October 1, 2013
The Australian Football League Grand Final is one of the biggest days of the year for the news media, particularly for television. While pay TV operator SKY News is well known for its coverage of hard news and politics, the Grand Final is still a day of great national significance. On Saturday, final year broadcast student Steph Mathews worked as a field producer in Fremantle for another Curtin graduate, SKY News Perth Reporter Dan Murphy. Here’s Steph’s account of how the day went …
Not long after the Dockers won a spot in the AFL Grand Final, Dan called and asked if I would be his field producer on match day.
I was ecstatic!
I had been working in the SKY News Perth studio – but this would be the first time I had the opportunity go out on the road.
Our day started early, just as it probably did for every reporter and Fremantle Dockers fan. Some venues along the Fremantle’s cappuccino strip were open as early as 7am and the street was buzzing.
After scouting out some colourful locations for filming, we set to work doing interviews and shooting vox pops with excited supporters who had come down to watch the game on the big screens.
SKY News is well known in the national media landscape for live coverage of big events and Grand Final Day is no exception. Our brief was to capture the colour and excitement of the Fremantle fans as the team headed to its first ever grand final.
To send content from Fremantle to SKY News Centre in Sydney, we used a portable backpack system known as a LIVEU. Unlike other television networks, which are required to run cables to a parked satellite truck, Dan was able to send high quality vision and sound back to base using the LIVEU with a really short delay.
Most SKY News Reporters like Dan are multi-skilled-video-journalists, who work hard to source their own stories, film their own content and then compile everything together without assistance.
Modern television is all about live content and our major focus was doing live crosses, and ensuring the producers in Sydney had fresh and exciting material to work with through the day.
One of the main challenges was ensuring we had enough battery power. Also, the live equipment uses cellular technology, so often large crowds can disrupt the signal.
Another challenge was the safe delivery of Dan’s live crosses. As the day progressed, lots of excited fans were keen to get on camera and Dan was often heckled as soon as he picked up the microphone.
We had a very tight time frame between live crosses, which meant we had to prioritise and be creative.
Between the live crosses, Dan was also working to compile the necessary elements for a news package to air later in that night. This meant filming enough overlay to cover the script, shooting a reporter piece to camera and ensuring we had enough suitable grabs. It was a great showcase of multitasking under pressure.
Through the day, Dan was also constantly collecting background sound to pepper through the package. For example, we asked a trio of fans to yell “Go Freo!” – This helps to break up the script and creates an atmosphere of excitement in the story. Dan also explained the importance of having good vision, and the need to constantly think one step ahead.
After about five live crosses, a disappointing loss by Fremantle and a hint of mild sunburn, Dan used his iPad to start bringing together the script for the package. It was challenging to find fresh material and not to repeat the content we had already used.
We looked back over the vision shot through the day to decide on our best pictures to open the story. We also used timecodes on the camera to find grabs and natural sound for the editors.
Putting the script together was stressful because we were working to a tight deadline. Dan emailed the script to the producers in Sydney and then used the camera and LIVEU to send through the content from the car.
By the end of the day Dan was convinced he had discouraged me from the profession – it was such a stressful day. But we realised there would have been no challenge if everything had gone according to plan.