September 25, 2010

Waiting For A Bus

Sports fans all know the moment I am about to describe. It creates the pre-game hype. It is the moment when fans can say with relief, “whew, the big star from my team made the team bus.” The shot normally tracks coaches or players off of a bus and through the bowels of a stadium until they reach their sanctuary, the locker room.

As a viewer you probably think “oh, thereʼs LeBron showing up for the game.” But there is so much that goes into the execution of this shot.

Below I deconstruct how we as camera people capture that moment:

  1. What time is the bus getting to the venue. Depending on the sport, anywhere between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours before the contest. Many times we have someone on the bus or coordinating the bus to give us a guesstimated time of arrival. Most of the time, once we have that time established, we never hear from the “bus people” again until it arrives. So if a player is late to the bus or traffic or the police escorts didnʼt choose the right route, you could be waiting for the bus a little or a lot longer than expected.
  2. Where is the bus letting the players off this bus? Sounds like a simple question but when you are covering a tournament like the ACC or Big East, you are talking about16 different drivers from different companies coming from different hotels to a really large building. Once you have what is to be believed as the “designated spot,” you become very sensitive to many things. One thing you notice is every bus or anything that sounds like a bus within a quarter mile radius. You may look down and check your watch to see how late this bus is going to be and out of your peripheral and see a bus go by. You hope it wasnʼt THE BUS.
  3. Who am I supposed to be looking for? There are many story lines in sports and sometimes the most popular player isnʼt the story. Usually you get the coach coming off. He or she sits in the front of the bus, you can get them for about twenty feet and get back to the door of the bus for the playerʼs exit. So is it the obvious star of the team or the bench player who tore it up last game? This is decided by the producer of the show. Luckily we have these things called media guides. Basically, about 6months ago, they took a low resolution black and white 3 inch by 3 inch picture of every player and put it in the media guide. You can only hope the player you are supposed to track didnʼt get a haircut or grow facial hair within the last half of a year.Nothing more embarrassing than shooting a player and him looking into the camera and saying, “Iʼm not him, you want him”. I wish I could say it didnʼt happen.

So once you have answers for those three things, you are good right? Almost except for the couple of technical things you have to work out.

  1. When the players get off the bus, itʼs normally in bright sunlight or in a loading bay.This causes some problems when trying to track someone. Shooting in bright sunlight then into indoor light can be a challenge. You have to have a pretty steady hand with your exposure (iris) and know about switching your white balance. With that said, itʼsalways good to do a walk thru and check your tape on a color monitor to make sure your white balances are correct or all this work could be for naught.
  2. So you have located the correct bus, the correct player and your white balance issue is all worked out now comes the fun. While keeping the player in focus with the correct exposure and also a respectable distance for personal space, walk with a 30pound camera on your shoulder. Backwards. In a building you may have never spent more than a couple of hours in. Watch out for the curbs and security and the blue carpet that they tape down so no one falls even though it always bunches up in the middle and the garbage cans that are just wherever in the hallway and well you get the picture.

When the shot happens, usually it is crunch time in the truck and if manpower is light,you have to hustle that tape with camera in hand to the truck (donʼt forget to find the best route to the truck). The tape then goes to the tape room and they build (edit) your shot into the open of the show.

When someone on the crew asks me where Iʼm off to I reply “Iʼm going to wait for a bus and not get on it.”

Be Sociable, Share!


  • Great post, Boomer!


Leave a reply