Sports Media Trainee Blog – WJCC 2016

Sports Media Trainee Winners, Marissa Dederer and Aaron Renfree at the WJCC 2016 Photo © WCF / Richard Gray

Marissa Dederer and Aaron Renfree have joined the World Curling Federation (WCF) media team at the VoIP Defender World Junior Curling Championships 2016 in Taarnby, Denmark.

They are the latest competition winners of the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme, which is sponsored by Global Sports Development.

Among their duties this week is to contribute to this daily blog, recounting their experiences from their first international curling event.

Aaron Renfree

It’s a wrap

A few days have passed now since I returned home from Denmark.

It’s good to finally be able to sit back and think about what has happened in the past 12 days of travelling and work.

They say that you only really know the depths of your abilities when you are pushed to your limit, and Denmark really showed me how much I have in the tank. My limits have been stretched almost as much as my brain with what I have learnt.

The 10 hour shifts were taxing and the 10 days of continuous work were tough, but possible thanks to an incredible team.

I know now that a career in television, whether it is the reporting side, or the TV production side, is a career that I can not only do, but would also thoroughly enjoy. The lessons I have taken away from the experience are plentiful.

From techniques in filming and covering a live sport for a broadcast, to managing a team, to managing yourself on such a tough schedule.

I learnt how to manage my time away from work, how to maximise my sleep, and how to control my diet to perform to high standards in such a busy and fascinating environment.

I learnt how to film with an Easyrig camera, how to film sport effectively with a tripod camera, and how to control remote controlled cameras.

I learnt how to create slow motion replays, control graphics and control audio levels.

In total, I a learnt a lot.

One of the best parts of the programme was working with such a culturally diverse team. I was the only person from England at the event, and the media team was filled with people from Sweden, Norway, Canada, France, Russia, Denmark and Scotland.

Just talking to the team, learning about their cultures and countries, how life is different there from England, and making friends in such far away places was certainly a highlight.

I am really looking forward to keeping in touch with these people, and perhaps, some day when I am globetrotting, popping by to say hello.

The World Curling Federation Media Trainee Programme is an experience that I will never forget.

I learnt so much, I experienced so much, and I did so much. I also gave curling a shot, it was very fun and challenging. I managed to throw a few stones so I am very chuffed.

If you’re considering signing up for the programme, go for it, if you get it you will have a once in a life time opportunity, I know I certainly don’t regret signing up!

The finals!

Today was day 8 of the broadcast and the finals of the World Junior Curling Championships.

The studio was buzzing with excitement as we prepared for the final games.

I created my showreel today from the clips I compiled yesterday to show the work that I had done during the trainee programme.

I also helped the team with their coverage of the final games.

The award ceremony was up next.

Bagpipes blared out in the club as the public ushered in around the sides of the sheets. The feeling was electric.

Tears were shed by the athletes and their families, emotional embraces shared, and awards handed out to the winning teams.

After the awards concluded and Kate Caithness, the President of the World Curling Federation, gave her speech our next job was ready to begin, the sad process of de-rigging the entire setup.

The process took a few hours, but was great fun as we went to work taking everything down.

We took a short break for pizza and then got cracking again.

After a few hours everything was dismantled and a part of the team headed to the curlers banquet.

The atmosphere was fantastic as all the curlers dressed up smart to socialise after a busy championship. It was great to see all the juniors so relaxed and having a fun time.

After this a few others and me headed to a bar, before heading to bed, ready to pack for the flight home tomorrow.

Camera 3 training

Today was the semifinals of the championships.

For the first half of the game I was back on audio and furthered my training with the sliders. For the second half I was on the replay station where I created my first double replay.

A double replay is when a replay is played live, after a good shot, and includes two different camera angles straight after each other.

While sounding simple, it is fairly finicky, particularly when under the pressure of a live game. You only have a few seconds to not only check that the shots from both cameras are good quality and add to the story of the throw, but also create the replay itself.

I’d practiced the situation before and created the double replay with no problem, thanks to the great training from the team.

During the practice session today I had my tripod camera test.

Hooked up to a headset I received instructions from the producer telling me what to film. I was tasked with filming shots of the curlers throwing their stones, following the stone, and then focussing on the curlers reaction afterwards

After this I returned to the studio and went through the footage with the team and received feedback.

I have now had training with all the cameras that Live Channel use, and cannot wait for the opportunity to use similar equipment again.

During the evening I began compiling all of my footage together, from both camera tests, my replay work and my overhead camera work, to create a showreel for my time in Denmark.

Easyrig test

Day 6 was the last day of the round-robin games in the championship. Today I worked at the audio station.

At university we only work with 2 or 3 mics, but today I was able to work with 10 mics.

I used the sliders to control the audio that was aired, making sure that when the red team were in the shot, the red team were heard, and when the yellow team were in the shot, the yellow team were heard.

