Missed a Hole-In-One with Tiger
By JC Cummings
A few years ago, I was called to produce a live “talk-back” interview (video media tour) for ABC/ESPN. The format required an interview from a Los Angeles country club, transmitting worldwide to several broadcast outlets. On-air sports announcers could ask our sports personality questions, which the on-camera talent could directly respond. Our guest was Tiger Woods.
I contacted my satelite truck vendors pricing out the budgeted feed, signal and create the path. Gave them the list of gear, camera, lights, etc. The day of the shoot, our crew members met me at the location. The production truck arrived equipped with an uplink dish, fiber connect and a basic internal production package. The crew set cable, placed the camera, lights, audio… Ready to be “faxed” (testing the gear and signal). All seemed to becoming a great day for a successful shoot!
Without doubt, Tiger is a great golfer and a very strong interview. Tiger’s smile, on-camera demeanor and knowledge seems a part of his overall marketability. Tiger and I greeted each other, shook hands, and oh, what a grip! Once we were all settled, I went over the format with our celebrity golfer. I was talking back to the hub via truck satellite transmission, testing the up and down signal links and fiber ‘pops’.
The shoot started out very well. I was intensly viewing the monitor, and about 15 minutes into the shoot, I discovered Tiger was looking green! I called for the engineer to check what the problem could be? He put his donut and coffee down, looked at the monitor only to say, “It looks GREEN!” What the @#$% was I paying this genius for? I asked him to check all circuits, patch connections, cables… Everything checked out. If the problem wasn’t coming from the truck, cables or monitor… Then it must be at the camera end.
I asked the engineer to heat up another camera and fire it on so we could switch the shot from another angle. Then, in a soft voice I heard, “What other camera? We didn’t pack a back up.”
“Okay,” I said with concern, “How long would it take to get someone from your shop to bring another camera…?”
“About 15 minutes,” he uttered! I extended our satellite window and notified all the ‘powers-that-be’. The camera finally arrived, the operator set it up, Tiger continued to answer questions from the sports announcers, and ESPN let me know the feed was a production bust.
The culprit was a weak board in the camera. When the camera heated up, a failure occurred that the engineers called a “cold solder” or faulty chip. A couple of mistakes that could have prevented the debacle:
- An indication of the problem would have shown up if the engineers would have “bench checked” the camera before bringing it to location. Instead, they looked at it for any external damage from a recent rental and turned it around without a bench check.
- I requested a ‘walk through’ of the gear a day earlier, but since the truck was returning from another production, it was not available.
I should have insisted on a basic test and a back up camera on board the production truck. Problem was I assumed (which you should never do) another camera was onboard because the rental informaton I received indicated “multi-cameras onboard”.
A few days after my “swan song” with ESPN ended, the president of the satellite truck company called me to apologize. Although a nice gesture, the damage was done, and I lost an account for almost a year.
As the producer or other positions take the time to outline a comprehensive punch list of things you’ll need, don’t hesitate to communicate your needs clearly making sure everything on a production punch list is checked. Create your own set of rules, and politely require they be followed. Make sure you receive the “bench reports” before renting a piece of gear. Regardless the level of a production, request a ‘walk through’ meeting before anyone gets near the set…
My lesson was well learned!
After we finished the shoot, Tiger very kindly asked if I would join him in a round of golf. I said, “I need to wrap the crew, but maybe another time!” Are you kidding me? I had enough disappointments that day. Couldn’t handle being crushed by one of golf’s greatest…And that’s THE REEL STORY.
JC Cummings has become a sought-after Producer, Director, Showrunner, including a production logistics specialist in the film and television industries. Mr. Cummings continues to share his knowledge with over 40 years of “on set” production experience and storytelling as an independent producer. Beginning in radio for a short time, moving to film and broadcast TV, where his career lead him to acquire rights and later producing a successful nationally syndicated children’s series. As success continued, Mr. Cummings was contracted to develop other television projects for broadcast networks and outside companies. www.motionpicturecompany.com