The Mike Carroll Show on KCRA–Christmas Day 2015
2015 has been a wild year for me. Some of which I’ve mentioned here recently, others I may bring up at a later date. Among them, my recent article on my taking a break from filmmaking and focusing my creative juices on my TV journalism/photojournalism work at KCRA (which is a paying gig!), and other artistic explorations dealing with writing, which I will save for a later post.
One thing I have missed over this past year is doing more reporter-photographer stories for KCRA. Well, that all changed today. I got a great Christmas present—in KCRA’S 6 O’clock Reports there were not one—but two Mike Carroll stories.
I am going to detail the story that I “turned” (reported, shot, wrote & edited) today here on this blog post. The other story, on E-Bicycles/Electric Bicycles, which I shot a few weeks ago and was held for the holidays, I shall detail in a blog tomorrow or Sunday.
Working In TV: Christmas Day 2015
When you decide to go into the news business, you immediately have to accept that you’re going to be living and working on a different kind of schedule from everybody that you know.
The news gets printed, goes on the air and gets posted online—every single day of the year. There’s only one way that gets done—with a staff of people working every single day of the year.
My regular shift is Tuesday through Saturday. It is my preferred shift, and one that I have had for nearly 25 of the 32 years that I’ve been in this business. In those years I’ve only had a handful of Christmases off. Those were only when Christmas fell on a Sunday or Monday, my normal days off.
So, it is Friday, December 25, 2015, Christmas Day, so I’m working. And I am glad to be working on Christmas Day! For one thing, newsrooms are generally have a small staff with the same amount of news content to fill.
Back in November I made a pitch to the KCRA news managers that I would very much like to do some of my reporter–photographer stories on the holidays. So far, I reported one this past Thanksgiving, and today, Christmas Day, I got to do another.
11 A.M.–Working Christmas Day Journal
I’m dictating this into my iPhone as I’m driving east on Interstate 80, up into the Sierra Nevadas and to Donner Ski Ranch. I covered Christmas Day at Donner Ski Ranch last year and it was a joy. It’s the only privately and family-owned and operated ski resort in Northern California and they live or die depending upon the weather. It has been a very spotty winter so far and they have not been opened very much. However, yesterday was a big storm day and dumped a lot of snow on the mountains, so it ‘s a white Christmas in the Sierras.
I was in at 10 AM and got the go ahead to do the story at 10:30. Last year I drove up in a full-size news live truck. This time I’m just going up in my news car. Trying to do it smaller and simpler.
11:15 AM—On I-80 Heading East
Been on the road for 45 minutes. Just got a call from KCRA producer Karen Wulferdinger informing me that in addition to the Donner Ski Ranch story she is also going to run and HFR—Hold For Release—story on E-bicycles that I shot a few weeks ago, and a station decided to hold for the Christmas holidays.
So I am going to have two news packages on KCRA today!
1 PM—Soda Springs
Got up to the Soda Springs exit, which I take to get to Donner Ski Ranch. Karen had called to request that I shoot some travel footage on the highway and grab some sound with a person or two on Holiday travel conditions and feed it back for KCRA and our sister NBC station in San Francisco to use in the 5 o’clock news.
On the way I’s pulled out my GoPro Hero 3+ and a new suction cup mount and got winter driving video with the camera suction cupped to the inside of the front windshield and to the side window looking out.
I’ve written about the GoPro Hero 3+ before in this site, and I continue to be astounded by the visuals you can get out of it.
I think a lot of people GoPros as novelty cameras and for home video, not realizing what an amazing tool it is. The perspective the GoPros provide reminds me of the dynamism of Cinerama an IMAX.
GoPro, if you’re listening, I really want a GoPro Hero 4! I would love to write about what that camera can do!
At Soda Springs. I quickly shot some interviews with people who’d stopped at a gas station to let their children play in the snow. Shot some bites with a fellow from San Jose, which would work out well for the San Francisco station, and with a woman from Sacramento. This was her first time in the mountains in the snow.
Then, I quickly edited the two bites and some B-roll footage, including some of the GoPro driving footage, and fed it back over Wi-Fi while driving down the road to the ski resort.
2 PM—Finally arrived at Donner Ski Ranch.
This story package was slated for the 6 o’clock news. The packed traffic driving up from Sacramento had put me behind. This meant that I had to be completely finished with shooting, writing and editing this story in 3-hours-and-15-minutes, in order to have 45-minutes to get it fed back in time to make the 6 o’clock news.
NOTE: In the mountains WiFi is not dependable.
2-2:45—Shoot interviews and B-roll.
2:45-4:15/4:30—Log & Write.
(Logging takes the most time. It’s tedious. But once I finish shooting an interview I can’t remember what was just said to me. I’m always focusing on what to get next. Once the footage is logged, I start moving bites, editing the story “on paper,” so to speak, and write some reporter track/narration to string the piece together. This typically takes 30 to 40 minutes.)
By the time I finished writing it was 4:30.
I emailed the script back to producer Karen Wulferdinger to review.
It was agreed that I should just start editing together the story and that she would review the script and inform me if there was a problem.
Fortunately, Karen never got back to me—so my script was OK!
4:30 PM—Crunch Time
I had to scramble and get this edited in half an hour to 45-minutes.
I know, you’re thinking: I still have an hour and a half. Where’s the fire?
Here’s the deal:
I was going to have to send the story back by Wi-Fi. In the mountains that is always tricky. I needed to be able to allocate 45-minutes just to make sure that I can get it fed in on time. Sometimes the Wi-Fi is slow.
I cut my reporter audio track, which takes a few minutes.
Then in Adobe Premiere, on the timeline, I lay down my track and edit in the interview bites, making the A-roll.
Now it’s time for the B-roll-laying in video over all of the areas of my track to show the story that I’m reporting.
This can take 15-20 minutes.
I then look at it once and fix any minor problems.
It was now 5:15. I exported the story as a single video file and started to set it up to feedback via Wi-Fi. I was editing in the parking lot of the Ski Ranch. The year before I’d edited in a live truck on the other side of the parking lot and had really good Wi-Fi.
I fired up to start feeding back using Wi-Fi from the main ski Ranch itself. And there was very little Wi-Fi strength there. My laptop indicated the feed would take two hours!
I had a TVU backpack with me, and, provided I can get enough Wi-Fi strength out of it, I could have fed it back that way. But then I remembered having really good Wi-Fi strength just on the other side of the road in the back-up parking lot. I drove over there and—Shazam!—got great Wi-Fi
The story was fed back in six minutes and was in by 5:40.
Just where I’d budgeted my time to be.
It was a fun and satisfying day. I always enjoy the challenge of going out but myself, turning a package with a solid news theme to it, and prove—to myself—that I can pull it off.
Last year I was in a live truck with a generator and lots of room. This time I drove in my regular news vehicle, wrote and edited in the passenger seat, using a little power supply plugged into a cigarette lighter jack. Very simple & streamlined. And I think it could be done even simpler.
Maybe that will be next time.
Merry Christmas, everyone!