Lunch On The Lot

I had lunch with a friend I’ve known since second grade. Yes, that’s a long time. His office is on the 20th Century Fox lot. He calls it “the campus.”

I am really lucky. He is a good friend. Very smart with an interesting job in a business I still love. And he likes to talk about it.

The location is a bonus.

I drove from Hollywood, down through Beverly Hills and Century City to the large, yet unmarked entrance on Pico.  Parking for guests is two levels below ground. I don’t want to be there for “The Big One.”

A real movie lot is a fascinating place. Not only are there sound stages, there’s a whole city complete with NYC subway entrances. Signs on stores and lightposts are currently ‘selling’ the street as Washington. Trust me, you’ve seen this street a thousand times.

The lot is filled with people on-the-move. It is a factory producing visual entertainment.

We had lunch on campus then headed back so I could meet someone he works with.  My request.  He’s another broadcast exec, a larger than life figure not that well known outside the business. He is a programming revolutionary.

He was exactly who I hoped he’d be. No disappointment!

I took an indirect route back to my car. Sightseeing. I’m not on a lot that often.

Finally I headed to the garage elevator down to my car. As the door was about to close, Joel McHale, host of The Soup (among other credits), walked in.

He is much taller than he appears on TV. He is also ripped.

I told him I was a fan. He was gracious and funny. Another good impression.

We have chromakey in common.

Next stop The Valley. My friend (and best man) Howard is a manager.

Nice office. High floor. Killer view.

Howard makes deals for a living. I like listening to his side of phone conversations.

We schmoozed. Friends schmooze.

Really nice day.

We Now Have TV

It was a mutual decision. This afternoon Helaine and I came to the conclusion the loft needs a larger TV than the one coming from Connecticut.

All the pent up spending urges we’ve been kept in check for thirty years are coming out. At this point, what’s a TV?

As it turns out, prices continue to plunge. I got a 50″ screen which, judging by what’s being shown at the store, isn’t that big anymore. It will be wall mounted like a trophy I bagged on safari.

TVs are getting lighter. Helaine wanted to help, but it was well within my meager limits.

I plugged it into both wall and U-verse box, then turned everything on. Victory!

The U-verse box defaults to 720 video. This TV does 1080. That means U-verse is shipping these boxes set to a mode which doesn’t bring the best picture! It does save them bandwidth on this IPTV system… though not at my house.

There are lots of channels. Right now my eyes are glazing over.

Vin Scully is on-the-air tonight. He’s calling the Dodger’s game. He works alone in the booth at 85. Still sharp. Still in the game. That same vocal cadence, still there.

It’s weird to be on PDT. America revolves around Eastern Time. However, Phils games start at 4:05p out here and we’ll see the first NFL game at 10:00a.

An area rug for the family room arrived today. It was moved a few times before we agreed on placement. Very nice. Still a little sterile without our art and photos and stuff. We need more color and contrast.

The mattress for the master bedroom arrives Saturday morning.

“Sometime between eight and eleven,” the guy on the phone said. He paused before continuing. “But it will be closer to eight. You’re my first stop.”

We move out of the second bedroom tomorrow night.

Our home furnishings crossed the Rockies today. They should be at our house first thing Sunday morning.

The house becomes more-and-more ours every day.

Our plan was to swoop in and do everything at once. We didn’t want to recreate our house in Connecticut. This place was planned to be smaller, but still warm, comfortable and functional.

So far it’s working.

My True Save Story

My story starts with the TV on and an old friend on it. He was anchoring the news. No names. I want to protect the innocent.

I saw it immediately. The collar on his suit coat was turned up. It’s happened to all of us. On TV it stands out.

Normally this kind of thing is caught by the floor director or camera operator. Those jobs don’t exist at most stations anymore.

The second line of defense are the folks in the control room–the producer and director.

Maybe they were busy? Maybe they don’t realize this is their job too? Whatever the reason, silence.

I tweeted my friend.

Fix suit collar. Is turned up.

A few minutes later I got a reply, but not from my friend. A co-worker of his follows my Twitter account. She was working just off set.

I went and fixed it for him

Yes she had! Anyone tuning in after the first few minutes missed this wardrobe malfunction.

To cover all our tracks, I’m erasing my tweets. Stuff happens. I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

It’s my good deed for the day for one of the nicest guys I know.

Was I Watching TV?


What is TV? That’s a tough question to answer nowadays. TV used to be the programs broadcast by local stations, but that’s changed. We added cable/satellite channels to the mix. Now some TV comes via the Internet.

If you follow this blog you know I prefer to compute with two screens. More real estate. More multitasking. More satisfying.

