Analogue Wayback, Ep. 13

More corned beef, please.

In two decades of being freelance, I’ve done my share of on-site edits. Some are booked well in advance. Others start with a panicked call from a producer early in the morning.

It was a cold St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2007. My friend – the producer – called on Friday morning with an urgent request. She was in Savannah doing a show for Spike TV to air that Saturday evening. It was a mix of Florida and New York crew, but the main editor was snowed in and couldn’t get a flight from New York to Savannah. Could I quickly drive up to Savannah as the main editor (out of two) to get the show on the air? So I tossed clothes in a bag and headed to Savannah, getting there by mid-afternoon.

If you’ve ever seen the Nathan’s Famous competitive hot dog eating contests, then you’ll get the drift. It was like that, featuring the same competitors, except that it was themed around St. Patrick’s Day. Think corned beef and cabbage instead of hot dogs. As with most “plausibly live” competition shows, there was a Friday and Saturday round, plus featurettes and graphics. The preliminary round was to be recorded Friday afternoon and then the final round on Saturday. The editors had to package the show into an hourlong competition to be fed up to Spike late on Saturday afternoon in time for network QC and an 8PM slot for air.

The event was set up in the River Street area with our two production trailers parked nearby. These contained the live control room and two Avid systems connected to Unity shared storage. The intent was to record the live rounds straight through an Avid to the Unity and then build the feature segments, clean up the live events, and package everything into a finished show formatted to network time.

I made it there in time to record the preliminary round, but immediately hit a hiccup. Every time I started the live ingest, Media Composer kicked out of record after less than a minute. After a bit of trial and error, I only recorded one channel of audio instead of two and it worked. Go figure. No big deal, since this was mono from the board feed anyway. We got it recorded, worked a bit into the evening, and had act one in the can.

The trailers had no shore power and ran off of generator power. The last thing the truck engineer did that night was to top off the diesel to make sure we would have plenty for the next day. He left the generator running with equipment power on, since it would be cold overnight. That way, we would be good to go for an early start on Saturday.

If you aren’t aware, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah is a BIG deal. This meant an early call to avoid getting stuck in traffic headed to get a position for the parade. People had already been camping out on some of the city’s historic squares. We immediately saw upon arrival that the generator was now off. No power and it wouldn’t restart. Uh oh! After some frantic calls, the engineer finally located a generator repairman who was available and could actually get to our location without being stuck in traffic. We were finally up and running again by mid-morning – meaning a late start with a live contest to record and three more acts to cut. The day proceeded according to plan and we were working as fast as possible. But it was getting close to the drop-dead time to feed a final (to length) file to NYC.

Fortunately, this director was very trusted by the network, so they granted him some leeway. We were able to feed later without any network QC review and the show was allowed to run fat in length. However, this meant I was still working on the final act leading up to showtime, because of the late start. We finally fed the fourth segment while the show was already starting to air and made it with minutes to spare. Plausibly live was nearly live for real!

These competitive eating contests can be cringe-worthy, but given the St. Patrick’s Day theme, this one was even more so. At the crew dinner that night, our director – who had directed many MMA broadcasts – opined, that although he’d seen many disgusting things, this one might have topped them all!

©2022 Oliver Peters

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