Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tiger Blood Not Available

Interview Dude
Say what you will about Charlie Sheen, but the dude gives GREAT sound. I should know; I've spent the better part of twenty years hunched under an eyepiece as some functionary or another droned on (and on) in monotone. It's enough to make one wish a twitchy sitcom hack would burst through the door and begin ranting about his antelope dope or his super cool Kung-Fu grip or his bevy of fem-bots waiting with palm fronds. Actually, that would be kind of freaky, but it still pales in comparison to the operas I've concoct in my head while a better dressed co-worker goes all '60 Minutes' on some poor policy wonk. It's the kind of delusion we leave on the editing room floor, for Sally Jo Housecoat has no room in her den for the mental gymnastics performed by a cameraman at rest. Did I say rest? Make that coma, for that's what I tend to slip into when the time-code starts to blur... And that's just what happens after the location is chosen. Getting there is half the battle...

Drag a fancycam into any office building and someone's gonna try and shove you into a conference room. Don't go. Oh sure, the occasional corporate headquarters will have a cavernous glass palace worthy of exploration, but more times than not the dusty summit space down the hall is just that: a forgotten box bathed in beige paint and fluorescent rays. Wedge in a table that's clearly three times too large for the room and you have a pretty good idea why I dodge conference rooms the way most men dodge baby showers. "Lead me to thy writing surface," I say. Okay, I never say that, but if I did they'd no doubt take me to a chamber far more pleasing than some sterile cube where middle-managers plot, coddle and doze. Besides, how am I gonna get into the interviewee's head if I can't gander at his sheepskins, let alone add to my stapler collection...

Naaaah, I'm not gonna abscond with anyone's Swingline. I am however, going to do everything I can to stay lucid while the red light glows. Otherwise, I might miss a hitch in the voice, a tic of the lip, or some other cue for me to reach for the zoom button. Sure, there's little chance any self-respective executive will eek out a tear or two, but if he does it's my solemn duty to document it's descent. Otherwise, you'll find me parked squarely on my glass, scanning book titles behind my subject's head as I hearken back to my high school days when I first tried on that thousand yard stare. Just don't try this at home and while you're at it kids, stay away from the boob tube altogether. Before you know it, you'll be hunched under a camera you don't own, strung out on the next seven syllables that will spill forth onscreen while wondering why in the hell you didn't pay attention better in Algebra 1.

At least that's what I think about...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Twiggy and the Weave

Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel
As a hard-boiled purveyor of soft-centered news, there are few things I still hold sacred. How could I - when all the great themes in the world have been turned into the likes of theme night on Idol. Take that paragon of broadcasting, the water-skiing squirrel. What was once a quirky little story about a rodent on a tow rope quickly came to symbolize my industry's descent into insipidness. I myself have referenced him repeatedly as a living emblem of all that is predictable about the back half of your favorite newscast. Which is why it pains me so to learn the little rat sold out. Meet 'Twiggy" the water-skiing squirrel. Sure, he's cute all perched up there on Weaver's shoulder, but as far as I'm concerned this little nutcracker is a fur covered fraud, a corporate shill who can be found cavorting on cue at your nearest boat show. That's where Chris Weaver caught up with him last week and if I sound bitter, defeated and jealous that it wasn't me, well, it's because I am - er, was.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go call dibs on the next talking moose that blows through town.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spore on the Floor

We all need Fly Girls
So imagine you're a well-heeled fitness buff running late for your aerobic drumming class. You make it to the club in time, but when you get upstairs the music is already thumpin', so you grab a pair of sticks and fall into a tense, constricted rhythm. That's when you spot ME. Rumpled and expressionless, I loiter about the edges of the workout space with all the enthusiasm of a third shift worker waiting on a factory bus. By then you're half wondering if I'm even real, until you see me swing that fish-eye right atcha. My fingers twitch, my eyebrows tighten and suddenly you worry I'm zooming in on the very body part you're working so hard to reduce...

What do you do, hotshot? WHAT DEW YEW DEW?

Well, if you're like the ladies at the 'Drums Alive!' class I crashed last night, you dig in your heels, tighten your grip and begin beating the gloss off an exercise ball. It's a good thing too, since I didn't weasel my way into an upscale health club to collect wet towels. No, I showed up ready to roll. And even though the nice instructor lady tried to beg off 'til next month, I wasn't about to leave with my lens unquenched. Not when there's a goofy new way to stay in shape. Not when fat's collapsing under the weight of bad techno. Not when there's a whole mess of reflections to play with. Not when I'm being paid to at least spray the place. Actually, that last part's not exactly accurate. I didn't spray the place...

I completely hosed it down.