I also controlled the sliders to tell the audio story of the curling.

I turned up the volume of the skips microphone when they slid their stone so you could hear it slide on the ice. I made the volume louder when the sweepers brushed the stone down the sheet. I also controlled the volume of players as they spoke to each other, so viewers could hear the teams strategising together.

I left the audio station feeling confident that I could now control audio in sports games with a huge selection of mics.

Afterwards I went out sheet side for my Easyrig camera test.

Here I filmed the curlers practicing before their game. The producer told me which shots to take, such as following the stone, filming the house and the skip, and using the environment to film creative shots.

After this I went back to the studio and went through the footage with the team and received feedback.

This opportunity was invaluable as I was able to train with innovative equipment while receiving feedback, tips and instructions from industry professionals who work for a world federation.

I left with a great understanding of how to use the Easyrig camera.

The halfway point

Day 4 started at the graphics station, controlling the bug. It still feels incredible to have the graphics I load up viewed by the hundreds of people watching our live stream.

Following this I jumped onto the replay station and continued creating replays after impressive stones, while also creating highlights after the final stone of each end. After dinner I was able to shoot sheet side again with some more Easyrig practice.

I’m starting to get the hang of it now, and I really feel like I am improving.

For the final game I watched and took notes about the camera angles that Live Chanel use. I noted what the angles brought to the game and how they showed the emotion and skill of the players.

I also wrote down commentary observations from Sander and Alison to improve my presenting.

After today’s work half the media team headed into Copenhagen for tea. It was a great way to relax after a very busy day.

Following this I was given the Easyrig to practice with.

I was rigged up with the backpack device and I was able to film the athletes as they practiced sheet side.

It was an incredible experience, unlike any filming that I have ever done before.

So far the Easyrig practice has been the highlight of the trainee programme, but I’ve said that about three different things now at the end the day.

The training programme just keeps getting better and better.

Photo © WCF / Marissa Tiel

Remote controlled filming

Day 2’s shift was a late start, which was appreciated as the days working here are very long, often over 10 hours.

That said, the days are incredibly rewarding and the experience that I have each day is unlike anything I have ever done before.

Today we arrived at the Curling Club at 12, just in time for dinner.

Over dinner I talked to Sander Rølvåg, who won the World Mixed Curling Championship last year in Switzerland.

Sander works as a commentator for the World Curling Federation and we spoke about presenting and the possible careers in presenting that we both may follow.

We also shared tips and tricks about presenting and I learnt some brilliant techniques to warm up my vocals.

After dinner we got to work on the stream, where I started the day shadowing the vision mixer and remote control camera.

After a few ends I was given the joystick for the remote control camera.

My task was to follow the curlers down the ice as they brushed the stone to the house. The skill was finding the correct speed to move the camera, along with the speed in which to zoom out.

I controlled the camera for the majority of the three-hour game, improving every time with my camera skills.

Operating a remote controlled camera for a worldwide federation on my second day as a trainee still blows my mind.

Following this I shadowed the tripod camera for half of the next game.

Here I learnt the strategy behind which shots to take, how to zoom and pan to film a curling game, and how to look for the best shots to tell the story of the game and the emotions of the players involved.

After this half I sat with the production manager and learnt about planning such a large-scale event and all the work that goes into it.

We left the event around 11 and I headed straight to bed for an 8am start the next day.

We are live!

Today was the first official day of the World Junior Curling Championships 2016. All the cameras were setup, all the athletes ready and all the media crew on standby.

Having already met everybody over the past few days there was already a very friendly atmosphere in the building. I felt like the team wanted me there and were all willing to work hard to give me the best training possible.

I started by shadowing the team over four workstations: replay, audio, vision mixer and graphics.

At the replay station I shadowed the creation of live replays and highlight videos.

At the audio station I learnt how all the athletes were mic’d up and how vital it is to control their levels.

Shadowing the vision mixer I was able to spectate how the cameramen have a structure to their filming.

On graphics I was shown how graphics are created and added to the live stream.

Here I had my first hands on experience on a live stream, as I was able to control the ‘bug’ at the top of the screen.

The ‘bug’ depicts how many stones each team has remaining in the specific end, and a graphic of a stone is removed every time that it pops up.

Using hotkeys I displayed the ‘bug’, removed a stone on the graphic, and then removed the graphic itself.

Having the privilege of controlling graphics on day 1 didn’t really sink in until after the stream.

It also took a while for me to realise that the graphics I was controlling were displayed to hundreds of viewers live.

On my first day, to do something so incredible, really set the tone for the programme.

Final Additions

Today we continued setting up the equipment and discussed plans for what I would do over the course of my trainee programme.

I also played with some more equipment and tried on the Easyrig.

