As we folks in the Midwest are all too aware, snow and ice can come at any moment during the winter months and Freebird Communications Inc. pride ourselves in always being at the ready to head to a job site. There are three reasons we are always at the ready and we’ll share those tips with you along with some clips and photos from yesterday’s job, in the midst of an ice storm.
Reason #1: ALL EQUIPMENT IN WORKING ORDER AND REDUNDANT
We service our trucks and test all our equipment regularly and before each job to ensure that we can get to the job site (even in an ice storm) ahead of schedule and the job will go smoothly and without issue.
The shortlist of equipment we test regularly include the engines of the four trucks that each of our engineers is an expert in operating, the generators for each of the four trucks, and of course, the satellite dishes.
Freebird Communications trucks, we have noticed, are a little different from other trucks because our company founder and president built and/or designed each of the trucks to be redundant in their functionality. That means that if one encoder fails, we have a backup encoder. The same holds true for virtually all of the equipment in each of the four Freebird Communications trucks.
Reason #2: ENGINEERS ARE TRAINED AND HAVE SATELLITE TRUCK EXPERTISE
All Freebird Communications engineers are trained experts in the operation of our trucks so not only are they able to troubleshoot the trucks and work of any of our subcontractors (and they have done so). Because our engineers are acutely familiar with the trucks and actually handle much of the servicing and maintenance of the trucks, any problem that arises is easily addressed and resolved.
As we all know, there really is no compensating for lack of experience and our engineers no longer find themselves in new territory because of the 50 plus years of combined experience in satellite truck engineering,
Reason #3: THE ENGINEER IN CHARGE HAS A 30,000 FOOT VIEW OF THE SHOT FROM START TO FINISH
We often ask our clients if we can serve as the Engineer in Charge (EIC) on a given job because, in that role, we are able to contract and subcontract professionals we have vetted and/or worked with for many years. For example, when it comes to audio-visual (A/V) we prefer to work with names we know but even when we cannot, serving as the EIC on the job enables us to work through our tried and true methodology and multiple checklists to ensure every aspect of the job is handled thoroughly, correctly, and without issue.
Our EIC’s also go to great lengths to ensure they have a full understanding of the story or event that will be shot as they more than likely have previous experience with the story or event (as is most definitely the case with natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms) and will be able to lend that expertise to the shot setup, the position of the truck, and even the lighting and setup of the shot itself.
We are careful not to insert ourselves and our knowledge when it is not needed but we could talk for hours about how and why a Freebird EIC makes all the difference in the quality of electronic news gathering (ENG) and satellite media tours (SMTs).
That brings us to yesterday.
In the late hours of Wednesday evening, we got a call from ESPN to head to Allen Fieldhouse on the University of Kansas Campus in Lawrence, Kansas. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Kansas City and Lawrence were hit with a severe ice storm in the wee hours of Thursday morning and schools and businesses from one end of the metro to another shut down as did some of the highways and interstates.
Our EIC on that job had to drive from Kansas City to Olathe and then from Olathe to Lawrence, Kansas (over 30 miles from Olathe to the job site in Lawrence alone) in driving sleet and totally iced over roads to ensure the live interview with Bill Self (KU’s renowned basketball coach) on Pardon the Interruption (PTI) on ESPN.
Never daunted and never late, our EIC arrived and was set up for the shot a full 30 minutes ahead of airtime and while the campus was totally shut down and classes canceled due to the driving ice.
We are proud to report that the interview went off without a hitch and you can view our work and watch Coach Self and judge for yourself: