“You have the best job in the world”. That is what people say to me when they see me manning my post at Fenway Park in Boston Massachusetts.
This is how I reply, “Shooting a Red Sox game day after day was like an artist being forced to paint the same exact picture over and over again on a blank canvas”.
My camera position at Fenway Park never moves from the left field roof, baseball is a monotonous game with no clock, and my responsibilities as a broadcast cameraman to cover the game are the same everyday.
I am a guy who likes a challenge, I like working a job outside my comfort zone, and I love trying something new. But my job has become very repetitive, boring and lacking creativity.
So why not just move me to another camera position in the ball park? Well, since I am not a sports fan and the luster of historic Fenway has become tarnished, this would not scratch my creative itch as a cinematographer.
I am not complaining about working, let me be clear, many people are out of work and are fighting to pay their mortgage. I am honored to work for the Red Sox and the New England Sports Network (NESN), but there is a large void that I must fill, and it is not about the money.
A few days ago, a guy on Twitter, @markutley sent me a message with a link that inspired me. I had posted the following message to the twitter world in a discouraged state and Mark sent me the following response:
I was frustrated about how some of my clients had the “just get it on the air” mentality with broadcast television. I’m not talking cable access with no budget, this is big budget broadcast television. It’s a privilege to be working with high end TV equipment surrounded by talented people. But it seems today with so many channels, the important basics of television production are being ignored. Bad technique is being practiced, standards are not adopted and enforced and some technicians are just pain lazy. Making “Good TV” was being diluted with garbage. So I begin my internet rant…
I spoke to one of the seasoned veterans on the NESN Red Sox show, his name is Bob. I think he is nearly 60 years old. He is a cameraman who has been in the game for many years. He is different from everyone else. He ignores call time and shows up an hour early every day, he almost always has sweat stains on his shirt, mud and grease on his hands and truly cares about his little spot on the television broadcast. Bob fought for an HMI light, c-stands, a silk, and an extra pair of hands at his position to get his pre-game interviews to look as good as possible.
Sometimes Bobby’s insanity drives people crazy, but he cares about the end product, just like me. Fortunately, he and I work for a producer and director who run a tight ship and listen to what we have to say. But not all jobs I have worked on have this sort of communication and discipline. This is one of the reasons the NESN broadcast has won many television awards during my ten years on the show.
I have learned a lot from Bob over the years, but in one conversation I had with him, he spoke about television when it was in its infancy. A time where there were not many jobs in the industry and very few channels. In fact, there were only three: ABC, CBS, NBC.
Bob told me that working in television back in the day was a very prestigious occupation. When you showed up with a camera, people moved out of the way and showed respect. Money was put into production, not into an executive producers pocket. Technical jobs were so scarce, that if you worked in broadcast television you had to care and work hard. Planning and execution was a big deal. But today, with so much television being produced, I find myself working alongside people who only care about the paycheck.
Ok, the rant is over.
Mark Utley sent me a link to a film documentary shot two years before I was born. The 1976 film is called “Seconds to Play” and it chronicles the behind the scenes on ABC Sports’ coverage of NCAA college football. Andy Sidaris was the original director of ABC’s football broadcasts and revolutionized how sports are covered on television. He later moved on to direct movies and passed away a few years ago.
The film is in two parts, check them out below. Worth the time. After I viewed them, it reminded me why I love this business and gave me a bit of history on how much remote sports television broadcasting has changed and stayed the same.
Not too much has changed since 1976 as far as the procedure of making this type of television. Today, a truck pulls in, freelances show up, we unload the gear, drag it to positions in a sports arena using carts, set it up, check to make sure the gear is working, go to lunch, shoot the game, strike the gear and go home.
The biggest difference is that the TV gear and resolution has changed. Also, the number of trucks and time needed to set up have been chopped way down. Back in 1976, five trucks were needed. Today, usually a college football game is covered with just a single 53 foot trailer. Most of the time, we show up 6 hours before tip off, and work about a ten hour day. Back in 1976, weeks of planning and days of set up were needed.
That being said, today in Boston at Fenway Park we are putting out great television documenting an unscripted live event in sports television. Graphics and long sharp lenses help tell the story and bring the emotion into your living room. Over time, the individual crafts have been refined, the gear has been improved greatly in design and the efficiency on the job is remarkable.
Every ship needs a good captain and the NESN show is lucky to have a strong and talented Director calling the shots.
As for us camera guys, many of the buildings and arenas we work in are pre-cabled and have elevators to get gear easily into position.
Back in the day, people would run multi-core camera cable as thick as a man’s arm. Some of these cables had over 50 individual metal wire conductors! Now, we use mostly three conductor Triax cable or SMPTE fiber cable for our cameras.
Also, I found it funny that the truck personal would smoke cigarettes in the production trailer! This goes in the same idiotic category as smoking on an airplane I suppose. Progress, knowledge and respect for others has helped us over time move forward to live and work in a civilized society.
Today in 2011, safety and avoiding sexual harassment are big in sports television. Along with the cutting edge technology like image stabilized telescope-like lenses, HD and 3D that I love to play around with.
Take a look at a few videos I put together over the last few years. I have been working in sports television for over ten years and occasionally, I would take the time to document my day. I shot and edited most of these with exception of the “Bruins Breakaway BTS” and Cox BTS. The Bruins show was shot by Eric Sharmer and edited at NESN. Anthony Finucane edited the Cox Sports college basketball BTS video. Enjoy and post questions below.
Check out this behind the scenes shot for a show called “Bruins Breakaway” on NESN. It documents one day at Boston Bruins as we all setup and shoot an NHL game.