The Easyrig is a backpack that takes away all of the camera’s weight, allowing the user to be fully focussed on getting the best shots as possible.

The main task of the day was to visit Taarnby and Kastrup to take shots for the introductory video, which plays at the start of each stream.

Myself and two other members of the TV crew had a crash course tour of the area and I was able to use the camera to try my hand at some shots.

Following this I was given my own World Curling TV jacket and hat, I really felt like an official part of the team now.

For the evening we went into town to eat out again, where I had a very special chat with Mike Haggerty.

I learnt a ton of tips and tricks from how to interview, to how to be interviewed. We talked about past experiences and his history with Jeremy Paxman.

It really goes to show that you should speak to anyone and everyone during once in lifetime opportunities like this.

I went to bed filled with new knowledge and ready for the following day, the first day of broadcast.

From an empty room to a TV studio

The next day was an early start.

In the morning I had my first delicious Danish breakfast and met with the TV Production team, Live Channel.

A Swedish company, the team of 6 quickly introduced themselves and made me feel welcomed on the cold walk to the venue, Taarnby Curling Club.

Arriving at the club we quickly got to work. A van full of boxes packed with cameras, cables, microphones, tripods, lights and rigs were laid out at the venue, an overwhelming field of technical dreams.

It felt like heaven.

We soon began unpacking the boxes, taping cables down, setting up the machines, and placing the monitors. It was an organised frenzy of technological equipment.

Setting up the equipment took the entire day, but it was great to play with the gadgets and gizmos while talking to the team.

I found out a lot about life in Sweden, how everybody’s careers started, and what they where going to teach me.

Over the course of the day we managed to turn an empty room into a full media studio.

Overhead cameras were set up, hanging on a cable running across the width of the club. We setup a tripod camera, a commentary table, a vision mixer, a graphics station, an audio station, a wireless microphone station and an instant replay station.

Following the busy day, starting at 9am and leaving at 7pm, we returned to the hotel and met in the lobby to travel into Copenhagen as a media team. Here I met the events photographer Richard Grey and journalist Mike Haggerty.

Eating at a place called Blod Hat we had a lovely meal and the friendly nature of the team really shone as we all ate and drank together, even if I only had cola.

Ready for a busy day tomorrow we headed back to the hotel to grab some sleep.

Getting to Denmark

After two hours of sleep, two hours of waiting in the airport and two hours of flight, I finally arrived in Denmark. Initially I was nervous, but as soon as I passed through customs all of my nerves instantly turned into excitement.

Applying for the World Curling Federation TV Production Trainee Programme felt like a bit of a shot into the dark. It was a worldwide competition and there were only two positions available.

I was a fan of curling and had filmed sporting events before; so I felt confident that I would potentially have a shot, maybe get shortlisted if I was lucky.

Several months later I received an email from the World Curling Federation telling me that I had been shortlisted and would find out if I had won a place in a weeks time. A few days later, half suited and ready to present for my University News Show, I received a call.

I had won one of the two positions.

The first thing I did was ring my mum and tell her the good news. We were both ecstatic, as was everybody else I told. March felt like a long way away, but I knew it would creep up fast, and it really did.

I arrived before most of the team on Thursday the 3rd of March and had time to settle into the hotel before having a nap to boost my little sleep. Having rested I hopped into the lift to find food and met Scott Arnold, a technical delegate at the World Curling Federation.

After a little chat I joined Scott and several umpires and icemakers for my first trip into Copenhagen.

Within minutes I was chatting away to team, finding out about their jobs, where they came from and getting to know whom I would be spending the next 12 days working with.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that everybody working here was very inclusive, laidback and hard working, each holding a vast wealth of curling knowledge.

The trip to Copenhagen was via the metro and was only a few stops away. The metro in Copenhagen drives itself, so it is pretty surreal to not see any drivers or staff at all.

We ate at a place called ‘Copenhagen Street Food’ which was fascinating. It was laid out in a huge former warehouse filled with a variety of shacks and vans selling a plethora of delicious food. Their prices were low, but the quality was amazing. The duck fat fried chips were divine.

We arrived back at the hotel very late, where I met the events broadcast manager Joanna Kelly, She was very friendly and welcoming, and continued the trend of everybody here being very inclusive.

I headed to sleep shortly after, already feeling like a part of the team.

Marissa Dederer

Wrapping up the championships

The last week at junior worlds flew by. I am so grateful for the learning opportunities and the experience that the WCF Media Trainee Programme offered.

If you spend enough time shooting a subject, I think you start to understand it at a more intimate level. And even though most of the mechanics of curling still remains a mystery to me, I feel like I was able to offer a good representation of the emotion, skill, athleticism and camaraderie displayed by the talented athletes at the junior world championships in Taarnby, Denmark.

