KCRA–Tibetan Manjishru Sand Art

Published On January 3, 2018 | By Mike Carroll | KCRA-TV, Mike's TV News Stories, Shooting News

As I blogged earlier back in November, for the past few years I have volunteered to word the big three holidays–Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years–and do my reporter-photographer stories. This time around I only got 2 out of 3. That is only because I was not scheduled for New Year’s Day, even though offering.


In the past week or so since Christmas, I have done 4 reporter-photographer stories!

(I hope to get a 5th in before the end of the week! Will keep you posted.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018–first working day of the New Year, on coming into work and checking in at the assignment desk, Mitch gave me a press release to go shoot a VO-SOT — and, if I think I can make a package out of it, to go for it.

This was something too good to let slip by.

Up in the hills around Placerville — which anyone who is a follower of westerns will know of by it’s Gold Rush name of “Hangtown” — there was something quite extraordinary going on.

It was the fourteen year that Tibetan monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery in India came back for two weeks to produce a  Manjishru Mandala sand art at the Diamond Springs Center for Healing.

I’ve seen this in films and documentaries, but never personally. And once I saw it I had to do a story of my own! 



Typically, I shoot most of my stories hand-held in order to follow people and react to a moment or situation.

On this story I used my full-sized Sony HD XDCAM on the Sachtler tripod almost all the time, augmenting with the GoPro Hero 5 Black on the Karma Stabilizer.

Since the story is about finding peace within one’s self, I wanted the shots to be smooth and steady and . . . peaceful.


Once I got up to the location in Diamond Springs, which takes approximately 50-minutes driving time from KCRA, it was 11, then shooting some interviews. I checked into the station to let them know that I could make a package out of this story, and I was assigned to the 4 o’clock news. So for the third time in the past week I was in the 4 show, which meant I had to work faster.

I actually relished this as a greater challenge on speed and — “What is important?” — “Get to the story! —

There was a lunch break for the Monks for around 45-minutes or so at 11:30 or so. I was asked if I wanted them to keep working for a bit so I could get my shots of them doing the Mandala? But I said No. I do not like to interfere in the activity of the stories that I work on. I much prefer to be the observer to the process at hand.

So they took a lunch break and I settled into my news car, imported the interviews and started logging.

It should be noted that I was invited to dine with the Monks. This was very nice and on another day I would have happily accepted. One does not always get invited to lunch with Tibetan Monks!

However, Time was my obstacle today and I needed to take advantage of every precious moment!

Then when the Monks returned, I went into the Center and got my footage. First with the Sony and on tripod. But then I switched to the GoPro and the Monks were totally comfortable with me moving around them. I also stayed outside of the ribbon set up around their work table.

Although–I did lean in with the GoPro on the Stabilizer. The Monks were totally oblivious to me. Thankfully.


I was working out of my news car, not a microwave live truck, so I would be completely dependent on good WiFi.

(There would not be enough time to drive back to Sacramento and edit at the station.)

So once I had finished shooting I packed up and drove into Placerville, parked and finished logging, writing & editing.

It was now just past 2 o’clock and I had less than 2 hours to finish logging — write — edit — upload.

Unlike the last story that I produced for the 4 o’clock news, I knew this would not hit until midway into the show, around 4:30. But I want everything to be in for a show before the newscast begins.

I normally listen to all of an interview, but some of these rambled, and I don’t like to interrupt, generally, because you might get an unexpected nugget of sound. So I scrubbed through the interviews for the couple of bites that I wanted for letting the people tell the story.

This way I focus my writing on the facts and the information that the bites do not present, or allow the bites to be the human personalization and let my writing connect-the-dots.

Once I was logged, and had written a few lines of track/narration, I looked at my bites, rearranged and moved them around, editing on paper. Then I tracked at 3:20PM

Another 30-minute edit job.

There was not a super-strong WiFi signal where I had pulled over in Placerville, so I knew it would take a full 10-minutes to feed the 1-minute 40-second story. That’s scary, particularly if the WiFi starts to drop.

While the story was being fed back, I got the times for the interview supers of names, rearranged my script to better represent the finished story — (I usually realize that some line or so of my written track and/or bites I’ve incorporated are not necessary or redundant, so I delete to keep the story tight and fast) — and e-mailed that back.

The story was fed in by 4 PM.

I confirmed with the station that everything–edited story, script & times–were in and good. Then–

I was done!

I had not taken a lunch break. So I hit a used book store in Placerville — The Bookery — found an old paperback treasure & headed back.

Another day of leaving the station at 9:40 AM, driving 50-minutes, shooting, writing & editing — and had another completed & fed reporter-photographer package done in approximately 6-hours.

Package #4 in 6 working days.

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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