The Amazing Race for The Amazing Race

Wow. This has got to be one of my all time best stories.

On Wednesday night I was talking to my good friend Jonah and was telling him about the show “The Amazing Race“, and how I wanted to apply this year. Jonah and I have gone on a lot of trips together and somehow don’t grate on each other’s nerves at all. I have a lot of respect for him and his abilities, so I thought he’d be a perfect partner for The Amazing Race. For those of you who don’t know about this tv-tastic gem, it’s basically a race / scavenger hunt around the world.

I meandered to the application site, downloaded the application, and began to check out the requirements. Guess when the due date for the tape was? Friday at 5pm, which meant that we had one day to create a 3 minute video, fill out the two 11 page applications and get some passport sized photos taken. Not one to back down from a challenge due to complete lack of time, I convinced Jonah to get on board.

Thursday morning I called Fedex and found that the latest dropoff time was 8:30pm at a place near my house. I came up with an idea for the movie, and Jonah and I began filling out the applications. It took longer than expected, but the applications fit well together to form a solid team.

The video I wanted to do called for two actors besides Jonah and I, a camera man, and an editor. So the calls began. Here’s the cast :

Milo and Todd were my first two choices for the actors. Forgetting that he was one of my few friends (the only one?) who actually has a day job, I called Milo first. He was at work, but agreed to help out during his lunch hour of 12-1.

I called Todd, but he was going to lunch. He said he’d be available at 12:30.

I wanted Hayden to do the camera, and he was available from 11am-2pm if we could pick him up and bring him back to class by 2.

Terry also agreed to do the camera, but no one knew when he’d wake up.

Devon agreed to edit after 2pm.

We needed a track, so we agreed on the high school near Milo’s work because he was on the tightest schedule. Unfortunately, Milo works about 20 minutes from everyone. That meant that under the best conditions, we’d have about 10 minutes to film the whole thing. And I had to write a few lines of a song by the time I got there. I loaded up my MP3 player with the beat I was going to use, and headed to the high school. Jonah went to pick up Hayden.

Tynan directing

It just so happened that there was lots of traffic during lunch hour, so we finally got everyone there by 1pm. Just as we got there, the track team started congregating on the field. This isn’t good – we needed to have the track alone, and I figured it was very likely that we’d get kicked out.

Ignoring the team, we filmed two quick takes while the team warmed up on the field. Milo had to go back to work, but I was happy with the results anyway.

Next we needed a location to film the “interview” portion of the video. I wanted a long hall that Jonah and I could walk down while being filmed. My first choice was the Erwin Center at UT. It’s a circular arena with a long circular hallway around it’s perimeter. I figured we could walk around it perpetually. My second choice was some part of the football stadium at UT.

Terry woke up, so we picked him up and headed to the Erwin Center. After checking at least 40 locked doors, we gave up and moved on to the stadium. Despite my best efforts to negotiate with the powerless secretary whose boss was out on lunch, I couldn’t get us access to the stadium.

That’s when it hit me that we may not get this thing finished. It was closing in on 3:30pm, giving us only 5 hours until our completed package had to be mailed.

We continued to walk, burdened by our video equipment (borrowed from Devon) and my new chain. We hit the concert halls and found all of them locked. Until…

I tried a side door that led us into a perfect 150 seat empty auditorium. I took a seat on the stage to get ready for the interview, but immediately recognized that sitting in the green audience seats would look much better on camera. Jonah had the idea of switching positions and fading the cuts for a cool effect.

We recorded 15 minutes of non scripted banter between Jonah and I, moving positions every 3 minutes or so. Now 4:30, we couldn’t afford any more time. We had our doubts that the audio was loud enough, but there was no time to try again.

Devon was picked up, and the four of us headed back to my house to edit. We hit rush hour traffic.

Finally arriving home, we set about the task of getting the video from the camera to the computer. We hadn’t even had the time to consider these logistics. I had a fast new computer that Terry quickly set up at my breakfast table. However, it had no drivers for the firewire port, so it was useless.