When I watched Harvard thump New Mexico last night on my computer’s second screen, was I watching TV?

Look at it from the NCAA’s perspective. If this works they might some day jettison the local TV affiliates and cable networks. They could just deliver games straight to you. Fewer middlemen. They pocket the savings! At the very least this is a good chip for the next contract negotiation.

Of course this is very scary to local stations. Though network programs are not the profit center they once were, big budget network shows draw viewers some of whom stick around for the news or other local originations. It’s tough for a local station to be strong without a strong network.


The NCAA’s presentation is well put together.

With a single click it’s possible to watch the game fullscreen. I choose to watch instead with ‘enhanced content.’ As the screengrab above shows, there’s a lot of info on the screen and more available.

An interested feature is the ability to look at Twitter activity levels, then click on a peak to see the play that caused the spike!

We have already seen the death of regional store chains (G.Fox., Caldor, Ames, Rickle, Bernies, Zayres, etc.). Is the regional power of local TV stations the next to go? Do the networks or program producers like the NCAA need them anymore?

That would be sad, but the bigger fish want the money the little fish now get. Technology marches forward.

I’m Watching QVC

Lisa Robertson is on my TV selling an initial tag leather bracelet. I’m not buying. This show isn’t aimed at me.

Helaine has QVC on for much the same reason I watch MSNBC, noise.

I usually don’t watch. Tonight, it has my rapt attention.

I’m probably not going to say what you think.

Wow. This is the most slickly produced live production on TV. Full stop.

It’s not just Lisa Robertson I’m watching. It’s the Lisa Robertson Show!

As I understand it, QVC’s operation is more soundstage than studio. It is brightly lit and full of weighty looking furniture and furnishings.

Yes, they are selling and selling hard. Lisa, the product’s on-camera rep, Josie and a few models are currently rubbing some sort of cream on their shoulders and exposed clavicles. Surreal.

A jewelry segment used a camera with a shallow depth of field–maybe a DSLR. Nice touch.

There was a special feature earlier on up-and-coming fashion designers. Yes, there was an ulterior motive in producing and running this. Still, the package was well put together. Slickly put together.

Many of the production techniques used could have been accomplished for less with a nearly equal result. They spend the extra buck.

The camera shots move smoothly. The direction is tight. There are models aplenty.

There’s nothing on TV done live that comes close. Wish I knew why?

Look Who’s On TV

The guy I watched was intense. It’s real intensity. Still, maybe too intense. Not sure. Intense is better than lethargic.

Jon Stewart is on vacation. I went grazing last night. Too many channels. Too much narrowcasting. No one makes shows for me anymore. I am in no one’s demo. Click. Click. Click.


Oh my God. It’s me. I’d stumbled on our late night replay of the 11:00 PM newscast.

Don’t get me wrong. I have watched myself before. This was different. This was a surprise.

There are things I do nearly every night, mannerisms and phrases. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s to be expected. They stood out last night. I’m not alone in noticing. A co-worker even does an impression of me.

The guy I watched was intense. It’s real intensity. Still, maybe too intense. Not sure. Intense is better than lethargic.

It was just weird watching myself in this unexpected way. There’s just not a better way to explain it.

On the other hand I couldn’t turn away.

When TV Goes Bad

It is extremely frustrating if you’re there when that happens. Everyone points fingers. Never good.

I felt terrible for friends at my former station. They did their newscast tonight with no audio going home. I wish I could say that will never happen at Fox CT. I think it’s a lot less likely.

Digital technology has created more single points of failure that can take down the system. It is extremely frustrating if you’re there when that happens. Everyone points fingers. Never good.

A little selling here. I appreciate those of you who’ve moved over to FoxCT. For some of you it’s more difficult to switch. I get it.

Here’s what I see. We have an incredible commitment to our product and that includes spending for things that make small improvements often at substantial cost.

There is a maintenance engineer in the control room every time we are on-the-air. He has no job during the newscast but to be there should something happen. Think ambulance on the sidelines at an NFL game.

My friends wish everyone had one.

Doppler’s First Appearance On TV

Doppler has just the right disposition for television. She is calm. She is content. She is quiet. She doesn’t shed!

Stef asked if she could bring her friend Jackie to the station tonight. She wanted to bring Doppler too. Doppler’s first TV appearance.

Doppler has just the right disposition for television. She is calm. She is content. She is quiet. She doesn’t shed!

I have some video at the bottom of this entry. How it got here is a story of how TV’s changed.

When I first got into TV we were just making the transition from film to videocassettes. Everything was recorded on physical media–tape.

