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My Set Day
Written November 4, 2020

 

It was the spring of 2011, and flowers were blooming!  The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball season was getting under way, and the team's television network, known since the beginning of the century as Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh or FSN Pittsburgh, was now going to call itself Root Sports.  All the graphics had to be changed. 

General Manager Shawn McClintock told Pittsburgh Business Times that after March 31, “you will never see or hear ‘FSN.’”

On Friday, April 1, the Pirates opened their season in Chicago.  Those of us who were back home eagerly watched to see the new “look” on the air.

(In 2017, the name would change again, to AT&T SportsNet.)

The following Wednesday afternoon, April 6, 2011, the Pirates were in St. Louis to conclude their season-opening road trip with a game against the Cardinals.

These guys, the Root Sports director and producer and their assistants, were there.  The rest of the crew was made up of local St. Louis technicians.

Meanwhile, many of the local Pittsburgh technicians had already arrived at PNC Park, which would be the venue for Thursday's home opener.  I was there, and so was our “home truck,” the mobile unit we'd be using that season for PNC Park telecasts.

The occasion was our annual Set Day — an opportunity to deploy cameras and microphones to confirm that the stadium's connecting cables were still there and functional after six months of inactivity.  If there were problems, we wanted to fix them before the director and producer arrived the next morning.

Although the video and audio crews' setup required only a few hours, I had to spend most of the day moving computer files around on the Duet graphics machine.  My coordinator Jason Steele was in St. Louis, of course, but I had been wrangling Duet files for Pirates telecasts since 2004 and I knew what needed to be done.

Incidentally, I still dream about being a graphics operator, even in retirement.  But the dreams are usually about pregame tasks.  They're like the classic nightmare of “today's the big test ... and I haven't even been to class!”  I'm in a panic about getting lost on my way to work.  Once I'm there, I'm in a panic about how to do my job.

The odd thing about sports graphics, in my experience anyway, is that the preparation is more intensive than the execution.  We work at a frantic pace readying everything that might be needed; then, when the telecast begins, our most stressful task is animating the starting lineups.  But once the actual competition gets under way, we sit back and watch the game, waiting for our occasional opportunities to display the graphics we've made.

A few days before Set Day, I had visited Gina Weiss at the local Root Sports office to get a package of animations she had received from Root's headquarters in Denver. 

I had also picked up the “Black Brick,” a portable hard drive that had been used in Florida during March spring training telecasts under the FSN name. Although we now had a new look, we might need to borrow a few elements for the regular season.

Then, back at my apartment (“Aptc”), I had used my Internet connection to download the major portion of the new Root Sports graphics package from Denver and add it to the Brick.  I copied Gina's animations to the Brick for good measure.

Now it was Set Day, and time to go to work.  The next morning I would need to tell Jason what I had done, so I kept a detailed log.

I recently rediscovered that Black n’ Red notebook while cleaning out a drawer in my apartment.  Here's what I accomplished on my day of preparation, April 6, 2011.


The mobile unit was parked in the garage behind the right-field stands.  (This is a stock image from TV on Wheels.)  Once the engineers had hooked up the electrical power, we were allowed to enter the truck about 9:30.

I switched on the Duet and found that it had several versions of Lyric software already installed.  I decided to use Lyric 6.5 Build 1256.

When I plugged the Brick into a USB port, the Duet identified it as the F: drive.  I prepared to move its data onto two of the machine's internal hard drives, known as I: and J: respectively.

 I

The Brick files included a large folder from spring training, F:\MLB 2010 Backup\Copy_To_I \FSN_MLB_HD.  Copying that folder to I: took an hour starting at 9:57.  For some reason, we were still using our traditional filenames FSN_MLB instead of the new ROOT\MLB.

J

The J: drive would hold less data, so only seven minutes were required to add F:\MLB 2010 Backup\Copy_To_J_720p\FSN_MLB.  Later I discovered that this filename needed to be even longer, with _HD appended.  Why did it include “720p”?  As a sports network, the high-definition format we used was 720-line progressive.