My laptop was the only computer that had firewire on it, so we logged the footage onto the hard drive using Microsoft’s video editor.

The only problem is that my laptop is a 2lb. sub compact which is completely unsuitable for editing. I tried every extra hard drive I had in my external enclosure, but for some reason NONE of them would work. I started to panic.

Jonah and Terry began crimping a crossover cable to connect the laptop directly to the new fast machine. It took a while, but when we hooked up the laptop, neither computer could see the other.

I stole a different crossover cable from my network and used it to connect the laptop to my other desktop computer – nothing.

I put the crossover cable back, unplugged my printer from the network and used that cable to plug into the laptop. Finally, that worked and we got the video (slowly) to my desktop.

The only problem was that I still needed to use that computer to make the song I was going to use as the soundtrack for the video. We could deal with that later, though. 6:30.

Jonah and I drove to get our passport photos taken. It was a rip off at $35 for the worst photos I’d ever seen (the guy was very unclear on why I wanted to wear my chain in my passport photos), but there was no time for retakes.

When we returned at 7:00, significant progress had been made on editing, but we realized that we forgot to pick up the VCR from Devon’s house, which was necessary because CBS is in the stone ages and won’t accept a DVD.

Jonah and Terry left to retrieve the VCR while Devon and I finished the edits. By 7:50 we were nearing completion of the edit.

That’s when I realized three things :

1. I still hadn’t filled out my application (I had just typed up my answers on a separate page)

2. The audio was inaudible in the beginning part and needed to be dubbed over.

3. We had no VHS tape.

I worked on my application until Devon said we needed the overdubs and song. I sent him to get the VHS tape while I did the overdubs. They sounded good on the first try, although we still needed Jonah to do his. I cranked out the song in the first try and exported it to mp3 for Devon. I went back to filling out my applicatoin and Devon returned and started putting the audio in.

When Jonah and Terry got back it was 8:05, and we neeeded to leave. I ran into the computer room with Jonah, did his dubs, and yelled to Terry to finish my application.

At 8:10 we were ready… when we realized something. The only way to get the video to the VCR was through the camera. And the camera needed firewire, which was only on my laptop – where the video wasn’t.

Everyone was ready to give up, except for me. I was really psyched about this show and was not going to give up. I yelled out, “I have an inverter. We have 20 minutes to get there – we’ll figure it out in the car”.

Terry ran to the car, set up the VCR, started the car, and put the address for Fedex in the GPS.

I yelled to Jonah to drive to Fedex and stall them, and he was off.

I copied Premeire over to the laptop along with the video files, and bolted out the door with the laptop. Devon grabbed the cables for the camera. When we pulled out of the driveway, the GPS said our Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) was 8:30 on the dot. It’s usually accurate within a minute or two.

A last minute check revealed that we had forgotten the camera. I bolted back to the house, and got the camera – along with the application forms and blank tape that we had forgotten.

Jumping back into the car, I took off. Now… my car has expired registration, the title isn’t in my name, it is not inspected, and I had my gun in the car but forgot my wallet which had my license and permit. Let’s just say that getting pulled over was not an option. If a cop started chasing me, I was going to just have him follow me all the way to fedex and explain there. Again… refer to the decision making chart in the Penguin story.

We hit the highway at 85 and Devon started doing the final render of the video. It took 5-6 minutes and several reboots. That’s when he reported that Premiere was broken and wouldn’t output to the camera.

He kept trying to mess with the camera and Premeire, but nothing was working. Jonah called and told us that he couldn’t find Fedex. Through aggressive driving I managed to get the GPS’s ETA down to only 8:28, but a wrong turn bumped it back up to 8:31. At one point I was on the phone, trying to help Devon diagnose the problem, and weaving in and out of traffic.

We arrived at Fedex at 8:31 and they were closed. We sat in defeat for a few minutes, trying to get the attention of an employee.

