Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Bright Lights, Big City
The lights of the studio shine down upon us.
It's 6:30 in the morning and both my alarm clock and iPhone are honking. For some reason, I always feel tired before media appearances, no matter the media. This time, it's off to Channel 2 for an appearance on Good Morning Maryland and I need to shower and get myself ready.
It's nice to be recognized by the media and it seems that every time we offer the Aida's Grand Reserve we garner more media attention than usual. There's something about a pricey cup of coffee that catches peoples attention. Last year, it was the $13 Grand Reserve that brought us to CNN.com and this year it's the $14 Grand Reserve that's brought us to Good Morning Maryland.
No matter how you slice it, we've brought quite a bit of mainstream media attention to Aida's Grand Reserve.
Getting ready to go live.
Way back when I started out in The Business (and way before I ever thought about coffee), I did live television. While not for some people, I like live television. There's something exciting and almost out of control about live television - as though things are just on the verge of crashing and burning. Sure ENG, episodic or feature work is fun, but few things are as exciting and challenging as live television - especially when something goes wrong.
My package is early in the 9am broadcast and I'm the first setup on the set. For the live demo, I've brought along some of the Grand Reserve, a water kettle and a vac pot setup. While the vac pot is how we actually brewed the AGR at Spro, I chose it for the broadcast because it's unique, sexy and theatrical. Nothing like some sort of contraption that's part bunsen burner and bong to capture the viewers attention.
One of the problems with the butane heater is that I can never really tell when it's going to go out. I tried topping it off with a canister but I'm still not confident in its veracity. As a backup, I bring along a Beehouse pourover setup, just in case.
Live on avi...
If you've ever worked with cameras you'll know it's a bit strange to be in a quiet studio, looking at the black lens and speaking naturally and normally. In the studio, it's quiet and it feels weird talking to a camera. There's no audience feedback. There's almost no noise at all.
You just have to imagine the reality: that beyond the lens, there are literally millions (or hundreds of thousands) of people watching you right now. They're watching everything you do and everything you say. Scratch your butt and your nieces laugh at you. Say something stupid and your mom's friends are calling her. Drop a revelation about President Obama and you could be going national. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of talking to a camera lens and you really don't know anything else.
For the most part, I spent those television years working behind the camera, as operator, technical director, director or producer. Once in a while, I would do a stint as the on-air "talent" and talk mindlessly into the lens. On the technical side, things sometimes seem like they're dragging on forever - especially when things go wrong. Not so much on the on-air side.
On the abc2news set.
When you think about it, three and a half minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time but on television, it's quite a bit of time. Compare that to the typical motion picture that takes about two days to shoot 3.5 minutes worth of footage and you can see that three and a half minutes can be quite a bit indeed.
A vac pot takes about one minute thirty seconds to brew. Two minutes is ample time, as long as everything is prepped. As we moved to the package and closer to air, I made sure the kettle was boiling, filled the vac pot and hit the gas on the burner. It looked strong and I was as ready as I would ever be.
But the kettle had to go back to its cradle on the floor at my feet, so when you see me going down as we go live, I'm actually putting the kettle back. Drats.
Three and a half minutes seems like a long time but when you're actually doing it, it blows by at an incredible rate of speed. I really don't remember what I said and some people have asked me if I was scared to be on television because I looked a little stressed. Truth is, I wasn't stressed to be on television, I was stressed because the water was not boiling and the flame on the burner was dying. Crap.
These are the moments when you Do or Die. Freeze and fold? Or charge. Luckily, I had the pourover at my feet, so I bent down again to grab it and the water and kept on rocking. I still don't remember what Charley and I were talking about, I was just concerned about finishing the demo and made some comment about Julia Child and her souffle.
Finally, I got the coffee finished and off to taste. I tasted it after we went to break and it's was okay. Not as rounded and developed as it would be at Spro - but considering that I poured it hard and rushed the extraction, it wasn't bad.
Next time, I'm going to have to bring an assistant and a stylist.
Thank you, Julia Child.