Friday, February 29, 2008

Olympic Ski Jumping

Well the shine of this assignment has definitely worn off. I have also been fighting a chest cold for the past week and that has depleted my energy and enthusiasm. Still being here at the bureau's infancy has had its moments.

A beaten, but not defeated Murman, waiting to edit

It has given me the opportunity to experience a few things that had been on the "to do list". The latest was our shoot at the Olympic Ski Jumping Venue this week.

Ever since I saw the opening clip of ABC's Wide World of Sports (back in the 70's) of the "Agony of Defeat" video, where some poor schlep wipes out jumping off a ski jump, the sport has fascinated me. I recall watching Olympic Ski Jumping on TV as a youngster and marveling how these men with strange names ( they were all European and mostly Scandinavian names) would sore through the air and land without injuring themselves. It was an exotic sport to be sure and not something you see everyday.

Just after launch a competitor forms a "V" to act as a wing and gains greater flight time.

The first Ski jump Venue I had ever seen was in Salt Lake City during 2002. I did not see the competition, but my accommodations while at the games to see hockey, were right across the interstate from the venue outside of Park City.
Now this week I finally had the good fortune to finally get to an actual event with real live competitors flying off a newly constructed Ski Jump. Man these young lads have stones. You have no idea how steep and then how far these guys "fly". It's not until you get at up to the point of launch that someone like me who has until that time, only seen jumping on a TV screen, that you really get a sense of how fast a Jumper is traveling and how steep the landing area is. The sound of the launch and the jumper flying through the air is another dynamic that TV doesn't quite do justice.

A member of the US Ski Jump Teams flies down the Jump in a perfect "V"

Now you couple all of that with a sprinkle of controversy, and you have a great recipe for a newsy reason to be at such a venue. The controversy involves the IOC and Women's Ski Jumping. You see Ski Jumping at the Olympic Games has been exclusively a men's competition. The women were denied entry into the 2010 games because of "technical reasons". It has become a big story and one that our news organization has followed very closely. It has become a subject that most in Canada have heard about and has people talking about a little known and exotic fringe winter sport called Nordic Ski Jumping. Ya gotta love controversy and ya gotta love the fact that the movement behind womens ski jumping has not gone away. This story has legs and we haven't heard the end of it.

Will the Women be jumping here in 2010?

Friday, February 22, 2008

World Cup Ski Racing

I am just get ready to edit this afternoons piece. As Sarah writes her script and awaits vetting, here are a selection of photos from our assignment during the past couple of days at the Whistler World Cup Ski Championships.

CTV Camera Operator Shawn Foss in his Broadcast Location at the World Cup. During a wipe out at the finish this morning at the Womens Down Hill, he took a ski pole to the ass. It punctured his jeans and broke the skin. Like a trooper, he played on, wounded.

A competitor streaks toward the finish at yesterday's Mens Super G at the Whistler World Cup. Man these guys and gals freakin' fly.

CTV Whistler Reporter, Sarah Galashan and CTV Olympic Producer, Allison Redmond pose for a snap yesterday at the Finish Line.

Austrian Ski Fans represent! These guys had a blast and were right behind my camera position.

Ok so I got a shot for the boys, I couldn't resist her smile. A Von Trapp family singer she 'aint.

Canadian Speed Queens, Britt Janyk and Kelly Vanderbeek wave to the supportive crowd after they finished in this morning's Womens' Down Hill.

CBC camera op Glen at his camera position making faces during this morning's race.

Glen returned the favor by shooting a tired looking Murman at the finish line.

A shot of the finish area of the World Cup Womens Down Hill Course. This will be the same course used at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games for the women and the event this morning acted as a test event for the Games Organizers.

My Spider Senses are Tingling

This first week of pure Bureau life has had it's moments. With the road crew associated with our News @ 6 show packed up and headed home, it became evident that this part of the Whistler extravaganza would take on a simpler form. Shooting, editing and feeding on the same day is nothing new and would be sort of a throw back to my days with ATV/ASN in the Saint John Bureau many years ago.

