The Swan Song for a “Home Away From Home”
I have blogged previously about my career as a mobile production unit technician, a career that went from full time to a freelance role as TebWeb Innovations morphed into my own full time business. Working in this business is like being part of a family. I just can’t fully leave “my TV family.” On New Year’s Day, what was the “mobile home away from home,” or “office on wheels” performed its last show. For 16 years, this production trailer took myself and crew all over the United States, Canada, and even the other side of the world.
For those sixteen years, I was the “Second EIC,” working with the main EIC “Marc A.” It was our job to set-up and engineer the truck for whatever broadcast event we were tasked with doing. Known as “NCP VIII,” the mobile unit was contracted by many broadcast groups and networks over its history. We did shows for so many–NBC, TNT, CBS, ESPN, regional sports networks, etc. Sixteen years is a pretty decent run time for a mobile trailer. It has seen major upgrades throughout that time span to keep up with changing technology and client needs. It’s constant though, was the primary crew. Myself and Marc A as engineers, and lead driver “Ron B” have been on this truck from its construction in 2006, to its last show on New Years Day, 2022. A crew together for that long through the entire lifespan of a mobile unit is somewhat unprecedented.
We did a rough calculation of just how many shows this mobile unit has done, and put it into the 2,000 range. That’s a lot. And we have done so much with NCP VIII over those 16 years. Just some of the notable shows:
- 2 Super Bowls
- 2 World Series
- 16 US Tennis Opens
- 11 Seasons for NFL on CBS
- 6 Masters Golf Tournaments
- President Obama’s 1st State of the Union Address in 2009
- NCAA Mens’College Basketball Championship
- Opening Ceremonies/Main Hockey Venue for 2018 Winter Olympics
- 3 NBA All Star Weekends
- Stanley Cup Finals
- INDY 500 World Feed
- The Rose Bowl (final show of the truck)
That’s just some of the most familiar and largest events. The truck has been to about every state in the continental USA, several Canadian provinces, and in 2018, even floated across the Pacific to South Korea to provide coverage for the Winter Olympics. What an amazing time that was. I have a separate blog of those adventures.
We have worked in all kinds of weather. Hurricanes, driving rainstorms, snow, tornados, even an earthquake. I remember sheltering in place in a tornado shelter in Oklahoma City. And in New York City, working to keep the broadcast compound secure while hurricane Irene rages past. Too many times getting the rental car stuck in the snow on the way to the truck to mention.
Working in this business is like having an extended family that you get to reunite with over the years. My Facebook list has people from all over the country—and even other countries. We all spend lots of time working away from home. When working through a particular sports season, we see each other a lot. And sometimes get to have some fun:
We get to see and experience “the magic of television.” We ARE the magic! Like this from 2011. At the US Tennis Open, the show signaled the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. Was amazed to find out that the timing for this “bell,” was on a Digital Betacam tape. A rep from the Stock Exchange pushed “play” to start the countdown. Here I am standing in front of the machine. Was so tempting—one push of a button and I could delay stock trading 😂.
Having done two Super Bowls for CBS, which was an experience in itself—lots of interesting preparation. In order to rehearse game coverage, they hold a scrimmage game with two area high school teams. The teams get to play on the Super Bowl field in front of cameras while the crew practices integrating new camera angles, replays, etc developed specifically for this game. Imagine the thrill for these young athletes. CBS provided the schools with the practice footage as a keepsake.
Working on the same mobile unit for a while, you get acclimated to the inside, which of course keeps looking the same. We did a few years covering NHL Playoffs for “Versus Network,” which became NBC Sports. Playoff schedules are crazy. You constantly travel around to various venues, sometimes every day. It actually gets disorienting with the inside of the truck where you are working looks the same, but is sitting in a different location from just the day before. We all start to lose track of where we are, what day it is, etc. The main Technical Director for this series starting posting these signs as a reminder.
Fast forward to the final show. Sixteen years is a decent run for a mobile unit. Over those years it has seen several upgrades to technology. But there comes a point in time where the cost of maintaining the body along with adding more upgrading to the upgrades—comes to an end. And so we find ourselves on that last show. It happened to be the 2022 Rose Bowl. Quite a high profile show for an end note! We were working one last time with the crew that travelled with us for two seasons of ESPN College Football. A great group of people—and working through the added challenges of the pandemic as well. For myself, I had left the company last summer to pursue my own business, but remained on as freelance staff. I worked on the truck a few times since my departure, including this last show—so we were all together one last time on NCP VIII. Show went well, and the crew arranged this surprise for us on the main monitor wall. The three of us teared up a bit at seeing this. And it was decided that the crew would sign a piece of wood trim that would be removed as a keepsake.
A nice ending tribute to “our home away from home” for so long. I captured one last video of the truck pulling away for the final time.