AC360° Technical Production Manager
Maybe you've heard that saying about ducks - all calm and serene above the water, but paddling like hell underneath. That’s a good way to describe AC360 the other night.
With Anderson half way across the world - near the Israeli border in this case - things tend to get a lot more complicated. There’s a lot of equipment, personnel, and time that goes into making sure things go smoothly. And luck. And sometimes things don’t work according to plan.
Monday night, there wasn’t much that went according to plan. Five minutes to air we couldn’t get audio from Israel, as the wireless microphone decided to take the day off. We went to a backup microphone, something we call a boom mic, because it's held up in the air on a long "boom" pole, and got that working just a couple minutes to air.
So all is well and we’re going to start the show without any problems... right? Not exactly. About 90 seconds before the show was to begin we lost all communication with Anderson. And that tends to cause quite a bit of anxiety, because it’s never easy to do a show when your anchor can’t hear anything.
We use phone lines to talk to Anderson when he’s in the field, and he hears us through an earpiece. The phone lines we use are similar to your cell phone lines and, as you know, they tend to drop calls at the most inconvenient moments. And that's just what happened. Our primary and back up lines to Israel had dropped out 90 seconds before the show was to start. What we did do to get on the air? Well we yelled at our producer Charlie who at that point was the only person we had communication with and told him to cue Anderson - that is, point at Anderson and tell him to go!!! It worked, kind of. Did you notice the slight delay?
Anderson was able to start the show and tell us the news. It was a few minutes before we were able to get the phone lines working, but it felt like a lot longer. We got everything on the air intended, but we had to change the order around at lot at the last moment because of communications problems. If you saw the show, you probably noticed that we started with Gaza, went to the economy, went back to Gaza, and then went back to the ecomomy. Did that seem fine to you, or a little strange? In case it seemed strange, I just thought you'd like to know why.
At one point, Anderson skipped the tv equipment and talked with us by cellphone using a regular, everyday earpiece like the kind you might use on the street. There might have been a better way to do it, but I don't know what it would have been. Sometimes you just have to wing it and do the best you can. Anderson did admirably. Did you hear voices in the background or see people scrambling around in the shadows? That was us trying to fix the problems.
And maybe you noticed Anderson taking a couple of seconds before answering a question. That was a two-fold issue. One being he couldn’t hear the program at first, and the other being the time it takes his satellite signal to travel from Israel all the way back to our control room in New York. Not quick. And not a lot of fun for anyone - until you look back at it afterward.
These problems do not make for an easy working environment. It’s my job to make sure things work. I’d like to say that some days go better than others and tonight will be a smooth affair. Maybe I’m a pessimist or maybe I’m a realist, but I’m not counting on it. I like to think it’s good when things break or malfunction. Keeps folks on their toes. I’m not sure Anderson or our producers and director in the control would agree. Tune in tonight. Hopefully you won’t hear anyone drowning.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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