Friday, April 28, 2006

Bucky Covington Drops By

Together again, for the first time

A few weeks ago I made a conscious decision to stop blogging about American Idol so much. Sure, it drove my traffic count through the roof, but I was starting to feel like the editor of Teen Beat! Thus, I've pulled back a bit and pledge to highlight Idol only when the occasion truly warrants it. Yesterday was one such occasion, as everyone's favorite lanky redneck blew through the building.

For some reason I bonded with Bucky Covington within moments of meeting him on a balcony overlooking Beverly Hills a few months ago. Something about the giggly good ole boy struck a twangy chord with me. Maybe it's because he was so relaxed. Perhaps it's because he reminds me so much of the good-hearted hicks I grew up with Downeast - polite young men who still say Yes Ma'am and No Ma'am - but aren't above a little air guitar and grab-ass whenever Big Mama ain't lookin'. Chris Daughtry may well be on his way to becoming the next American Idol, but Bucky's the one I'd pile into a rusty Camaro with for a last minute road trip to the coast.

For now though, Bucky's taking a breather, reflecting on the head-scrambling experience that his three month stint in the national zeitgeist has been. Not that he's through with singing. This summer he'll embark on the fairly lucrative American Idol tour, then the Rockingham native plans to head to Nashville where he'll try to convince Music Row he's worthy of serious development. Until then, he'll be hugging grandmothers, signing autographs and dodging stalkers as he joins the rest of us watching Idol's biggest season ramp up to the grand finale. Of course, Bucky will be back in Hollywood to witness that coronation first-hand and so, it appears, will I.

Beats gettin' stuck in the mud...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

No Joy in Mudville

No Joy in Mudville

Note to Self: The next time it's been raining for three days and you're in a hurry to park the live truck, KEEP OFF THE GRASS! Not doing so turned a fairly pleasant day into an arduous exercise in aggravation. I was trying to establish a microwave signal with one of our receive sights when I static forced me to move the van. So I did, and after encountering the same hiss and fuzz in a second location dropped the mast to try a third. That's when the fun began. I'll spare you the ugly details but this swath of rain-soaked turf, a ticking deadline and the jeers of nearby junior high kids made for one very l-o-n-g afternoon. But it doesn't end there. My fellow photogs back at the shop, on the verge of losing control of their collective bladders at the aspect of Idol Boy struck in the mud, pelted me with a deluge of taunting text messages. Thanks Fellas!

Luckily I didn't notice the torrent of good nature abuse until later. I was far too busy trying to coax my logo'd behemoth out of the muck to notice my cell phone buzzing. I tried everything, from rocking the truck back and forth to reciting a certain George Carlin refrain to enlisting the aid of a passing football coach with a pick up truck and a willingness to help. Nothing. I even sacrificed an on-board sandbag, splitting it open and pouring the grainy contents under the 2 (two!) mired tires. While I cajoled, ranted and tasted the finest in Alamance County mud, intrepid reporter Caron Myers sequestered herself inside our immobile newsroom, hammering out the script to our piece that was due to air in ninety minutes, stuck truck or not. When she noticed her photog flailing in a whirling dervish of brown splatter, she got on the horn with a nearby cop buddy.

A half hour later, a mysterious tow truck appeared on scene, its driver sizing up the situation with quiet mutters before attaching the winch and signaling me when to gun it on cue. A few minutes later, we were free of our grassy shackles and the tow truck driver disappeared with only our eternal thanks and a nice tip from Caron. Whew! Still, the fun wasn't over, as we had to race off to a secure location, edit our piece and set up the signal before our trusty anchor team threw it to Caron - only to see snow, color bars, or worst of air. Of course, we made our deadline (it's what we do), and those viewers who caught Caron's live shot had no idea her fancy schmancy reporter shoes were the color of cow dung.

As for me, I've recovered - though even as I type this my clothes hands and outlook remain soundly brown. May tomorrow be a brighter day, one that offers perhaps a little less to blog about. Finally, kudos to Caron (wife of Chocolate) Myers, who saved the day while I contemplated wandering off into the distance in immediate search of that long-delayed mid-life career change. As tempting as it was, that ain't the way I wanna go out. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go scrub the mud from my nostrils.