Today we use no videotape at all! As it aired our newscast was being digitized on a server farm in a locked and hermetically sealed room just behind our control room.

While the newscast was still on I walked to my desk, opened a web browser and called up a small clip editor. I set the in-and-out points, hit a button and watched as the video was deposited on my desktop. Then I dragged the files to a flash drive I carry with my keys.

For some reason the video won’t play on my PC at home, but YouTube found it acceptable so I uploaded it there.

Now the video is universally available! That’s crazy. It exists in the cloud.

The cost of entry used to prohibit anyone but a large corporation from owning a video production facility. Nowadays you can do most of it on your phone!

There’s Cool Techno Stuff Going On Tonight

It’s tough to explain except you’ll know it when you see it on-the-air.

This entry was originally posted in July. After being online for a few hours it was pointed out I was revealing company secrets. I took it down, but kept it on the server.

Now that the promo this entry is based on is on-the-air I thought you might like to see a little of the behind the scenes magic that makes this work.

Chad Sherman, master of After Effects, magically put this all together. It’s pretty darned cool.

We’re taping some promos today here at TV Factory Outlet. That’s not an unusual occurrence. What is unusual are the technical details! The promos marry live action to HDR (high dynamic range) time lapse video.

It’s tough to explain except you’ll know it when you see it on-the-air.

In order to pull this off camera moves in the field must be matched to camera moves in the studio. Bill Murphy, chief wizard for this production, has built his own dual laser pointing system (sitting atop the camera) to enable the shooting angles to be coordinated… or so he hopes.

Here’s Brent Hardin standing in front of a green chromakey wall while Bill Murphy slides a Canon 5D Mark II shooting video.

And here’s the finished product:

[jwplayer mediaid=”11684″]

I’m Ready For My Cameo

“I’ve just been with us when we were in high school,” I said at the sound of the tone.

I was in my car on my way home from Orange yesterday afternoon when I reached my friend Peter’s voicemail. Peter and I met as adults, but we understand each other’s background. We were both A/V Squad member nerdy geeks. We grew up separately, but on parallel paths.

“I’ve just been with us when we were in high school,” I said at the sound of the tone.

My trip to Orange started with an email from Nick Minore.

For my English final project, a group of students and myself are working on developing a student-produced news broadcast utilizing works of literature that we’ve read throughout our studies. Our plan is to take events from literature and report on them as real-world events, including weather, sports, finance, and movie reviews.

We came up with the idea to describe the weather and then thought of you. Would you be willing to assist us with our project by helping us produce a real-world weather broadcast? One of our group members has developed a studio, complete with lighting, sound equipment, and a full-sized green screen.

This is the kind of thing I normally don’t do, but I was curious.

The studio was located in a pool house behind Nick’s family’s home. The single room ‘house’ with ceilings high enough for lights is just the right size for a studio!

What amazed me was how well equipped Nick was. He didn’t have broadcast quality equipment or even many cases TV specific equipment. What he did have was an understanding of what was needed and the ability to ad lib and adapt.

The fill lights were decorative lanterns with paper shades that diffused the light. The blue chromakey wall was a sheet. A microphone was hung from a beam supporting the roof. There was a “control room in a box” TriCaster that Nick borrowed from a local producer he works for.

Nick’s father who fabricates metal for high performance race cars built an aluminum camera jib that would be the envy of most high end production companies! Seriously. Nice job.

Nick was accompanied by three other college bound Notre Dame High School students in Mrs. DelVecchio’s English class. One was the weatherman, the other two were the crew. I was there for a cameo!

A moment after the weatherman began to deliver his forecast I walked in and asked if this was where the meteorologist auditions were taking place. Funny? Maybe.

Did I add anything to their presentation? Probably not. In this case I was the one who got a treat by meeting these industrious kids.

Note to Mrs. DelVecchio: These kids love you. Whatever you’re doing, don’t stop.

I’m More Highly Defined

Almost nothing that worked in an analog standard definition world works in a digital high definition world.

Yesterday was the day we switched to high definition at work. We’d already been passing network programming that way. Now nearly everything that originates inside our building is in high def too.

It wasn’t a painless transition. No one expected it would be. All things considered it went pretty well.

Because we were still on-the-air with our old control room some equipment couldn’t be tested fully until we made the final switch and things went to the transmitter. 99% of yesterdays problems should be solved today.

What most people, myself included, are stunned by is we needed to change virtually every piece of equipment! Almost nothing that worked in an analog standard definition world works in a digital high definition world. Runs of coaxial cable were pulled out and replaced by digital “Cat5” cable.

