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|| News Item: Posted 2009-01-25

In The Bag: How McDonough & Murph Roll
Covering a basketball game for Sports Illustrated takes a lot of planning, coordination, teamwork, and yes, equipment.

By Jordan Murph

Photo by Jordan Murph

Photo by Jordan Murph

Sports Illustrated staff photographer John W. McDonough sets up his hand held cameras before the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trailblazers NBA game at the Rose Garden in Portland, OR.
I hear the same line all the time.

"Geez. You guys have a lot of stuff."

And they're right. We do.

Covering a basketball game for Sports Illustrated takes a lot of planning, coordination, teamwork, and yes, equipment.

I work full time for S.I. staff photographer John W. McDonough. John covers a lot of basketball games and I help him. During the course of the average NBA game, John will use 12-14 cameras, which include eight remotes and two hand held cameras running on the Flash Wizard system, and other cameras that are shot off-system during the games and several cameras used only for pre-game.

A typical basketball game day for us is about 20 hours long. To be safe, we arrive approximately six to seven hours before tip-off to give us enough time to set up all eight remote cameras and to give us time to deal with any issues and other speed bumps that pop up and throw monkey wrenches into the setup.

I almost always work with another assistant for basketball games. It really helps when you have over 500 pounds of equipment to move and eight remotes to set up in a short amount of time. Almost all of the equipment we take in the seven main cases is just for remote cameras. A typical set up for an NBA game is a floor, an arch (on the post leading to the basket), a vertical glass, and an overhead on one end with another floor or a drone (handheld remote camera framed/focused by a person but fired by John), possibly a post or a mid-court camera, a horizontal glass, and a shot clock camera.

The remotes are controlled by John's handheld cameras. Using the Flash Wizard system, John is able to shoot single frames on strobes with his hand held near court camera, or fire that hand held camera plus all four remotes on his end of the court simultaneously, on the same set of strobes, and have five angles of the same moment. He is able to do the same for the other end of the court utilizing his down court lens, usually a 300mm or a 200-400mm zoom, and John chooses to either shoot that particular down court camera on ambient light to take advantage of the motor drive or he will shoot single frames on strobes.

John also uses two to three cameras on strobes for pre-game shooting. This will be a 14-24mm zoom, 70-300mm zoom, and sometimes the 200-400mm zoom as well. We use Nikon D3 camera bodies for almost everything. We do use a few Nikon D300 cameras for certain remotes and with the 70-300mm to take advantage of the 1.5 crop factor for a little extra reach.

So when people say we have a lot of stuff, they are right! But everything is essential to job and doing it right.

This is how we roll.

Photo by Jordan Murph

Photo by Jordan Murph

TOP L-R: Lens Case, Camera Body Case, Grip Case #2. BOTTOM L-R: Flash Wizard Case, 3+4 Case, Accessories Case.
1. Flash Wizard Case: Lightware Cargo Case
Case with 10 Flash Wizard II units, antennas, and mounting posts
Case with six Pocket Wizard Multi-Max units, sync cords, pre-releases, backup cords
Various pouches with camera-Y cords to connect cameras to Flash Wizards, extensions, master cables, strobe sync cords, master connections and backups, backup cords

2. Grip Case #1
Assorted super clamps and new larger Bogen clamps for new, larger NBA stanchions
Four Wizard Tree mounts
Pouch with safety cables and locks in Think Tank pouch
Three ballheads
Two Bogen gear heads
Pouch of extra camera platforms for Magic Arms
Speed Rail lengths and knuckle to mount on NBA digital shot clocks when no mounts are available.
Extra bolts, pads, and repair accessories for clamps and grip equipment
Butt pad

3. Grip Case #2
Fifteen magic arms with camera platforms or double super clamps that are used as supports. All are labeled for their use.
Another butt pad

4. Accessories Case
Six D3 battery chargers (in black pouches)
16 D3 batteries, 3 D300 batteries and a D300 battery charger in Think Tank pouches
Roll of zip cord
Three 36-packs of AA batteries
Four 8-packs of AA Lithium batteries
Tons of black and grey gaff tape, as well as black and clear vinyl tape for backboards and courts, and paper tape for on the court
Two packs of 18-inch heavy duty zip ties to safety cameras
Pouch with spare electrical doo-dads and doo-hickeys
Pouch with Magic Arm and other repair parts
Extension cords and power strip
AC power supplies for cameras
Assorted gobos
Focus cards

Photo by Shawn Cullen

Photo by Shawn Cullen

Jordan Murph picks up the equipment at the Southwest Airlines Air Cargo facility in San Diego, CA after returning from the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trailblazers NBA game the previous night in Portland, OR.
5. Lens Case
Four 17-35mm f/2.8 zooms
Two 12-24mm f/2.8 zooms
Two 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms
Two 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms
Two 20mm f/2.8
Two 24mm f/2.8
Two 35mm f/2
Lots of rubber lens hoods
Assorted polarizing filters
Right angle finder

6. Camera Body Case
Six Nikon D3 bodies. One floor, one drone, two glass, one shot clock, one arch
Two Nikon D300 bodies. One midcourt, one handheld

7. 3+4 Case
200-400mm zoom
300mm f/2.8
Three Nikon D3 bodies
Two monopods

8. Tool Case
Three rolls of zip for mystery arenas
My tool bag, a Think Tank Change Up. See Darren Carroll's article: There is usually candy in there too.
My tool pouch with a multi-tool, pliers, and outlet tester. Thanks, Shawn!

John also brings along his Think Tank Airport Security roller where he carries three Nikon D3 bodies as well as his main lenses including a 70-200mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, and a 14-24mm f/2.8, and 16mm f/2.8 fisheye.

We air cargo the gear whenever we go out of town. Read up on Darren Carroll's other great article all about the process here:

So there you have it. It's a lot of stuff but it's all essential to getting the job done right. And why do it all if you don't do it right?


(Jordan Murph is Sports Illustrated staffer John McDonough's assistant.)

Related Links:
Jordan's member page
John's member page

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