Understand, a puff-piece on aerobic drumming calls for a different cinema technique than say, an inner-city stand-off. Sure, both draw a crowd, but if you go slinging a lens at a crunked-up gunman the way I did to those ladies, somebody gonna stumble away with a cap in their glass. Thus, I save my doofier moves for happier locales, where the biggest danger to the cameraman in question is a drumstick to the skull, or worse yet, a face full of mace from a camera-shy society wife. Luckily for me, nothing but the occasional glare befell me, as I invaded the personal space of total strangers all in the name of a b-block feature. Hey, I don't decide what passes for news these days. I just show up where I'm told and act like I'm welcome.

You should too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brink of Distinction

Frozen lake Cam
Just look at the lines, would ya? Sturdy of purpose and exquisitely lit, its unmistakable shape giving pause to creatures big and small...Hmmm? yes, the lake is pretty too, but I'm talking about the fancycam! Surely that's what Kyle Dubreil was focused on when he snapped this impressive vista the other day. Okay, so maybe I'm projecting a bit, but it's been many months since I've dragged glass of that stature around a still-beating news scene. Back last year El Ocho got all Hi-Def, a senseless act of upgrade that ripped full-sized rigs from the shoulders of rookies and lifers alike. It wasn't pretty, but six or seven months later I have to admit the smaller, lighter cameras are working out just fine. Yes, they have all the heft of an empty Big Gulp cup and what used to be an instinctive flip of a toggle switch now requires seventeen levels of menu exploration, but under great conditions, they take really good pictures. Still, I can't help but yearn for a bigger unit, ifyaknowwhatI'msayin'...

But it ain't happenin'. I'll probably never sling an axe that size again, not with lenses diminishing all across this fruited plain. That's progress I guess, but the classic lines and bold profile of a full sized fancycam will no doubt go down in history as one of those unmistakable shapes, the kind of thing you'll one day only see in woodcut relief. But as time goes by this silhouette will go from heroic to laughably large, much like 80's era jam-boxes must look to iPod disciples. What a shame. The modern day fancycam was the industry standard for longer than the green screen. Soon they'll be as irrelevant as countdown slate. That makes me sad, though I gotta say my spinal column won't miss a thing. Still, for men (and women) like me, that overly bulky box of wires and light possesses every bit of sexiness as a classic Corvette. And you don't even have to own a teensy winkie to appreciate it.

Helps, though.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eight Track Playas

Funky Bunch
Just in case you wondered what the news crew trailing Scooby and the Gang LOOKED LIKE, we now have visual proof. Okay, that's not fair, as I'm sure these cats were unabashedly bad-ass backintheday. How could they NOT be? Red windbreaker, Chukka Boots, Brown cords and that poofy vest... Throw in some vintage recording equipment with what appears to be the coolest news car ever and you have one funky bunch of white guys. I only have one question: With all the chicks that tried to pile into that ride, where did they store the gear?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Schmuck Alert: Sacto Fracas

Fox 40 Attack

It's difficult to know what preceded the outburst caught on tape Sunday morning in Sacramento, but the result is UG-LEE. Screams, shouts, a cacophony of threats leading to a senseless attack. Yeah, there's Schmuck behavior on display all right; I just hope it's all on the side of the family. Here's what we do know:

FOX40 reporter John Lobertini and photojournalist Rebecca Little responded to the scene of a murder outside an IHOP Sunday morning. But they weren't alone. Friends and family of the slain 27 year old had also gathered at the scene, setting up a makeshift memorial. Reporter John Lobertini had the unenviable job of approaching the family to see if they wanted to comment on camera. It's an unsavory task, but one that most reporters can pull off withOUT adding to the drama surrounding an unexpected death. What happened next is unclear, but it's safe to say the family didn't want to talk. They did however want to the news crew to leave and the tactics they chose to convey this were, well, criminal. Several women pulled Little to the ground buy her hair, reportedly kicking her in the face. The mob then turned on Lobertini.
"I was punched on the side of my face," said Lobertini, "but it was a situation where I was trying to fight off 6 or 7 or 8 people, I can't even count them."
Eventually the blows subsided. Rebecca Little was able to free herself from her attackers, but the screaming continued while the TV cameras rolled. Both Little and Lobertini were 'shaken up' but did not require medical attention. No charges were filed. So what sparked the assault? Not sure, but all the ingredients for trouble were plainly visible before the first blow was landed: a grieving family, a fresh death, a nosy news crew. It's the kind of assignment I hide from, for no matter how much tact you employ, ugliness can break out at any turn. Most reporters I know are pretty adept at navigating these shoals, but with our society coarsening at an apocalyptic pace, it's impossible to knw when you'll be dashed against the rocks. Or worse.