Live video of anglers is making a big splash on Bassmaster.com, but the cameras were almost sunk on the Sabine.
Several cameras equipped to stream live video via cell signal went down during Saturday’s hard rain at the Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by STARK Cultural Venues, but the show – Bassmaster LIVE – did go on.
See behind the scenes of Saturday’s Bassmaster LIVE here.
“All four cameras got soaking wet and three of them went totally down,” said Howard Downs, chief engineer at JM Associates and one of the first to acknowledge that electronics and water don’t mix well.
Viewers might have seen some bonus Bassmaster LIVE coverage of Aaron Martens on Day 3, but that’s only because the camera in his boat was the only one left working late in the day.
The other cameramen with units on the fritz were told to shut down and get them out of the rain. Once back on shore, the crew used fans and blow dryers to dry them out.
“(Cameraman) Rick (Mason) sat there through the entire weigh-in blow drying them,” Downs said. “He got one of them back up, then put one in front of a fan while he was drying another and swapped them back and forth.”
Mason took the final one to his hotel room and spent the night blow drying it. All the cameras eventually came back to life, but there was another issue to handle.
“We had two lenses that were fogged over,” Downs said. “There’s multiple glass inside them, and it had rained every which way. We had one in front of a fan overnight, and it was just a little bit of a dot, but when we took it outside, it fogged back over.”
With the sun out, Downs left it outside the production trailer Sunday and almost all the moisture baked out by weigh-in.
“It had reduced in size to a little pea spot at the top of the screen, and we were able to zoom past it,” he said.
It wasn’t a great experience to have to go through, but the crew did learn some things.
“The crazy thing about the stream, as the cameras went down in that heavy downpour, our cell signal never stopped,” JM producer Michael Middleton said. “That told us a lot. That’s been one of our biggest worries, what rain or fog will do to our cell signal.”
After two events, the TV editors are happy with their new toys. At the Classic, they cheered and high-fived when the first fish was caught on camera.
“And again at this one,” Middleton said. “We go pretty crazy. When Shaw lost that one, as we watched it live and played it back, we were all screaming in the truck.”
The crew realizes that if they’re geeked out at having anglers catch fish live, and then explain the how and why, then viewers will be impressed as well. Looking at their work critiques, they have been enjoying the enthusiastic viewer reactions.
Comments on the live stream player from Sabine ranged from “Loved it,” “Excellent move by B.A.S.S,” to “I’m getting my membership renewed for two more years ahead of time.” Also, Lowrance has jumped in to sponsor the live feeds.
“I told Howard, what’s crazy is that at BASSfest last year, only five or six events ago, he tried to see if we could stream with a little handheld camera,” Middleton said. “Now, we’re streaming with five live stream HD cameras. We have all five cameraman on a conference line, listening to (Bassmaster TV producer) Mike McKinnis on their phone, being told when they and the angler are going live.”
While the streams are shut down in the final hours of competition, the cameramen continue to roll for The Bassmasters TV to air on ESPN2, and the editors sure are relishing their new capabilities.
“We don’t want to shut down when it’s time to end the live feed,” Middleton said. “We don’t. We want to keep seeing what’s happening.”