Live From Final Four: Camera Operator Janis Murray Makes History Taking Over Main Game Camera
Following the retirement of legend George Graffeo, Murray was logical choice to fill the position
This weekend’s CBS Sports/Turner Sports joint production of the Final Four features a noted changing of the guard. For the first time in 30+ years, the main game camera will be operated not by the legendary George Graffeo but by another iconic vet of the business: Janis Murray.
The main game camera — or, as it’s referred to in the truck, “Camera 2” — is the camera position responsible for a clear majority of the live action that viewers at home see. It’s a critical position and a career milestone for Murray, who becomes the first woman to occupy the position in the history of the event.
“It’s a dream come true,” says Murray, ranking the Final Four as her favorite event to work — with the possible exception of working center on the 2015 World Series for Fox Sports when her beloved Kansas City Royals won the title. “This is the job that I always pictured me getting but was never sure I’d get. [The Final Four] is just such an exciting event, and I get the chance to work with the best people in the world. I’m very excited.”
Last year, when Graffeo retired, the position at the main game camera opened up, but, for veteran director Bob Fishman, who will call the shots from inside Game Creek Video’s 79 on tonight’s Final Four and Monday’s National Championship Game, the person to take the spot was a simple one.
“Janis is so good at this because she senses the moment,” he notes. “When the crowd’s going crazy, she’ll pull back and let the scene play out. I don’t have to tell her anything. If there’s a full court press on an in-bounds play, she’ll be in there closer. She gets it.”
Murray’s résumé speaks for itself. She has worked cameras on four World Series, four Super Bowls, and two Olympics; this is her fourth Final Four. She has been on Fishman’s weekly NFL team for 15 seasons. Having started her career in her hometown of Kansas City shooting Royals games, she has worked more than 3,000 baseball games; one of her career highlights was in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when she captured the iconic shot of Joe Carter rounding first base following his series-winning home run. (Fishman was directing that game for CBS.) True to her roots, she’ll begin working on her 35th season of Royals baseball following this weekend.
“I’ve always liked the concept of truly live television, which is what doing live sports is,” says Murray. “There’s really nothing else like it in the world. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and I find that fascinating. Someone with the talent of Bob Fishman can pull together a bunch of people and make that all happen live and have it look fantastic; it’s an incredible gift.”
In her previous three Final Fours, Murray worked the reverse-angle camera from a similar post across from the main game camera. The position is traditionally reserved for replay angles and grabbing shots of coaches and players substituting into the game.
“Every event has more cameras than you could possibly need, and the reason we have all of these angles is in case there’s a controversy,” Fishman explains. “Let’s face it, it’s all about the replay. But what’s the best view for the fan at home? They want to see the play, and the best place to see the play is from center court, up a little high, able to see what all 10 players are doing. That’s why this camera is so important. It’s got to be there for every play, and I know Janis will be.”
Throughout her 30+ year career, Murray has lugged her share of equipment, set up and broken down her share of cameras, and worked on perches overlooking everything from championship celebrations to tractor pulls. However, the most dramatic technological evolution she has witnessed behind the camera is a simple one.
“I’ve got to tell you, and this is huge for me, is now we can see things in color,” she laughs. “We were working with these old black-and-white monitors, and I’m trying to find a guy in the crowd that’s in a blue shirt. Now we have hi-def color monitors. It’s just amazing!”