01 May 2012

Looking back: April 21 Dallas-Vancouver broadcast

I haven’t written a whole lot recently, because I’ve been staying busy preparing for and calling three games in eight days for FC Dallas. I have three more games coming up in May, including two in the next nine days, but I want to recap the April games one by one, starting with the Dallas-Vancouver match.

April 21 – TXA 21 – FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps
The Vancouver game on April 21 was my first to call from a remote studio, which is always a challenge. You prepare for a game done from studio pretty much the same way you prepare for any other, but it’s definitely weird to put on a suit, pick up your color analyst, and drive to an isolated building where you share the parking lot with about 10 cars.

In this case, things got a little rushed because I could not resist watching the end of the perfect game thrown by my former Rice classmate, Philip Humber, and because I’m still learning the ins and outs of North Dallas driving. But I met up with my analyst, former U.S. international Ian Joy, and we set about finding the studio. From exchanging e-mails with Ian and our producer during the week, I could tell Ian was excited about the broadcast, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for his Scottish accent! Once I got used to it, however, we got along well.

I was plenty familiar with Vancouver from seeing the Whitecaps in preseason and in Philadelphia, and I of course watch every FC Dallas minute I can, so I felt confident in my research, but I wasn’t sure how we would be affected by not being there in person (especially a stadium to which I've never been). We found out one effect in short order.

When you call a game remotely, your production team is receiving a video feed from the home team's production at the site of the game. You get pretty much whatever angle they’re showing, but you get it without graphics; this is called a “clean feed.” You also get an audio soundtrack of stadium and field noise without the home commentators; this is called “international audio.” In the end, you’re sitting there with crowd noise in your headphones and a big monitor of the game in front of you, so it’s not quite as hard as you might think.

But when we got word about 10 minutes before we went on air that Kevin Hartman had pulled out due to back spasms and Chris Seitz was making his second FC Dallas start, there was a bit of scrambling to adjust the talking points in our second segment. While there is some communication and coordination between the two production teams in terms of replays, you rarely know which camera angle the feed will cut to next, so we had to wait until the camera focused on Seitz to really make our points about him. Fortunately, the last-minute change was a main storyline for everybody calling the game, not just the Dallas broadcasters, so the Vancouver feed gave him plenty of time.

The game itself went very well, I thought. Ian may be early in his broadcasting career, mostly having done radio work in Salt Lake City, but he obviously knows the game and is excellent at conveying that to viewers. He had faced Vancouver teenager Omar Salgado personally in training in Portland, so that was another nice ‘in’ that we had on a key storyline, namely Salgado’s first start of the year.

Dallas lost the game, playing OK despite rarely forcing Joe Cannon into a tough save, but I thought Ian and I worked very well together and worked with the production team to put together a good show. As it turns out, there were technical difficulties during the first 15-20 minutes of the game, resulting in our graphics and commentary not making the TXA 21 airwaves. Unfortunately, that included the only goal of the game, a great effort from Vancouver’s Camilo, which meant my only goal call of the night was lost to history. That was definitely frustrating to find out after the fact, but I know everybody on the technical end was working hard to get us on the air, and at least Dallas fans did get the clean feed during those early portions of the game.
Additionally, the broadcast was tape-delayed, which meant that when we got to a restaurant around 11:30 p.m., we were just in time to watch the last 15 minutes or so on TV. It’s more than a little odd reading the closed-captioning of your own speech, but it was cool to see the game’s distribution in person, something we don’t usually get to do and a good way to end the night.

I'll follow up with more from the April 25 and April 28 broadcasts later in the week, as well as look at some key trends heading into the FC Dallas matches against Colorado and Seattle.

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