Look, It’s Me! Also, My Picks For Sunday

Larry Michael asked me today if I wanted to appear on tonight’s Redskins Nation and pick this weekend’s games against him. I accepted, and was actually pretty flattered about the whole thing until I found out that last week’s picks had been made by Larry Landover.

On top of everything else, there’s now a reasonable chance that we will soon have televisual proof that a Redskins fan made out of cloth can do a better job than I can picking games, which is not the sort of thing that does wonders for my always-fragile self-esteem. But I had committed myself, and there’s always the chance that I’ll not only do better than Larry Landover, but Larry Michael as well.

I happened to have my Flip Video camera with me, and Larry (Michael) used it to film the studio during the introduction to my bit on the show. We actually tried to film the whole show from the desk, but the resulting video clip has roughly 57% too much stationary footage of Matt Terl’s Arm and 32% too much Camera Swirling Wildly And Nauseatingly Around to be worth uploading. Here, though, is a brief look around the Redskins broadcasting studio here at Redskins Park.

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Your Questions For Brad Baker

(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.”

It’s burgundy.

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.

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Thursday, August 21 – Plan B It Is

(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. Also, part 2 and part 3.)

The kickoff time crisis has been resolved, although not to anyone’s satisfaction.

“I talked to the Panthers people,” says Brad, “and the issue is that this week in the NFL, they’re doing a youth football thing in all the stadiums. And the NFL is insisting that all the kids and all the players be on the field for the anthem at the same time. So it has to happen after player introductions, which means they can’t move it. So Plan B it is.”

He shrugs. “Since we’re taping the game this week, we need to be cognizant of keeping the tape slightly on the short side, since we’re going live to Mike and Joe and the keys to the game, and it would be awkward if they kick off while we’re still in the tape. Not the way to cover the opening of the game.”

Also prepared on Brad’s desk are the reads for the announcers, the various brief commercials they have to recite. There is nothing inherently fascinating about these, except that glancing over the Geico read below, I can’t help but hear it in Mike Patrick’s distinctive voice, and once I’ve read it, it becomes completely stuck in my head.

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I’ll be doing my Q&A with Brad before he departs today, so this is your last chance to give me your questions, either via email or in the comments.

The Value of A TV Minute

(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. And part 2.)

When I watched the behind-the-scenes of player introductions, one of the things that struck me as slightly funny was the game officials grabbing PR director Will Norman and arguing with him over a minute’s difference in the start time of the game. It seemed like a relatively small thing to me, and it felt strange that so much time was spent arguing over it.

“Oh, man, a minute is incredibly valuable on TV,” says Brad Baker. “That’s a tremendous amount of time.”

The best-laid plans for a broadcast.

The best-laid plans for a broadcast.

This question has resurfaced because the Carolina Panthers do their preseason pregame a little differently from other NFL teams, and it’s wreaking havoc on Brad’s scheduling for the opening to the TV broadcast. He calls producer Rich Wolff to explain.

“I haven’t gotten the full timeline yet,” he says, “but Zack [Bolno, executive director of communications] did send me the anthem time and the coin flip time, and we’ve got a little problem in that the anthem is going to happen at 7:32.”

Wolff understands the implication immediately, and he’s not happy about it: the broadcast is scheduled to begin at 7:30, with an open and graphics that take just about 1:45 to run, which means they’ll essentially be going to a live feed just as the anthem begins. And part of not speaking over the anthem includes not having your broadcasters declaiming about the game in loud voices over the anthem.

“The only thing that comes to mind,” Brad says, “is that we might have to tape the open.”

Neither one likes this idea. At all. Both of these guys take a tremendous amount of pride in their work, and a major point of producing a live television program is that it’s, well, live. They explore various options, trying to use as little pre-recorded footage as possible — just taping Kelli Johnson’s segment, or Brett Haber’s — but none of these option seem satisfactory.

“If we tape it,” Brad says to me, “you’re looking at shots of empty stands and very few players on the field.”

The only option that sounds remotely appealing is trying to move the anthem time itself, which strikes me as a mighty dramatic solution to the problem.

“I actually got the kickoff time for our home game moved,” Brad says. “It had to go through the owner and everyone, but it happened. If I can get more stuff into the open, why not? Also, this is what it was when we did the preseason games last year, so it wasn’t such a dramatic change.”

With that in mind, he calls the Panthers’ staff … and gets voicemail. He leaves a message explaining the situation, hangs up the phone, and turns to me, shrugging. “It’s Wednesday, late in the morning. If they don’t get back to me by this afternoon,” he says, “I guess we have to go with plan B.”

