I recently had the opportunity to work the NCAA track & field finals for ESPN. I have never done track and field and was curious to see what it would involve. I found out quickly, that like most sports coverage, you get a fairly specific assignment, and you are not to do anything other that your specific assignment. As a jib operator, one of my strengths (and faults) is trying to bring fresh perspective to whatever show I am on. Some directors love it and others will have nothing to do with it. I find that a big part of me doing a “good” job is learning how to please the director.
For this show, I had several assignments depending on what was going on. During 100 meter springs I was to do a low sweep towards the runners prepared for the blocks, and then fly over them. I was to wait for my cue, but sometimes the cue would not come. Next I would hear my camera number used as a curse word and I would be asked why I was not in position. This director was going to be an interesting nut to crack.
I learned my assignments and the show went well. I was surprised how much I enjoyed track and field. In my mind it was just about people running in a circle, kind of like human NASCAR. The level of emotion on the athletes faces was amazing. The super slow mo camera caught the end of the womens 1500. This girl had been leading the whole time and had victory in her eyes, suddenly they widened as she realized someone was closing on her right, she dug in but had nothing left. As the camera pulled out to reveal the other girl pass her, you could see grief overtake the athlete. All of this happened in real time in about 2.5 seconds, in super slow mo, it was 15 seconds and told an amazing story.
The men’s 4×100 may have been my favorite event to shoot. I would pick them up on turn three at the end of my lens and then pull out as the approached me, by the time they would hit turn 4 , the end of the jib would be moving as fast as they where. My jib assistants job was to keep the “kill zone” clear so that I would not brain some poor body.
The big show we did on Saturday was from 11am to 1pm. We had high wind and high heat. It was a difficult show dealing with the elements. When it finally wrapped I was relieved. Sometimes you just walk away knowing you did not hit the ball out of the park, but also did not strike out. I survived.
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