Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Madness (On A Slightly Smaller Scale)...

Have you ever had one those weeks where you have something big coming up and small things start to happen that make you think the entire week is going to be a disaster? Well, that was last week for me as I left to shoot the NJCAA Men's National Championship Tournament. I had to leave the wife and kids for a week so I was stressed about them, I had to work another job until late in the evening on the same day I was to leave on a 4 hour drive, and I ruined my travel air compressor and burned myself in the process. Needless to say, my week seemed destined for disaster.

Hutchinson Sports Arena
Luckily for me, almost as soon as I hit the road, things started turning around. I made good time (roads are surprisingly clear after midnight, haha), used half as much gas as I thought I would, gas was cheaper out there, and the hotel was nicer than expected. I woke up the next morning ready to work and feeling much better about the weeks possibilities.

Working for a company called PSB LIVE, I shot 26 games over the course of the next five days from the comfort of... wait, did I just say comfort? No, I stood on my feet for up to 6 games a day getting hit with basketballs and run over by players. It was great! No really, I loved it. I haven't shot a top tier sporting event since I went freelance. Having shot nothing but sports in college, it brought back a lot of memories of shooting the MIAA conference championships in Kansas City. However, it was nice to just be a camera op instead of being in charge of 10-12 college kids trying to put on a large production.

Speaking of the production, let me say first that working with Joe and Ryan from PSB Live was great. They seemed genuinely excited to have someone with my background working for them at the tournament. While that was most likely because they knew what they were paying was very low for the type of work, I'd selfishly like to think it was because I was just that good. Having said that, I'd also like to explain that I'm not complaining about the amount I was paid. I own a calculator and I'm smart enough to figure out how much I was going to make and what it might cost me just to go. However, while I did come out ahead, I didn't go for the money, and I wasn't going for the experience. Like I said, I have over 4 years of experience doing this type of work from college alone. I went for the third and often overlooked reason... to make connections and meet people.

Ryan running the show
I still get surprised by people who think that experience is the best way, in this industry, to get more work. Then again, maybe it is and I'm just not taking full advantage of mine. I've always been told and witnessed that knowing the right people, and not your skill level, will get you work more often than sending out a great resume. So, when I saw a chance to work for the company that has a multi-year deal to stream a large amount of NJCAA games and tournaments, I jumped at it and tried to give a good first impression.

I'd say that my work as a whole for the tournament was great, but I doubt that looking back at the archived games would tell the same story. Not to say that I did bad work, but that there were certain difficulties that hampered my efforts. Namely the fact that at times there was no director. Until the last couple days there was almost no communication between myself and Ryan, the person running the broadcast. This was not a technical glitch or equipment failure, it was simply how they usually operate. For the first couple days I operated not knowing if my camera was live or if we were even broadcasting. It's hard enough to do good work when you have that communication, let alone going without it. However, as much as it seems like I am complaining, I really can't bring myself to do so. If you look at the picture above you will see Ryan, the director. However, what you don't get from the image is that he is directing cameras, switching, running the audio board, capturing replays, playing commercials, updating the score graphic, and running the game clock ALL AT THE SAME TIME! How do you walk up to a guy responsible for all that and say, "Hey, you need to focus on what I need from you a little more." Answer: You don't!

Aside from the unavoidable lack of direction, I had more trouble on the court, mostly in the form of players. I was pretty fearless for the first couple days, but after dodging basketballs and out of control players, I did find myself getting a bit gun-shy. There's just something about the image of a hyper-extended knee that makes me not want to stand in front of two 6'5" guys running my way. However, I persevered in the end and came out with some great dunk footage.

In the end, I would say that I accomplished my mission of making a good impression. Ryan and Joe showed a lot of interest in working with me in the future and even the Assistant Executive Director of the NJCAA complimented me on my work. I was even able to pick up a few notes on how to go about streaming events beyond the level of a handy-cam and a Ustream account. So, even if they don't turn into a regular client, I at least came away with some self confidence about my abilities and some knowledge on starting my own streaming venture should I feel the need to do so. That spells 'Winning!' in my book.

Oh, and an additional thanks goes out to the NJCAA for covering my hotel room for the week. It was a very nice hotel and made what little rest I got between sessions enjoyable.
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