As the final games played out on the sheets, I felt comfortable with the workflow and capturing images from the medal games. I’m proud of the work that I produced alongside my mentor, Richard Gray and thankful for all his encouragement throughout the week.

As I walked out of the venue for the final time, sore feet and arms and only a little sleep deprived, I wouldn’t change the experience for the world.

After understanding the basics of curling and knowing what the classic action shots were, I wanted to also look for new ways of seeing the sport and those moments that weren’t necessarily peak action.

I like the symmetry of this photograph.

As the final shots of the game played out, I had my camera aimed at the skip, Bruce Mouat of Scotland. When he hit his final shot of the game, he slid to the ice for only a brief moment before shaking hands with the Americans and congratulating his team. I think this was his quiet moment of I did it! Before continuing with his professionalism.

At this venue, there were only a few spots where you could get clean shots from above ice level. This shot came from there. I was trying to show the motion instead of just freezing action.

For every winner, there was a loser. And in this final round-robin game, the Swiss girls lost to the Hungarian girls. They were heartbroken as it meant they would not go on to the playoffs. They came together for a hug and when they broke away, there were tears that broke your heart.

Finding a rhythm

Since the start of the week we’ve been in a steady rhythm here at junior worlds. Breakfast at the hotel, a brisk walk to the venue, photographing the morning session, afternoon session, and evening session. Each bout of curling has an intermission of food punctuated with copious amounts of coffee.

Workflow goes something like this: lots of shooting at each sheet – changing lenses and positions along the way, going into the media/ live video room to warm up and get images onto the computer. Once the pics are loaded, there’s editing and tagging to do before finally loading them into the WCF online library. Then we repeat this throughout the day.

With the small arena space, there is a bit of a trick to positioning yourself in the right spots alongside the sheet to get the perfect shot, with a clean background, a moment, a slice of the action. This is a skill I’m still trying to perfect.

We had Wednesday night off and headed into Copenhagen for a nice dinner downtown. The live tv crew, commentators and photo duo were able to enjoy some good bites and drinks and have a bit of a break from the curling hall to recharge ahead of the tail end of the round-robin and the page playoffs.

This morning we had another session off. The media operations teams took advantage and went for a walk along the water. It was very foggy along the Oresund Straight and so visibility was poor, however it made for some moody pics. We walked along the shore to Amager Strandpark, an artificial island with kilometres of beaches, pathways and a sprinkling of restaurants. The docks had some wooden structures built up at their terminus, which could be used to jump into the water. There were even a few brave souls who stripped down for a dip.

In the afternoon we headed back to the curling club and our routine for the page playoffs.

My favourite photos

During my photographic training, I have been taught to shoot wide, medium, and tight. For the majority of the first half of the event, I have just been getting comfortable taking photos of curling, and much of my work was wide or medium. Now that I feel able to get a clean background and shoot the moments, I’ve also been trying to get tighter.

When the athletes are sweeping, their heads are often close together and it can look a bit chaotic. I wanted to capture that sense of almost-claustrophobia. Here, Maria Larsson is sandwiched by her team mates as they sweep hard to get a rock in to a better position.

I like this one of team Canada, doing something different with slow shutter speed. It speaks to the fans here, even though we can’t physically see them in the shot.

And I like this one of Sweden because Therese looks so happy after their first win of the tournament.

Day Two – Shooting my first game

Day two begins with a slight bit of rain. Luckily once you’re in the curling club the weather outside has no bearing. Inside it’s one temperature: chilly.

As a Canadian I’m used to shooting in the cold. I brought a special kit with me to Denmark to wear while photographing. It’s made up of a merino wool base layer, a fleece middle layer and a soft shell. And the most important accessories: a toque and gloves. Without these, I wouldn’t be able to spend a lot of time next to the sheets continuously.

Since the venue is a bit on the smaller side, all of the media operations and television broadcast teams work out of the same space and it has been really interesting getting to see the work that goes into all sides of the communications department.

I feel like each time I go out to photograph a game, I am gaining more confidence in shooting curling. Before attending the junior worlds here, I had only ever shot curling once. I enjoy trying to capture both action and quiet moments in between play. And as the tournament continues, I look forward to seeing how my shots transform.

Day Zero

The Media Trainee program starts with a rush. Day zero – the day before the official start of the competition– we are busy with shooting head shots and team shots.

In the Taarnby Curling Club on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark, we’re tucked into a tiny foyer. Amidst all the chaos of the players going to practice and going to rest, there’s also brush inspection and Richard and I shooting photos. Richard, my photography mentor is in charge of team shots and plugs away at them expertly while I snap individual head shots of each of the athletes. I brought my lighting kit because I knew I wanted to capture these photos with nice light.

These photos will be an important resource for us over the next week to help with knowing the athletes’ names as there eight on the ice in a game at a time and five games happening simultaneously.