Sarah ready to go get'em on the first "official day"

The weekend went fairly well with most of the excitement coming as we were feeding in our item via a Telus "Bang Box". With the window opened and contact with feed and play at Robson and Burrard established, I began to roll the pack, playing it back through my camera. All at once flashing warning lights, beeping tones and an "error message".
"God damn it" I said under my breath.
The voice on the phone from feed and play: "Can you roll it Mur?"
I quickly snap back that we had a problem and to stand by. As I inspect the situation, I discover my worst case scenario, A tape clog or in simpler terms, the camera ATE the tape.

Looking over at young Sarah, the look on her face said it all. We're screwed. But wait,,,,
Call it my spidy sense, but I had made a back up copy of the tape. I told her to stay with the equipment at the box. I was headed to back to the office to pick up an A220 edit deck which would act as a playback unit. The walk back to the office was only ab out 200 yards, but waiting for the elevator seemed like an eternity with an open feed window counting down.

Spiderman during a calmer point of the day before the spidy senses began to tingle

When I returned and hooked it all up there was still time on the window. I fed in the back up tape and suddenly all was right with the broadcast world. Our first feed and after a Live hit. No one at home would have known the potential disaster, the bullet if you will that we had just dodged.

Might as well make the first day the memorable one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Payoff

As much as grind traveling road shows can be, there always without fail is a payoff. It can come in the form of financial gain, practical experience, and life experience in general. There is always a payoff.

I remember my first large scale "road trip" back in 1994 when the station I was working at the time took one of their shows to Florida during a particularly bad winter. There was the financial aspect and it was good. As it was my first big adventure, it provided a big professional and practical payoff throughout. It was not until the bitter end of the assignment that the best spiritual payoff presented itself. That was a full day, by myself on a warm sunny island away from the crew, the show and light years away from the winter that we had left back in the Maritimes.

This past week with our CTV News @ 6 show in Whistler for the 2 Year Countdown Celebrations to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, was no different. The week and the project once again tested me in many ways. Physical and mental fatigue, yet again things that I forced myself to work through. After all it is the professional thing to do.

Brent and Pamela at they ride the "Magic " chair as we began our trip up to the top

The spiritual payoff came in the middle of this trip and as it only lasted a half hour, it was indeed worth it. Wednesday brought an assignment for Brent , Pamela and I up at the top of Whistler Mountain. There was a number of elements to collect before we loaded onto the lift and at times it looked like our attempt at snapping on the skis for a few "turns" might elude us. But in the end we were able to get ourselves up. The official reason: Go to the top, get some shots and shoot a stand up. The truth is we all just wanted to get a run or two in on what was a spectacular day. I had to be on the set at 3:30, but it had been pushed to 4, so that took a bit of the pressure off.

A look from Whistler across the valley toward Blackcomb.

Brent and Murman at the top top near the "Round House"

It was good for the soul, it was good for the body. It was indeed the Payoff.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weeks End

As the week of Specials came to a close, our newly formed Bureau would begin to ramp up. Thursday brought the arrival of Whistler Reporter Sarah Galashan. Her presence would require me to begin shooting and editing as her assignments dictated. This would present an interesting logistical problem. I was still required to shoot and edit with Producer Brent Gilbert and Host Pamela Martin. I was also required to be on set at 4:30 to man the camera for the show.

CTV Whistler Bureau Reporter Sarah Galashan on her first day at the Bureau

At this point in the week fatigue was beginning to take its toll. Add to the mix, an evening shoot that was sold as being an hour tops, but actually went 4 and by Friday morning the WALL was coming awfully close and I was afraid I would hit it.

CTV Floor Director Jimmy Walsh, waiting for the final show

Somehow the team was able to get through it. I shot a piece with Sarah and cut it. The weather on that last day brought snow and cold. Couple that with tired bodies and you know that striking the set would be a challenge.

Just before we went to air for the final show, word spread that the only highway back to Vancouver was now closed. This put the rest of the crew in a sombre mood as they were anxious to get home. I would be staying as part of my Bureau commitments, but my accomidations were now in the Bureau itself and with all of the turmoil of the week, the room had looked like a bomb had hit it.

