X Marks the Spot

Shooting The Big Snow Show

Corby Anderson and Kevin Pearce

Corby Anderson, left, steps in front of the camera briefly during filming of last year’s X Games to pose with athlete and host Kevin Pearce.

by CMC New Media Instructor Corby Anderson

The 2013 ESPN Winter X Games is live from Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado, from January 24-27. The games can be viewed on multiple ESPN television channels, and online at ESPN.com.

Aspen, CO — 2013 will mark my second year working with ESPN as a camera operator helping to cover the Aspen Winter X Games “live show,” which includes both the webcast and the I-mag (industry term! Abbr. for “image Magnification”) feed for all of the many venue big screens that the live audience uses to follow the action.

The countdown to Winter X here in the Aspen area is now down in the single digits, much like the temperature. And actually, that is an improvement, as temps lately have regularly plummeted into the sub-ridiculous range.

It seems like every morning I see a friend or two posting screen grabs of their cell phone weather apps – all boasting, or possibly just sharing out of abject astonishment, pictures of numbers in the twenties, preceded by a big minus character.

Yep, it’s cold, folks. REAL cold. But that’s par for the course living in the mountains, for without that mid-winter inversion layer it’s likely that our beautiful, fluffy dry powder wouldn’t stay so consistently, ridiculously light. And thankfully so, because amongst a myriad of logistical/production reasons that the Aspen area has remained host to the Winter X Games for so many years, snow quality is a major factor. It goes without saying that you really can’t have a Big Snow Show without the key ingredient!

I am really looking forward to this year’s Winter X Games, the 16th overall and the 11th consecutive year that the event is being held here in our hometown.

Lucky us! Seriously, I mean that.

What resort town wouldn’t want to have the powder-hungry eyes of the world feasting on its magnificentness once a year right at the optimal moment of wintery glory? And what media type wouldn’t feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to work with the Mouse and the rest of the world’s sporting media and marketing giants in any number of capacities once a year, as many locals like myself do?

This year, I am thankful that my newish (I started in May, 2012) regular employer, Colorado Mountain College, is allowing me to adjust my weekly schedule of running RadioCMC, the student radio station (93.9 FM and radiocmc.com – listen in!) and teaching Isaacson School for New Media Digital Media Production classes around the X Games schedule.

I am assigned to work as a “preditor” (a terrible sounding abbreviated name that us producer/editor’s have been saddled with somehow – but hey, at least it’s not as bad as “blogger”) with Boombox Productions, a Whistler, BC-based adventure production team that has a hand in just about every action sporting event around, from all of the X Games (there are six now) to the Dew Tour to the Olympics.

My role is to film the live web show, including awards ceremonies and concerts, and to manage the digital media that is collected from our camera crews. We find out a little more about exactly what content we are producing next week when we get together just prior to the opening Double Back Scratcher Spread Eagle Hospital Air Olley to Fakey McTwist, or whatever the kids are calling their insane tricks these days.

Last year was a pretty amazing experience. For five days, from morning to night through the blazing, snow blinding sun, blizzard condition snow fall and seemingly every meteorological condition in between, I filmed the constant action that occurred on the winners stage where there were live, outdoor interview shows, concerts and medal presentations.

Using a large ENG camera (another industry term, meaning “Electronic News Gathering” – or, as I like to call them based on their heft when compared to dinky camcorders and DSLR’s – “digital anvil’s”) with a super wide angle lens, filming almost exclusively from a roving, shoulder mounted position, our “Main Stage” crew captured a parade of ESPN personalities, comedians, actors, football stars, (nice season, Denver Bronco receiver Eric Decker – I TOLD you, right!?) and most importantly – winter athletes.

Filming for hours on end in extreme conditions is a major challenge – both technically and physically. We were constantly bagging (term term! – actually, it means just what it sounds like: involving Hefty products) and unbagging our gear to protect the $80,000+ HD cameras from the intrusive elements, and dousing the inevitable physical weariness with as much Red Bull (a perk that I can officially now claim to be overdoable), coffee, vitamin c and Ibu as possible.

That pretty much sums up what it is like to work for the world’s biggest sporting network covering their flagship winter sports event.

It is cold, physically challenging, at times grueling work (and I do mean WORK), but that is just the price of the ticket for what is an incredibly fun and professionally rewarding experience.

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Corby Anderson is a CMC Isaacson School for New Media instructor, teaching video, audio and radio production courses in addition to his role managing RadioCMC, the CMC student radio station. (93.9 FM in Glenwood Springs and online globally at radiocmc.com.) Anderson’s career stretches for more than 20 years in the fields of journalism, marketing, television, radio and media production and management. More of his writing can be found at www.corbyanderson.wordpress.com.

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