IUP Football Diary, Week Three: At Home at Last

By David Lind

Executive Producer, WIUP-TV

The third in a series of weekly articles that go behind the scenes of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s TV production of the school’s 10-game football season. Lind offers insight into what it takes to produce college-football coverage in a cost-effective manner. This week, he and his team are at home, but not everything goes smoothly.

After two long-distance away games, we finally had our first home game. I met with the student director, as I do every Wednesday, to go over the last game (a cozy 63-3 win over Millersville) and figure out how the production could be improved.

In terms of changes, we identified that the up camerapersons still need to work on framing shots and the technical director needs quicker response when takes were called, hitting the right sequence of buttons for clock insertions during the game and taking the clock out for commercial breaks (PSAs).

Saturday’s game was a 4:00 p.m. kickoff, and the crew reported to the TV station at noon to load the production truck with Webcasting equipment, cameras, tripods, and batteries for the field, clock, and cameras for the endzone. Setup of the cameras and cabling was done very quickly, thanks to having an experienced crew familiar with the facility. One difference from being on the road is, we do have to provide extra audio and video feeds for Webcasting and to the IUP president’s box. Normally, we have an additional feed for live broadcasts on our cable channel, but this year, IUP’s athletic department decided not to broadcast home games live.

After setup, the crew made sure everything was in working order before breaking for lunch at 2 p.m. When the crew returned, everyone took their position so I could check camera settings. Because we don’t have camera-control units in the truck, I have to go to each camera and help the operator set the switches to the proper settings so the color and brightness matches on each camera. Each cameraperson also has the proper neutral density and color temperature filters on hand, and they’ll change them as the day progresses or when weather conditions change. Personally, when setting cameras, I like either day games with light overcast or night games.

We did have one challenge in that our character-generator operator was at the radio station earlier in the day and 15 minutes before kickoff was still not on-site. I immediately appointed one of the extra B-roll camera persons who has CG experience (but not with sports productions) to operate the CG with help from the experienced crew in the truck, who taught a quick 15-minute crash course on CG procedures. I then went up to the announcers box so I would be in my normal position for the game.

The production of the game started out smoothly, and the student director was doing a fantastic job. He was cutting to all cameras at the appropriate times developing a “flow” that I always talk to him about. The new CG person, I thought, was doing a great job with some small mistakes — not bad for first time doing the job.

Then came the fun. At the beginning of the first quarter, my headset went dead, and I had no communications back to the truck, with the exception of a walkie-talkie allowing me to inform the director that he was on his own. We didn’t have another headset so I sat back to evaluate the production. The only time I would get back to the truck would be at halftime.

At halftime, I made my way to the truck to tell everyone what a fantastic job they were doing. But that was when all heck broke loose.

First, the CG operator did, in fact, show up for the game, arriving 10 minutes before the game began. If I had known that, it would have changed our production as we were planning on introducing new graphics for the scorecard, team lineups, and a new credit roll. We also had a new color announcer, and the wrong identifier was used.

Topping it off, because of the noise in the truck, no one heard me say that my headset was broken. Last, our wireless stadium microphone was not working (dead batteries), but it was an important part of our coverage of a special halftime ceremony. The result? The marching band was seen but not heard by Webcast viewers. By the time we got the new batteries into the mic, halftime was over.

The dead mic is lesson one: never assume anything. The person in charge of audio should have replaced the battery before the game. But the microphone was working during the first quarter so he assumed everything was okay. Never assume!

Then it was time for the second half. The director continued to do a fantastic job, and the crew did not get as tired as they did during the Millersville game. We did run into a problem when the ground-camera cable broke when someone on the sideline stood on the cable causing the BNC cable to separate from the connector. The result? We lost the camera for the rest of the game (the upside is that I was able to take the headset from the cable puller).

Losing the camera required some post-game changes as the post-game interview by our field reporter would need to be done by one of the up camerapeople. Unfortunately, once again, a message didn’t get relayed. All was fine until the player of the game was interviewed with his back to the camera.

When the interviews were over, we closed out of the game, and I headed back to the truck. That was when I was informed that we had run out of tape during part of the fourth quarter. Because we were doing a Webcast, the halftime ceremony was supposed to be recorded to a different tape. Then, once the ceremony was over, the game tape would be reinserted so we would have the entire game on one tape.

But that didn’t happen because of another miscommunication, and the tape stopped in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Luckily, we also use a Sony DSRDR1000 hard-disc VTR, s I was able to salvage the 16 minutes we missed, although it did not have audio.

So on Monday, thankfully, I was able to edit in the missing game footage, and we added a graphic and a clock countdown letting viewers know when the audio would return.

Even though we had problems during the game, I was really impressed by how the student director covered the game. The problems we encountered will be solved before our next game. And luckily, it is an away game that is 90 minutes away. Departure time will be 6:30 a.m., with kickoff at noon. Hopefully, the whole crew will be there because, if I have any missing crew members at 6:30 a.m., I will have to replace them for the rest of the season. I really dislike doing that — after all, they are college students — but they have to realize what the real work world is like.