By Ricky Fritzsching This week, we'll be paying some editorial attention to drum corps events that have happened in the Eastern U.S. For some reason, the Eastern Classic is always a technological challenge for DCI.org, as this report proves (and this story gives you a sneak peek at how an event unfolds for the DCI.org CAT-5 crew). Tomorrow we'll look at how the 2002 Eastern Classic at Franklin Field in Philadelphia went down. As many of you know J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown, Pa., is known for great drum corps, an awesome setting, and most importantly, great fans, but what many of you don't know is that J. Birney Crum is an absolute technical challenge when it comes to live event coverage in the summer. This is our experience from 2003.
When I sat down with Dan Acheson (DCI executive director) and Dave Wilson (DCI's Web content manager) at the beginning of the summer, we talked about our stadium challenges. Immediately, J. Birney Crum was discussed. Since DCI.org had never produced a live event at J. Birney Crum (the Eastern Classic was held in Philadelphia in 2002 while J.Birney Crum was being renovated), I didn't know what to expect. We knew that the press box was not wired with 10/100 ethernet jacks ready for us to burn up the bandwidth -- those are the technological demands we usually hope for when we invade a stadium. Instead, the press box only had phone lines, and that just won't do the job for producing the robust multimedia that you've come to expect from our live event coverage. Per event, we have so many images, videos, and, most importantly, an abundance of data that needs to be transferred to DCI.org quickly. Phone lines are just unacceptable. Legacy movie I arrived on site early Friday morning and I was just floored on how great the stadium looked. What a magnificent arena for drum corps! But the hunt for DCI.org command central was just beginning. I met the maintenance crew for the stadium and they told me that they had a DSL connection in the maintenance shed. If you have ever been to J. Birney Crum and have been to the DCI marketplace, then you might have seen the maintenance shed. It is at least 200 yards away from the end zone. And most importantly, the hill that you walk up and down to get to field level is a will work on your calf muscles. I said to the maintenance worker, "You have to be kidding me! You have a high-speed connection in your maintenance shed, but not in the press box. Wow ... if only Bill Murray was here." I walked into the shed and quickly noticed the aroma of all the two-cycle engine products plus the smell of fresh cut grass. It just made me smile, because I knew that I was going to embark on a two-night experience that was going to resemble the legacy movie "Caddyshack." The DSL setup was a breeze. I then decided to go and find the rest of the DCI.org CAT-5 crew on the other side of the stadium. As I started making my way down the grass of the big hill I saw something move in front of me. There he was -- the intruder: A huge gopher looking at me square in the eyes. I just froze and started laughing. I couldn't believe it -- a maintenance shed and a gopher, and we are still five hours from downbeat. What next, a surprise appearance by Bill Murray? Unfortunately the gopher never showed up again for the duration of the event, but it was funny while it lasted. Legacy technology Picture this. You're 200 yards away from the end zone, atop a huge Allentown hill, and the rest of your crew (and in Allentown last year this crew included content manager Wilson, DCI.org columnist Mike Boo and megafabulous intern Francois Morin) is camped out on the other side of the stadium in the opposite end zone (the corps entrance gate). That's where all the editorial content will be generated, where the interviews will take place and where the photos will be snapped, and they have no Internet connection anywhere near them. I asked myself, "How are we going to do this?" You're probably thinking, "Wireless." So were we. But unfortunately, getting a direct signal from the shed to the opposite end zone was impossible. I didn't even go try. I thought of one thing that could make this work -- floppy disks and tennis shoes. Before I called Dave on the radio with my plan, I had to make sure that my computer had a floppy disk drive. Come on, when was the last time you used one? Luckily enough it did. I made the call and asked him if he had brought his tennis shoes. He confirmed. Then I asked if he had a floppy drive on his computer and he quickly said, "You're kidding, right?" Then there was radio silence. Five minutes later he came back on the radio and said, "How are we going to do this?" After a long discussion and a quick trip to Best Buy, we had a game plan. He was going to radio me when he had disk full of information, and then we would meet on turn three of the track on the back sideline. It was just like a relay, he would hand me the disk and I would turn around and run back up the hill to command control and post the data on DCI.org. If you attend Allentown this summer, make sure you look for us as we meet on the back side line of the track. Yes, we might change some things to make it easier on us, but we feel Allentown is a "legacy" event and the DCI.org crew just wants to fit in!