(Because the Redskins produce the preseason games in-house, I thought this might offer a good opportunity to watch the entire production of a game, from the advance production work it all the way through to the actual broadcast. At Redskins Park, I’ve been meeting with producer Brad Baker. These are your questions for him.)
All right, Brad. These are questions from readers. I’ll ask most of them in the readers’ own words. Here we go. “Ask him why they keep splashing a PINK R (Redskins font) instead of burgundy in those quick scene changers. I noticed this last pre-season and it continues this year.”
He says, “I’ve seen it on 3 different TVs, so it’s not my settings; plus all the other colors are fine.”
Yeah, I still think it’s gotta be his settings. I only say that because I’ve seen it on the MELT, I’ve seen it on this system (it was created on a system at Comcast), and it’s on thirty screens in the truck, and they’re all burgundy. Why would we create a pink R? It’s burgundy.
All right. “What disasters have they kept hidden from us? Any cameras where the battery died or the tape got erased accidently? Any interviews that were needed but never happened? Any big technical glitches in the middle of a live shoot?”
For me, I gave the wrong read on a card to Mike Patrick. Thank god it wasn’t a sponsored thing, because then it would’ve been a real problem, but—
(Marc Dress shouts in from the next room: Oh, right, Brad, we’re firing you for that.)
(To Marc: Ah, crap.)
Anyhow, there’s a read at the end where they give the credits – “this broadcast was executive produced by Brad Baker,” like that. Last year, the producer was Rich Wolf, which is still right, and the director was Bill Bell. That’s the card that I gave to Mike, and that’s what he read. The problem is that this year, Bill Bell is the executive producer, and Ernie Baur is the director. Ernie’s name didn’t get read, and I felt terrible about it.
Okay, but nothing too humiliating.
Knock on wood, no. That’s the worst thing that has happened.
Well, now everyone will be looking for something. Next one: “I want to know what Brad thinks about sideline reporters because I think their useless.” “They’re” is misspelled on that one, just FYI.
Yeah, I pretty much couldn’t disagree more.
Last year, we weren’t allowed to get players for interviews during the game—
Even though it’s preaseason?
Yeah, that was a Coach Gibbs thing, which was fine, but the sideline reports became more stuff that was going on outside of the game. “Someone to keep your eye on,” stuff like that. This year, though, since we’ve got interviews with the players on the sidelines, I think it’s great content. You’re getting guys who have just come out of the game talking about what’s going on, about the guys who are fighting for roster spots, about the preseason as a whole … I think it’s terrific stuff.
Okay, but what about the regular season. I know you wouldn’t be producing, but…
You’ve got two guys calling the game who are up in the booth. Obviously, they’re watching the game, but they’re completely detached from what’s happening on the sidelines. When you’re down there, you hear and see all kinds of stuff that fans would love to hear. That’s why fans want to be closer to the field, so they can hear all of that.
So why wouldn’t you want someone who’s down there and has that point of view to be giving that to fans watching on TV.
It makes sense when you describe it that way. Okay, “I’m interested in knowing how old you are and what your salary was at your various stops in LA, NY and with the skins. C’mon tell us.”
I’m 28, and my salary in L.A. at all stops was far too embarrassing to tell.
This person says that they’re a film student. Any advice for them getting into sports production?
Get an internship anywhere in the sports world. People are always looking for interns.
Next, “I have a dumb question but I’ve been hearing this not only in the background of skins broadcasts but while watching other preseason games. There is what sounds like a school bell ringing in the background during portions of the broadcast. What the heck is it?”
No idea. Maybe check your speakers? I don’t know.
For awhile I swore I could hear someone shouting something at every kick. Any idea what that was?
We have parabolic mics down on the field, we’ve got a few mics placed on the sideline to get crowd noise, and then there’s Mike and Joe’s headset mics. Probably just someone near one of those open microphones.
Okay, I guess. Someone linked to a YouTube video that’s actually pretty funny, an accidental double entendre from one of the announcers. So what happens in those situations? First off, in the booth?
They probably don’t even know.
How about in the truck?
We just laugh.
How bad does it have to get before something happens?
Good question. I don’t know what would happen if somebody swore on the air. I know that we’re on a few seconds delay to Comcast, so I presume there’s someone in master control there who has a button to bleep things like that. But you watch enough games, you’ll hear a fan or a player scream something that makes it on the air.
Okay, right, but this specific video is something that, like, eighteen year old boys would find amusing but most people might not even notice.
Knowing Mike Patrick, he doesn’t have the sensibilities of an eighteen year old boy. He would never say something like that with the intention of being funny in that context.
Back to a technical question: “What kind of camera do you use?”
They’re TV cameras – not like our cameras at Redskins.com TV, but those big studio cameras. Not sure of the exact type.
And what FPS do they shoot at?
NTSC broadcast standard, which is 29.97.
We’ve talked about the sideline reporters, but here’s one up in the booth. “What are the announcers like? Do the play-by-play announcers know a lot about the game, or are they just talking heads?”
No way. Mike Patrick was on ESPN for almost 20 years calling football games, he was here before that, he does a college football game every week during the season … so I would say, yeah, he knows football.
I would think – I’m just guessing what the questioner means, but when I read the question, I think he’s alluding to a perception that all a play by play guy has to do is, basically, say what’s happening. The idea that this is a job that anyone could do.
No. If someone could be in the booth watching these guys while they do it, they’d see what are called “boards”. Guys make them differently – Theismann tapes two manila folders together – but for everyone it’s a huge thing that has the name and number of every player on both teams. These guys do research throughout the week, about the teams, about the players, they make notes on their boards. It’s not some lackey creating this for them, they’re sitting down doing the research. So, yeah, I completely disagree with the statement that anyone could do this.
Last one. What was the toughest thing about your first live broadcast?
Everything. I had never been in the truck before, so I was a little overwhelmed at first.
Is that where you watch the game from?
Yeah, in the truck. You’ll see when we get in there that there’s one big monitor that shows what’s going out to Comcast. Other monitors show what all the different cameras are doing, what’s on other channels, that kind of stuff.
My job is to watch and make sure that all the sponsored elements that show up look right. If I know we have a certain package available, I determine when to run with that. For example this week we have a Sherman Smith package; we know we’re going to run it, but we don’t have a specific time. So if by chance Kelli Johnson is interviewing Portis, and he mentions Sherm Smith, after the interviews done we can go to the Smith stuff.
My job is mostly pre-production. There’s a kind of joke that, as a producer, if on shooting day you’re doing nothing, it means you’ve done a great job. That means you’ve prepared for everything. You’ll get to see on Saturday.