What's The Range of a Viola?

Sports Shooters Get Crash Course in Covering the Arts on Super Sunday


I was the video producer filming the Boston Pops for the Super Bowl XXXVI Pregame Show in New Orleans. The video crew knew nothing about music, and I knew nothing about football. We definitely had a problem.

This problem was compounded: for the first 20 minutes of the Boston Pops' appearance, there was to be no rehearsal, no opportunity for planning shots, no lyrics to associate shots to (it was instrumental music), and none of the camera crew had even heard the tracks.

Please understand - the camera crew are expert sports people, who can predict the parabolic curve of a thrown ball and the erratic maneuvers of its intended receiver and magically appear at the right point in space and time to cover the intersection of trajectories, player and pigskin.

But, amid the forest of the 90 musicians comprising the Boston Pops, even if one had plenty of rehearsal time and the crew consisted entirely of seasoned fine-arts program specialists, it would still be tough to find the right musical soloist at just the right moment with split-second timing. The screen cannot show a flutist sitting idle while the ear hears a trumpet. We needed a solution and we needed it quick.

Fortunately, our brilliant young line producer, Jamey Landry, had just the answer. Jamey admitted freely that he and his crew knew nothing about music, but he had a plan.


At our first camera crew rehearsal, Jamey huddled his group together and said, "Now, we're going to cover this just like we were covering a zone defense." The crew was quick to respond to his concept. One cameraman, who'd been assigned the zone with the conductor, Keith Lockhart, said, "So, he's sort of like the quarterback?"

Not knowing "zone defense" from "man-on-man" coverage, I needed to clarify for myself that, in zone defense, each cameraman is assigned a region of the field to cover, regardless of what players enter or leave that zone, regardless of where the main action is on the field. It is the application of this sports concept to an artistic event that allowed us to have good shots for the program most of the time.

As I described what the various orchestral sections were, where these sections were seated, and what the instruments looked like within that section, they developed the "zones" they would cover: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. These were apportioned over two studio cameras and three handheld cameras. One of the studio cameras was at a wonderfully oblique angle, up about 45 degrees from the intersection of the end zone and the press box sideline; the other was halfway up the stands at the 50-yard line. The three handheld cameras were left, center and right of the stage front.

Since one camera covered the brass, conductor and full orchestra (the diagonal shot), another the percussion, woodwinds and strings (high midfield shot), another the conductor and strings (stage right), another the cellos and woodwinds (center stage) and the last the basses, brass and percussion (stage left), someone always was covering the action. Because zones overlapped, we often had a choice of angles for that action. The overlap in zone coverage is used in football for secondary instant replay options similar to what we did for the Boston Pops shoot.


Our responsibility was to create the program for the Superdome's Mitsubishi Diamondvision video board, simultaneously recording on "iso" tapes (individual tapes of each camera's continuous coverage), the footage I use in post production to make the Pregame Show documentary video. Our same camera crew continued to shoot the football game and the postgame show. All total, this talented crew, which also covers the Saints and other dome events such as Monster Trucks and Supercross, was online continuously from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Super Bowl Sunday.

At the performance (and what limited rehearsals there were for other selections in the show) I read from the full orchestral scores, cueing Jamey about four measures (approximately eight seconds) in advance of the shots that he in turn called to the director, Brad Grundmeyer.

I limited my cues to just the basic "zones" that Jamey's crew had learned to identify, with the exception of a couple key solo instruments: the timpani, the trumpet and the piccolos. Yes, plural: piccolos. The Boston Pops did Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," with three piccolos standing, playing the famous obbligato in unison.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, we proved countless preachers, teachers and politicians correct: sports metaphors do work.

By the way, the range of a viola is 30 yards, if you kick it real hard.