From the voices to the stats, from the manned and static cameras to the graphics, sponsor reads, overlapping telecasts, the truck can be a madhouse of activity! Regardless of the role crew members play in the truck, producing a sports telecast is a difficult challenge.
For fans at home, the experience is completely different. You invite a few friends over to watch it together and for the most part everyone enjoys the telecast for what it is and has a good time.
One of your friends though consistently points out small oversights in the broadcast when they occur; an errant camera angle, an inane graphic or a missed replay opportunity. The fan knows exactly what should be shown at any given time, or so he says.
The reality is that a ton more goes into producing a telecast than the average viewer would ever imagine. Experiencing a full day in the truck enabled me to appreciate the complexities from start to finish. It requires a team of dedicated employees, who work diligently from tipoff through the final buzzer and from stage setup time until the dismantling of equipment.
But showtime produces the real test. No one involved has much margin for error.
Decision making is instantaneous. My day with Raycom starts early but not as early as those responsible for the truck itself.
About a dozen employees cram into it for a majority of the day. Because the truck is split up into three distinct compartments, the contained area can feel a bit claustrophobic. Extreme visual stimuli are everywhere. Screens are blindingly bright and control panels litter just about every inch of the truck.
He took me through the entirety of the truck, giving me a crash course in live production. The engineering section in the back is responsible for transition, making sure that the feed is delivered without a hitch to affiliates and other distribution platforms. The middle compartment serves as the tape room and houses those responsible for putting together replays.
The nerve-center is in the front of the truck where crew members actively display images onscreen; or-so monitors filled wall to wall with various camera angles and graphics; Near the back of this room, farthest from the monitors, sits the bug operator, whose entire job is, you guessed it, to keep the bug at the bottom of the screen displayed correctly.
This is the graphic that is shown for the entirety of the game and includes the score, the game clock, and shot clock. The next row consists of the graphics operator and font coordinator, who work as a team to show the large graphics onscreen.
These give a more micro in depth look at a player or at a team as a whole. Next to them is the associate director, who helps things run smoothly and, in my experience, kept the crew on track by letting everyone know when a media timeout was coming up. In the very front row of the truck is the director who snaps orders to the technical director on the shots he wants viewers to see.
Different scenarios call for the use of each of these cameras at different times. After the main game camera captured the play in real time, the director asked for a replay using the shot taken by the camera operator sitting at the baseline.
It showed Battle smashing through for the dunk. Finally, sitting next to them, is Farmartino, who has more to worry about than anyone in the truck. The experience was an eye-opener.
I was completely unaware of how many people it takes to produce a live telecast. Nothing though is guaranteed. Always vigilant, Farmartino had to keep an eye on the screen showing the North Carolina — Miami game. The unranked Canes and the mighty Tar Heels extended into overtime, encroaching on the starting time of the Syracuse game.
The affiliates showing both games would miss the beginning of the Carrier Dome game. Though this seems somewhat inconsequential, advertisers drive the financials.
Overlapping games threw the commercial schedule off balance. So Farmartino had to think quickly in order to accommodate every sponsor. Announcers Tom Werme and Mike Gminski were also required to make quick changes on the move too and they did so seamlessly.
Producer Farmartino has the final say on major decisions. As the game progresses, he might be talking to the crew in the tape room to pull up a specific highlight to run as an outcue to a commercial break, to the bug operator to pull up a particular statistic or even the game announcers to discuss a potential storyline.
This need for constant communication means there is rarely a moment of peace in the truck. Trust is integral in producing a quality product. While I sat in the truck, I witnessed multiple people walking in, shaking hands, and introducing themselves for the first time.
They would then have to collaborate flawlessly during the game broadcast. Relying on someone unfamiliar is yet another layer of intricacy that makes the job so much more difficult. It is only when something goes wrong that a fan, like that hypothetical friend I mentioned actually realizes what takes places behind the scenes.
But as Farmartino explained to me, live sports production is a lot like life, in that when something goes wrong, you just have to move on to the next thing and make the best of it.
At the end of the day, Syracuse came out on top of Boston College and my day with Alex Farmartino and his crew was unforgettable.
Much of the Raycom crew — not the entire crew: List of Crew Members:.