A shot of the Bureau on Friday, looking like a bomb hit it.

The show went to air, I had little energy left after the shoot and edit. As the show ended we all knew with the highway closed, getting the stranded crew some place to stay in a resort town on a Friday Night would have to take priority.

Brent warming his hands during the show, just wanting to wrap up.

I began to strike the set as the others set out to find lodging. It wasn't long before guys began to return to help out. Before we knew it we had the set packed up and loaded onto the truck. The highway wasn't going to reopen until midnight. It would mean another night for the crew, but going home in poor road conditions would be a very bad idea indeed.

My final night with the crew was spent with Floor Director Jimmy and his girlfriend Inga. We raised a glass and toasted the end of a week of successful shows and to a good night's sleep for our tired bodies.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All In Good Fun

The reasson etre (and forgive my lame attempt at spelling of reasson etre, I barely can spell in english let alone french) for us being in Whistler is of course the two year countdown to the 2010 Olympic Winter games. After riding Monday's coaster of DOOM, Tuesday provided a bit of fun for all of us at the CTV Broadcast Center. We are located at the Village Square, center piece for the Countdown celebrations.

Perry, Steve and Tamara, during a tech check

There has been entertainment on the main stage every day. Our close proximity to the stage has made for some interesting sound dynamics when audio checking or worse, going to air, but it has also provided us with the opportunity to enjoy some of the festivities.

Usually at around 3:30 the entertainment begins. The crowd gathers and fun ensues. As part of the Olympic Flavor of the event, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Mascots make an appearance. They have been an instant hit with the kids. They hang around for about 30 minutes or so, having pictures and hugging the children that are passing by.

CTV Olympic Producer Allison Redmond, Quatchi and CTV National Reporter Lisa LaFlamme

I have to confess, when the mascots were unveiled I was less than impressed. But I have to remember that these creatures were made for the kids, and well they kinda grow on you.
With the appearance on Tuesday some of our crew took advantage and posed for a few shots.
It was all in good fun.

CTV Floor Director Jimmy Walsh smiles with Olympic Mascot Quatchi

Sumi the Olympic Mascot with CTV Special Events Producer Joan Marshal

Paralympic Mascot Meiga with CTV Photographer Steve Hughes

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Coaster Of DOOM

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games 2 years away, the official 2 year countdown on Feb. 12. Announcements and events planned for both Vancouver and Whistler meant that as the Network with the Broadcast Rights for 2010, we mobilized for a week of shows both National and Local. My assignment is with our local team in Whistler BC, home of the Alpine, Nordic and Sliding sports.

We arrived on Sunday and began our set up for Monday. Mostly cabling runs and minor stuff. Our main delivery of equipment was not due until Monday morning. The bulk of the crew were also due in before noon Monday.
For me Monday brought an ENG assignment with ctv producer Brent Gilbert ( some of you may remember Brent as part of the crew that I went with to the Turin Games with in 2006). CTV Host Pamela Martin would also be on this shoot atop Blackcomb Mountain. It was an item about Avalanche rescue dogs. We would cover Pamela in a hole in the snow and have the dog find her. We were on a bit of a time crunch as I would be needed to get back to our set position and build the set for our 6PM show.

A shot looking at our set in Whistler with the antenna's of the proble IFB's and wireless mics in the foreground.

The shoot went pretty well and when my time on the mountain drew to a close, I headed down the lift. Brent stayed behind to collect a couple more shots.

The set build was a bit on the stressful side as problems with IFB's and Mics caused headaches. The camera builds went smoothly as the tech checks drew near. The guys in the SAT truck were going great guns, but as the show drew near, you could sense the tension in the air. Problems with IT and Prompter, electrical issues just added to the drama.

CTV Camera Op Steve Hughes and Weathercaster Tamara Taggart hoping for a working IFB

With the games two years out, our network Executive team including CEO Ivan Fecan were also in Whistler meeting with Olympic Officials and other Official Broadcasters, touring venues and potential broadcast locations for 2010.

