Posted in Montreal, Photos, TV

Inside CFCF 12

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.

It's not exactly a velvet rope, but it contains the crowd.

It's not exactly a velvet rope, but it contains the crowd.

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.

Cindy Sherwin rounds up another group for a tour

Cindy Sherwin rounds up another group for a tour

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.

Next time, I'll get a better shot of the newsroom.

Next time, I'll get a better shot of the newsroom.

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.

An editor shows a future journalist how stories are put together

An editor shows a future journalist how stories are put together

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.

The "Feed and play" room

The "Feed and play" room

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.

You don't see these bars too often on air anymore

You don't see these bars too often on air anymore

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.

What's going on down there?

What's going on down there?

One of the video feeds shows the weather camera in the studio, where Lori Graham is showing another group how the green screen works.

Hugh Haugland and Cindy Sherwin

Hugh Haugland (left) and Cindy Sherwin

It’s not a coincidence. Hugh Haugland is Bill’s son.

The control room is where the newscast is created.

The control room is where the newscast is created.

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.

CFCF's studio, from left: sports, news, interviews and weather

CFCF's studio, from left: sports, news, interviews and weather

But, of course, the real tourist attraction is the studio, where the anchors sit and where the weather green screen is.

RDS Antichambre set

RDS Antichambre set

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).

Camera 2 (which for some reason is under a blue light) has no cameraman, nor do the others

Camera 2 (which for some reason is under a blue light) has no cameraman, nor do the others

The three studio cameras are computer-controlled, which makes for smoother movement and more fine-tuned control, but lacks a bit of humanity.

Everyone in front of the green screen!

Everyone in front of the green screen! (Inset lower right: What they look like with the weather map)

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.

Photoshop Lori!

Photoshop Lori!

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.

Camera 3 is used for weather, and includes a monitor for the weather map.

Camera 3 is used for weather, and includes a monitor for the weather map.

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.

One of the younger viewers at the green screen (inset top right: what she looks like on camera)

One of the younger viewers at the green screen (inset top right: what she looks like on camera)

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.

The interview desk, being used by Team 990

The interview desk, being used by Team 990

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.

Todd van der Heyden and Mutsumi Takahashi at the anchor desk

Todd van der Heyden and Mutsumi Takahashi at the anchor desk

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.

Blinding lights dominate the view from behind the desk.

Bright lights dominate the view from behind the desk.

The cameraman was there to do a story on the open house itself.

Todd van der Heyden likes to lean back and play it cool.

Todd van der Heyden likes to lean back and play it cool.

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.

Todd van der Heyden is thinking.

Todd van der Heyden is thinking.

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.

Dominique Jarry-Shore and family with the news anchors

Dominique Jarry-Shore and family with the news anchors

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 CTV mascot shows Todd the love

The CTV mascot shows Todd the love

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.

Star reporter Rob Lurie with a fan

Star reporter Rob Lurie with a fan

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.

Jack Layton and reporter Annie DeMelt

Jack Layton and reporter Annie DeMelt

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 couldn't help noticing DeMelt was in heels.

I couldn't help noticing DeMelt was in heels.

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.

Jazz hands!

Jazz hands!

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.

The control panel on the remote truck

The control panel on the remote truck

And you think your remote control is confusing.

Maya Johnson at the refreshment stand

Maya Johnson (centre) at the refreshment stand

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.

Pictures from CTV open houses in Edmonton and Vancouver are on Flickr.

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.

There are also more opinions about fee for carriage – some for, some against, some mockingly against.

Oh, and did I get on TV in DeMelt’s report?

ME!

ME!

Why yes, yes I did. My parents are so proud.

UPDATE: For anyone interested, CTV has raw video of the interview with Justin Trudeau.

30 thoughts on “Inside CFCF 12

  1. Lewis

    Nice shots! I made it into the shot when you were on the stairs coming into the studio, and I was also in Annie’s report & the opening of the newscast.

    Reply
  2. Jean Naimard

    Only one studio, producing only newscasts?

    And they want more money?

    Qu’ils mangent dl’a mar^h^h^hbrioche!!!

    Reply
  3. Beeg

    Did you ask them why there are so may typos/spelling & grammar mistakes on their broadcast? Always a source of infotainment.

    Reply
  4. Skinny Dipper

    Unfortunately, local programming is a thing of the past. If I am forced to pay for local service (where there isn’t really any), then I’ll bring out the rabbit ears or just go to Live Station on the Internet. See my blog for more info.

    Reply
  5. Horonymous

    When I was younger I so wanted to work at CFCF,Pulse or at CBMT’s Neswatch. Tried many times but it never happened. Moved out of Montreal to find a job in TV. Not a lot of Anglo’s on the technical staff working at the CBC in Montreal.

    There really is no more local programing. Just a network feed and local news shows. No more As It Is, Cheezy CFCF morning talk show, Dean Hagopian mid day summer TV, Johnny Jelly Bean, Beat the Clock, late night cinema 12, the Saturday afternoon movie at 1:00 PM.

    Reply
  6. Marc

    Nice recap of the day. They left 405 Ogilvy ave. in 2003 when the station was completely taken over by CTV.

    Reply
  7. Lewis

    I’m pretty sure the guy The Team 990 was doing a broadcast about Saving Local TV. Just before you got there (while my group was there), Todd sat down and talked about the saving the TV station. That’s why he was there, I guess he wanted to be “on location”.

    Reply
  8. Jeremy Szafron

    It’s too bad that local programming is slowly dying… Previously some shows would showcase amazing things that happen in this city, ultimately highlighting how great Montreal is! Today the newscast’s simply cannot allocate enough resources to cover all of the stories… I really hope local content starts to flow again… I think television needs to represent an audience that is hungry to see themselves represented through this beautiful form of media…

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My paper is fighting for its own survival (well, its owner is, anyway). And I am cynical.

