BTN Chronicles Big Ten Tournament in The Journey Finale

It has been a banner year for the Big Ten Conference. Six teams are in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which tips off today, with five of them ranked in the top 15. That kind of quality and depth have made for another captivating season of BTN’s top show The Journey.

“Having a conference that has so many quality teams competing night in and night out in close, hard-fought games just really helps us as storytellers,” says Bill Friedman, senior producer, original programming at BTN. “It’s not a top-heavy league where two teams are blowing everybody else out. You can take any of the six teams that made the tournament and put them in any one of the other teams’ home buildings, and you’re going to have a hard time getting a win. That’s going to make for some dramatic storytelling.”

The season finale, which premiered last night, is a special one-hour edition covering the final days of the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, where Friedman, four additional producers, and two camera operators were on-site shooting  80-90 hours of raw behind-the-scenes footage.

The show, which contains 54 minutes of content, showcases Michigan State’s run to the tournament championship as well as wrapping up season-long storylines, including “characters” Illinois center Meyers Leonard’s reunion with his brother Bailey (an active-duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps) and Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor’s Senior Day (Taylor has been featured in the show over the past three seasons), as well as Northwestern’s ultimately failed attempt at its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

“Our main goal on this show is character development,” says Friedman, “and that’s not a ‘by episode’ thing. That’s a ‘by series’ thing.”

Friedman and fellow producers Julian Darnell, Kevin Shaw, Matt Engel, and Dan Lindberg shot with two Panasonic VeraCam HDX-900s, two Panasonic AG-AF100s, a Canon EOS C-300, and a Canon 7D DSLR. While they had a pair of camera operators with them, the producers did most of the shooting themselves, working some days straight through from noon to midnight.

“It’s very labor-intensive, but they’re fun days,” says Friedman. “I’m more of the novice on the staff when it comes to that, but It’s fun to shoot your own stuff.”

The crew began shooting at the Big Ten Tournament in Indy on Wednesday. Each day, they would capture locker-room and game footage around the clock. At the end of each day, the tapes were labeled, put in a box, and shipped back to BTN’s Chicago office via courier to arrive for the in-house editors the next morning. The footage was ingested in the network’s server, and the show’s dedicated editors, John Castelli and Miguel Adad, start putting together the episode on their own.

“To be able to turn this stuff around without us being there to give them face-to-face guidance really speaks to their talent and dedication,” says Friedman, who added a third editor, Gregg Juhlin, for the finale. “I can’t even ballpark how many hours it is they put in. That’s really impressive to me that, when the five of us come back and sit down and watch things Monday morning, we don’t have to make a lot of changes.

“When you have editors like that, it really makes your job a little easier,” he continues. “There’s a level of trust and belief in these guys that I don’t think a lot of producers get to have with their editors. They are the warhorses of this operation.”

This marks the finish of the fifth season of BTN’s original show, which set a ratings record for most-watched program in network history with the season’s ninth episode, on March 4.

Says Friedman, “It’s pretty amazing what we’re able to pull off with such a small crew.”

The season finale of The Journey: Big Ten Basketball 2012 re-airs today at 3:30 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET.

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