This morning the Today show crew came calling, up here in Amherst. It was quite a production. We had Amy Robach, who interviewed us; Danielle Kowalski, the producer, three camera men, and two customized Suburbans full to the brim with cameras and gear. In this shot, my son Cubby checks out the cameras, which are somewhat more sophisticated than his . . .
The plan was to film my brother at his house, my brother and me together, and me at my house. They also wanted some background shots . . . me with my cars, my son, my musical stuff, and my old photos. I think they got more than they bargained for. They left, ten hours later, with a duffel bag holding three hours of tape. It was a long day, but exciting and fun.
Watching the crew, the difference between local television and a big network show was apparent. Everything was set up, lit, and miked. There were three cameras: one on me; one on Amy, and one with a wider shot of both of us. Each of us had a lapel microphone for close sound pickup, and they had an overhead mike. All three went into a mixer and then into the recorders, just as in a studio.
I was very impressed by the way they took control of the shooting environment. We shot the first segment in my brother’s living room. They moved all the furniture and set up chairs for the interview. The actual setting in my brother’s house was way too cluttered for television, and they turned it upside down to make a setting that looked totally natural on camera even though it looked like a tornado cleaned the place out in real life. Once the chairs were in place one cameraman watched the monitor while another moved objects in and out of the background, seeking the right scene balance of color and shape. They added lights in the rear, to give the illusion of afternoon sun behind us. They masked all the windows, and replaced their natural light with their more controllable movie lights.
In this shot two of the crew are setting up:
Nothing was left to chance. The Today crew spent several hours setting up a scene that will play for a matter of minutes on network television, but in those few minutes, four or five million viewers will be watching, and they made sure every little thing was right. As a technical guy, I really enjoyed seeing it unfold.
And now it's ready . . . here my brother and Amy get ready:
Once the interview was done, they shot what they call B-roll footage; things like me and Cubby, me with my cars, and Cubby and me talking about the KISS guitars. While we did that, another cameraman used his camera and an easel to film tons of childhood photos.
Finally, it was time to go. It's just amazing what goes into a network production . . . I started getting ready before 8 in the morning, and now it was dark, and the editing hadn't even started. I was worn out. I can’t imagine how they’re going to cut all that down into four minutes for the show. I asked Danielle, and she said they’ll work two weeks editing it. This give a you whole ‘nother sense of what goes into those little stories on network TV, doesn’t it?
And now I’m off, to the next interview . . .