No matter where the camera on my shoulder takes me, there‘s only one place I’ll be come late afternoon: hunched over a digital timeline. Some times those non-linear landscapes form in the back of a badly idling live truck, other times I’m safely sequestered in some nameless edit bay. Wherever I am physically, my every mental facility is poured into the board, for local television is regularly erected under great duress. Blame the post-modern news cycle all you want; but it’s been this way since chain-smoking men with Brylcreem in their hair used a system of levers and pulleys to make their deadlines. Today of course it’s a drag and drop world, but the gift of technology doesn’t come without a curse. Turn around times have eroded; it’s not uncommon for a reporter to waltz in my bay and cough up a two minute script a half hour or so before it’s scheduled to air. “Have fun with it’ they sometimes say as I throw my fingers into a trance and wish I could still smoke a cigarette. Passers-by will only hear interview snippets and sound loops, of course - along with a few mumbled curses and the occasional angry shout-out. But protest as we might, there’s rarely any doubt we’ll finish in time, for we are bred to ‘make slot’ by any means unnecessary. It’s no less than a matter of pride.
In fact, it’s this ‘balls to the wall’ model that holds so many photogs in sway. Sure - lights, cameras and interns are fun to play with - but if I couldn’t do so at breakneck speed, I’d most likely lose interest. Nowadays of course, any schlub with half a laptop can edit video. Just look around! Newspaper people with timelines on their hands, Hannah Montana fans with their pastel colored Macs, even that skeevy guy at the bus stop lords over his very own digital suite every night (once he finishes tinkering with his girl robot, that is.) Yes, what used to be the domain of a select few now belongs to the masses. But whereas Billy Joe Sixpack can whittle away on a Nascar epic from the comfort of his very own double-wide, can he do so while strapped into the bed of his pick-up truck as it hurtles down a mountain? Can he fashion nuance out of raw footage while his mother-in-law counts backwards in his earpiece? Can he slow-mo one remaining shot over a particularly troublesome closing soundbite - while totally rocking a free golf shirt? I wonder….or at least I plan to, just as soon as I click a box and send today’s masterpiece down the hall.
I still miss the mad dash, though.