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Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Time Event
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware

For the rest of the taping of Late Night with Conan O'Brien I don't remember any bits which appeared in the studio but were cut from the airing. I did remember one that came sooner, though --- in the 1860s Baseball bit there was a moment in which Conan, pitching, ordered around the infield and the outfield making full use of the slang he'd leapt upon as goofy and endearing to the era. I suppose that has to have been cut for time, although since the show ran long anyway it's still hard to guess why they bothered. But the second round of clips with Conan and Andy Richter watching was what we saw in the studio, with the extra note that we could watch Conan or Andy or the producers or the band watching the clips along and sometimes clearly being taken by surprise by bits they'd long-since forgotten.

Preparing for the band segment is an oddity in the production of the show. Normally the Max Weinberg 7 play for the entire commercial break which runs about as long as the actual airing commercial break will be and some title card or the like runs on the in-studio monitors. But going into a band performance the Max Weinberg 7 goes silent and they turn over to prerecorded music as stagehands pull out the floating stage and set up instruments for the performance, even if the 7 aren't playing with the band. (Musical groups are offered, but don't have to use, any or all of the house band, as they like.) Meanwhile, Andy Richter ducked off stage and I didn't see him again.

I'm reliably fascinated by the directing and camera work of these bits because it's really the only time that the cameras move around, with two large fixed cameras, one guy with a handheld camera, and one guy with a camera that's essentially fixed on a periscope providing overhead and smoothly floating views. I kept watching to compare the monitor, what was actually on stage, and what was visible in the backs of the cameras and comparing all these views of the same event.

It always amazes me that they're able to keep their motions --- which amount to drifting around in front of the musicians so that the director has several angles to choose from --- choreographed well enough that they don't get in front of one another in the shots, not just those seen at home but also the ones seen on the monitors. I suppose in producing television shows like this you get to where you can manage that movement in your sleep, but it's still impressive to someone like me who imagines what an awful mess he'd make of it. Conan got up from his desk and hovered just out of all these camera ranges while the band played `We're Gonna Be Friends'', and came to shake their hands and thank them when that was over and the show was shockingly soon in its final minutes.

Trivia: The Roman Emperor Commodius tried to rename the fourth month of the year `Pius', after one of his many names. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Service and Style: How The American Department Store Fashioned The Middle Class, Jan Whitaker.

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