Shooting the Puck

Hightower High School students film hockey throwdowns.
Daniel Kramer

The Houston Aeros and the San Antonio Rampage swirl about on the ice, a mess of red and green, yelling and smashing players into the boards.

"Can you see the puck?" asks Raif Smith, who's manning a camera at this preseason game.

"It's right there!" yells Mike Brown.

"Everything's moving so fast, you can't focus on one thing," Smith says. "It's just pass, pass, pass, shoot."

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You might expect the Aeros, who kicked off their 2004-2005 season this month, to use veteran production teams for their halftime shows. You'd be wrong.

Smith and Brown are part of the Hightower High School Media Academy, a program that puts cameras in the hands of teenagers and teaches them how to make TV happen. Tonight, Smith and five classmates are on assignment to record the game's action on video; then the Aeros will edit it down to a reel to show home-game fans at halftime.

With their $4,000 cameras and equipment-filled dollies, these teens are sure they can match the quality of seasoned cameramen. Gabriel Presas, the Aeros game operations coordinator, is betting they can match their professionalism, too.

"Why not get some kids out to support the team and learn how everything works behind the scenes?" Presas asks. Having heard about the video wizardry taking place at Hightower, with its multimillion-dollar television studio, Presas asked the students to shoot halftime scenes with the mascot, interview players and do birthday wishes to fans throughout the season.

But on this night, Smith and the other high school juniors are just trying to film the frenzy of action. Crammed in tight on the Aerodrome's less-than-spacious bleachers, the crowd quickly gets whipped up by 270-pound Derek Boogaard's goal in the first 49 seconds. One fan demands a hat trick.

The crew members tonight are among the most active in the 125-student program. As juniors, they produce a 12-minute news program each day. "Most of the students coming in want to be on camera," says instructor Ted Irving. "They think Hollywood. Then they find out how much work is involved," he says.

As the evening goes on, the Aeros manage to provide plenty of sizzle for the cameras. Their 4-1 win has been peppered with lots of fights, which should spice up the regular-season halftime video show. But in the wildest throwdown, an Aero has been put in a headlock.

That's okay, Smith already knows the Tinseltown art of effective editing. A little production work should show him on the offensive. "Just him punching," Smith says like a veteran cinematographer, "that'd be nice." -- Ray Hafner

Maize Maze
Life is corny at the Dewberry Farm

Ah, fall in Houston. The leaves are turning a lovely shade of brown, the scent of car exhaust lingers in the air -- truth is, this month hasn't been so different from August. But all semblance of a pastoral, New England-style autumn is not lost, thanks to Dewberry Farm and The Texas Maze. The farm's cornfield is carved into the image of a 400-foot-tall Uncle Sam telling you to "VOTE" (in case you didn't get the message from every celebrity ever); there are also pumpkin patches and hayrides, pig races and animals, corn cannons and more. Get lost from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to dusk on Sundays, through November 28. Seven miles north of Brookshire on FM 362. For information, call 866-908-3276 or visit $6 to $8. -- Julia Ramey

A Positive Spin

SAT 10/30

Every kid deserves his own bike. If you participate in the Elves and More Texas Cycling Classic, you'll help raise the money to buy 20,000 bicycles for children in impoverished Houston neighborhoods. You'll also get a daylong bicycle tour of the Montgomery County countryside, complete with Halloween-themed rest stops and activities for kids. Hit the road at 8 a.m. Saturday, October 30. Montgomery High School Sports Complex, 22825 Highway 105 West. To register, call 713-907-5674 or visit $45. -- Julia Ramey

Ugly Swing

MON 11/1

You can tell a true golfer a mile away across the green: the steady gaze, the shining clubs and the really, really bad pants. You know, the kind of polyester blends and bad checkered patterns that instantly bring to mind Rodney Dangerfield (R.I.P.) in Caddyshack. At the annual Bad Pants Open, your swing takes second seat to your fashion schwing. Clothes that would have you laughed out of the clubhouse before might win you a prize now. The open, now in its seventh year, benefits infants at the Texas Children's Hospital Newborn Center, so at least you're looking like an idiot for a cause. 11 a.m. Monday, November 1. Black Horse Golf Club, 12205 Fry Road. For information, call 281-304-1747 or visit -- Bob Ruggiero

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