We would be accessing data from other folders on the Brick.  After modifiying that data, there was a chance we might want to recover the Brick's original version, but the Brick would not be hooked up on game day.  Therefore my next step was to save nine of those folders to a temporary folder I named I:\BlackBrick.  I began at 11:03.

  3.  Aptc DOWNLOADS
  4.  Gina ANIMATIONS
  5.  Messages & Sponsors from 24
  6.  Minor League Headshots
  7.  Pirates Photos
  8.  RootSports HD [2011 backgrounds]
  9.  RootSports SD
10.  Truck
11.  MLB 2010 Backup\Installers

When that copy process was complete at 12:06, I went into the first folder I'd copied that morning, opened the subfolder 2011_MLB_Headshots_Spring_Training, and upzipped the various team sub-subfolders.  The software would find them using three-letter names, but one was improperly labeled YANKEES.  I copied its contents into NYY at 12:12 and also renamed LEGENDS as LGD.  Then I copied everything to I:\HeadsForJason.  During the homestand, Jason could save these player portraits (some newly created for the month of March) to his portable hard drive in case he needed them on the road.

Then, beginning at 12:21, I copied other data from the temporary I:\BlackBrick folders to its proper destination, either in I:\FSN_MLB_HD or in J:\FSN_MLB.  That's where we'd find it during the next day's telecast of Rockies at Pirates. 

Once I got “Messages & Sponsors” started at 12:41, I joined the rest of the crew for lunch.  On the restaurant TV, we watched Chris Carpenter's first pitch in St. Louis.  Then, back at the truck, I copied the contents of the other six folders beginning at 2:10; that required only seven additional minutes.

With over four hours of copying complete, it was now installation time!

First I installed the set of 16 fonts that were used in the new Root Sports look.

Our Major League Baseball statistics were supplied by a company called Sports Graphics.  Using File Transfer Protocol, I downloaded the latest version of their “SGL Loader” program from the Internet and installed that.

Rosters and other information would be accessed by a proprietary Fox Sports plugin, version 4.19.1, which I tried to install inside the Lyric 6.5_3 program.  But it didn't show up in Build 1256.  I then tried another Build which would be 1246.  The plugin was finally located in Build 1240.  I decided this must be the version of Lyric that I ought to be using, so I made a note.

At 2:29 I launched the NVIDIA program, which would mirror my computer's “canvas” and display it on another monitor in front of the producer and director.  They might want to know what I was working on.

At 2:35 I used the plugin to download the current Pittsburgh and Colorado rosters (names and numbers and positions and such) prepared by our graphics people in Los Angeles (where they were still employed by Fox).

And at 2:45, I could finally start inspecting the graphics pages, called “messages,” which we would be using during the next day's telecast!

Along the way, I made note of only one glitch.  When I called up message 26, an element from Bar_Final called TEXTName was hiding the qualifier on my computer screen.  Also, I didn't see a proper preview of the animation, but it did run properly.

Obviously the Sports Graphics stats would not yet have been updated to reflect the results of Wednesday's games, but at 3:55 I tried using the SGL Loader anyway.  I failed to log on.  The next day I'd learn that the username should be rootsteele with a password of rootjason.

There were four other F: files I'd skipped that morning, mostly outdated non-720p backgrounds.  There was an outside chance we might need them anyway, but it was time to unplug the F: drive, so I saved these to I:\BlackBrick starting at 4:17.

12.  MLB 2010 Backup\Copy to J 4x3
13.  MLB 2010 Backup\Copy to J 16x9
14.  MLB 2010 Backup\Copy to J 1080
15.  Paperwork

Then I clicked on “safely remove hardware and eject media” at 4:55, allowing me to unplug the Brick.  When Jason showed up the next morning, he would plug in his portable hard drive with stuff from St. Louis. 

Now my Set Day was over.  The Duet could be powered down, the engineers could close up the truck, and I could log out at 5:00 and go home.

(Unfortunately, we would lose our home opener the next day by a score of 7 to 1.)

 

TBT

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