When I was told that I would be running the show for the live feed from the 2016 Street Car Super Nationals’ “Anarchy at the Arch III” event at Gateway Motorsports Park, I wasn’t the least bit freaked out. Seriously, I wasn’t. I had run the equipment at NMCA races in Indy and Joliet, was comfortable with how everything worked, and knew that I only had to be on-camera as needed…nothing I couldn’t handle. I even spent the day prior to leaving setting up the whole system with Chad on the phone to make sure that everything would go smoothly, and I would have help via a dial-a-tech source, a moderator in the chat to make sure everybody behaved, and if needed, Brian and Chad themselves while they were out at Norwalk covering the NMCA World Street Finals. I thought I had this one in the bag. I’m happy to say that I did well and made the bosses proud. I’m also just as quick to say that I was a little bit too cocky about it all, so in no particular order, here’s some of the lessons I learned from my first go-around with live streaming a race to viewers:
11. If it seems like nobody is happy with what’s going on, don’t assume everybody is unhappy: An old Army saying works here: “It doesn’t matter how many ‘attaboys’ you get, they all get erased by one ‘aw, f***'”. The second anything went wrong with the livestream, the wrath of the viewers descended. There are always those who understand, so press on regardless. Here’s the truth, guys: Everything that happened that sucked for the feed, except volume level, was something that I could, in no way possible, control.
10. CHECK YOUR MONITORS: Between a video cable that needed to be taped down like none other and a glitch that would occasionally black out the stream at random, monitoring the situation can prevent…or, at least, mitigate…the amount of downtime. Having instant replay helps, too, just in case the screen went black as the Monte Carlo went wheels-up. The only one screaming louder at the black screen than you viewers was me, internally (remember, hot microphones) when I noticed.
9. Loud noises and The Sounds of Silence: This isn’t a THX commercial…do not use the mixing board for evil. But at the same time, make sure that the audience can hear. Thank you to those that kept me informed. Sorry to those who now have to contact Miracle-Ear for an appointment. I’ll get better about that, I promise.
8. Prepare for the weather: The weather around the St. Louis Metro varied between humid and dazzlingly sunny, humid and threatening to flood, and humid and starry. Prepare for everything. Especially the humidity. Sunscreen in liberal amounts and Gold Bond are your best friend, but there are limits to how effective they are when you are standing on bleachers made out of the same material as a cookie sheet. Hmm…that gives me an idea for the next time I’m out there…
7. Prepare for Acts of God: For those who didn’t notice, I was in the giant metal grandstands on the left side of Gateway’s dragstrip. While we are on the subject of weather, take note of one special phenomenon: lightning. Nothing makes my fat ass move faster than realizing that I’m in the perfect position to be flash-fried should Mother Nature throw a tantrum. And to those who stayed in said metal stands regardless: say something to the rest of us when the hairs on your arm stand on their own accord. What kind of sauce should they marinate you in?
6. Prepare for pestilence: I grew up around the Mississippi River region. You would think that I’d remember how much of a plague the mosquitoes are. But nope, I didn’t…and as soon as the sun went down those nasty, buzzing little vampires went to the giant buffet and fed. I looked like I had been kicking poison ivy and when the camera was on me, I looked like I was having some sort of mental episode, smacking myself every few seconds in some random part of my body. To the gentleman who loaned me his bug-spray: you, sir, rule. As for me…yeah, I’m a dumbass. And now missing a pint of blood.
5. Remember…food is your friend: It is amazing how much energy your body needs when you are working the camera. I brought food with me to the track, but I misjudged how much I would need for the night. Troy Wilson, the president of the NDRL, was kind enough to bring me a plate one night after the viewers noticed that something wasn’t quite right with the way I was talking…thank you! (And to the viewers: my blood sugar wasn’t low or anything, that’s just how I talk!)
4. There is always someone watching: This goes two ways: 1. Watch your mouth, McTaggart. Act like the mic is hot until you unplug the cables, and remember that kids might be watching. 2. There were still viewers online when I shut down the feed at 2:30 in the morning on Sunday. I might have been dog-tired, but having people to talk to helps, especially when action is down for a bit.
3. Be grateful for good people. Here I want to thank those who helped behind the scenes, those who hung out on chat, those who stopped to say hello, and anyone else I haven’t directly thanked. All I did was swing a camera and play with a computer until it was time to pack it up and head to the hotel. You guys are what made it happen.
2. Prepare for the worst: Racing is risky, but nobody could have foreseen Terry Barkley’s crash. I’ve seen engines call it a day, I’ve seen nitrous fires, and I’ve been at the other end of the car when a manifold backfire blew the hoodscoop into low orbit. I had not, until Saturday night, witnessed a Pro Mod slam both walls after dynamically rolling over, trailing out fire. Good to know he was able to walk away from the scene…it’s a testament to the chassis and cage builder and how far safety has come.
1. Watch All Of The Gear: What we use to stream from the track fits in a big, black Pelican box that the Army uses for computers. Once it is out of that Pelican case, it is delicate and testy, and I wasn’t letting it out of my sight unless I absolutely had to. In both cases, it meant that I really had to use the can…that’s it. I am not about to find out how much that stuff costs. I’ll assume that the contents of the case exceed the value of Angry Grandpa, and act accordingly.
But that’s not what I’m referring to…shortly after the main show kicked off on Saturday (you know, after the prayer and the national anthem), I kept hearing a commotion over my shoulder, right where my car was parked. In between a match, I looked over and noticed a bunch of boys, aged somewhere near 10, using my car as a fort, or a barrier, or something. For two races, I watched, and didn’t like what I saw. After a pair of cars ran, I may have grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler. I may have opened up the cap, and I may have splashed the nearest brat with Arctic-cool H20. Luckily, an adult quickly scooped up the kids and didn’t bother me. The adults near me, who saw everything happen, seemed more entertained by my smirk than the racing for a second. Nobody was yelled at, nobody’s feelings got hurt, and my car is still in one piece.
Bring on the next event!