Saturday, March 12, 2011

Infiltrating the ACC

ACC TourneyAhh, the ACC Men's Tournament, where blue collar Joes bellow collegiate nicknames, orange sweatshirts pass for fashion and bromance springs eternal. Normally, I only strafe the exterior of this fine institution, but this year's gig required surgical insertion. Thus, I followed a team of seasoned El Ocho operatives into the deepest lair of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. It wasn't easy, but under a heavy load of lanyards and lenses, I bluffed my way through numerous checkpoints posing as a conventional sports journalist. Worried that at any moment some beefy security guard would demand I name all the colleges in the conference (or even explain the game of basketball), I kept my head low, my mouth shut. Eventually, I made it to the rendezvous point, where I spent two snack-filled days embedded with the sports field's most forward units. I really think I'm the fatter for it.

ACC Tourney Media PitOf course, one doesn't just stroll onto the hardwood, no matter how many spare batteries or press-passes you got. Only once in fact did I make it to the floor. (A lovely local lady won the chance to launch a half court shot for one One MEEELLION dollars. She never came close to riches, but her story chewed up a good two minutes of b-block.) No, I spent much more time exploring the concourse, passing freely through backstage doors I never knew existed and averting the gaze of half-mad supplicants who wanted nothing more on this green planet than to scream the name of a university they never attended into the lens of a camera that wasn't even on. And here I though America Idol audition wannabes were obnoxious. Guess I'd rather have a lady dressed as a viking give me her best Whitney than have some tubby drunk shower me with testosterone and pork-skin spittle. Is it any wonder I hid in the pit?

ACC Tourney K.O. and GibbieExcept they don't call it 'The Pit'. According to the sign, it's the Audio/Video Media Acquisition Area. All I know is past the team entrance, down the hall, around a few bends and straight through what looks like a TSA convention, sits a grid of tables, laptops, monitors and enough cable to upfit the moon with HBO. It's cavernous, yet crowded. The again, local TV's always been a small world. And with sports department budgets next to nil these days, that world's even smaller. Still, you couldn't swing a dead camera battery without clubbing a former colleague. Example: I was hoarking down popcorn when I felt a rumbling in The Force. "Kay-Oh", I mumbled under buttery dust. There in a corner, with rounded shoulders and a shock of white hair sat an old Master, Kevin O'Brien. One March morning long ago, that dude pushed me into News. I didn't know whether to hug the gut or drop-kick him in the sternum. Wisely, I did neither.

Chronic MasticatorsBesides, who can execute any Hong Kong Phooey with this much food on board? To me, it's the most confounding element of these kind of events: The Spread. Between the breakfast buffet of French Toast, Bacon and Eggs to the Salad bar to the sandwich fixings to the full Lasagna and chicken dinner to the hot fudge sundaes to the ever-present plethora of Popsicles, potato chips, pretzels and Pepsi products, these cats know how to masticate! I'm not complaining, mind you but for the life of me I can't figure how or why these sporting orgies are so heavily catered. I do know this: if every assignment came with this kind of feast, I'd be pushin' 300 pounds. And a wheelbarrow to carry all the Oreos I'm gonna gorge on...Now back to the game!

BannerIt was a helluva competition. The UNC-Miami game, that is. Friday's Quarterfinal match-up between the Tar Heels and the Hurricanes had all the hallmarks of a Carolina tragedy - until UNC's Tyler Zeller scored his team's only lead - just in time to win the damn thing. It was thrilling to watch - even for a non sports fan like me. Even more invigorating was the throw-down that followed. See, minutes after the Coliseum erupted into near religious fervor, camera crews began gathering in a narrow hallway outside Carolina's locker room. Having nothing else to shoot at the moment, I blended in, if only to witness the bedlam first hand. It wouldn't be my first post-game interview. I covered enough ECU football to know locker rooms smell worse than anything the Navy had to offer. And that. is saying. A LOT. But enough of my yammering -- GO!

ACC Tourney Locker Room
The next few minutes were a blur. There I was, chatting up my buddy Scott Garrand when somewhere down the hall, a series of locks tumbled open and the walls began to strobe. It was much like the Running of the Bulls, but instead of apoplectic longhorns trying to run you down, it was former high school jocks who weren't about to be denied their chance to grill sweaty men in bath towels. Hey, who am I to judge? I once stepped on a lady's face to get a clearer shot of Randy Jackson. Still, those Hollywood 'togs ain't got nuthin' on a pack of overfed sport directors all hopped up on Blow-Pops. It's why I only lingered in the locker room long enough to bag this self-satisfying shot, before ducking out the door and heading for my deadline. Now, two days later, I'm sitting safely at home, watching Duke and Carolina battle each other for the whole enchilada. All of which makes me wonder...

What's on the buffet?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ready? Set...Pontificate!