With a show potentially melting down, and the presence of the Execs from World Headquarters, you had all for the ingredients of the Perfect Storm, or of us, the Perfect Stroke.
I was worried about our lead Tech. He's the kinda guy that puts his heart and soul into a project and major problems less than 2 hours before a broadcast was not what he or any of us needed at this time.

With the clock ticking, IFB and Mics with wireless issues, hosts and talent growing impatient with waiting in the marginal weather, who shows up on the set. You guessed it, like a scene out of the Sopranos, the gang of Execs appears. Those of us on set just smiled and went about our business as if all was right with the world. Our faces hid what lurked inside, a set check that was causing so much grief.

CTV National Reporter Lisa LaFlamme with CTV Globemedia CEO Ivan Fecan on the set

After saying there hellos and checking our locations they were gone. Whew, bullet dodged.

CTV Camera Gary Rutherford on his knees for a shot, or is he praying for the broadcast Gods to help us

Before we knew it, it was show time. The show went off without a hitch. It's always the way, bad tech rehearsal, great show. Yet the roller coaster that is always day one of projects like this we live for. Who knows how many years we have taken off of our lives, riding the Coaster of Doom before a show, but by god when the shows over and the team has wrestled victory out of the jaws of disaster, Damn that's Sweet!

Murman, Floor Director Jimmy and Producer Joan, just happy the show is almost over

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Busy and Intense

This is the beginning of what I am sure will be a very busy and intense few weeks. A change from day to day news gathering is always welcome, especially at this time of year. The task at hand will involve a number of "Live" specials from events surrounding the 2 year countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Live specials or taking the show on the road is always challenging. This particular challenge however, will also involve launching a new Bureau for our station. The Bureau start up is something that has been something that the station has wanted for some time. Now we are in a position to execute the start up.

How I became involved in the start up is a long and twisted story, so I will shorten it for you my faithful reader. I was standing at the wrong place at the wrong time, or at the right place at the right time. (And I reserve the right to determine which of those applies when I return from this assignment)
Murman at the new Whistler Bureau edit suite during the install on Wednesday.

Wednesday of this past week we began to tool up the new Whistler Bureau. It basically a hotel room tricked out with an edit suite and soon to be installed feed services. Fax machines, phone lines and high speed infoweb everything a news bureau should have. In the weeks to come I hope to give you a look from the inside of the trials and tribulations of "New Bureau" life. It is a temporary assignment until a staff hire can be made to fill the camera/editor position. It begins officially from me on Thursday of this week coming. Until then, Olympic Countdown specials in Richmond and Whistler will occupy my attention. Full setups and tear downs. In Whistler, promos, ENG editing to boot. Yes it will be busy. Add the big wigs coming to town, it has all the makings of "busy and intense" weeks to come.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The End of January

It has been a long and somewhat eventful week out here on the left coast. After a week of blissful flight, ol' World Wide drew into the regular general assignment ENG rotation.
I was welcomed back to earth with a heavy snowfall. Now usually that would automatically mean a nasty commute topped off with an always popular weather story.

As I loaded the truck and listened in on the traffic reports, I realized I might have a problem just getting off my street. You see an incline to the main road, without salt or sand translates to spinning tires and little or no forward momentum.

A flick into four wheel drive solved that problem and I was quickly on my way in to the office. Listening to the radio I discovered there was supposed to be a big problem on one of the busiest bridges in Greater Vancouver. That turned out to be a very good turn of events for me. I joined the highway into the downtown after the problem bridge. The road was bare and the trickle of traffic inbound meant I could cruise at near the speed limit. When I finally made it to the desk, I had just completed a record best 22 minutes for a commute time.

I did draw a weather related story, but instead of trudging around in the snow looking for sound bites, I got to ride shotgun on a snowplow. Great fun, but shooting in a cab of a big ass snow plow can be hard on the back. Even with the discomfort, I could get the "Mr. Plow" song , from the Simpsons out of my head. The day ended with a live hit not related to snowplows or weather, but taxi cabs. Such is the world of front line news gathering.

The cycle would repeat itself everyday for the rest of the week. Thus ending the always tough month of January.