BY ALLISON WILSON | Ball State Sports Link
There is a whole network of people who must work together to get an NBA game to air on your TV screen or second screen. Though it might seem like magic to the viewer, for us, it is just another day on the job.
On Martin Luther King Day, I worked as the FOX Box bug operator for the New Orleans Pelicans vs. Indiana Pacers. In short, the bug operator maintains and keys in all things related to the score bug at the bottom of the screen.
The operator animates the bug in and out going to break or coming back, pops up any stats relevant to the game, changes timeouts, score, shot clocks and possessions, provides noticeably interesting stats to graphics, and prays not to mess up promotions. Though not the most glamorous job in the production truck, it is essential to the game and an easy task to mess up.
I was feeling really good going into the game that Monday. I arrived half an hour before crew call. I found my seat and started setting up the system.
About a half an hour into set up, I found a problem with the clock. The engineers then spent the next three hours trying to change cables around. At one point the engineer turned to me and said, “I’m rusty on this system, how do I shut down the console?”
Yikes! I had only worked on this particular FOX Box once before. But, luckily, I had brought my production notebook with me.
I flipped through to the past Pacers game I worked when I took notes while the engineers worked on this same problem. Right there, in the margins, was how to shut down the console. With 20 minutes until game time, we were able to shut down the console, reopen it and get the clock working.
During the game I was disheartened to find that though we had the clock working, no other stats were linking to the data system. I had to manually keep track of every player stat, team stat, score, timeout, foul and promotion. At this point, I knew there was no way to fix it so I just moved on and tried to get in as many stats as I could while keeping the score up to date.
Once the game ended, I said my thank yous and scribbled down as many names as I could remember, even getting the emails of a couple people. Instead of rushing out like most, I hung back and waited for the producer to finish up with the studio show.
In the meantime, I helped audio wrap cables, packed up the FOX Box for the engineer and stood over the replay operator’s shoulder as they put together a social media pack. Once the producer finished up he came over to shake my hand.
“You did a great job tonight young lady. Thanks for your hard work.”
To which I replied, “Yes, I thought it went really well especially considering no data populated into the box.”
To this, he was absolutely astounded. He went on to say that he didn’t even notice because I kept up with stats and pushed every sponsor.
He told a story about how graphics ops who don’t have data will just manage the score and not push themselves to pop up stats. In fact, he was so impressed he gave me a business card and said if I was ever in New Orleans, that he’d like to have me come by.
The wide world of freelance live production is not an easy club to gain access to. But, it is even harder to maintain your membership.
My advice to those who want to be successful in this industry: come early, stay late and bring a notebook.