as well as to collaborate with people across the media industry. According to Negin, the best part of his experience is interacting with these world-class media production professionals and bringing their knowledge and insights back to the Elon classroom.

While in Tokyo, Negin poses with Shaun Goodman ’23, a cinema and television arts major, who is also working at the Olympic Games.

“Teaching in the cinema and television arts major is wonderful and being able to get first-hand experience reinforces and updates my knowledge base,” Negin said. “It helps keep me connected to up-to-the-minute practices of arguably the most complicated and extensive production event in the world.”

He had the opportunity to sit next to the executive producer of the opening ceremonies and was was able to tune into a discussion about how the team approached NBC’s coverage of the event and adapted to the unexpected as it played out for a global audience. “I’m learning in and around an environment where I am privy to a lot of fascinating conversations,” Negin said. “It’s fascinating to know the things they worry about and how they fix them, and how quickly they fix them. He (the executive producer) did six hours of live television basically flawlessly, and he was talking about one mistake — something that rolled early — and that was what he was focused on. Even he beats himself up on that one mistake he makes.”

Negin isn’t the only Elon connection impacting the Tokyo Games. Coming off her coverage of the NBA Champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, Zora Stephenson ’15 has been covering basketball at the Olympics for NBC.

Rising junior Shaun Goodman, a cinema and television arts major, is also in Toyko working at the International Broadcast Centre. Additionally, Emmanuel Tobe ’21, a freelance digital production assistant at NBC Sports, and Ellie Whittington ’18, a freelance member of the social media team at NBC Sports, are contributing in remote roles. Lindsay Kimble Carney ’13, a journalism graduate, is covering the Tokyo Olympics as senior news and sports editor at People.

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“Being able to talk to current students and Elon alums who are also working and covering the Olympics makes the journey of education come to life,” Negin said. “I am truly blessed to have had the joy of teaching students who go on to great careers and are willing to share their journey with me as well as future generations of Elon students.”

Negin said he’s thankful for the support from Elon and the School of Communications that allows him to play a role in events like the Olympics and to continue to hone his professional skills. “I definitely feel luck to be at an institution that supports me in pursuing these unique professional development opportunities,” Negin said. “There so much value to me in doing this.”