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Treading Water in the Freelance Pool: A Day in the Life of an A-2 on a Live Sports Broadcast (Part 2)


Howdy Campers! Yesterday, we looked at an overview of a remote broadcast. Today, let’s take a sardonic second to outline the different positions viewed on the mobile unit truck for most sports broadcasts. Read on….


The Producer deals with sponsored elements (they PAY for all this), coordinates with master control, choreographs the pre-taped elements, makes most of the decisions about the flow of the show and keeps play-by-play talent happy and fed. He/she has the final word in all matters in and around the truck, unless the talent has a better contract with the rights holder and wants something else. Bottom line: BE INVISIBLE.

The Director “calls” the cameras to be “taken” to “air” and may scream at anyone who doesn’t follow his/her spoken or telepathic commands. The good ones will keep the crew happy. Rookie directors, though, are not confident with their skills and can take it out on the crew. Bringing him/her a soda or coffee during the broadcast will go a long way in raising your stock. Because when the director is happy, then the whole crew makes out. Bottom line: GIVE ‘EM A WIDE BERTH.

The TD or technical director “switches the show” by pushing buttons and faders to follow the video directions of the director. This person is responsible for the whole crew. When there is a technical or personnel problem of conflict, we let the TD know and he/she can fly it up the proper flag pole. Bottom line: BE NICE.

The Chyron Operator and Coordinator gets all the graphic stuff ready to be built into pages to be blended into the pictures (ie scores and stats). They usually require some intercom fix that will only be requested thirty seconds before “air”. They work too hard and don’t get out much. If there are credits at the end of a show, be nice….otherwise….well, be nice anyway. They know how to spell. Bottom line: LET THEM BE NICE TO YOU.

The AD or assistant director. This poor guy must translate the demands of the producer and director to the guy pushing buttons at master-control (a mythical place where we believe our audio and video signals are sent for transmission to the real world). They also count us all down (….ten to us….9…8…7… etc.). Bottom line: LEAVE THEM ALONE.

The Stage Manager is a wrangler of the talent and keeps the play-by-play table and the set in tidy order. They usually have limited or no technical knowledge. So, be prepared if they ask you a ton of questions. Bottom line: KEEP AN EYE ON THEM.

The Tape Ops record and play back the game. If there is a “money reel”, the commercials are on it and are rolled from the truck. The slo-mo replays are coordinated by the producer and called for by the director. Usually there is a “lead tape op” who calls the shots in the tape room. In the old days of 1-inch open reel tape, these guys/gals would actually roll the tape reels by hand for the slo-mo effect. Now, they use controllers with throttle-like handles. They aren’t even “tape” machines anymore, but rather hard drive recording devices. Most tape-ops don’t expect much help loading and unloading the truck, but they run a fun place to hang out during the show. Bottom line: BE NICE AND USE PROTECTION.

The EIC or engineer in charge is sort of the captain of the ship. Once call the “Truck Mother”, he/she goes with the truck and is responsible for all aboard – people, parts and equipment. These folks are there to fix broken stuff and to whine to, in general. Most are good sleepers, but I’ll try not to generalize. They’re smart and overworked. These fine folks are the ones who will direct you to all the gear and cables you’ll need in the truck. Bottom line: WAKE THEM GENTLY.

The Truck Driver is on the road with the truck at all times. He/she knows where all the stuff is hidden and even can help with site-related problems, such as where to find a house dolly, find the person with the keys to the booth or any other such place you might need entry. Bottom line: A VALUABLE RESOURCE, BE VERY NICE.

The Video Shader is responsible for how the picture looks. He/she remotely activates filters and iris and electronic tweakage to adjust the cameras. They are a strange collection of pocket protectors and computer nerds. Bottom line: IF YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR PC, BE NICE.

The Camera Operators are the lead guitar players of the broadcast band. They are ego-driven carnies that get grumpy if they don’t have lunch. If you need help with a microphone on a camera, don’t complicate their lives. Bottom line: KEEP CLEAR.

The A-1 or Mixer, ie your boss. The mixer is responsible for everything audio. This means phones, PL intercom, transmission, audio from the network (back-haul), music from many sources, sound from videotape playback, audio to simulcasts, house interface, talent IFB, telephones in and around the truck and so on. Be gentle and remember they have a lot of stuff to do all at once, so if they seem testy, cut them some slack. It ain’t no fun in the big chair! They are happiest if they never leave the truck. This, of course, means that all errands must be run by yours truly, unless you can find someone even lower on the food chain than you. Bottom line: DO WHATEVER THEY SAY, YOUR CAREER DEPENDS ON IT.

The Utilities are a bit lower in the food chain of command. These poor souls schlep the gear and pull cables for the matador-like camera operators. They’ll want to impress you with a long list of very important gigs that they’ve worked on recently. Be wary of any responsibilities you pass on to them because they may not complete the task at hand in the way you need them to. Remember, you’re ultimately the one responsible – whether they do it or you do it. Bottom line: BE NON-COMMITALLY NICE.

The PAs or production assistants do what their told by their own boss. Bottom line: IGNORE THEM.

Ok, so let’s review what we’ve learned so far. First, we get coffee ans schmooze and scope out where we’ll spend time during the lulls in the show. Then, we need to check with the A-1 and producer to see what we’ll need for the show and get access to the field/court and press box where the announce booth with be located. Getting on the producer’s good side now would be wise because you never know what kind of “swag” (ie freebies like hats, t-shirts, jackets or tickets) are available on a limited basis. After you stow your giveaways in a safe place, the A-1 will let you know what mult assignments will be used. Run the marked mults now if you can find a free utility or two. Then find the milk crates (the ones that are NOT supposed to be taken from 7-11) and fill one or two with the gear you’ll need and find a way to get them to where you need them to be. Ask the EIC where all the cable and equipment is needed. A good working relationship between you and the EIC will smooth the way for a good show, so remember……wake them very gently.

Up next: Tips and tricks to make your day go smoothly.

written by Rom Rosenblum, Clear-Com Applications Minke