Except, they don’t call it CFCF-12 anymore. They call it “CTV Montreal”, in order to comply with the “CTV [Name of city]” naming convention imposed by national office. Neither do they call their newscast “Pulse”, because CTV wants it called “CTV News” (or, if you must, “CTV News Montreal”). And other than the newscast, which runs 19 times a week, there is no other programming produced at 1205 Papineau Avenue.
But when CTVglobemedia told its local stations that they were opening their doors on Saturday, I joined a few young aspiring journalists for a tour of the station, my first time setting foot in the building.
Our assigned guide was veteran reporter Cindy Sherwin, who brought us upstairs to the newsroom to take a peek at how the cool reporters do their jobs.
Joined by Executive Producer Barry Wilson, Sherwin re-emphasized how the team wants to bring out “your stories”, even those you might not think are good enough to get on the news (it costs nothing to throw away a press release, after all). Being a Saturday at exactly noon, the newsroom was pretty empty.
CFCF’s editing booths are where reporters and editors put voice and video together to create a packaged report. Avid, an industry standard, is the editing software of choice.
Next door to the editing booths is the “Feed and play” room, where video from tapes is entered into the massive computer system. It works in concert with the control room, where the newscast is actually directed.
The coloured bars are used to set levels. Below on the right, a scope that looks like a staircase shows the levels of the various colours. When real video is shown, the scope looks like a wavy blur.
One of the video feeds shows the weather camera in the studio, where Lori Graham is showing another group how the green screen works.
It’s not a coincidence. Hugh Haugland is Bill’s son.
Screens all over the place. Studio cameras, remote feeds, packages and anything else that might end up on screen is fed into this room where for an hour at a time chaos is brought into order. On the left is a station that deals with name supers, those little lower-third graphics that identify interview subjects.
But, of course, the real tourist attraction is the studio, where the anchors sit and where the weather green screen is.
One interesting piece of trivia is that the new RDS show l’Antichambre has its set in the CFCF studio. Since that show airs after hockey games at about 10 or 10:30pm, there’s little risk of concurrent broadcasts (though I couldn’t help imagining them shushing each other if it did happen – there’s a sitcom plot in there somewhere).
The three studio cameras are computer-controlled, which makes for smoother movement and more fine-tuned control, but lacks a bit of humanity.
Weather has been done in front of green screens just about since they were invented. Lots of people got a hoot out of standing in front of a giant weather map.
An exercise for the reader: Insert your own image in the background.
I asked Graham how long her day is, since she’s on all three newscasts during the day. Turns out she tapes her segment on the 11:30 late night broadcast after the news at six. But if the weather changes, they either need to drag her back in studio or have someone else do the weather.
Teleprompters aren’t just text anymore, they can be used for pictures too. Along with the side monitors off camera, Graham can see what she’s doing by looking directly into the lens. The only quirk is that it’s not a mirror image, so weather presenters need to be trained that when they move to the left, they’re actually moving to the right.
This young viewer took a microphone and gave a thoughtful analysis of the financial pressures facing broadcast television stations, arguing that broadcast distribution units should pay small, nominal fees to broadcasters to support local television, but that this won’t solve the systemic inequities between conventional television stations and specialty channels who have dual revenue streams without the burden of localizing programming.
Either that or she sang the alphabet song. I can’t remember which.
To the left of the weather green screen is the interview area, where one-on-one sitdowns (usually for the noon newscast) take place. During the open house, there was a guy from The Team 990 doing what appeared to be a live broadcast about soccer. CKGM is owned by CTV, so it makes sense they’d share resources, but wouldn’t a sound studio make a lot more sense for this kind of thing?
Also note the security guard, there to protect the host from screaming fans who want their moment of fame by getting on an AM sports radio station on a Saturday afternoon.
Behind the anchor desk is a lot less elegant than the front. Fluorescent lights in the desk shine on the anchors, who have only their drinks, laptops and cough buttons to play with.
The cameraman was there to do a story on the open house itself.
He’s relatively serious on air, but Todd van der Heyden is a lot more laid back (literally) when the cameras aren’t rolling. One of these days he’s going to lean too far.
Even though they weren’t going to be on air (the weekend crew was handling the newscast), Takahashi, van der Heyden and Graham were in full costume and makeup. I’ll leave it as another exercise for the reader to suggest what he’s thinking about here.
Since everyone wants a photo with the anchors, they had a professional photographer in the studio and lined people up to take pictures with Todd and Mits. Say cheese! Click! Click! Next!
Imagine having to smile for photo after photo for hours at a time.
The mascot (named “Jellybean” for some strange reason) came on set and fooled around with people. I asked it to give van der Heyden a big bear hug, and both happily obliged.
If local television dies, this is what we’ll be losing, folks.
Brian Fantana Rob Lurie stopped by to show the love with some admirers. I’m not sure who looks more adorable in this picture, but it’s definitely a close race.
Annie DeMelt was the reporter actually doing the story on the open house. NDP leader Jack Layton walked in while we were there, and DeMelt pounced on him for an interview. Unsurprisingly, he said the government should ensure that local television has a future, though he didn’t take a position specifically on fee for carriage.
I admit I have an anti-heel bias, even though I’ve never worn them myself. I always find it a bit silly, especially when you’re never seen on camera below the chest.
This guy, who actually works in marketing and admitted he didn’t know much about the equipment (other than its million-dollar cost), managed to muddle through a tour while the expert was out back. UPDATE: I’m told he’s George Goulakos, the national sales president at CTV.
Depending on location and other factors, the truck will send its video out via microwave link or via satellite.
And you think your remote control is confusing.
Outside, free soft drinks were being handed out. I picked up a can of coke. Does that ruin my journalistic objectivity here?
As the tour ended, and visitors put their “save local TV” postcards into a box to be mailed to Ottawa, I was asked if I’d been sold on fee for carriage. Except nobody mentioned that during the open house. I remain to be convinced.
News coverage of the events seems to be mostly limited to CTV itself, with the exception of this story from the Ottawa Citizen (which includes a gallery), and a Canwest News Service piece that uses the word “protesters”, which I think is a bit of a stretch. I didn’t see anyone holding signs.
Oh, and did I get on TV in DeMelt’s report?
Why yes, yes I did. My parents are so proud.
UPDATE: For anyone interested, CTV has raw video of the interview with Justin Trudeau.