Crew Sought To Capture ‘Feel’ Of MLK Memorial Dedication

Planning for the dedication has been going on for two years.
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Planning for the dedication has been going on for two years.
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Shots from the multiple cameras set up to capture the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial fill the Tennessee Digital Video production truck’s screens.
WASHINGTON – High-profile events will attract enough attention that the sponsors of such events will hire production crews to record and transmit video of the gathering, but when the event is the dedication of the memorial to slain civil-rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., it is important to capture the “feel” of the moment, says the owner of the production company hired to record the dedication.

by Pat Nordell

Nic Dugger, of Tennessee Digital Video (TNDV), set up the company’s production truck on the National Mall in Washington adjacent to the MLK Memorial a week before the dedication; which was scheduled for Aug. 28, 2011—the 23rd anniversary of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which was also on the the Mall. Unfortunately, the dedication was canceled because of Hurricane Irene. The dedication was expected to draw 180,000 attendees, said Dugger, who added it will be rescheduled for within a month or two, but it will likely be smaller. Planning for the dedication has been going on for two years, and “a number of ‘A-list’ celebrities and political figures,” were set to attend, including President Barack Obama. “It will be tough to pull that off again.”


Because such a large crowd was expected for the dedication, the event’s sponsor—the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation—had 10 JumboTrons placed around the area. To ensure those screens had content, TNDV planned to use up to 13 cameras for the event, said Dugger. “When we arrived on site, our goal was to do an eight camera shoot, but then we were expecting the president, which put a whole new level on everything, so we added cameras,” he said.

In addition to covering the dedication stage, TNDV had cameras cameras trained on the monument itself, including a traditional hard camera, and robotic camera that can be controlled from the production truck, Dugger said. The remainder of the cameras were focused on the stage, with a series of big lenses for the hard camera shots.

There were also four LED walls set up on the stage, two on the outside, two on the inside, and an LED wall facing the stage that was to be used as a teleprompter that could receive any of the camera feeds, and two more out in the field, Dugger said. All of that was just for the primary location. For the overflow area, TNDV had a fiber optic run of its HD signal that was to be sent to more LED walls.


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However, while most people were disappointed by the cancellation, there was a small, dedication of the MLK Memorial on the morning of Aug. 26 held by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity—of which King was a member—and which was instrumental in getting the memorial built. TNDV recorded that dedication, including the official unveiling of the giant sculpture, a private event that was a solemn occasion for the fraternity and guests, including King’s son Martin Luther King III and daughte Bernice Albertine.

The morning event was similar to covering a funeral, said Dugger, who added its solemn nature affected everything about the production. For example, to create the right feel, the occasion called for using dissolves instead of cutting away, and in situations where someone was giving payers or sharing thoughts “a slow push in” was used rather than taking a static shot.