Al Akins & Dave Burgess,
Battleship New Jersey Amateur Radio Station (BNJARS)
For those of you not
familiar with Navy terms, SITE refers Ship Information
Training and Entertainment system, better known as the ship’s
television studio and control room located on the O2 Level. The
information part of the name refers to a nightly shipboard news show
that was known as The Captain’s Call.
In early July Al Alkins and
I were contacted by the BB-62 Sea Cadet staff about changing the format
of the annual SITE training made available to the Sea Cadets. Instead of
a low keyed introduction to television production could the new format
be a full news broadcast that would be aired during the evening meal?
Here I must add that Cadets for this year’s training week traveled not
only from New Jersey and Pennsylvania but guest Cadets were from
Connecticut, Florida and other states whose names I forget for the
Al and I started making
special trips to the ship for the purpose of going over the system with
a fine toothed comb to weed out any problems or potential problems.
Along the way we not only refreshed our knowledge of the complex
integration of cameras, switcher, sound board, graphics and still
images, lighting, special effects and much more, we even managed to
increase each other’s skills with the system.
On a couple of the trips I
made some wiring changes and additions to increase the availability to
the SITE system of video from the ship’s security cameras. One such
change now allows the SITE to select individual cameras at the ship’s
weather station so that current wind speed, wind direction and outside
air temperature can be viewed during the newscast weather report.
On the afternoon of each
Sea Cadet training session the Cadets were introduced to the
compartments, their use and what the final exam would be. The Cadets
then decided amongst themselves who would tackle each of the jobs that
ranged from news anchors, sports reporter, weather person, camera
operators, floor manager, sound board, video board, graphics, producer
and director. All actions would be monitored by Al and me but it was up
to the Cadets to do the actions needed to create the final product.
After receiving some basic
skills training on their respective jobs the cadets were handed a copy
of the afternoon’s script for review and practice. Each afternoon’s
script was different, being based on the following day’s Plan Of the
Day, actual weather forecast and daily sports news. Did I mention that
this was being treated as if it was being broadcast on one of the major
TV networks? Well, that was the thought process for this training
Once everyone felt
comfortable in their positions we ran a dress rehearsal which is when
the Cadets found out about the studio lighting. They now know how bright
and hot the stage gets after just a few minutes of those lights being
energized. For these training sessions we kept the lights “down” to
During the dress rehearsals
there were the expected misspoken words, missed cues, wrong actor
movements, etc which I’m sure made the Cadets question their skills, but
when Al said “roll tape, cue action…..” there was a total transformation
from “what am I doing here” to “we can do this”. One group did the
job on the first take; two needed a second rehearsal and the fourth
needed two tape rolls. In my book each of these groups earned a grade of
At the end of each
production every Cadet was seen and introduced by using the above
mentioned security system cross connection. For example, the camera that
guards the control room was able to view the people operating the
controls as their names were read.
Yes there were technical
problems, usually introduced by me, that required a restart of the tape
but we did not hold that against the Cadets. To the contrary, when it
appeared that the weather and sports section of the final product for
one Cadet group would be missing its audio due to equipment failure and
there wasn’t time left to redo the scenes, the Cadets grabbed the script
and headed to the Mess Decks for chow with the intent to lip sync those
sections missing the audio. To me this was an impressive response by a
bunch of teenagers. Bravo Zulu to them. It is with great relief that we
report the audio fault was due to a problem with the tape playback
circuit in the Control Room; that the tape was intact and all audio was
heard during playback on the Mess Decks.
What were the results of
the four training sessions? The first was a totally serious event much
like was expected. The second was also serious but with some humor
added. The third group introduced even more humor while the fourth was,
from beginning to end, a total Lewis and Martin type production which I
totally enjoyed. This fourth group didn’t even use their real names;
instead they each had a humorous stage name.
Al and I were only able to
view the first nights Mess Deck playing of the tape but the reactions by
the assembled mass of Cadets was great. Again, Bravo Zulu to each and
In closing I have to report
that the Cadets were fantastic to work with, had a total commitment to
the project and ended up with products to be proud of.
As a side note I need to
mention that this year’s full use of the SITE System has generated a
renewed respect for what volunteer Ebe Helm created way back in 2001.
Private note to Ebe; Hey,
this was a 7-camera shoot! Now get your &%$ back to the ship and top