Threads: Atlanta and After
Wednesday, June 5, 1996
The local baseball team having left for a West Coast trip, I actually have a few consecutive days off. But I don't know how to handle the free time.
I see something that needs to be read, so I sit down and read it. It starts to rain outside, so I go to the window and watch it. The piano catches my eye, so I sit down and play something. Then maybe I pick an item at random from my "to do" list and work on it for a while. Most of those items don't have a definite deadline, so there's not much pressure to tackle any of them, and I get lazy.
But I do need to get this letter in the mail so that you'll receive it by your birthday. Therefore, you are now on the top of the priority list, well ahead of taking my car in for an oil change. (Maybe I'll get to that on Friday.)
A big chunk of my summer will be spent at the Olympics in Atlanta. Eight years ago in Seoul I was working for NBC; this time around I'll be working for AOB, the "host broadcaster" that makes coverage of all the events available to all the countries that want it.
Not all countries want it. For example, the United States and Japan are among those that will produce their own telecasts instead; therefore, I don't expect any of my work will be seen in this country. But most of the smaller nations will take parts of AOB's feed and add their own announcers (who may actually be sitting in a studio back home). So the graphics on which I work will be seen far and wide.
Because of the different languages involved, I expect that most of the graphics will be not English sentences but simply flags and names and numbers. And much of that data will come directly from the scoring computer system, so I won't have to type it, just call it up. But I'll also be working on the opening and closing ceremonies, in addition to track & field (or "athletics" as it's called), because I'll be in Control Room A at the Olympic Stadium.
I'm told that those of us working there will be housed at a place called Carter Hall. It's either an old hotel which has been renovated and will become a dormitory after the Olympics, or an old dormitory which has been renovated and will become a hotel after the Olympics. Anyway, it's only a couple of blocks from the stadium, so I shouldn't have to contend with the traffic problems in Atlanta.
I was in Cleveland for the opening day of baseball season in April and found this article in the Plain Dealer under "Oberlin":
I seem to recall that when you were on Social Board, you suggested a runway competition where a Miss Oberlin would be chosen, but that idea was deemed politically incorrect. Times have changed, more than once.
The college's alumni publication, trying to avoid offense to wealthy benefactors, didn't mention the runway but referred to the "all-campus party" as "Oberlin's greatest event of community spirit and bonding."
Rock and Roll
As it turns out, the baseball game in Cleveland was snowed out. (This has been a very cool spring, hasn't it?) So I had a free day. I took the opportunity to visit for the first time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, having worked at the museum's opening concert seven months earlier.
As I expected, I found the museum only mildly interesting. Of course, different displays interest different people. I noticed certain pieces of electronic equipment. There were three Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorders similar to those we had at WOBC, and I noted that the museum staff had threaded one of them incorrectly! There was also a 1968 Moog synthesizer, which reminded me of the analog computer we worked with one day in a physics lab. The idea was to run a patch cord from the output of this oscillator to the control input of this other oscillator over here, and then patch the second oscillator's output into a frequency-controlled variable-Q filter, and so on. Of course, nowadays almost all computers and synthesizers are digital.
There was also displayed a sheet of paper on which Neil Young had scribbled down in red ink the words that became the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song "Ohio," about the Kent State shootings. ("Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/We're finally on our own.") The paper looked like it had been folded and stuck in an inside jacket pocket; I've seen that pattern of perspiration-induced wrinkles before.
This filled in a gap in my knowledge, because I had never heard clearly the first eight words of the later lines, "What if you knew her and / Found her dead on the ground?" And it reminded me of those somber times, when classes at Syracuse shut down for a time, campus streets were barricaded, and I later played this quickly-released song on WAER.
Wednesday, June 5, 1996
Yes, I'll be in Atlanta for the Games, from July 11 through August 6.
We'll start out with rehearsing and then televising the opening ceremonies July 19, and then switch over to "athletics" (track) for a couple of weeks until it's time for the closing ceremonies. [See also here.]
Inside the stadium, I understand that the control-room air conditioning is working very well; so believe it or not, I'll have to take some warm clothes to work in Atlanta in July. If our paths should cross, I'll be the one in the jacket and long pants.
Of course, there were glitches, many of them involving an animation of a spinning globe. Here are some of my notes.
Going to disk utilities? EXIT message compose (don't SUSPEND, else later the "globe" will crash).
If 8010 works once, it'll work again in that session.
If no globe, don't use space bar it'll crash! Instead, for immediate recovery: ESC out of function, CTRL Q out of multieffects, ERASE the rgb, CTRL T ESC to exit transform, set mix to 2-0-3 (excluding frame buffer 1 because it thinks the cell animation is still there). When you can, MODE-SELECT S SETUP B to reboot.
The medals transform complains OBJECTS MISSING. The only objects in C/ATHLETICS now are ATHLETOPE and FINALTEAL.
If you abort medal animation, you must go back and delete script VICTORY3OBJ.
And then the Olympics were a memory.
I moved on to national cable telecasts of college football. Former TCS colleagues Tom Huet and Tami Rippy booked me for the Conference USA season on Prime Sports, beginning with the September 7, 1996, Kentucky at Cincinnati game.
For Prime Sports in Pittsburgh, I was also preparing for the hockey season. I made some notes for other graphics operators who would have to use my system on the road.
Friday, October 4, 1996
Hint on changing the team logos or pennants: Usually you can just type a lower-case letter. The tab field will select the font, either logo or pennant, and will force upper case if the larger version is required.
On the scoreboards, you can change the periods manually; but you may find it easier to use one of the "cycle" functions º3, º13, º18, or º23. With the scoreboard on the screen, call up the function and space through your options. When you find the one you want, ESC out of the function and DEL REC to store the result.
