The biggest challenges in doing player videos are having them trust you to, at the minimum, not make them look bad, and making them care. There’s a lot of folks with a lot of ideas on what words and actions we ask these people to have recorded, and often times put on the internet forever. And a high percentage of these things these are things these fellas don’t have much interest or enthusiasm in saying or doing. And the feeling is mostly mutual. It’s often perfunctory. It’s part of the gig for them and for us. They’re mostly focused on being good at their job, and the rest is a distraction. But unfortunately for them, there’s a lot of marketing and content beasts that need to be fed.
The stiff, un-enthused player in a local commercial with equally awkward production quality is a common trope that’s so tropey even the lampshading of it is a trope. But at least with a local car dealer commercial, there’s a check that comes with it. Even though we’re the in-house team and we’re trying to make them as look as best as possible, it’s asking a lot from these guys. You’re asking non-trained performance talent to be reflective and nostalgic one moment, chill and responsive the next, and then follow that up with feats of paragraph memorization with the comedic chops and timing of seasoned improvisers. And do this dance in 12 minutes for a season’s worth of videos. Even in these strained conditions, the resulting content is most demanded by our bosses and the most viewed and positively responded to by our fans.
So when a player comes to us with something along the lines of “I have an idea,” it is an equally rare and joyous event. Rare because even if you have the right personality, it’s outside their job description, and their job takes up a lot of time and is physically draining. Their average day is most people’s week of workouts. It’s joyous because the player has obvious buy-in and also a better sense of control of things. Instead of asking them to do things that are way outside of their personality and skill set, the performance is more natural and sincere. Plus, you become temporary teammates for the project, and there’s something about an athlete’s teammate instinct and drive to win that fits in well on a set. As opposed to us saying “Here’s the stuff we need to extract from you,” and them in “Get this over with and let me be on my way” mode.
We recently had such a pleasure with the Monsters’ Zac Dalpe. Zac knows Monsters play-by-play announcer Tony Brown plays guitar and Zac himself has performed at a Monsters event. They get to talking early in training camp about music. That turns into a “We should do something,”and during the media day they toss the idea out to me, and I’m in. I have to give it a little support push because of the way our workload is in early October, but know it’s worth it because not only are the videos the most popular among viewers and bosses, but they often turn out to be my favorite videos, too.
I’m pretty excited to get this thing done and do it well. I mentioned earlier about the players trusting you to make them not look bad, I hope if we do this right, word gets around that if they work with us they’re in good hands, so if we come around asking for something they know they’ll be all right.
So of course the day of the shoot is a Murphy’s Law day. Everything went wrong. Just 2 people on this shoot, me and Mark Zaremba. Our department vehicle got ganked out from under us, so we had to bring all our equipment in a sedan. I brought a mixer that we were gonna run right into the camera, but the power supply was busted. So, our shoot goes from 4 mics down to 2. And the Tascam recorder has 2 inputs. But the XLR output on boom pole is busted. Well, luckily we brought extra wireless kits! We’ll put the butt right on the mic! But the receivers output XLR was missing. At least it had 1/16” output that could convert to 1/4”, and it’s got both inputs! Then it turned out the Tascam could only do one kind of input… either the XLR’s or the line in, but not both. And, oh yeah, for this audio focused shoot we forgot headphones. Personal gripe, I have an old man back, and the furthest path from equipment to where it had to go is of course the route we had to take. Final bitch, the set isn’t the most picturesque place I’ve ever been either. Shit. So how we ended up doing it is Tony had a personal recorder. We put one mic into each and hoped for the best, One camera was just set wide and rolling non-stop will Zambo tried listening to two different audio devices at once while I tried to make 2 cameras look like 3. Despite the challenges, we wound up with an interview that comes from a real personal place and a song performance that reflects that.
BORING TECHNICAL SPECIFICS FOR THE NICHE AUDIENCE OF THE NICHE AUDIENCE:
Audio was the most important ingredient on this shoot, which makes the style of the technical issues we had that much more frustrating. We lav’d up Zac so he sounded good, and his voice really sat on top of his track allowing me to EQ and treat the vocals a little bit. The boom we pointed at Tony, and gives the “wide” track a sense of space while not being too muddy, allowing Tony’s lead playing to cut through juuuusssst enough. There was a slight one-frame drift somewhere in the middle that sounded like intentional layering and it sounded kind of all right.
The cameras used were two Canon 5D Mark III’sm Canon glass. Wide shot: 50mm. Close up/roaming shots on a 70-200mm. We only did two takes, and I only made 2 cuts to comp the audio track. And I stayed true visually to both takes. There’s only one shot that is not in sync with the video’s audio take. It’s pretty obvious if you break down the physical logistics of the shoot, but it matches really well and not obvious to the casual viewer.
/END BORING SPECIFICS
My first experience with a player-born idea was when I was with Aeros pitcher Cole Cook, and it turned into a nice little series. The best iteration was with Justin Toole. Cole had a great base idea, he sent the word through his boy Cory O’Connor, and this thing went from text, to production, to final product in 12 hours. We had some time before a Saturday game, I grabbed a mic and a camera, met these guys on the field and made it happen.
We just picked a place to start, and we just improvised our way shot-to-shot until the end. Even the final DH joke was an after thought we were walking off the field after we thought we wrapped. It was a blast to do and I still have fun watching it. After moving on from baseball, Cole has since worked in the entertainment biz, and that talent runs in his family. This was the closest thing in my professional career to the spirit of my friends and I making videos in high school for the hell it.
BURYING THE LEDE
Putting my cards on the table here… at this point in this blog and website’s history, this is practice. I’m trying to get reps curating content that promotes my knowledge and expertise of in-house creative and live show production for professional sports teams. And I’m in the midst of recognizing a mistake. So, I’m about to transition into a video I made with current MLB All-Star Francisco Lindor. This sites’s main purpose is to bolster my credibility as a sports video person, right? And I’m waiting nearly 1,500 words to introduce my callabo with a current top-tier talent and MVP candidate?
But yeah, like Cole, Francisco reached out. He got in touch through Adam Liberman, the Ducks PR guy. At the time, Francisco was the #1 prospect in the organization and one of the tops in the MLB. The hype was huge! Yeah, it’s a minor league team and these guys are just passing through, So the general rule is to avoid marketing players, But when you got a Lindor, you got to strike while the iron is hot.
Ronnie Rodriguez (currently with the Tigers) got in on the act, RubberDucks manager at the time Dave Wallace was cool with a video where the idea is these guys are skipping work to goof off. We shot the part in the manager’s office And the cool thing about this video was Francisco brought his… either nephew or cousin. It’s been a while, can’t remember. So we scrapped the script, and rewrote it with him as the star. It was very cool for these guys to let the kid be the star, as well diminish themselves and their abilities for the sake of the joke.
And they’re cool with it because they sparked the idea, they had input, and they had approval. They were more open to direction and suggestion because we were working on the same level. And because of that, we had a good time shooting, and created fun, unique content that helped showcase these guys and their personalities, which is exactly what we set out to do.