      But we’re working under the premise that CFCF is in danger of being shut down, a premise that I don’t accept without some evidence.

      Reply
  9. Wayne Dayton

    The mascot is named “Jellybean” in homage to the 1960s “Johnny Jellybean” show produced at 405.
    Who can forget “Doctor’s Diary” with Lawrence McNally, the head of the ER at the Lakeshore General (now in Texas)…the 70s version of Mitch Shulman but less grating and sanctimonius.
    Of course Annie Demelt (the queen of Ste-Foy area girl’s soccer) has to wear tight-fitting above-the-knee skirts and heels…she just might meet a rich older man at any moment and find her escape from the tedium of daily news (it worked for Cynthia Drummond, Ginger Jones, Rosemary Parrett, Lin Eleoff, etc., etc.).
    On that note, however, most cable systems in the States pay a small fee for carrying broadcast signals on to their subscribers, so I see no reason why the likes of Videotron, Rogers, and Shaw should not do the same.

    Reply
  10. bob

    The save local campaign by CTV and Global is great. I just wished that cable and satellite companies let consumers pick and choose what channels we want. Right now, the way they bundle and package channels, consumers end up with channels we don’t want or watch and we have to pay for them. That is wrong. That is the real tax on TV. Let consumers decide.

    Reply
  11. James

    I wonder if CanWest might be inspired to do the same thing with their Global offices at 1600 Maisonneuve East…

    “And this is the green screen where the computer in BC morphs in an enormous studio…. and this is the green screen where the computer in BC morphs in lots of journalists and control room screens. And this is the green screen where the computer in BC morphs in a weather presenter in Ontario…” etc etc etc

    Reply
  12. Marc

    Apparently, CTV & Global want a clause to waive their requirement to produce local programming inserted into the fee-for-carriage deal. In that case, what’s the point? I don’t want CFCF airing a schedule that is 100% syndication. Perhaps they’re spending too much money outbidding each other for rights to air US shows. Even worse is CBC using taxpayer money to buy the rights for Wheel and Jeopardy – shows that are already available.

    Reply
  13. Horonymous

    Bob you won’t have a choice when it comes to deciding what local stations you wish to subscribe to, the service providers are required by the CRTC to carry local stations. If I could choose I would only pick up the CBC, Rogers & OMNI Stations. I live in the Toronto area but am from Montreal.

    Don’t how this will impact time shifting. I enjoy the west coast feeds of the US networks.

    With all this talk about local TV I ‘am serious thinking about ditching Rogers, putting an antenna for free HDTV signal and buying a Free To Air satellite. Funny how the call it Free To Air when we are hijacking signals from the US.

    Only Canadian specialty channels I will miss will be Newsworld & Showcase.

    Reply
  14. 2 wheel writer

    Typos in the closed captioning? That’s because it’s outsourced to another company, and those typists are going like crazy — just like a court stenographer.

    Typos in the supers? We try very hard to avoid that.

    Reply
  15. Beeg

    Supers… not the CC. Quite often related to the use of the apostrophe, which as a feature of English is kinda stupid and antiquated, but nevertheless!

    Reply
  16. Horonymous

    Bonus sign me up. Does that also mean that simultaneous substitution goes away?

    Guy you’re a awesome resource.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      As much as Canadians (and cable companies) hate simsub, it represents a lot of money for broadcasters, and they’re not about to give that up. And since there’s little anti-simsub lobbying (U.S. broadcasters have no voice, regular Canadians don’t care except during the Super Bowl and when American Idol goes long, and cable companies have bigger fish to fry), don’t expect it to go anytime soon.

      Reply
  17. jd

    When you see the news daily two thirds of it overall is fillers. Rarely ctv montreal has any real news to report if they do the other news networks are on it and ctv ratings are poor. An insider at ctv said that they send the same survey to the same people for years and base there ratings on the 10000 that fill it out. With regards to Annie reporting the story why are people going on about high heals etc whats that got to do with anything and by the way she is married did you not notice the ring on the hand

    Reply
  18. JulieBob

    cbc is buying that Yank crap to print money to pay for the rest of it’s money-losing operation.

    Reply
  19. habalaba

    Maybe they should “can” Takahashi? Why the fk do they need two anchors ????
    her lethargic newsreading totally puts me off….

    Reply
  20. Bickerbros

    I PVR Pulse News at 6 everyday, mainly for the laughs. The fact that Mitz (who should have retired long ago) and Todd (who can’t pronounce one sentence without sounding sarcastic) always seem to be taking week-long vacations at least once a month proves that only one warm body is needed in the anchor chair. Otherwise, the newscast seems to be filled with reporters -most of whom act like the show is one big inside joke- and production values (editing/captions/Talkback Montreal e.g.”do you like snow?”) straight out of high school.

    How about more than just 10 minutes of REAL local news and less of us having to watch Laurie Graham showing off Siimon Chang’s latest creation? Why do we need to see the exact same weather report TWICE in the span of 20 minutes when I can just switch to MeteoMedia anytime I want?

    How the show expects to be taken seriously is beyond me.

    Reply
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  22. Chris Sobieniak

    At least you had fun. These days a TV station’s offices/studios in your town don’t really do anything besides news anyway. I can go back to my childhood when there was still something being made like a quiz program or a kiddie clown show I saw daily. That sort of thing is gone now, and it’s rather sad how limited the whole “I wanna work in the TV biz” has gotten to boot.

    Reply
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