Just then Jonah called. His dad knew of another fedex 25 minutes away. That gave us one minute to spare, but still no video to mail.

On blind faith, I stamped the gas pedal and raced for the other Fedex. Jonah knew where that one was and headed there as well. Devon continued to battle with Premeire, but couldn’t figure it out. He managed to get the video to play on the camera, but it wouldn’t record to tape.

We arrived at the other Fedex at 8:59. I raced in, and upon receiving the information that they were still open, yelled to Terry and Devon. I found a socket in the wall, they brought the laptop, camera, and VCR in, and we got to work.

That’s when I had a great idea – export the video from Premeire as an AVI, open it in Microsoft’s video program, and use that to export back to the camera. The 12 minute export procedure began.

I engaged in a conversation with the Fedex Employee

“What’s going on?”

“We need to get on the show The Amazing Race. We have had the worst luck getting this to work, and this is our last chance”

“What can I do to help?”

“Just be as patient with us as you’re allowed to be”

“I’ll do what I can, but the last truck is on it’s way, and when it’s here there’s nothing I can do”

The video FINALLY finished rendering and we imported it into the Microsoft program. As Devon had predicted, there was no way to export from it.

Now even I was ready to give up. There was no way it was going to happen. I declared that it was over, but the employee said “The truck is loading now. You still have 5 minutes”.

Then it hit me – if there was video on the screen of the camcorder, there was a chance that that same video was being outputted through the camera’s outputs. Maybe we didn’t even need to record to the camera first. Devon agreed it might work.

But, there was a problem – we had no TV and thus no way to tell if the VCR was getting the input or not. We decided that we may as well try. and send the tape off with some blind faith. We pressed play and begin the process. A minute into the video, it became choppy and stopped. We tried again… choppy.

It was again declared a lost cause when I had ANOTHER idea – what if we just opened the version we rendered for Microsoft’s program in Premiere, and then tried to play that through the camera.

We did it, hit record and hit play. If it was choppy this time, it was too late. If it wasn’t, we MIGHT make it. We all held our breath as it played. It hit the mark where it was choppy before and played flawlessly. This was the first time we’d even watched the video – we had no time to preview it. It was good. Much better than we anticipated.

“The truck is about to leave,” said the employee.

We watched our superfluous ending sequence with a grimace. The truck driver came into the main office “Alright… I’m out of here,” he said to our employee friend.

“There’s one more.” he said.

The video finished. Devon pressed stop, ejected the tape, and threw it into our envelope. We handed the package to the driver with NO time to spare. I truly believe if we finished 20 seconds later, we would not have gotten it on the truck.

If you’re ready to watch our masterpiece, put some socks on and check out our video application for The Amazing Race.

We got home, starving and tired (I had skipped three naps that day and all meals) and recreated the setup to test if the video had actually outputted or not. We hit play.

Black. Nothing.

I noticed that there was nothing on the video camera screen either. Devon secured the cable and hit play again. After a quick pause the video played flawlessly. We rejoiced.

Published

10 comments

  1. What an awesome story and effort! Glad you got it handed off successfully. I just hope CBS realizes they have to rewind the tape 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Although I think the video is good, I don’t think it’s exceptional. I just don’t think it will stand out from all the other videos being sent to CBS. The really interesing part about this (and what will get their attention) is this story of how you got it to them. I would highly recommend sending them this story; if you do they’d be fools not to put you on.

  3. Sounds like my experience with the making a tape for The Amazing Race. I live in Phoenix and my partner lives in Ohio so I flew in the day before it was due and had til 7 pm like you and somehow showed up at the door of UPS at 6:55pm. Altho we didn’t have nearly as much computer problems, we were stressed. There was a lot of teamwork involved and I think it was good practice for the show. Good Luck maybe we’ll be on the same episode!

  4. That was a great read, really wish I could see the video application. As a computer technician who’s turned in a lot of last-minute material, I can appreciate your struggles and appreciate your triumph.

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