Some people like to remain in their seats in the theater and watch all the names in small print scroll down the black screen at the end of a movie. These are the hundreds of people that helped create what you just saw from the musicians to the grips to the gaffer to the camera operators to the video editors and right down to the caterers and food service “technicians.”
If NBC did the same thing after each night of their amazing 2018 Winter Olympic coverage from PyeongChang, South Korea one of those names in very small print might just jump off the screen. Tierney Isaac, a member of the second graduating class at Skyline High School, is one of hundreds, if not thousands of people working behind the scenes to bring viewers all the action from South Korea.
And while her name is in small print, her responsibilities are big and her dreams and ambitions even bigger. Many in the communication’s field begin their careers in places such as Ithaca, N.Y., or Bradenton, Fla., or Ottumwa, Iowa, not living in New York City working for NBC on coverage of the Olympic Games.
Isaac’s career got a head start as she literally hit the ground running. We will pass the baton to her and let her pick up the story.
“I started as a runner for NBC which is a nice way of saying you do everything and anything that anyone needs,” she said. “You set up catering, make copies, bring people coffee, things like that. I started out doing that and still do that for the PGA Tour. One of the people I met while doing that needed an extra tape person in Stamford and asked me to do it. I knew very little about being a tape PA but I learned a lot in just a few days being here. I’ve seen people do it as a runner, I just never actually did it. But it was an easy transition.”
While the games are being hosted on the other side of the planet, Isaac is executing her daily duties much closer to home. The daughter of Skyline swimming and diving coach Maureen Isaac, Tierney has been working out of NBC sports headquarters in Stamford, Ct., since the games began. She is a member of the At-Home Team covering the Olympics. NBC has a bigger staff here in the states than it does in South Korea bringing home the games for the American audience.
Isaac is working on several different production teams since NBC crews are working around the clock during the games because of not only the time differences between PyeongChang and the United States but also because NBC is showing the games on several channels including NBC, NBCSN, MSNBC, CNBC as well as digital platforms online.
“I am working primarily on the NBCSN show and since that channel is 24-7 coverage we have three shifts during the day to cover it,” Isaac said. “I am working on the third shift which is on air from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. so we are the one shift that is close to a normal workday.”
Isaac’s official title is tape production associate.
“We have a central-control room where the producer and the director and their associates sit,” she said. “I am in our central-tape room. Our show airs from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Korean time so there are no sports that we can air live so our entire show is taped which means I am busier than the TPAs would be on other shows. There is a lot to do.”
The entire NBC show will roll through the tape room before it gets to the control room and Isaac says that’s a bit unusual for such a high-profile event like the Olympics. Normally, there are live feeds that are a big part of the coverage but since there are no live events to show during Isaac’s shift it’s all on tape.
“The sporting events will have been recorded overnight for us and are already put together in pre-packaged segments,” she said. “Anytime you see a scenic shot such as behind a graphic or rolling out a show or behind credits that’s what I’m responsible for. I have to pull those scenic shots from tape and make sure they fit the duration of the show we need and make sense with the script that goes along with that shot.”
So, in other words, Isaac is the person behind the scenes providing the best scenes to paint the scene. She’s the one who pulls those snow-capped mountain shots for when the announcer says, “coming up from the snow-capped mountains of PyeongChang is the men’s downhill.”
“It’s all video, too,” she says. “We want a lot of movement in every shot.”
She also works on the “billboard” shots so when they say the Olympics are sponsored by Ford there is a Ford Motor Co., logo on the screen – not General Motors, which would not be good.
Isaac spent a year at Washington University in St. Louis studying architecture but decided pretty quickly that career path wasn’t for her. She returned to Ann Arber and took classes at Washtenaw Community College for two years.
Isaac, 22, now lives in Brooklyn and attends Marymount Manhattan College where she is studying digital media and video production.
“In 2012 I worked as a runner at the US Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where my dad (Stu) was working and he hooked me up to be a runner with one of the TV crews and I guess I did a good job because they have invited me back every year since,” said Isaac, who was a member of the Skyline swimming and water polo teams.
While the running gig during the swim meets was just something to do in the summer, Isaac started thinking about how much she enjoyed it and being a part of that environment. It was a pretty exciting place to be so she “dove in” with plans of making a career in the TV production business.
The Olympic swim trials led to the PGA Tour events hosted by NBC which led to the Olympic Games – now that’s climbing the ladder. Isaac also works part-time as a news editor at ABC News cutting news video for Good Morning America.
“Editing and then working in the tape room are two different branches of a TV broadcast so it’s nice to explore both to try and figure out what I really excel at and what I like,” she said. “At this point I’m a freelancer so the two networks don’t mind me working for the other. In fact, they are both very supportive.”
If she continues on this path, they may someday be fighting over her.