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As always, I’m happy to bring any questions you have to the people involved. So if you have any questions for Brad, Mike Patrick, or Joe Theismann — please let me know, either via email or in the comments.

Wednesday, August 20: Planning for Saturday’s Broadcast

(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.)

When I walk into the Redskins TV studio to meet up with Brad Baker, he’s talking like Mike Patrick into a microphone. Well, not LIKE Mike Patrick, exactly — it’s not an imitation by any stretch — but there’s something in his cadence and delivery that is Mike Patrick-esque. He finishes up and turns to me.

“Sorry, just recording a scratch track for this week.”

A what?

You’ve heard Mike Patrick do an introduction before the pregame “Tonight, the Redskins face off against whoever!” So I’ll know where to cut the video, I record a voiceover – a scratch track. That way, I can loosely cut it to how it’s going to look.

So you WERE deliberately matching Mike Patrick’s cadence?

Yeah, usually I’m a much faster reader. That’s something I learned the first game that I did, Mike was blazing to keep up with the speed I had recorded to. So the last two, I’ve purposely recorded much slower.

All right, so where do you stand at this point for Saturday’s game?

I’ve already got all the graphic ideas together for the broadcast. So any stats you’ll see are ready.

We’re going to do a thing in the news hit at 6:30 where the Comcast pregame show goes to Mike [Patrick] and Joe [Theismann] in the booth for a preview of the game. Joe wants to talk this week about the main points of the West Coast Offense, so I’ve got those points and Comcast producer Rich Wolff and I were just on the phone talking about ways to jazz that up visually.

What, like guys on a little tiny football field like on ESPN?

No, something more like … if one of the five points is YAC, I might show the pass from Colt Brennan to Jason Goode where he ran for the touchdown. Just so it’s not a board that you’re staring at.

So it’s not Joe Theismann and the world’s worst PowerPoint presentation.

Correct.

So, do you know that you want to talk about, say, Kareem Moore this week, and you’ve planned Kareem Moore graphics?

We do a feature called “Fight to 53” about guys who are on the bubble of making the team, and I already knew LAST week who I was going to do this week. I had to tell Marc [Dress], so he could shoot isos [isolated shots] of the player, and Comcast gave me footage as well. Do you know what a MELT is?

Nope.

It’s a tape you get after the game that’s got different plays on it. Not the entire game, but – it might have key plays in the game, or key players. You get them from four or five different angles, some in slow-mo, that kind of stuff. So I have to let the person who makes the MELT know, “Next week I’m going to do a Fight to 53 on this guy, any shots you’ve got of him, even if he doesn’t make a play, put them on that MELT.”

So it’s like a Cliffs Notes of the game.

Exactly. But we edit most things in the truck onsite. The only things I edit together in advance are the open tease and whatever the halftime piece is going to be. Later today I have to meet with Joe and finalize some things there, and then I fly out a day early to get things set up. You should come sit in on the meeting with Joe.

Sounds good.

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As always, I’m happy to bring any questions you have to the people involved. So if you have any questions for Brad, Mike Patrick, or Joe Theismann — please let me know, either via email or in the comments.

Shooting An Interview

After practice finishes, Marc hustles up to the outdoor set for Redskins.com TV to shoot an interview with Chris Samuels. It’s the two-seater, open at the back to the practice fields, with Larry Michael and Samuels. Marc does literally hundreds of these, and has it down pretty much to a science.

Interviewing Chris Samuels after practice.

Interviewing Chris Samuels after practice.

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Behind the Camera at Redskins Park: Marc Dress

At morning practice today, and possibly for a bit afterward, I’ll be following Marc Dress, Director of Production for Redskins.com TV, trying to see the practice through his eyes. What that job title means from a practical standpoint is that Marc shoots lots and lots of footage of the Redskins, enough to fill five shows in-season, plus supply footage to the NFL Network.

Marc started out of college as an intern at Home Team Sports — the local cable sports precursor to Comcast SportsNet — where “I did anything and everything. I freelanced outside of HTS, did everything to learn and get ahead, to learn every aspect of the TV business, because I wanted to be on-air.”

The on-air thing never materialized, but he found an ability and an affinity for behind the camera work, and when HTS was bought by Comcast, Marc came onboard there. He’s covered countless teams, college and pro, and was brought to the Redskins by Larry Michael, with whom he worked during the HTS days.

As I said yesterday, Marc and the Redskins.com TV crew work incredibly hard, so I’m expecting to have to jog to keep up with them, and they’re in much better shape than I am. Not having to carry as much heavy equipment might help equalize things, though. We shall see.

Click here for part 2 with Marc.