Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

4 Must Watch Director’s Commentaries – Even if You’re Not a Film Geek

4 Must Watch Director's Commentaries - Even if You're Not a Film Geek

4 Director's Commentaries for any sensibility or taste! At least one of these will appeal to you...
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Learning the Pitfalls of HFR

Learn the Pitfalls of HFR

Don't make the mistake of paying more for a lower quality theater experience. Here's a look at what HFR really does to your image straight from a cinematographer's mouth...errr...pen...err...whatever.
Baseball Broadcasts: Behind the Scenes

Broadcasting Baseball

Ever wonder how the game gets from the field to your television set? We're sharing a behind-the-scenes look.

Baseball Broadcasts: Behind the Scenes, Part 3

Apr 19 2013 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

NOTE: This post is part three of a three-part series. Click here for Part One and/or Part Two.

If you’re interested in where the cameras are placed in a baseball stadium and what actions each one is assigned to, you probably want to start back on part one or two.

Part 3 begins a look at what other crew members are busy with behind-the-scenes. Most of these people are “on the truck” – so called because they often work from the production truck outside in the parking lot.

Production Monitors

Although it would seem the producer and director has a lot on their shoulders, even an average game of baseball can be so complicated that much of the instruction remains unspoken.

In the fast pace of sports broadcasting, each individual crew member needs to know their role in literally hundreds of situations before the broadcast even begins.

Just like on the field, everyone plays their own position and covers their own areas. In the fast-paced game-play, there’s often not enough time to tell anyone (let alone everyone) what to do. It helps when the crew members have experienced years of practice and exposure to new situations so that they always know what to do without a plethora of guidance during the game.

That is to say: a solid, experienced crew is just as important as its leaders.

Producer

Like in most productions, the producer is the one who pretty much runs the show. He or she is responsible for the program itself and making sure everyone is on the same page before and during the broadcast.

Much of the broadcast is planned out in a rundown the producer writes before the show (this answer questions like: In what inning do we recognize what sponsor? When do we break in with a game recap? etc.). However, sports broadcasting means rapidly changing situations and requires crew accuracy often within seconds or less.

Thus, as situations change, the producer communicates directly with the director and the on-air talent (play-by-play, color commentator, and any other analysts on the crew) thru headsets and earpieces.

This includes countdowns into and out of commercial breaks, cues for sponsored reads or other advertisements, or even a heads-up on certain shots or replay angles that the commentators might want to talk about. The latter is how the director can be ready with the shot of say, a manager’s reaction or the graphic of a sponsor, right as the analyst begins to talk about it.

The producer can also inject new stats into the broadcast as certain scenarios develop or call for certain replays (or volunteer which replay angles to show) during the broadcast.

STATS / GRAPHICS / ASSISTANT PRODUCER

Since the lead producer has so much riding on his or her shoulders, there is a team of individuals ready with support.

Statisticians serve as the in-game research department, helping the commentators and graphic coordinators by looking up numbers for various situations.

The graphics crew updates the graphics with new information as needed and readies the correct graphical elements at the right times. Other assistants can be added as necessary.

Director

While the producer is concerned with the overall scope of the broadcast, the director is concerned with the second-by-second rigor of calling for the right camera angles.

The director does most of the talking behind-the-scenes. Everytime you see a cut, it means the director has called for a new shot. Keep in mind, during the more exciting parts of the game, there might be several cuts a second.

It is the director who gives basic instruction to camera operators and the rest of the crew (pan up, follow this player, cues that replay, leave some space for a graphic, etc.) and also calls individual shots (i.e.: “ready 2, take 2” would be the cue for camera 2 to hold a shot at the ready, and then for the TD to “take” that shot live).

Production Switcher

Technical Director (T.D.)

The technical director sits beside the director on the truck and physically pushes the individual buttons on the production switcher to call up the individual angles, replays, and graphics as the director calls for them.

This leaves the director free to watch the monitors and communicate with the crew so everyone knows what’s up next.

Color Shaders

Harsh shadows and ever changing lighting conditions are part of the tough reality of shooting anything outdoors – and when a camera operator is tracking a 98 MPH fastball from sun to shade, the last thing they have time to do is adjust their own iris and grab a new white balance.

That’s where the color shaders come in. These operators sit in the production truck in front of a bank of monitors that display all the camera angles. They have the job of controlling the color and exposure of each shot remotely from that location.

This accomplishes two things. Obviously, it allow the camera operator to focus entirely on getting the right shot, framing, and movement. But more importantly, it assures that all the individual shots match in color temperature and brightness.

It’s amazingly hard to photograph two different things from two different locations and get them to match. Furthermore, the camera ops are helpless to do this themselves since they can only see their individual shot. Color shaders to the rescue!

Replay Operators

Instant replay is perhaps the most unique feature to watching a game on television. Replay operators are in charge of recording the various angles that you see and cuing them at the appropriate times during the game.

Unlike cameras, which are numbered, replay machines are typically either lettered (Replay A, B, C, etc.) or named for colors (Replay Red, Blue, Green, etc.). That way they can be referred to in brief as “C,” “Blue,” “F,” “Orange” and not be confused with live shots (referred to in brief as “1,” “2,” “3,” etc.).

Editor

The replay operators can throw together short, simple edits of clips from their stations, but for more complicated edits, there are dedicated editors on hand.

Oftentimes you’ll want to throw together a shot game recap or a highlights package of shots captured during a broadcast. When the replay isn’t good enough as is – maybe it’s too long or you want to show content from many places all at once – the footage is passed of to the editor to put these pieces together.

Typically you’ll see the editors’ work in the post-game highlights, but short compilations of shots after commercial breaks (or the collection of pre-game clips or shots from the previous day) may also be their handiwork.

Audio Board

Audio

This is pretty self explanatory. The board operator monitors levels and punches the channels for various mics or prerecorded sounds (music, graphic noises, etc.) on and off at the right times.

Other technicians are on hand to make sure everything is working properly and scramble to fix things when they aren’t.

Production Assistant (PA)

Sometimes referred to as “runners,” PAs are an entry level position that takes care of anything and everything else that needs accomplished during the broadcast.

It doesn’t take long for someone to need an extra hand or for an errand to need run. Production assistants exist so these things can be tackled without pulling another crew member away from their assigned task.

PAs fulfill an important role and have the opportunity to learn first-hand how the process works from a variety of different angles. It’s a great place to begin to learn about the process.

***

It takes a lot of people to pull off a modern broadcast like you see on your television at home. Lots of people with many years of combined experience are working behind-the-scenes to make sure you see the game without a hitch.

NOTE: This post is part three of a three-part series. Click here for Part One and/or Part Two.


Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.


Never miss a post. Follow with rss or email.

No One Has Added Their Take Yet. Be the First!

Add Your Take



Show Valid HTML Tags

Current clients can login here to access their accounts by using their provided username and password.

If you're not a current client you can submit an application.

Username

Password

Free Email Subscription

Enter your email address to receive blog updates delivered directly to your inbox (spam free, easily unsubcribe):