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Behind the Scenes
What does it take to produce an Outdoor Idaho episode? Good question. Each show needs a producer, the one who comes up with the idea, contacts the people to be interviewed, logs the tapes, and writes the script.
Each show needs a videographer, the one who actually brings back the pictures, who lugs the camera gear, who makes sure the batteries are working, and who has at least a touch of artistry. Oh, and because we don't have a big budget, the videographer needs to bring back great audio, too.
And each show needs an editor, the one who combines voice overs, interviews, music, natural sound, and scenics to create the actual program on video tape. Often, the videographer and the editor are the same person. Until 1998 the editor used a linear editing machine. Now we use a non-linear computer. It's the difference between a typewriter and a word processor.
In other words, a program has all kinds of opportunities to succeed — or fail — from its inception to its conclusion!
A lot of things have to happen before a show airs. Since there are thousands of story ideas out there, the first step is to narrow it down to a theme. Then the real work begins.
Producer John Crancer explains. "So you come up with the idea and then there's all the set up — finding the right people in the right places and the time. So that takes some time in the office before you can even go into the field. Once you've got the shoot and the logistics and the travel and the people and the photographer and the scheduling board with the vehicle and all of that, then you actually have to go into the field and acquire the material. And it doesn't always go like you planned in the field!"
John knows all about adjusting expectations. His shoots have taken him to some really remote locations, where having a "Plan B" isn't always possible.
"We wanted to get some material to illustrate the new Jarbidge Bruneau Wilderness area," John explained. "It was not supposed to be an adventure trip, but as we started down the Jarbidge, this huge rockslide had come through and blocked the entire river.
"This meant that the outfitter, Jon Barker, had to attempt to line the rafts through a jumble of rocks. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and one of the rafts got lodged among the rocks.
"I said, well our shoot is over, and I'm not even sure how we're going to get out of here because that raft is not coming out of that tiny wedged place that it's in. But our guide, John Barker, said 'No, we're going to get that boat out of there!' He jumped into action; he was jumping all over rocks, and we were there for hours trying to get that boat out. And, amazingly, we got that wedged raft out of that really tiny spot. I just couldn't believe we got that raft out, got it repaired, and we were able to continue down the river. That was just amazing to me."
You never know what you will bring back from the field. But when all the stars align, that's when magic happens. Director Pat Metzler remembers what it took to get historic footage of sockeye spawning in Redfish Lake. It meant diving down into frigid water to place cameras where the fish were.
"We got some great shots, but then I'd have to psych myself up to get in the water and go get 'em. But it was really cold and it was tough. We did that probably four or five times, in different places where the Sockeye were spawning. Most of that I guess happens at night, but we were able to get a lot of shots of Sockeye."
High definition cameras capture clarity that was unthinkable 30 years ago, and the painstaking editing process has been redefined by the digital age.
"As a producer and editor, I think the biggest challenge is telling the story within the allotted time," explains Sauni Symonds. "And that is where I think digital, or non-linear editing, has a big advantage over analog. Once we have all the hours and hours of footage digitized into the computer, we can basically cut and paste within this timeline until we have the show how we want it, and to time. That wasn't possible with analog editing. You had to build the show piece by piece, and pretty much never look back. Or, if you did look back, it was a lot of work. Non-linear editing allows editors to be more creative because we don't have boundaries."
Sauni's program, "Climbing Idaho," was the first show of our 30th season. It took Idahoans to some places we've never gone before. "One of the premier alpine rock climbing places in Idaho is the Elephant's Perch in the Sawtooths. It was a physically tough shoot. We had to carry heavy packs full of camera equipment, and personal gear up steep goat trails to reach the Elephants Perch. Then Pat Metzler had to scramble to a high position to get shots of the climbers on the rock. It was possibly the first time a broadcast camera had been on the rock. We got some pretty amazing footage, but all the planning in the world can't help with an unexpected rain storm on your shoot, or a camera that decides not to work. You just deal with it. Maybe you can reshoot it, maybe you can't."
Sometimes, when a shoot takes an unexpected turn, the best way to deal with it is to make it part of the story. Producer Marcia Franklin explains. "Videographer Jay Krajic and I filmed a documentary called "Desert Therapy" which was about young people who are sent by their parents to a therapeutic wilderness camp in Gooding. These were children who not only did not know that they were being sent away for upwards of a month, but had no idea they were going to be filmed either. That documentary was very difficult. In one instance we sat for many many hours on the ground because one of the young boys would not move; he would not hike. We made it part of the story, but it meant we had to sit in the heat with him, too."
Producers and videographers have to work closely together in the field to bring a story to life. While the producer manages the details behind the scenes, the videographer follows the action. "So it's essential that you have a creative partner and videographer who is also sometimes the editor of the piece," said Marcia. "And the two of you have to work together to make sure that you're following the thread of the story and getting the necessary shots."
Following the story can often be challenging, especially in extreme conditions. "Winter shoots are tougher to prepare for," explains videographer/editor Jay Krajic. "If it's going to be wet and cold, you have to prepare for that. You've got to make sure that the camera stays dry; you've got to make sure that you stay dry, and make sure your batteries stay dry and warm. Just keeping snow off the lens is a challenge!"
Jay remembers a winter shoot in the Sawtooth Mountains. "We were going backcountry skiing and the temperature started out at about -6 below zero; it was about the coldest day of the year last year. It was no fun, but we're skiing up a hill and so I didn't think it was cold at all. But then when we stopped to shoot the avalanche testing, I was standing in the snow for about 30 minutes and my toes got really cold and everything got really cold. My toes never warmed up for about three weeks after that!"
Not every story takes us to the wilds of Idaho. Sometimes our own backyard can be pretty interesting. Producer Joan Cartan-Hansen explains what intrigued her about "The Foothills" program.
"I think what impressed me most was that there were so many different threads of the story, that different people picked up different parts of what needed to be done in order to protect the whole thing. It wasn't just one person who saved the foothills for preservation. It was a lot of different people at just the right time. And the other really fascinating thing about the foothills story was that this was something ordinary citizens got involved in to protect. It was a story where one person could make an incredible difference in preserving what is now a gem for this part of Idaho."
The tradition of Outdoor Idaho is built upon hundreds of stories and thousands of hours of footage. Idaho Public Television has the largest library of aerial photography in the state, but getting it has taken years of planning, timing, and budgeting. A typical day of helicopter footage costs $10,000.
"If you have bad weather, you obviously don't want to shoot," explains Jeff Tucker, our production manager, and the one who usually is involved in our aerial footage projects. "There's a certain amount of pressure on us that things have to work: the weather, our gear, the plan of where we're going to fly. And then we have to put this Tyler Mount on the front of the ship. It always takes a little time to figure out where all the nuts and bolts and screws go!"
"One of the reasons the show has lasted so long is that it continues to reinvent itself," explains Bruce Reichert, host of the show. "And one thing that has changed is our presence on the internet. Every new show now goes online, so folks can watch when they want to watch. And then there's social media. What a fascinating way to communicate with folks, and have them tell you what works and what doesn't! We have a group of Facebook friends who share their Idaho photos with us. We actually worked some of them into our show, "A Sawtooth Celebration." We met them at Redfish Lake Lodge, interviewed them, added their photos to the mix, and the final product helped capture the essence of one of my favorite places in the state."