NAB: Team B-Roll

NAB 1 (4)Weaver and I had already booked passage to NAB when fellow photog Kevin Johnson sweetened the post considerably. “Wanna play reporter?” his e-mail read. Now, usually when I hear that, it translates roughly into ‘Hey Stew, wanna do two jobs for the price of one ... AGAIN?’ But this was different, as the founder of my favorite website was once again welcoming me into the fold. He’s made a habit of that over the years and it’s the main reason you’re reading this today. Lemme ‘splain., which takes its name from an antiquated yet still used editing term, is the on-line watering hole of the photog nation. Created in 1996 by Johnson when he returned from a trip to Bosnia with a stash of photos and stories he wanted to share on-line, Kevin’s creation has grown into an internationally known website and forum, a gathering spot for weary TV news shooters from across the globe. It was on the message board that I first started sharing my own stories years ago and without the flood of encouragement I received from its many members, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with the arduous task of bleeding thoughts on screen. In fact, a need for a proper b-roll identity is what made me conjure up the moniker of 'Lenslinger' in the first place. Someday, I’ll no doubt irk the women in my life by first crediting its many readers in the acknowledgements page of my first published work.

NAB 1 (2)Thus, I answered Kev’s e-mail ever so promptly, assuring him that me and the Weave would be happy to play TV with him, provided we didn’t have to drive a live truck or stand in the rain in the process. When he assured us we wouldn't we agreed and left it at that. Fast forward to last Monday. Even before we got to the Miller Tripod booth, we spotted the founder from afar (he stands about 8 foot 4). Also on hand, Andy Grossman - a Virginia Beach shooter who turned out to be the hardest working man at the whole conference. Together the four of us had a grand time traipsing from one tricked-out vendor to the next, for once unencumbered by our heavy glass. We hit quite a few booths throughout the day and while we didn't make cinematic gold, we giggled and sneered enough to make it all very enjoyable. But don't take my word for it, click here and watch for yourselves. Then know that my thwarted series of NAB reports are drawing to a close, with only one installment left: The after-party...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NAB: From the Floor

Vegas Stew Cam (43)I don’t know what you’ll see at the Las Vegas Convention Center the other fifty-one weeks of the year, but when NAB rolls into town, it’s all about the gadgets. Broadcast gadgets, to be exact. From massive, tricked-out satellite trucks to windscreens for the tiniest of microphones, you’ll find everything you need here to start your own communications empire. What else would lure 100 thousand TV and radio geeks to the middle of the desert every year? Well, there is the whole Las Vegas strip experience - a neon-drenched swath of gambling and debauchery that frankly left me wanting to take a weeklong shower. But that’s a subject for another post. Back to the show!

Vegas Stew Cam (47)Step inside the Convention Center and you’ll soon find yourself twitching from sensory overload. Fancy-cams of every stripe bob and weave, voluptuous booth bunnies beckon with oddball freebies and every where you look, high-definition flat screen TV assault the senses with all that glorious pixilated detail. It was all Chris Weaver and I could do not to openly pant at all the electronic possibilities spread before us. Remember, we hail from a sector of the country more known for it’s dying textile mills and booming Nascar scene than its sophisticated ee-lectronics. Sure, we’ve both been in the TV game for more than a dozen years, but to lay eyes on all that naked technology was downright orgiastic. Try working that word into a sentence today.

Vegas Stew Cam (39)Now where were we? Oh yeah - the gear. Unlike myself, Weaver seemed to immediately grasp the functionality of every new toy thrust in front of us. Whereas I tend to scratch my whiskers and nod a lot, Weave quickly recites the schematics, limits and implications of said doohickey with a Rain Man-like intensity. Plus, he’s a very good driver - but I digress. Among the notable thingamabobs was a hydrogen-powered camera battery. While it’s quite possibly a viable alternative E.N.G. energy source, it is quite certainly the most butt-ugly thing you’ll ever attach to the back of your Sony. Still, it’s nothing some matte-black paint and a few racing stripes can’t fix. I also enjoyed ogling at the ladies, er - I mean SteadiCam on a Segway. Watching some dude balance his pricey camera rig while zipping around on one of those space-age scooters was a hoot - in a ’let’s wait for the roedo clown to get speared in the throat’ sort of way.

