Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mini Doughnuts and Cotton Candy

Several years ago while I was still a technical Supervisor, I was sitting in my office minding my own business, when I am summoned by our news director of the day, Bob. Bob says to me, "We are going to take the show on the road."
You see he wants to take our News Program and relocate it to the annual Fair in Southern BC, the Pacific National Exhibition. I guess he saw the value of having some sort of presence at an event that see's like a million people come through the gates.
The problem for me was the opening day of the fair was less that a week away and there was little (read NO ) budget for this. His mind movie involved interactive sets, editing shooting and doing a half hour Daily news show all while a noisy parade passed by. Oh god, I thought I would have a stroke. The long and the short of it was, we did the best we could with what we had to work with and so began our 8 year relationship with the fair-goers of the PNE.

In 2002 our general manager at that time also understood the value of our presence at the Fair. He was a man of action and enabled us to finally put together an attraction that continues to this day. We now do all of our suppertime news shows from the Fair grounds. Both weekday and weekend. Our promotions department have a tent set up next to our stage and have a photo booth where viewers can have a photo of themselves with their favorite TV show.
The "barkers" -the folks who take the mic and encourage passers by to stop in and check out the CTV Broadcast Center, give away prizes and entertain folks in the line waiting for pictures.
It sure has grown from our meager little half hour from our Microwave truck in 1998.
One of the big draws for people is a free draw that we have. We give away a trip for two every evening aboard our News Gathering helicopter. The flight leaves from the nearby Race Track. In past years I have been on flight duty during the fair and flew with many prize winners. I especially enjoyed having folks aboard that have never experienced helicopter flight. We make sure that each guest aboard recieves a photo of themselves during the flight. The smiles and excietment in the voices of our guest tell it all. Its' the best ride at the PNE and it's free. I never get tired of seeing guests leave happy.
Back at the main stage of the show, the casts begin with an off air pre game show, explaining to the people gathered as they enjoy their mini doughnuts or cotton candy, how a broadcast is put together. They have been hosted by Reporters and Anchors. They too give away some hats and T-shirts and get the masses ready for news time. They introduce the crew on the set and demonstrate how a promter works, usually asking someone from the audience to come up and give it a try. They introduce Jimmy the Floor Director and Jimmy counts down into the show and like magic we are on the air. The audience assembled can watch the cast on the big screen.

Our Weather and Sports team are usually located at some other place in the park. It's different everyday. The object of course is to give the viewer the sense that they too are at the park eventhough they might be watching in their own living room. The production team for those segments are usuall a camera op , a truck op a producer and audio A2. Back at the broadcast center, there are 4 camera ops, floor director, IT, audio A-2, swithcer, engineer, lighting tech, Audio Tech, ENG/troubleshooter , and ENG editor. That doesn't mention the staff back at the control room back at our studios downtown. And don't forget the team of editors and ENG shooters/ Truck ops and reporters that have spent the day collecting the stories that make the show. Then there are the show producers, directors, audio, PA's, tech coords, feed and play techs, and the list goes on. So you see how labour intensive a news broadcast is.

After the show, our anchors from both shows are available for questions and a photo with the anchor team. We take polaroids and give them a frame and folks take a little piece of the experience back home with them.
It connects us with the public and the public comes away with a better understanding of just what makes a Broadcast possible. All while enjoying a bit of popcorn and perhaps an ice cream.

Yes Bob, you were right, it has value.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thirteen Hours of Nothin'

I lucked out the week following the Abbotsford Air Show. I found myself gearing up for my Flight week aboard Chopper 9. Normally, and this week was no different, I am always jacked up with anticipation of what the week might bring. The weather, beautiful flying weather. The summer months rarely disappoint. The winter season however, flight weeks can be sabotaged by days of low cloud and poor visibility, but I am months away from all that so this week should be a good one.
What I hadn't anticipated was my friend and colleague, Flight Reporter Dave Mach Daddy Kincaid, had booked the week off on Vacation. That left little old me out at the airport waiting like a coiled spring to leap into action at the first sign of a breaking news story. That's right I was at a constant state of readiness, code red, balancing one legged on a post, like that karate kid guy. Waiting, listening, hoping, praying for something to happen.
Oh I got to fly. The 5 and the 6 shows need servicing each day. Maybe a fire will break out and we'll have it live. But the week would not produce. Not a single scene call worth shooting, not a single breaking story, nothing. Beauty shots, weather shots that is all I was good for last week.
The flight hour count: 13.6

