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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-04-07

NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four Part III
Sports Illustrated assistant Shawn Cullen reports from Indianapolis for the final time.

By Shawn Cullen

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Sports Illustrated assistant Shawn Cullen begins to pack up remote gear after the Final Four at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
I am almost shocked at how easily this year has gone. There definitely is not as much pressure as I thought there would be. Most of the credit goes to Greg Nelson for having the perfect plan for the set up of all the lighting gear, remote cameras, and the Flash Wizard system. Maybe it is just the fact that after six Final Fours I am a little more relaxed, but looking at the big picture with the entire planning and dollar amount spent to make all of this work, it is simply amazing.

Day 7, April 2nd
I was hoping to get at least eight hours of sleep, but I woke up around 11am. I did not really do much but drive around Indy with some of the Sports Illustrated staff. After an IMAX movie a group of us went to the hotel bar for some more drinks. Soon after ordering, we were evacuated to the basement of the hotel because of extremely high winds and a tornado warning. While in the bar I thought for sure some of the windows would blow out. I did not know they could bend so much with out breaking. This kind of thing does not happen in San Diego. Luckily, I brought the laptop with me and I am able to work on this diary and hang out with the waitresses. It ends up that most of the assistants are here in the basement because the entire Courtyard hotel was told to go to the basement. After about 30 minutes we were able to go back to the bar. There was some damage to a couple buildings in the area but not to the hotel.

Day 8, April 3rd
This is the big day. The final game is tonight and everybody is hoping for a close one. The two games on Saturday were so boring because of the blowout wins. The lights and Flash Wizards are working great. The SI staffers in the photo room are doing a fantastic job sorting the thousands of images coming to them from the hand held and remote cameras and directing them to the editors. The turn around time from capture to the SI web site is within minutes. However, the game is no different than Saturday's.

Photo by Nils Nilsen

Photo by Nils Nilsen

The SI staff setting up all the laptops for the final game on Monday.
The strobes and packs worked flawlessly through the entire three games of the Final Four. Greg Nelson had the perfect plan if a strobe or pack went down during the game since we could not move the lifts after the strobe test. We had to take the gas tanks off to ensure this. In the event a strobe or pack went down we had two spares in each lift. The spares were turned on at the beginning of every game, and all we had to do was unplug the power to the pack that was having trouble, and plug in one of the two sync lines from the two spares into the hard sync line for that particular set.

Thankfully we never had to worry about that. After the game ends all the assistants begin the tear down. With all the photo equipment sent in by the different photographers, it takes a long time to sort out all the gear.

All of us assistants walk out of the dome at about 2:45am in search of food and drinks. Thankfully the TGI Fridays at the Courtyard hotel is holding some drinks for us even though the kitchen and bar have already closed. That was awesome!

Day 9, April 4th
After tearing down all the remote cameras and Flash Wizards last night, we begin to tear down all the lighting gear. This is done faster than expected and we get all the equipment packed up and shipped out including all the camera equipment as well. It does take a while for FedEx to pick up the lighting gear so the day does run long but it means no work for tomorrow.

Photo by Nils Nilsen

Photo by Nils Nilsen

The brains of the Sports Illustrated photo room. Four Isilon servers and 12 other hard drives.
Day 10, Apr. 5th
I wish we had some work to do because I am incredibly bored. My flight does not take off until 3:45pm, but this gives me time to reflect on the past 10 days.

This group of assistants was awesome! There was a much different experience level than in the past five years, but it never showed even with a dome as difficult to work in as this one.

If I could use one word to describe the effort put in by the assistants it would be "Professional". For Andrew Loehmen and Nils Nilsen this was their first Final Four, and you could never tell. They were extremely hard workers and were responsible for setting up the lighting on the railing in front of and above the crowd besides setting up remote cameras for Bob Rosato.

Dave Heritsch helped set up lighting equipment on the lifts and helped out Andrew and Nils. His experience is extremely useful for this type of an event. Greg Nelson is the true master. His knowledge and vast experience with arena lighting and the Flash Wizards are what made this year and the last five years such a success for SI. As for me, I did nothing but take notes, ask stupid questions, and get in the way of everybody trying to do their job.

I am finally home again after being gone for 15 days. I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed. GOOD BYE AND GOOD NIGHT!


(Shawn Cullen is currently a Sports Illustrated lighting technician. Cullen is a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter. He can be reached through his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/scullen)

Related Links:
Special gallery from Final Four
NCAA Tourney Diary: First and second rounds
NCAA Tourney Diary: Sweet 16 and Elite 8
NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four
NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four Part II

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