Our equipment room with its own air conditioning system and rack upon rack upon rack of gear is now loaded with PCs. The majority of our new equipment is powered by reasonably standard PCs configured for special use.

As a techno guy it’s all pretty exciting to see. Much of what I knew about how TV works is now wrong! Systems I understood thoroughly have been replaced. The learning begins again.

Do you really want to see me that clearly?

This Isn’t Football!

Call me when the real season begins.

I’ve got football on. Hold a sec. Check that. Football off.

I like football. This is not football.

I’m sorry NBC I’m not picking on you. These games are missing all the excitement of football because they are not competitions.

Favre was pulled after one series. He went down under heavy defensive pressure. Grass stains on his tush!

If the game was tight and coming down to the wire would the starters go back in? Seriously? Why do I even use the word game?

It’s the summer. TV households are usually down. I’m sure it makes economic sense and there are people who want to watch (and certainly enough channels to set aside one), but this isn’t why I watch football.

Call me when the real season begins.

Why Channels?

I don’t know about your business, but mine is changing quickly. Media has been blown away by technology reshaping production, consumption and distribution.

I was just watching Jon Stewart. His interview was with Tea Party leader Dick Armey. Stewart readily advised as the show began the interview would not be finished in the alloted time slot and would be continued on the net.

Good use I think&#185.

A show becomes more special when its constraints are only artistic and not technical or process driven. Time is a luxury when you’re on-the-air.

It does make you wonder. Could a show like Stewart’s exist without a cable channel? Could it exist solely on the net? What is the purpose of a channel anymore anyway?

There’s an app on my iPhone from NPR. I can listen choosing from a list of either stations or shows. I choose shows. Content rules.

I don’t know about your business, but mine is changing quickly. Media has been blown away by technology reshaping production, consumption and distribution.

More changes to come. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s scary.

&#185 – It is almost 1:00 AM and Stewart’s website advises to “Check back later tonight or tomorrow.” That’s bad.

Who Is Andrew Breitbart And Why Is Matt Drudge Throwing Him All Those Links?

I’m a habitue of Drudge. Though Matt Drudge has a political and sometimes social agenda, the site links to news I find interesting and does it on a fast and constant basis. Drudge is mostly a collector of news rather than a reporter. Just about all his headlines point to stories on other sites.

Until recently, most of Drudge’s stories came from traditional sources. If a story was actually from the Associated Press, he’d find a website carrying it and link there. You’d be directed to a newspaper, TV station, magazine or Yahoo, which carries wire service reports.

Now, he’s started linking to lots of stories on looks like an automated aggregator of AP and Reuters wire stories.

Quite honestly, I’d never heard of it or of Andrew Breitbart, the person whose telephone number is listed as the contact for the web address.

I’m not in Los Angeles, but I used Google’s mapping facility to look at’s physical address. It looks like a residential area just off the San Diego Freeway and near UCLA.

Then I started checking his name. Here’s a quote from Andrew Breitbart on author Roger Simon’s site.

The New York Times got it right — I am amicably leaving the Drudge Report after a long and close working relationship with Matt Drudge, a man who will rightfully take his place in the history books as an Internet news pioneer. I am also excited to be a partner in an inspired new endeavor, the Huffington Post. The last time I worked with Arianna she got a guy who didn’t deserve to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery disinterred. That was cool. I admit: I like to go where the action is.

And, if you go to the Internet Archives and look at some older pages, they actually show Drudge’s site. Well, they all do except this one. Oops.

So, it looks like Breitbart is now somehow connected with Arianna Huffington – liberal and, once again, Matt Drudge – conservative.

Is Drudge is sending all this traffic Breitbart’s way out of the goodness of his heart?

There’s nothing nefarious here (well nothing I can see). If there’s a financial relationship between Breitbart and Drudge, traditional journalists might question the ethical connotations of linking for profit. There’s nothing I’ve looked at that says that’s what’s happening and far be it from me to judge ethics. I just don’t know.

I’m writing what I found because I saw unusual online behavior and put 2+2 together. It’s all out in the open.

For me, it was interesting to see this new website spring up and get much of Drudge’s business. That’s where my curiosity kicked in. If you can aggregate tens or hundreds of thousands of hits… or more, Google ads (or similar ads, sold by others and placed on your site) alone could make a small, automated website very profitable with little investment or ongoing effort.

Blogger’s note: While looking through more websites, trying to read up on Andrew Breitbart, I stumbled on the fact that his father-in-law is Orson Bean. If the name means nothing to you, don’t worry. If you’re my age, Orson Bean was a very witty New Englander who worked the TV game show circuit in the 60s and 70s. I was a big fan. I wondered where he went.