Sunday, August 22, 2010

You Tell Em I'm Comin'… And I'm Bringing Hell With Me! (aka: I'm your huckleberry)

Sorry.  Watching Tombstone on the tube.  Love this movie.  Always hated Val Kilmer but for some reason he just hit this one on the head.  I doubt Doc Holliday himself was as good as ol' Val at being the said huckleberry.

Weird to see Lowell Mather playing a bad guy with a gun in the old west tho.  This is the guy who got beaten up by a small asian chick in Sideways but I am supposed to believe he could out gun Sam Elliot?  Preposterous.

Speaking of the old west, my week has felt a bit like that.  There were the normal shootouts at the OK Corral known as the news room.  I got bucked off a few times as a story didn't work out and I had to switch gears mid-stroke.  But, in the 11 years of doing my gig and my final two years of college, I hadn't even given thought to the high-noon showdown I was to encounter this past weekend.

It all began Saturday.  One of the places of work I hang my hat is at KING 5, the 900 pound number one gorilla in Seattle.  Its owned by BELO.  It was once run by a man named Dave Lougee.  He now runs Gannett, my former employer at 9NEWS in Denver.  When I was finally able to get away from his running the company and my station into the ground, I wanted to be 100% certain I would not find myself in his employ again once Gannett got smart and booted him to the curb.  And, as BELO had done just such a thing before Gannett hired him, I was pretty confident I was safe.  The clincher in the decision was that before he became a big-wig in BELO, he ran KING 5.  So, I had found the panacea of Lougee-free zones.  No way this station or this company would ever bring him back.

So, as I was saying, I work some at KING 5.  They are still pinching pennies as any smart company is right now, and some of their systems are antiquated and outdated.  They realize this, and as such had me spend two days just learning their edit system in the station.  It is a very rudimentary style of non-linear editing that I picked up really fast.  It is similar to what I have always done, just with no bells and whistles.

The story takes a turn for the time travel this past weekend.  We got word that a teenager had fallen into a river a couple hours north of Seattle.  (You will recall, news NEVER seems to break inside of a 200 mile radius of the station when I am involved.)  The reporter and I headed up to Burlington, got the tail end of the search, shot our story, and then waited for the satellite live truck to arrive so we could edit and send our story back to the station for the 10 and 11 pm news casts.

In passing the time, I said to Owen (the reporter), "So is the edit system in the live truck the same old school one as in the station or do you have Final Cut or AVID in the trucks?"  He looked at me, puzzled perhaps.

"No, the trucks are tape to tape."

At first I smiled, waiting for him to smile and say he was joking.  He didn't flinch.  So I tried a nice heartily 'I know you are pulling my leg so lets hear the truth' laugh.  Nothing.  I then did the world's most dramatic double take and told him, "You better be kidding or we aren't getting this package on the air tonight!"

He wasn't kidding.  For the first time since September or October of 1996, I was staring down the barrel of two tape decks and no hope.  You could hear the saloon doors swinging in the distance.  I had a toothpick just peaking out of my lips.  A tumbleweed meandered thru the satellite truck.  The tape decks knew they had me out gunned.  If I blinked, I was a goner.

The truck op, Keith, is a very large man of color who wears military style boots and looks very, VERY hard.  It turns out he is incredibly nice and much to my relief, knows what the words 'Assemble' and 'Insert' mean in terms of editing.  This is good, as I wasn't real clear on it any longer.  He watched over my shoulder as I did everything in my power to win the duel with 1980's technology.

For those of you not in the television world, let me try to equate this old west quickdraw to your daily jobs.  Say you work in shipping and receiving.  You need to get your product to and from a warehouse and a group of stores.  You are used to having resources at your fingertips like trains, trucks, ships and planes.  Then, one day you switch to a different warehouse and every part of the job is the same save for one.  You have the same demands.  You have the same deadlines.  But you have one slight difference.  You have a team of mules that will carry your goods to those places and you have to make it happen in the same amount of time as the trains, trucks, and planes.  Oh, and all your mules want to do is eat grass and flatulate.

That was how it went as I began to edit my first ever professional package tape-to-tape.  I was being kicked by farting mules.  I got the package done.  It had audio pops that sounded like market 145.  It was as good of a straight cut package with no effects as I could possibly do.  I had won the duel.  I didn't have much of an aim, but I had outdrawn the machines and won the showdown.

Enter Sunday.  The next day.  And a wildfire across the Sound in the Olympic Mountains.  Once again, Owen and I left Seattle followed by my editing guardian angel Keith in his satellite truck.  Once again, we would be settling in for a live truck edit on tape to tape with my limited skills.

But this time, it wasn't a leisurely attempt at fancy editing.  This one was a frantic 40 minutes to write, edit and feed before our live shot kind of edit.  My hands went to my pistols like lightning.  I was editing fast and furious, the equivalent of firing off three rounds before my opponent ever even cleared leather.  I completed our story and ran out the truck to man my camera to shoot our live shot for the story.  I am feeling good.  I cant believe I have won the duel.  Adrenaline is pumping.

Then I heard the voice coming thru the speakers in my ear from the station.  "Your audio mix was weird.  Can you fix it and refeed it after 10?"  It was as if the photographer at your wedding just said he missed you saying 'I do" so could you walk back up the aisle and do it all over.  Fixing and refeeding a tape-to-tape story meant redoing all of my work for the night.  I was distraught.  I was sad.  Oh, and I was hungry but that has nothing to do with this.

Just as I realized the tape decks, although mortally wounded from our first draw in the street, had managed to pull their iron and were aiming to shoot me square in the buttocks from behind, Marshal Keith stepped from around the corner.  He was wearing his dirty black knee length duster and holding his trusty Remington.  He fired a shot at the tape decks and ended the entire battle.

"I noticed it sounded weird at 10 so I went thru and played with channel 1.  We will refeed it and you should be good," his 30-30 said.  Marshal Keith had proven that HE was indeed their huckleberry.  And my showdown would end as a success on paper.  But I walked away knowing that I was very close to a cheap shot from behind.

I'm going to take some time to learn the super old editing system so this doesn't happen to me in the future.  I figure about the time I get it down, KING 5 and BELO ought to realize its out of date and move into the 21st century.  Until then, I can be found each day at high noon on a dusty main street, fingers dancing just above my pistols, learning to clear leather and fire straight and true.

All of this in market 13.  All-in-all, pretty fun!

1 comment:

  1. So are you off on hiatus after such a promising run of good writing?
    Or to paraphrase: "Are you going to do something? Or just stand there in cyberspace and bleed?"