For the power play clock, from 1 A AIR, call up a function like º91. The function will put scoreboard 5 on Preview, while Air will be a mix of the clock 688 (in buffer 1) and the backpiece 94 (in buffer 3). The function will wait for three keystrokes to preset the timer, M:SS. Then at the right moment, press S to start the timer.
To get out of the clock when it has run down to zero, press F2, replacing the timer with "Even Strength" and waiting. After the director loses that graphic, hit the space bar to reset the mix and erase the page.
Wednesday, March 26, 1997
I was booked today by Fox Sports Network for 44 national baseball telecasts (half of them on the FX network) in various cities this summer. So although I told you six weeks ago that I was available for the following 24 dates for local hockey playoffs and baseball, I'm no longer available. . . .
Wednesday, June 4, 1997
Last month was the coldest May in the history of Pittsburgh. Yesterday was damp, overcast and windy. This morning dawns with a temperature of 45º. Yes, all of Nature is denying the calendar's claim, that the month of your fiftieth birthday has arrived.
I had my fiftieth in February (the weather was similar) and can report that one experiences no sudden physical change, although there is a psychological jolt when the mail brings an invitation to join AARP. The aches and pains of old age come on gradually. Currently, my left thumb and left heel are a little sore.
I can't complain, though. My 87-year-old father is a different story. He can get around now only with great difficulty, using a walker, and they say he needs someone with him 24 hours a day lest he fall. So he's hired a Richwood woman and her mother and her sister and another woman to take turns staying with him at his house, where he should be much happier than at a nursing home. They help him dress, fix his meals, drive him places, keep track of his medication, and so on. It's costing almost a thousand dollars a week, and he's worried about that, but he can afford to go on this way for several years if necessary.
I can't help out in Richwood much because I live five hours away. I can't even drive over to visit very often this summer; I've got a busy schedule of baseball, including a game on FX most Mondays and a game on Fox Sports Net on Thursdays. Each game is in a different city, so I'm usually in an airport four days a week.
Sometimes my television work doesn't involve sports. For example, last fall (September 24, 1996) I was at the Cleveland Clinic for a medical closed-circuit telecast: Minimally Invasive Valve Replacement Surgical Techniques. The cardiac surgeon, one Dr. Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, wore an earphone and a microphone so he could converse during the operation with the TV host and with viewers calling in with their questions. The patient had no part in the telecast we never saw his or her face but we had plenty of views of the heart, including a live echocardiogram and a small camera in the hand of one of the doctors.
Our Fox Sports Net college football traveling crew poses before our final game of the season at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, November 22, 1997.
We traveled around televising a different Conference USA football game each week.
Tuesday, December 2, 1997 (to Al Bernstein)
I enjoyed working with you again at the ECW event, Sunday night at the Golden Dome Arena in Monaca. But I do have a couple of thoughts about how the Infinit could work more smoothly in the future.
The look was designed using a special Master Font called "Wooly Bully" or something like that. That font, unfortunately, is not available on your average Infinit in the field. I could call up existing lower thirds, but if I wanted to type a new one I had to use a different font.
If you want to use this special Master Font for your next show in March, you should have it made into Machine Fonts. Just go to the particular Infinit where the Master Font lives and have the operator use the "Advanced Font Create" program to make a set of shaded Machine Fonts with various sizes and aspect ratios, then record them onto a Bernoulli.
Secondly, when we planned which lower thirds we would use, we were working from a show format. I assumed that the wrestlers would be fonted when they entered. Once the show began, it became apparent that the executive producer wanted them fonted later, when they were introduced by the ring announcer.
Unfortunately, they were not always introduced the way we expected. For example, in the last match the first entrance was by "Bam Bam Bigelow" and the second was by "The Franchise with Francine," so those were the two lower thirds I had ready. But the ring announcer introduced the manager "Francine" before the challenger "The Franchise" and saved the champion "Bam Bam" for last. Because it takes time to dump out of one transform and load another, we weren't able to use any lower thirds here. We should have planned our lower thirds using not the format but the ring announcer's script.
As you do more live shows, I'm sure that details like these will gradually get worked out. Good luck!
Friday, June 5, 1998
By now you should be starting to help musicians learn the technical details of MIDI. I enjoy that sort of thing. I don't know much about your computer specialty; but I do know a fair amount about mine, which is Chyron character generators, and it's fun to share the tricks of the trade with other operators who are just getting started.
Most of my work continues to be in sports: at this time of year, mostly baseball.
But this spring, the local public TV station WQED bought a couple Chyron Maxine graphics machines. They replaced an older model, and the technology had advanced so much in twenty years that nobody at the station had a clue how to operate the new models. So they brought me in, both to teach the Chyron and also to operate it sometimes. (I'm better at it than any of the neophytes, and they also have other jobs to perform.)
It turns out that most of the programs I've worked on at WQED have been medical teleconferences, up to five hours in length. The audiences are generally not MDs, though; these programs are aimed at nurses, therapists, and administrators. For example, every couple of months we do a "coding show" about what five-digit code to assign to each step of a surgery so that the insurance company can be properly billed. I had no idea there were so many ways (each with its own code) to perform a bunionectomy.
I have a few days off this coming week, and I'm going to make a quick trip back to Richwood to visit my 88-year-old father. He's slowly going downhill. A year ago he was using a walker, but now he can hardly stand up long enough for his caretaker to help him from the bed to the wheelchair. He's becoming more confused mentally, too. It's becoming difficult to talk to him on the phone because he's having trouble forming and expressing ideas. He sometimes reports his dream activities as if they were real, and he sometimes insists that his house is not his house, that he has another one just like it and he wants to go there.
How are you doing? As your sons go west to college, is your house seeming less like the house you've known? Can all musical artists learn to grasp technological concepts, or do some give up too easily? Write when you get a chance.