Above: Patrick Leone III operates a camera above the stands while covering the New York State Scholastic Championships in June. Below, Aline Al Rayes shoots trackside.

TrackMeets.com’s June coverage of the New York State Scholastic Championships at Liverpool High School is typical of the company’s assignments. A set-up crew arrives the day before the meet with a large trailer—TrackMeets.com’s new mobile production studio. Yellow-shirted students run cables to power sources and to various camera positions around the track. “I chose yellow as our corporate color after our first meet,” Jabbour says. “I couldn’t find any of the interns in the crowd, so I decided to have them wear something I could easily spot.”
      Having covered a meet here a month earlier, Jabbour and his crew know where to place their four cameras: one atop the grandstand press box, for long shots and pans of the track; another at the starting line that also covers field events when no races are being run; a third at the end of the track to capture finishes; and the fourth for “talent”—students who provide commentary during the races and interview athletes on the field between events. Commentator Rachel Hodgetts, a graduate student at the Stat University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, works this event. A former high school track athlete, Hodgetts signed on for a TrackMeets.com internship because of the unique experience she would gain. “One of the best things I’m learning is how to act in front of a camera,” she says. “I think it will help me later in presenting my ideas, whatever they may be.” Hodgetts spends her time off-camera working as an executive assistant to Jabbour. “There are many different tasks that need to be completed,” she explains. “Each event is different and has special problems. The new technology they use is fascinating—I’m learning things about the Internet I didn’t know, and I’m gaining technical skills I didn’t have. It’s a really fun job.”
      Inside the gleaming white trailer, crew members are surrounded by fresh sheets of plywood, new carpeting, and cables that appear to snake everywhere, finally exiting at the rear and side doors. A crew of eight staffs three tables and operates the equipment during the meet. At the first table, a sound engineer and a titler—responsible for adding titles, graphics, and special effects to the webcast—work closely with the director. The second table is for the producer, whom Jabbour calls the “storyteller” of the production. A headset connects the producer to the commentators, to coordinate coverage.

      The remaining table contains the heart of the webcast—TrackMeets.com’s encoder computer, which sends the live signals out on the web. Its monitor screen holds a variety of indicators, telling the engineer operating it all there is to know about the condition of the signal, how much memory is being used, and how much the webcast is taxing the processor. The encoder and another computer at the table each sport a model of a fighter jet—a nod to Jabbour’s half-time assignment at the Information Directorate of the United States Air Force Research Laboratory at Rome, New York. “Much of the technology we’ve developed is inside that box,” Jabbour says, pointing to the encoder. “It looks like an IBM Aptiva, feels like an IBM, and acts like an IBM. But as soon as we buy a computer, we open it, take several cards out, and put several in. We remove much of the software and put in our own software. Customizing that box has given us the technical edge.” An auxiliary power supply ensures that the encoder functions through almost anything.
      The day of the meet, Jabbour carefully monitors the indicators. When the monitor mounted at the front of the trailer shows a pack of runners in the homestretch, the computer’s central processing unit indicator jumps to 50 percent, and rises dangerously as the signal becomes busy with images of the intense competition. Too high and the machine will crash, ending the live signal and leaving a blank screen where TrackMeets.com’s webcast should be. But the runners cross the finish line, and the view immediately switches to another camera while the first camera operator freezes his equipment. The transition may be abrupt, but it quickly sends the computer’s CPU indicator plunging back into the safety zone. “That dip saves the machine from crashing,” Jabbour says. “Our cameramen are definitely not TV cameramen—the medium defines content for us.” He smiles and adds, “This is the reason nobody else can put anything like this on the web.”

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