Over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about how the business has changed recently. We discussed the invention of FTP and the flippable monitor on the camera. Today I would like to talk about the tapeless newsroom.
Those of you who have gotten into the business in the last five years or so, probably do not remember the days of tapes. I am not just talking about shooting video on tapes, I am talking about editing “tape-to-tape” and having a story on the tape, and handing that tape to an editor where it will be put into a tape machine to play during the newscast. Now we just attach video. Isn’t that nice?
My first job in TV was editing the 5:30pm newscast at WPEC in West Palm Beach, Fl when I was still in high school in 1999. One of the biggest parts of my job was getting the tapes for the newscast in order. This could be a VO I edited or a PKG coming in from a photog in the field. We all had our own systems. I would get a rundown, color-code the numbers and cross off items as I got them in. I had a huge cart where each shelf represented a “block” of the newscast. I had to keep this extremely organized because the entire order of the newscast depended on me.
I would then go back to a giant feed room that included six large tape machines. I would stack the tapes up at each deck in the order the director gave me. If a story was “dropped” during a show, I would have to manually change the order. I assure you, this was complicated and I truly had to learn to be calm under pressure while “running tapes.” Getting one VO wrong could cause a chain-reaction and a very bad newscast. I saw one editor get fired because of his inability to handle the changes quickly and in order.
When I first started as a sports anchor, we had a stack of tapes to deliver to the editors. I had many occasions where I accidently had a tape out of order and that caused a fun sportscast!
The tapeless newsroom is absolutely fantastic for those of us who remember these days. Finish your VO seconds before the newscast and attach it.
Yes, there are days when the computer has a glinch and the wrong VO runs. I can assure you it is no worse that the many levels of human error that used to be involved in this proccess.
Things I do not miss:
-Labeling tapes. There were labels everywhere! All over the edit bay. Stuck on the bottom of your shoe. We would often take the old labels and make a huge “label ball”. (I guess I kinda miss that)
-Laying “countdowns”. This took a lot of your time. Good job for an intern, though!
-having to remember to cue something up from a previous newscast. Want to run the same VO at 11? Better cue that up or you will get to see the end of it on air and likely the countdown to the next story. Great TV!
If you don’t remember any of this, consider yourself lucky. Enjoy attaching that video as you work today and know you will never have a moment where the machine eats the tape of your exclusive interview!