Behind the Doc

Bulls documentary makes history

Posted August 5, 2014

— In late March, our station manager Jim Rothschild sent me an email with the subject line “Want to make history?” Now that got my attention.

He wanted our documentary unit to produce the first local television program in the new technology called 4K, or Ultra High Definition. We would get two 4K cameras on loan from Sony, train two photographers how to use them, learn how to manage a new workflow and then shoot a documentary on a topic to be determined.

We had to come up with a topic that was fairly quick to turn around, perhaps something that could be shot in one location. It had to be very visual to take advantage of the super-high picture resolution of 4K. It also needed to have a story that could tell itself, without scripted narration, so that the focus would be on the visual and audio elements.

When I shared this with my wife, she had a brilliant suggestion: “What about the Durham Bulls?” Station management thought it was a great idea. It’s a highly visual arena rich with sights and sounds. It’s close by, and our company owns the team, so access wouldn’t be a problem.

Photographer Jay Jennings and I scouted the Durham Bulls Athletic Park before and during a game to compile a list of all the shots we’d want to capture in a half-hour documentary about the Bulls experience. Our plan was to shoot over a four-game homestand. We’d have two Sony 4K cameras with a variety of lenses, a couple of 4K GoPro cameras to mount in various locations and, on one evening, we’d have a 4K GoPro camera mounted on a drone with an experienced operator.

My challenge was to create a shoot schedule for each day to help make sure all of those cameras and their operators were in the right places at the right times. As a producer, it was a wonderful challenge to have.

While we don’t yet have the technology to broadcast “Take Me Out to the Bulls Game” in 4K, the broadcast of the documentary in high definition provides the highest quality picture and sound possible and gives viewers a visual immersion in the Durham Bulls experience.

My hope is that viewers have as much fun watching the documentary as we had producing it.


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About this Blog:

Documentary producer and writer Clay Johnson provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the production of WRAL documentaries.