Commentary and Report by Bill Bronston, MD.
Nine Youth Broadcasting and Media Association (YBAMA) members from Grant, Bear River, Cosumnes Oaks, Natomas Charter, Mesa Verde and Christian Brothers high schools are being trained to use the Access Sacramento remote video broadcast truck.
There was a lot of necessary explanations to describe what an industry standard production team must be able to accomplish in terms of planning, researching, organizing, and operationally doing a multi-hour video event. The basics included understanding how to carry out a project site survey that finds out every detail possible about the shoot whether this in a building, on a playing field, concert venue, cultural site etc. Checking the available spaces, involved people, security and support resources, anticipating problem situations, are major challenges for the producer and the person (talent) in-front of the cameras. Then, being able to set up and handle the 3 or 4 big Sony D50 camera systems with their tripods, monitors, zoom and power connections without breaking something and having everything work perfectly with no surprises at the event.
Some of us had had some experience with an all-in-one shoot challenge, but everyone was impressed with the complexity of the equipment and the challenges to understand and smoothly operate a remote truck studio system. The truck is packed with cameras, connectors of every sort, mixers, monitors, sound system tools and every piece of equipment needed to completely deliver a full blown, equipped, studio shoot team to do any job.
More important is becoming smartly familiar and versatile with the formal and very technical way in which instructions are communicated, by headset, between the shoot director who must manage every detailed aspect of a production project connecting everyone and cameras, sound, light, talent, program and replay design with fluid confidence and absolute confident split second to second attention.
The truck is normally checked out for 10-hour blocks. The time it takes to do a site survey at the start may require days and weeks of researching all the spaces, event background and personnel in the program to be shot, plotting interviews and b-roll acquisition ahead of time, followed by meticulous equipment setup, the actual event shoot and then meticulous breakdown and load to exit vary hugely depending on the event. With front end planning, Access Sacramento is flexible about adding more time if the situation calls for a longer production. Planning for water, ice and food for all the staff, bathroom resources, and attention to heat and work conditions to make sure no one gets dehydrated and collapses, or does not have the strength to handle the physical demands of multi-hour heavy work were also discussed as part of professional prep.
The way Access Sacramento works is that upon the completion of four intense training sessions, Access Sacramento members will be certified to make a reservation to ask for the remote truck that they supply with an engineer and field expert to help the newly certified team. Issues of driving, liability, legal access and trouble-shooting are covered. Plus, once trained, Access Sacramento is always looking for team members to add to their on-call day-to-day production needs and will offer lots of opportunities for each trained volunteer to gain additional experience on a variety of programs.
In session two, trainees will get deeper into essential pre-production skills that will include having to build and breakdown the big Sony camera systems, and the geometry of stationing the cameras to get wide, close up, cross coverage and ‘iso’ (talent or special assignment) coverage. Also we will begin to be introduced to the truck’s audio and mixer boards and functions.
Each trainee becomes familiar with all the pieces of this complex and creative puzzle and in order to fill in on all the jobs that include producer, director, technical director, camera, graphics and CG operations, audio, lighting, mixing, instant replay (where that is essential in sports events). The supervising roles of engineer and technical assistant are filled in by Access professionals, especially when users are new to the work to ensure project success.
Some random technical notes from today included tips about
- Capturing and cutting music event coverage that tends to synch with the tempo of the performance. • For covering plays, there must be a real pre-plan and to anticipate critical moments in the drama that may only be fleeting or happen once.
- The shots should always try and capture movement slowly that opens before the movement starts and closes before the movement is ended.
- For public access coverage, people expect to see themselves or their relatives in the coverage so the camera must try and capture everybody and include new groups in good lighting!
Camera/tripod building protocol included:
- the sequence of preparation begins with building the tripod with its standing with legs set, set the camera plate in properly, lock camera on, lock on the monitor box, add zoom control to right handle and connect, add focus mechanism to left handle and connect to lens front, check for tripod stability with front leg forward to prevent tipping with front loaded weight.
- Set tripod and camera height considering audience and sight line obstruction. Lens should be at eye level but ideal is to set camera at highest point consistent with its position in relation to the audience in front to avoid shoot line obstruction, and, behind to prevent sight line obstruction
- When laying the tripod down, never lean it on anything to avoid it falling and injury.
*Always protect the connector plugs!! They are inserted last and removed first when breakdown.
- Operator must lock tilt key when walking away to prevent system falling forward.
- The final connector is the 26 pin head that links all audio visual signal to the truck.
- Break down sequence – remove monitor, remove zoom connector, remove lens connector, Unlock and remove camera, remove camera plate, close tripod and lay down, remove handles.
There was a lot to think about and settle into when the day was over. This YBAMA training series is really exciting and something that is very rare to fully learn and experience within, and to add to, our high school programs alone.