Vegas Stew Cam (33)There were a ton of more gizmos on display - some I even understood - but to be honest, even the most cutting-edge hardware leaves me a little underwhelmed. I’m just not a gadget freak. Sure, I dig my laptop, my digital camera and the way my VCR has flashed 12:00 for fifteen years now, but for me it’s never been about the equipment. While I like to think I can make my state-of-the-art Sony XDCam cry and sing, my eyes glaze over whenever the engineers in my life yammer on about the convoluted circuitry within. I guess that makes me less of a photog, but then again, I stopped adhering to the strict guidelines of shooter-hood years ago. I mean, come on - what other camera monkey uses words like orgiastic? Damn few, I tell you, damn few.

Vegas Stew Cam (29)All in all, the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual electronic show was well worth the trip, if only because it brought me face to face with people I’ve long admired. Kooks, cameramen, conspirators - despite their many differences they’re all insatiable communicators, masters of captured detail and students of the moving image. As Weaver and I waded through the teeming mass of the chattering class, I realized that, for better or worse, these are my peeps. Now if only I can convince a tenth of them to buy the someday-available hardback edition of Viewfinder BLUES, I’ll truly be in business. Until then, I’ll keep coming back to NAB and keep pretending to understand as Weaver explains how the Panasony BlasterCam can bend space, fold time and save me up to fifteen percent on car insurance. Now that would be something....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NAB - Best Laid Plans

MondayVegas (67)Well - so much for the live blogging of NAB. Both Weaver and I had ambitious plans of updating you on our inaugural trip to the world's largest electronic show, but between my finicky laptop, one surreal stretch-limo ride and a river of gin and tonics...well - it just didn't happen. Thus, I'd like to offer every one of my half-dozen readers a full and humble refund for promises unkept.

Simply visit and a trained service tech from Lenslinger Global Enterprises will rush a check your way. Meanwhile, I implore you not to remove me from your 'Favorites' file, as I have an abundance of images and impressions to dole out over the coming days, just as soon as my head stops hurting.

Monday, April 24, 2006

NAB: On the Ground

Krispy Kreme CentralThe flight was long, crowded and more than a little turbulent, but Weaver and I landed safely in Las Vegas late late night. After a cursory glance of 'Old Vegas' (think Myrtle Beach with a bigger bddget), we found our way to the hotel, where we fed a few antiquated slot machines, took a quick stroll and promptly crashed.
Krispy Kreme Central 2Now we find ourselves facing aging gamblers in the smoke filitered sunlight of a Lost Wages Monday. Egads! At least we have our mission to think about: a hard target search of the world's largest electronic show. Check back in throughout the day for picture-heavy posts and a dollop of professional sarcasm. But for now, Weaver and I gotta pack up our toys, blow this Krispy Kreme stand and get to the convention center. Stay Tuned!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bound for NAB!

By the time you read this I'll be wedged tightly onto a discount flight to Vegas, the Mighty Weaver at my side. Our illicit mission? Scour the reaches of NAB's electronic media show, an annual gathering of more than 100 thousand broadcast brains and TV geeks from 130 different countries. In short, Mecca for a couple of electro-dorks like us. With laptop and a few tiny lenses in tow, Weaver and I will comb the convention floor for old friends, new toys and other inherent weirdness. Other bloggers I know are promising blanket coverage of this mind-boggling summit, but ours will be more of the cocktail napkin variety. Look for down and dirty updates as we try to make up for our lack of heavy glass. W-e-l-l after sunrise Monday we'll rendezvous with Kevin Johnson and Andy Grossman to shoot some goofy segments From The Floor! Those clips should be up on pretty quickly (Check your Lenslinger's local listings). We'll also catch up with NAB vet Brad Ingram as well as the world's funniest photog, JL Watkins - otherwise known as Little Lost Robot. Speaking of lost, the fellows from Lost Remote are hosting a soiree we hope to hit, before crashing the B-Roll Bash and a half dozen meet-n-greets in between. The only thing we won't have time for is sleep, something I'm told is kinda frowned upon in Vegas anyway. Do me a favor - remind me of this enthusiasm later in the week when I'm back home, battling jet-lag in a sun-baked news cruiser. Until then...Viva Las Vegas!