Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: Tracey Syphax book signing

TRENTON -- In a nutshell, this is Trentonian TV's studio:



It's a pretty nice laptop with a pretty nice webcam. With it, I am a mobile one-man TV station. I took Trentonian TV to the Trenton Marriott on Friday night to cover Trenton entrepreneur Tracey Syphax as he signed copies of his new book "From the Block to the Boardroom." The Marriott was buzzing, dozens and dozens of Trentonians socializing and beaming with excitement and pride for Syphax, which was nice to see.

THIS is how Trenton should look and feel. Amid the hubbub a few things came to mind: 1) It's great that Trenton has a Marriott, and this Marriott is nice and clean, but 2) how is THIS Marriott ever going to survive amid Trenton's socio-economic climate? Trenton DOES need this Marriott, but how many more times is the city going to bail the joint out with $500,000 dole-outs? That's what makes the energy at Syphax's event bittersweet because there aren't enough of these gatherings year-round to make the place a viable commodity. Sure, the masses came for a few hours, but they didn't spend the night, where the real money is made, although the bar made some nice coin for the night.

Anyway, the production for this one-hour show was better than I thought it might be for several reasons. One, the overhead lighting in the room Syphax used to sign copies of the book was dim, even with a lamp a Marriott staffer brought me. And yet I was pleasantly surprised by how well you could see Syphax and the book buyers. The low lights added a nice ambiance. Secondly, Syphax played the song and video "From the Block to the Boardroom" on a continuous loop, loudly, so I was worried that whatever he was saying in the plug-in microphone would sound totally garbled to viewers unable to differentiate his words with the song. But again, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the replay. Syphax has a great voice that booms and resonates, and you can hear and understand him perfectly even with the song playing on the speakers. One viewer @whataimeewants tweeted "Tracey has an awesome voice. Give him a show." But she also tweeted that she had a hard time hearing some of the folks talking while Syphax signed their books signed because they were standing at the edge of the table and the mic wasn't picking everything up. Tracey was cool to lower the volume a few times. On another note, I won't get Big Ooh out of my head for a while. He's the rapper in the song "From the Block to the Boardroom," and I must've heard it 100 times during that hour. Whoever wrote the song did a nice job with the underlying message.

There was another minor issue: Tracey got up after every book he signed to shake hands with, or hug, a fan and take pictures with them. That meant I had to keep adjusting the monitor, and when you do that you get the motion effect before the webcam settles back into focus. After a while I stopped moving the screen. It didn't matter if you saw Tracey's head or not during these instances because you knew what was happening. Plus, it was kind of cool to see the different ways people would put their arms around him.

The biggest issue is that Livestream -- the service Trentonian TV uses to bring you live events -- recorded the event in pieces, which is bloody frustrating. Sometimes, the whole show records in one piece, and you drag it over into the replay loop. Other times -- and I don't know why -- something will record in several pieces and you have to do production work to patch it all together, which takes time and energy. The Syphax event recorded in 4 or 5 pieces. The main one was 47 minutes long, so I just used that one. I could've patched everything together in Windows Movie Maker, but the other pieces wouldn't have added much. Plus, it's a pain in the butt to make a finished product outside of Livestream then upload it back into Livestream's library. Another technical difficulty you'll see early in the replay: it sticks or skips a few times. Not sure if that was an Internet connection or Livestream Procaster thing. Will have to resolve that.

The show was a success, and not just because I was pleased by how it looked on Trentonian TV. Socially, this was an important step in Trenton's evolution back into the real world. Plus, Tracey said a lot of important things during the first 5 minutes of the broadcast.

Below is the main thrust from the first hour of Friday's book signing.