Snow Day (time lapse)

After standing outside in the pouring rain last night at a girls lacrosse game, I woke up to snow on the ground. On April 16. I had the opposite feeling back in the winter when snowpacalypse was forecast for something like the seventh time. I set up a GoPro in the front yard to capture a time lapse of the impending blizzard. What we got instead was a glorified dusting with temps in the teens. Without a specific weather story to pursue, I took the time lapse concept on the road throughout the day and put together this video.


An Ode to Opening Day

I’ve been trying to make this video for several years. One year I was on vacation, another we were chasing UConn basketball. For some reason, things kept coming up that prevented me from working on the first day of the high school baseball season. This year, I put it on the calendar early, got in touch with the coaches in advance, and had everything ready to go. The weather worked out perfectly on both of my shooting days. I briefly thought this video was not going to happen again this year. I had asked the Montville coach to let me know when the groundskeeper would be prepping the field before the first home game. The night before, he told me to be there at 8:30 a.m. The morning of the game, as I was getting ready to take my kids to school, I saw an email from the coach saying they were already out working on the field. I thought this project was sunk for another year, but fortunately for me (unfortunately for the groundskeeper) the wet spring meant that the field needed extra work. I arrived in plenty of time to shoot the field work, do some editing, and then go back for the start of the game.


Freshman kicker comes through twice

I spent most of the past fall working nearly full-time on high school football. We broadcast three live games in the fall, and along with them we published several dozen video features on the players and coaches. I shot and edited this piece in one afternoon and evening at the end of the regular season and just before the start of the playoffs.


Streaming live high school basketball at a small newspaper

My co-worker Jenna Cho tagged along on our last high school basketball broadcast of the season and shot this behind the scenes video. It covers the big picture view of our workflow, but doesn’t get into the technical specifics of hardware and software, so I figured I would elaborate a little bit. Because we’re a small newspaper, we don’t have a dedicated crew or equipment for live streaming sports. Almost all of the gear is used for something else during the week and then gets re-purposed for our sports broadcasts. We use the cameras for daily and long-term stories, and the audio equipment and switcher get used for our weekly live music show, Live Lunch Break. There is certainly room for improvement, but this setup has worked well for us so far.

Cameras: We use four cameras for the broadcast and a fifth for the clock on the scoreboard. The action cameras are a Sony PMW-200, a Sony EX1R and a Sony FS100. The camera for the on-air talent is a Canon HV20. The HV20 is connected to the switcher via HDMI, and the other cameras are connected via SDI. Since the FS100 doesn’t have an SDI output, we use a BlackMagic Design HDMI to SDI converter.

Switcher: The cameras are switched using the BlackMagic Design ATEM Television Studio. It is mounted in a rolling rack case along with a BlackMagic monitor that we use for multiview. The HDMI program output goes to a BlackMagic Hyperdeck Shuttle for recording in HD. The Shuttle passes through an HDMI signal to a small television monitor so the talent can see the program when they call the game. The SDI program output is connected to a laptop for streaming via a BlackMagic Mini Recorder into the Thunderbolt port on a MacBook Pro running Wirecast.

Computers: We use three MacBook Pros. One is running the ATEM software to control the switching and graphics. A second is streaming the program via Wirecast software to Livestream. Wirecast is also used to insert video features and advertisements. The third laptop is running a second copy of Wirecast to provide a scoreboard.

Our scoreboard shows score, team name with color and logo, quarter and time.

Our scoreboard shows score, team name with color and logo, quarter and time.

Scoreboard: Wirecast has a nice built-in scoreboard. I decided to customize ours with a graphic “skin” that adds The Day’s logo, team colors and logos, and a clock. The clock is captured using a fifth camera – a Sony Z1U – connected via S-Video to a Sony deck, which is connected to the laptop via firewire. The clock goes on the top layer in Wirecast, the skin goes on the second layer, and the scoreboard itself goes on the third layer. The skin includes a colored background for keying. The laptop is connected to to the switcher via mini-display to HDMI cable. The scoreboard is overlayed using the upstream key with a mask and chroma key. Our sports reporter sits next to the on-air talent with this laptop. He keeps statistics for the game and operates the scoreboard.

