HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
It started like any other season. I was just hanging around minding my own business when I got a call from ABC NewsOne. Since it was an election year they had big plans to cover the conventions. I had worked with the ABCNews crew at the New Hampshire primary so they called to see if I was available for the Democratic Convention in Boston.
That's how I gathered enough badges to get into CIA headquarters.
They must have known that I enjoyed working on top of a roof in Manchester with the chill factor feeling like it was 40 degrees below zero (take your choice as to Fahrenheit or Celsius). It stood to reason that I'd love the chance to work at the convention in the summer with about 100% humidity. Luckily the rain kept the temperature in the mid eighties (Fahrenheit this time).
One of my first assignments was to run cables to sixteen client trailers in the parking lot. Did I mention the parking lot was unpaved? Did I mention the rain? That added up to about six inches of mud and rocks under the trailers that I ran cables up through the bottom. Some people pay exorbitant prices to get a mud bath, I got paid for mine.
ALL KIDDING ASIDE
The Democratic Convention was the largest remote that ABCNEWS, ABSAT and NewsOne have attempted. The Boston set-up included feeds for 25 television stations. There were also numerous other clients, including:
- BBC - BBC-TV - BBC Radio - BBC 24 - BBC Internet
- NHK - NHK HDTV
- APTN News
- APTN Broadcast Services- Broadcasters around the world
- Fuji television
- Al Jazeera
- Channel 1
- ESPN - Cold Pizza
- MBC (Florida News Channel)
- ABC News Live
The facilities onsite included;
- A sixty by sixty-five foot tent for newsdesk and transmission services.
- Sixteen fifty-foot client trailers. I saw them top and bottom.
- Six skyboxes in the Fleet Center.
- Five stand-up positions just above the floor of the convention.
- Two outside stand-up positions on a 25' tower.
- Over 31 miles of video cable and over 48 miles of audio cable were used.
- Nearly two miles of CAT-5 computer cable and two miles of CATV cable.
- 16 workspace trailers and two tents.
- 28,285 square feet of workspace in the parking lots.
- Over 200 telephones.
- 50 MB of internet/LAN connectivity.
- Nearly 500 people working in the workspaces.
DURING THE CONVENTION
It took a little over a week to prepare the ABC compound for transmission and the clients. I finished a couple of days before the convention started. I got a call from an independent producer who needed an EIC during the convention. I started on Monday morning.
The group I was working with was providing services for two New York news channels and the David Letterman show. Biff Henderson, Letterman's traveling floor director, would come in every day around three and they would tape that night's show at four. The two news stations would be doing stand-ups and interviews throughout the convention. Because of the cramped conditions in the booth, I had luminaries such as Hillary Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others tripping over me.
The security around the Fleet was quite tight. I couldn't bring in my truck so I left it at my mother's house in Everett (about 10 miles north of Boston). I took the train into town. The train didn't stop at the convention site (North Station) and just passed through. At the stop before North Station, armed security boarded and inspected all bags. I had no problem during the convention but the last night a guard wanted to look in all of the pockets of my 'multi-pocket vest. Eventually the train started again. I got off at the closest open subway station and walked to the convention site. In all I worked from twelve noon to midnight and traveled two hours both in and out.
AFTER THE DNC
On the Saturday after the convention ended, I came back to the ABC compound and helped pack up and load the semi-trailer for the Republican National Convention in New York. It breaks down a lot faster than setting it up !!
AT THE RNC
Several weeks later I took the train down to New York City and worked with ABCNEWS again.
This time virtually all of the set-up was indoors and slightly smaller in scale than in Boston. ABC had rented a large space in the Farley Post Office across from Madison Square Garden.
Instead of trailers the clients were sited in draped off sections of the workspace. This meant that while I didn't have to crawl in the mud to wire the clients, I had to lift all of the cable and suspend it from guy wires just below the ceiling. It took about a week to install, test and calibrate the equipment. As things seemed well in hand, I left after the install.
In all it was a good summer. I met a lot of good people and look forward to working with them in the future. I hear there's some sort of election coming up this fall….
IN MY SPARE TIME
In between working with ABC I completed a couple other small assignments. In addition I took a vacation on St Lucia in the Caribbean and was able to get in a few SCUBA dives. I started taking a course in SCUBA to get my Advanced Open Water certificate. We completed half the course but had to postpone the boat and deep dive because of hurricane warnings. They didn't have much effect in New England but the ocean was lively enough to postpone the dives.
Jim Alfonse, owner of Tri-Sys Designs, is a Systems Integrator with twenty-five years experience in the Broadcast Industry. He's designed, built and commissioned installations from Satellite News Vehicles to Production Suites to OB vans. Jim has been involved with several equipment manufacturers performing video standards compliance and signal integrity testing.
For more articles on various subjects visit www.tri-sysdesigns.com