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TV Production on the Road: Media Bags and Counting Boxes

When people ask me what I do as a TV producer one of my answers is, “I count boxes and bags.” They give me an odd look because they were looking for my answer to be something about working with super talented technical people and awesome actors and actresses and telling great stories. Which yeah, I do that too but it all starts with counting boxes and bags.

Production Industry Innovations

The boxes and bags I am talking about hold all the tools of the production trade. 36 years ago when I first started in the production business the tools were bigger and heavier and thus so were the boxes. Everybody always asks me what is my favorite innovation in our business? New lightweight high def cameras like our Sony FX9’s that can do 4K or 6k, high speed and shoot in almost no light? Nope! Recording to XQHD memory cards rather than to film or videotape? Nope! The rebirth of Carl Zeiss Super Speed Prime lenses? Nope! Lithium-Ion battery technology? Nope! Wireless client monitor with dual screen to watch two camera shooting? I love my monitor but nope! Small drones like the latest ones from DJI that we can do an aerial shot at every location? Still super cool but nope!

All About the Lighting

My favorite innovation is in lighting! I love LED lights! They are lighter, no AC cords and don’t get hot or make the location hot! My favorite DPs, Rocky Wyler my brother, Kevin Layne, my brother in the industry and all the other guys still tell me how great HMI’s are and are always sneaking a Kino or two on our shoots. But we also have plenty of LED panels and wands! As a producer, I hate Kino’s, big fragile panels that just take up space and look like to me that they just want to fall at any minute! Still, a few HMI lights make their way on today’s shoots but no more big tungsten lights with their hot barn doors and big travel cases!

Weighing In

So all this stuff has gotten lighter and smaller especially lighting! On a show, we would use to easily bring with us over a thousand pounds of stuff. Our latest trip for a new documentary, “Titans of Business, The Cecil O’Brate Story,” that will air on Fox Business in December, all our luggage was “all in” at 557 pounds, including my seven days of underwear and socks!

So I mentioned I count a lot. If you don’t count at each loading and unloading point Murphy’s law will guarantee that one will get away. Young producers make fun of me as I obsess about counting at each point, they laugh until they don’t count and a crew bag rolls off behind a car in the windy parking lot of the hotel in Pittsburgh! That producer knows who he or she is!

Our team has made my life so much better by building many of our cases with color-coded contents, meaning any idiot (like me) can load a case properly and inventory a case just by matching colors.

So when people ask me what I do as a TV show producer? I tell them I count to 20 and match colors and I am not lying!