How It Was: Part 1

I had a moment the other day when I really felt old. I was talking to a photog from another station when I said “you know, it was back in the ‘book a window’ days.” He looked at me with a blank stare and said “what do you mean?”

Oh dear. Have I finally run into a point in my life where I can tell you “how it was” and you will have no idea what I am talking about? I started thinking about what I had to do when I first got into this business and the things that have changed to make it better and easier for someone just breaking in. I came up with a pretty good list, so I decided to make this a series for the next few Mondays. It will be nostalgic or educational depending on how long you’ve been around.

Booking Windows

There was a time, not too long ago, where if you wanted video from another station you had to call them. Then you had to call your network in New York and book time for your friends at the affiliate to send you that video. Then you had to write down the coordinates and bring them to Master control to tune them in. This was a process. You couldn’t just say “hey, drop it in the FTP would ya?”

This was a “fun” process because you had that moment, roughly 30 seconds before the window, when you would wonder if the feed would pop up properly. If you saw the video pop up as it should, at the right time, it was such a delight. “I see you, I see you!”

If the video didn’t pop up when the window opened you had to call the network in New York and argue over “who’s end it was on.” That usually would mean the 5-minute window would run out and you would get to spend more of your station’s money to book a new window and try again. This was all super fun under deadline!

Plusses of FTP and Large file transfer?

You don’t have to do this anymore. That video can be yours in a matter of seconds and it can be downloaded and attached in very little time. There’s no calling three different people and there’s not as much room for error. It also doesn’t cost anything. Those windows, and messing them up, can add up. I once had to book 4 different fiber windows (even more pricey) to get one PKG back. My ND wasn’t pleased!

We have a MUCH better system these days and the video even looks better. I can’t tell you how many times we had to do the feed again because the video was grainy. We can now send HD video via e-mail. If you had told me that during my first two years in TV, I would’ve laughed. Enjoy that luxury!

Minuses of the new technology?

You don’t truly get to know anyone anymore.

I got to know some of my best friends in tv news through this process of booking windows. I had to actually CALL and TALK to them. I couldn’t just go into the station’s FTP and grab the video…sometimes without even asking. It was fun to call and have a nice 3-minute chat with someone from another station. Maybe we would use the time to vent about the hours or working on a weekend. Some of the people who have written for this blog became great friends because we booked so many windows back-and-forth.

I wonder how those relationships form now?

I am super glad we have made these advances over the last 5 years or so, but I am also thankful to have done it the “old way” because it really took effort to get video from another station and it seemed to mean more. I also got to know more people in the newsroom. We all had our favorite master control opps who could always be counted on to tune in a feed quickly.

Next week we will discuss another FANTASTIC technological change that makes our jobs easier: the flippable screen on cameras. (we DID NOT have those 10 years ago!)

2 thoughts on “How It Was: Part 1

  1. Excellent post. I remember how awesome I thought it was to be able to work and send video from the car when I worked at the CBS in Myrtle Beach in 2009. When I first started there in 2006, I was shooting on tape covering the Lumberton bureau and driving the edited PKG back to Florence everyday to hand deliver it to the tape operator in the control room. Technology surely has changed the game in some incredibly positive ways, but as you pointed out, it’s causing us all to see a whole heck of a lot less of one another anymore.


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