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|| News Item: Posted 2006-03-22

NCAA Tourney Diary: First and second rounds
Sports Illustrated assistant Shawn Cullen reports from Auburn Hills, Michigan

By Shawn Cullen

Photo by Shawn Cullen

Photo by Shawn Cullen

The black basketball court in Auburn Hills, Michigan caused a few problems for Shawn Cullen.
These are some notes and thoughts about the week of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tourney in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I was assisting John Biever of Sports Illustrated. My responsibilities during this round were to set up the Flash Wizards and make sure they run smoothly, help John set up all the remote cameras, monitor the strobes during the game, and make sure they pass the strobe test.

Day 1
The day starts early. We are at the arena by 8am to get our credentials and start our setup. After getting our credentials we soon realize that the basketball court is painted black from the 3-point line in through the lane. This really sucks. It will really soak up a lot of our light, so not much depth of field for our remote cameras. Sports Illustrated already has a set of Speedotrons installed in this arena so no need to set any up, only to adjust as much as possible for the black court. For the Pistons games we get around f4.5. Now we are down the f4 at full power and we cannot add more light to the set as per NCAA rules for the size of the arena.

We have six remotes to set up before we leave for the day. Unfortunately, the Palace of Auburn Hills does not have good remote positions and we end up with two floors, two sides under the press table, one elevated, and one overhead.

The strobe test was very easy since the court is black and we could not jack up the power. I did have to replace one strobe head that went down.

Day 2
Long, long day. Four games in one day are ridiculous. I thought I knew how long it was going to be after five years of working the NCAA Tourney with SI, but this is insane! We get into the arena early again and I program all the Flash Wizards and help the 2nd assistant get ready to FTP images to the magazine.

I am really surprised that more remotes are not set up. I think in total there are only 12 with most along the press table and only four overhead. The media coordinator was extremely fair in letting photographers set up remotes even though they did not send in notice one month before hand.

Things seem to be going smoothly until an arena official went up John Biever and a local AP photographer during the third game to tell them remote cameras are not allowed under the press tables. I know there is some sort of rule that allows them to be placed there with supervision by the media coordinator or NCAA representative. We had all of our remote positions approved by the media coordinator the day before and this gentleman was overruled by the NCAA official onsite. The rest of the day went smoothly after that.

Day 3
Lots of Sleep!

Day 4
Again, early day getting in around 8am. We changed two remote camera positions for a possible last second game winning shot. I make changes to the Flash Wizard System. The games go with out incident until another strobe head goes down. Very, very strange that two go down so quickly. They were not attached to the same pack, so that was not the problem. I get a new head up and going quickly and hope that is the last of our lighting issues. After the last game ends we have about a 1 1/2 hour tear down and pack up. I am glad it is over! I cannot wait to see my wife and son. Unfortunately it will be only for 24 hours before I head out for the Washington D.C. Regional.

(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 member page:

Related Links:
NCAA Tourney Diary: Sweet 16 and Elite 8
NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four
NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four Part II
NCAA Tourney Diary: The Final Four Part III

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