Audio: We have an 8-channel Mackie soundboard. All of the program audio is panned to the left, and all off-air communication is panned to the right. The left main out is used for the program audio. It goes either directly to the laptop running Wirecast or into one of the cameras which provides the audio to the BlackMagic TVS. You could also use an analog to digital audio converter directly into the switcher, but that’s a piece of equipment we don’t have at the moment. In order to have different mixes, the Aux Send 1 goes to the talent’s headphones, and the Aux Send 2 goes via wireless transmitter to the three camera operators and the sideline reporter.

Streaming: The laptop running Wirecast gets the program feed via SDI into a BlackMagic mini recorder in the Thunderbolt port. Wirecast sends an SD stream to Livestream, and records an SD .mov file to a Lacie firewire drive.


Cicadas emerge in Connecticut

Surprisingly enough, these giant bugs were not all that creepy. That is of course until you feel one crawling up your shoulder. Shot in the Magicicada Preserve in Hamden CT with a Sony EX1R and a Nikon D7000.


This is the land of the Weird Beards

Shrouded in a blue-green haze, Brian Skidmore was strumming his ukulele and describing a phone call he received from the President of the United States.

“He just called to ask if I could stop playing the ukulele, so he could continue his war campaign freely,” the 36-year-old Skidmore shouted to a packed Oasis Pub in New London.

He then launched into the chorus of “Patriot Act:” “No way man! I’m a robot, but not your robot,” leading the band – and a good portion of the audience – with the boyish zeal of a punk rock Willie Wonka.

It’s a safe bet that Skidmore never actually received a phone call from the White House, but with Skidmore and his band, the Weird Beards, it sometimes can be difficult to define the boundary between fantasy and reality. The Weird Beards are adept at blurring the lines – between musical genres, between individual songs and even between who is and isn’t in the band.

Along with Skidmore, the core band includes bassist Jake Kaeser, acoustic guitarist Jay Silva, drummer Tim Donnel and trombonist Pango – but the actual membership roles vary significantly. Members range in age from 27 to 37 years old, with the exception of Kaeser, who isn’t saying how many years he has on the rest of the group. Weekly rehearsals cultivate an all-are-welcome atmosphere that spills over into the live shows, where as many as 12 Beards might end up onstage.

“It’s a tribe,” says Donnel.

“It’s not like there’s a limit,” says Silva.

Skidmore adds, “I just want to play music with my friends.”

Read the full story here:


Trainer sees past cerebral palsy

When Sarah Best left home for college, she had never caught a ball.

Born with cerebral palsy, Best had always had difficulty with simple physical tasks that were easy for other children. The tight muscles that are a common symptom of her condition can benefit from regular exercise, but Best had never found a trainer who could adapt a program to her disability. During her sophomore year at Mitchell College in New London, she finally found someone who could help.

Her mother, Ellen Best, recalls a moment in the kitchen of their Pound Ridge, N.Y., home during that academic year. “She wanted something I had and I said, ‘Here, catch it,’ and she caught it and we were like, ‘Whoa!’” Read the full story here.

I usually work in team with a writer, or solo on a video-only project. This started as a video only project, but the story generated enough interest in the newsroom that they asked me to write as well. It was a good lesson in storytelling for two different platforms. With video, I’m always trying economize my interviews, getting the basics of the story so I can devote most of my time to shooting and telling the story visually.  This approach makes it easier to edit a video quickly, but makes things difficult when it comes to writing. I finished the video first, then wrote a quick lead and outline for the text story. When I sat down to do the actual writing, I discovered that there were a good number of specific details I was missing.

When a reporter is conducting an interview for print, they often go back and ask lots of specific, detail-oriented questions. The subjects answers can help enrich a written story, but are generally useless in a video interview since they are short and often without context. When I was conducted the interviews, I didn’t know I would be writing a story as well, so I ended up having to go back for a few details via email.


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