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|| News Item: Posted 2009-03-10

March Madness: Covering the NCAA Men's Final Four?
Porter Binks tells you everything you need to know about covering the tourney in Detroit.

By Porter Binks

Photo by Porter Binks

Photo by Porter Binks

The view from the floor in Detroit.
During a walkthrough of Ford Field with NCAA officials in early December 2008, photographers and editors noticed that change is indeed in vogue, and if you are lucky enough to be there, you're in for a few new things when the NCAA Men's Final Four rolls into Detroit in early April.

In a break with some of the more recent national basketball championships, the biggest change will be the raised court placed in the middle of the football field. To those who covered recent regionals in Houston and Detroit, it will be almost the same setup. But it will be the first time in many years that the court has been in the middle of the arena with no areas curtained off and approximately 71,000 seats for sale. And there will be student sections at either end of the floor.

Another difference may already be familiar as you covered games this year: The line you sit behind will not be angled-so the photo boxes actually conform to current rules about where photographers sit. Some schools changed this last season, some this season. In Detroit, the boxes will be about the same width as usual (to accommodate about 12 photographers on each end in two rows), but the lines will be straight and placed six feet back from the end line of the court.

Photographers will sit on the court raised 29 inches from the stadium floor with official's tables and press rows being even with the playing floor and team benches placed on the real stadium floor.

The most discussed topic was remote cameras, which used to sit under the first row of press tables. Those side remotes will still sit on the court, but will be moved back from the out of bounds line and be draped with black cloth. Cameras can be mounted on floor plates, but need to have as low a profile as possible. We talked about trying to have the setup no higher than 9-inches off the floor. The draping will make the remotes look more uniform, and as usual, remotes will be on the press table (south) side of the court. For remotes and upper positions, you are going to need slightly longer lenses than you are used to even in smaller domes. Your throw from the court is longer in most all respects.

In order to make this work, we're asking that photographers try and bring a smaller sized floor plate and a smaller ball head and/or magic arm to mount the camera. With the NCAA's approval, we've managed to save these side remote angles for now and the less obtrusive the remotes, the better. We'll try and group two sets toward either end of the court. Take note that they will be slightly farther away from the court than last year, so what was a 24mm wide shot of a three-pointer might need more lens now.

Other spots at Ford Field will also provide some remote opportunities, including a limited amount above the playing floor. There are no direct above-the-basket positions at this venue. Cameras on the catwalk will be inspected and have to follow the standard safety protocols you would use anywhere-including safety cables for both cameras and longer lenses. These remotes will need to be in place by late Friday afternoon. Remember Friday is when team practices are open to the public (from noon until 4 p.m.), so no work can take place on the catwalk once the doors open to the public. Thursday is really the best day to get this done.

Photo by Porter Binks

Photo by Porter Binks

The row of photographers shooting in Detroit.
There are two photo workrooms at Ford Field, both accessed by a ramp that leads to the court. The first is an auxiliary workroom that will house AP, SI, Reuters, and a few other national media as space permits. The main photo workroom, several more feet up the ramp, will hold the rest. That room is also the normal Ford Field photo room. Nikon Professional Services will also be in that workspace.

There are limited upper photo positions adjacent to Section 106 on an upper level. If you want anything tight from this position, plan on at least 600mm lens. You are behind spectator seats, but they are lower than normal. As usual in these spots, a lens case on its side or something small to stand on might come in handy.

A few more changes to be aware of:
• There will be no pool strobes. That doesn't affect most of you, but so far, SI is the only agency confirmed for installation.
• Credentials will be required beginning on Thursday.
• Teams will have the option to practice on the court Thursday from10:50 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., so plan your work accordingly.

NCAA Men's Final Four Information
Ford Field - capacity approx. 71,000 - Detroit, MI (University of Detroit Mercy, Host)
Semifinal Games - Saturday, April 4, 6:07 p.m. EST (tentative)
Championship Game - Monday, April 6, 9:21 p.m. EST (tentative)

Media Areas
Media Workroom: Ford Field, Hotel Space, Level 2
Media Interview Room: Ford Field, West Basement Storage
Ryan Communications Help Desk: Ford Field, Hotel Space, Level 2
Photo Workroom: Ford Field, West Basement Storage, adjacent to Video/Audio Distribution Area
Nikon Professional Services: Ford Field, darkrooms located in Photo Work Room
Upper Photo Positions: Ford Field, Section 106
Media hospitality: Ford Field, Hotel Space, Level 2; Marriott Renaissance Center, Ontario Exhibit Hall, Level 3 (Lobby Level)
Post-Championship Game Media Buffet: Marriott Renaissance Center, Ambassador Ballroom, Level 3 (Lobby Level)

Photo by Porter Binks

Photo by Porter Binks

Photo workroom in Detroit.
Credential Distribution
All credentials must be claimed in person; government-issued identification is required. Security representatives will check all bags. Approved members of the media who submit their photos in advance will get their credentials produced in advance and may claim them at the media entrance at Ford Field, located at the intersection of Beacon and Beaubien Streets (between Gates A and G), at the following times:

Thursday, April 2: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Friday, April 3: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 4: 12 p.m. until the end of the first semifinal game
Sunday, April 5: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Monday, April 6: 4 p.m. until the start of the national championship game

Media Hotel
Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, 100 Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI; 1-800-228-9290 or 313-568-8000 The rate at the Marriott Renaissance Center is $199 a night. A valid credit card is required for all hotel reservations. There is a four-night minimum, which must include Friday, April 3 through departure Tuesday, April 7. Those arriving earlier or departing later will be charged for the additional nights. Rooms should be requested during the online credential application process.

This information is also available at:

(Porter Binks is a freelance picture editor who has covered 25 Final Fours and has consulted with the NCAA on its photo policies for many years. He most recently worked at Sports Illustrated for 10 years)

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