IUP Football Diary, Week 9: Staffers Step Up

By David Lind
Executive Producer, WIUP-TV
The eighth 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. In week nine (Lind took a break last week), crew members step up to fill missed assignments.
Game nine of the season took us to Gannon University in Erie, PA, a three-hour drive. We left Indiana at 6 a.m. for the 1:00 kickoff missing two crew members, the CG operator and cable puller. Both have missed games in the past and been warned on the consequences of unexcused absences. I am now waiting for them to contact me. Had they told me during the week that they couldn’t make the game, I would have had time to rework crew assignments.
Our main cameraperson has been learning the character generator and will be moving into that position for next fall. He has already spent his time between classes to familiarize himself with the operation and the creation of graphics. He has quickly learned how the CG operates and even started to create new graphics and animated graphic transitions for instant replays. So, as soon as the truck pulled into the stadium, he was on the CG and implemented his new graphics, even though he could have played it safe by using the stored football graphics. I reviewed his graphics and had him refine them for the “look” I wanted. I am still amazed at how fast he grasped my concepts and implemented the refinements. We both got stuck on a programming issue, but a quick call to our system technician solved the problem, and we were set to go. The graphics looked good; now all he had to do was get through his first game.
The press box at Gannon was right behind — and I do mean right behind the IUP bench. We could get only one camera on the top, but it was on the 50-yard line, which made for outstanding shots of the game.
Since we didn’t have a cable puller, I placed our B-roll/Webcaster on the sidelines with our usual sideline cameraperson. The new sideline operator would be the cable puller for the coin toss and then would cover the action from the 30-yard line to the end zone; our normal sideline cameraperson would cover the team bench, coaches, and action from the other 30-yard line. One thing great about D2 football and a great coach: our sideline cameras can go right into the bench area to get shots of players, injuries, coaches, etc. Of course, we do this only when our team is on the same sideline as the cameras, and we never do it if the opponent is on the same side.
Our end-zone cameraman had to set up on the roof of a two-story building on the right side behind the end zone. The angle was not good for field goals or extra points but did have good shots for game action when plays where past the 50 at his end.
The first half of the game went pretty well. Camerapersons had to get used to our new upper-third graphic bar for clock, score, downs, yardage, etc. Our B-roll cameraperson, who was operating the sideline camera, had some outstanding shots of coaches and players on the sideline and “hero shots” on the field. He also did a great job during the postgame interviews. I believe I will use the same setup for sideline cameras for this weekend’s home game.
Our new graphics person struggled a little bit in getting the proper slates and graphic information up in time, but, for his first experience in an actual game production, he did a very good job. He will be operating the CG this Saturday for our final game of the season.
As for the second half of game nine, everything flowed better than the first half. All in all, it was a very good production of the game.
Anybody doing sports productions for away games needs to be very flexible on production setups. I always call the home team’s sports information director (SID) on the Monday before the game to see if he can meet our requirements of camera positions, cable runs, truck parking, etc. I also check the opponent’s athletics Website for stadium photos so I have an idea of what to expect; I have even Googled satellite photos of stadiums to get a better idea of where the production truck can go and especially the press box and stadium seating. I always have a plan B and C if the facilities are not ideal for sports production. For the 1% of SIDs who aren’t great to work with, I remind them it is their responsibility to make sure they meet the needs of visiting media. If they are inflexible, I ask our Student Affairs VP to contact his or her counterpart at the home team’s university. I only had to do this once, and it worked so well, we were met with open arms.
One last budget item to discuss: tape stock. Our budget keeps us using this format. We use Panasonic DVCPro 50 AJ-SP92L, which enables us to record up to three hours, enough for a football game minus halftime (halftime is recorded on another tape). Since Panasonic no longer manufactures this tape, finding it is difficult, although I have found a supplier, who will remain nameless. We pay $150 a tape, so our tape budget is sky high since I have to provide two copies of the game to cable outlets whose digital decks are the same as ours. Panasonic now makes a new version of the tape, but it has a bigger case, and that means you have to purchase a new record deck, which is out of our price range and that of our cable outlets. Hopefully, someday we will be able to afford other ways to record our games.
A lesson learned — and it’s all on me. Our production panel truck is about 12 feet high. I have driven it for six years now, being careful about pulling into motels or fast-food places with low overhangs or destroying the side mirrors when going through tolls. I backed into a pole once, which didn’t cause any damage, but I never gave any thought to tree limbs. At Gannon, the street had tree limbs about 10 feet off the ground. As I pulled into the stadium entrance, I hit those limbs and scratched the $3,500 promotional wrap on the panel portion and the newly sealed roof of the truck. The crew were laughing hysterically because of the look on my face and the noise as those limbs scraped down the side. Small branches and leaves were falling all over the place. Now I will be leery of any trees I get near, and I hope the marks can be repaired.