Screen shot 2011-03-09 at 11.32.11 PM

Though it's unclear why YOU'D want to sit through it, the folks who attended our recent Final Cut Pro session didn't look all that miserable. Then again, I was too busy running my mouth to notice anyone low-crawling out of the room. Had I spotted any, I would have let them leave - as nothing I had to say was worth, say, missing an episode of 'Cake Boss'. Still, Chris Weaver and I had a great time explaining how we use the planet's most sophisticated video editing software to make stories about dogs in funny hats. Well, to be fair, Weaver did most of the explaining as my own expertise tends to dissipate once it clears the flume of hot air rising from my tongue. But don't take my word for it, watch this l-o-n-g Ustream clip and learn more about the El Ocho work-flow than you ever thought possible. Or better yet, DON'T. I won't hold it against you. Hey, you could always make a drinking game out of it. Just knock back a shot of your favorite whiskey every time I say "ummm", "at any rate" or anything else the least bit self-aggrandizing. Just pace yourself; I lost track around fifty...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Rain on the Stare-crow

Not in the news biz? Here's a fun way to find out what it feels like to be a (frazzled) photog. First, find the family camcorder. I know, you never even use the damn thing anymore, but that only makes it more for our little exercise Now, turn that puppy over and find the battery compartment. See it? Okay, now open it up and remove one (1) battery. Take a good look at go toss it in a junk-drawer! You won't be needing that until the next neighborhood watch meeting, anyway! Now, grab the camcorder, a tape or two and just for good measure, that neglected bread-maker your wife made you buy, the lava lamp from your box of college crap and perhaps a wet and dry shop-vac. Got 'em? Good! Drag every bit of that claptrap to the garage, dump it in a lump and drape the whole thing in orange extension cord. You'll have more than enough time to sort it out later ... NOT! For now, though, the complete history of Manhole Covers is on Discovery Channel, so you'd best hit the couch...

WAKE UP! WAKE UP! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S IRRELEVANT, WAKE THE $%#&! UP! It's raining like The Bible out there and a herd of caribou has wandered onto the interstate! Two semi's jackknifed to avoid impact but a stuffed activity bus from the Ministry of Silly Walks plowed into 'em sight unseen! It's nothin' but quivering flank steaks and British high-steppers for miles! Go! G-O! G-O-O-O-O-O! First though, grab your gear! The camcorder, the bread-maker, the lava lamp and the shop-vac! Throw 'em in the mini-van! Yes, the one with no gas in the tank and too many dried-up juice-boxes in the floor! HURRY! WAIT! The neighbor lady's going with you! Yeah, Missus Crankle! Yeah, I know she walks her houseplants but that's not important right now. There are caribou dying on the highway! G-O-O-O-O-O-O!

Hmm? What's that? Traffic's backed up for a dozen miles and your mini-van's vertical thrusters are on the fritz? The lava lamp oozed goop all over the camcorder and now you got it in your eye? Hey, you GOT a shop-vac! And what do you mean Old Lady Crankle is waiving her microphone and a few gang signs at some bikers? Don't they know who she is? Haven't they seen her in the social pages of that free weekly? The one where she's sticking her tongue in that deejay's ear? Forget it, see if they'll comment on the caribou! And can you bring back a carcass or something for a set-prop? What do you mean you're not there yet? We've already built an over the shoulder graphic and a lower third index bar! We're calling it CARIBOUCALYPSE! Now G-O-O-O! Hit the breakdown lane and drive that mini-van like the wind! Hurry! We're taking your lava-vac-camcorder shot in 5...4...3...2...

SNORF?!? Oh...sorry. Must have dozed off there and propped my head on the keyboard. Damn Mac web-cast my dream again. At least it wasn't the one where I'm running fiber-optic cable through the sinkhole convention while Sasquatch tosses anchor-wrap at me. That one's always so hard to explain...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Glass Action Hero

Busse, of course.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a thirty year old reminder you'll never be as cool as David R. Busse. Don't feel bad. Few news-gatherers have lived through as many hard and fast deadlines as this West Coast legend. It's why we're dedicating an entire wing of the Lenslinger Institute to him. That, and he's got a suh-weet photo collection that we really think will liven up the place. This latest one is a doozy. In it, Busse can clearly be seen walking the skid of a chartered JetRanger, as he demonstrates how the quintessential cameraman got it done w-a-y back in the 80's. Long before gyro-stabilized cameras made crawling out of the cockpit unnecessary, Busse and his buds relied on a custom-made harness and enlarged sets of genitalia to bag. that. shot.

But as always, the picture only reveals a sliver of the story. Ask Busse and he'll tell you of catching a flying seat cushions by hand - seconds before it got sucked into the tail rotor. He'll tell you of using this same rig to fly low and slow over the 1992 L.A. riots. Hell, he'll even tell you about that time they had to land in a Stuckey's parking lot so his buddy Martin could take a piss. What he won't discuss is exactly when the pussification of America took hold, but I'm betting Busse was hovering overhead and laughing the moment it did. Recently, David stuck that heroic old harness on eBay and waited for a clamor to commence. It did not. Now, my personal pick for The World's Most Interesting Man thinks that celebrated series of straps should hang in a museum and I, for one, agree.

In fact, I have just the - AHEM - institute in mind...