Here's hopin' the next tour is a bit more productive.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mach Daddy

Last Thursday it was media day at the Abbottsford Airshow. It is something that I am sure is done at all airshows across North America. Visiting aviators and their flying machines are made available to local media before the official opening to promote and entice coverage. This year was no different. It is kind of a fun day for those participating. Usually it involves getting an opportunity to fly on an aircraft that most will never experience. Of course for us Camera humps, we get to do the shooting, but not the flying.
This year Kink got the nod to fly on behalf of the Chopper 9 Crew. He was going to get a flight on a CF 18 Hornet, the pride of the RCAF. The lucky Bastard,,,,

The Chopper 9 crew would be at the airshow as a static display, giving the public a chance to get a closer look into Western Canada's only News Gathering Helicopter. So all of us would be on hand this media day to see Kink take his seat and fly into the "Danger Zone".

I am trying to explain to Kink how much faster the Fighter will be compared to the sailboat

Now Kink is no slouch for a man of his vintage, but he would have to pass a physical before being declared fit for flight. Some of us on the Chopper 9 team might have had to go into a month of heavy training, intense physical pain and rigorous mental preparation, but not Kink.
In his younger days I am told he was a dashing race car driver. "Speed" was his middle name. Yes our hero was a man who would laugh at danger. But at this point in Kink's life, danger involved trying to keep his beloved sailboat afloat and speed was trying to get 6 knots in a good wind.
When he arrived for his flight, he was prepared, his duffel packed a music CD of TOP GUN, an airsickness bag and a package of DEPENDS. Yes he was ready.
Nerves and excitement churned his stomach as he waited for the Flight Surgeon to call on him for his physical.
"Mr. Kincaid"
"That's me" he said.
"Please follow me,,"
And with that he was off for his date with the Physician.
Examinations are of course private and the results are confidential, but we could only assume that since Kink had a pulse and met the weight restriction (barely) he would be cleared to fly.
Our collective assumtions were correct, the Air Force will fly almost anyone, and today Kink was that someone. As he emerged from the exam room, his smile told the story.

The next time I saw him he was in his flight gear. Standing tall with his flight helmet. Proudly posing infront of the jet fighter. He looked like, well not like Iceman or Maverick of TOP GUN, but more like Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys.

David "Mach Daddy" Kincaid: Top Gun or Space Cowboy?

It didn't matter, in just a few minutes he and his pilot "Fat Daddy" were going to be airborne.
Lucky bugger. Getting strapped in.

He got his final briefing as he was being strapped into the seat. Moment later the engines were ignited. As the mighty fighter taxied down the ramp the canopy closed and they made their way to the threshold of the runway.

The taxi down the ramp, Fat Daddy and Mach Daddy

As they waited a B1 bomber of the United States Airforce streaked by as it landed. It made for a good picture.

Chopper 9 Crew Member Gary Barndt snaps this photo as Kink waits at the threshold

Finally Kink and Fat Daddy were in position and with a roar of the engines, the fighter streaked down the runway and lifted off into a vertical climb.
Lucky bastard,,,,

Now I wasn't in the cockpit so I cannot describe what his experience was like, perhaps after he returns to earth he can let us know, but at the end of the flight when I spoke to him again, his smile spoke volumes of what the experience was like. Yes he had done it, all he needs now is a fighter pilot nick name.
We call him "Mach Daddy"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Over There

Many of you know that read here regularly, I attempt to give you my take on what its like to be a News Gathering Cameraman. Most of the posts have been about my travels and the people I meet covering events for a local CTV station.
I want to introduce you to a fellow not unlike any of us who do this kind of work, but he is in northern Israel covering the troubles there. He has been blogging daily about his experiences as the rockets and shelling impact on his immediate surroundings. He is no rookie to covering war, but he and the others of his crew are in harms way, daily, in order for the world to get a glimpse of what is happening over there. His name is Mal James and he is working for FOX News. His postings on UNHOLYLAND NEWS have been out standing.
There are many more like Mal, in hotspots all over the world, working for Newspapers, Radio and Television Networks. They put their lives on the line attempting to bring the stories of what is happening to you in the comfort of your own home.
The next time you are watching stories from the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone on the planet, remember there's a crew putting it on the line to bring you the story. Don't forget these folks in your meditations, prayers and thoughts. They need all of the good karma we can send to them.