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Hrumph! As co-author Larry Nance and I work our way through our notes and continue with the task of writing The Basics of Videojournalism, memories of blog postings past resurface. I’ve cut and pasted the guts of one such posting, which was the result of one too many still photographers or wanna-be’s asking me for the secret of shooting great video.
Those in the know, know already. Once you have the knowledge – once you know what to do – YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE. Yeah. Right. Good old fashioned get your hands on the gear and work with it until it becomes an extension of your body. There are no secrets…there is NO other way. Somewhere between year one and year four-ish you will no longer think about anything but the story – the images – what is in front of you. The camera, tripod, lights will be ancillaries of your brain and body. Your hands will be able to see and will automatically direct the fingers how close/how far to zoom in. The tripod will magically find itself set to the precise level you need it at. Aperture…depth-of-field…shutter speed. All part of your DNA.
Initially getting it all right is going to take time. You resist using a tripod cause it takes time to set up. In the field you think audio sounds great – you can hear it okay in your headset. And you can see your subject so the light must be fine. Right? WRONG! Don’t rush through your story and cheat your audience. They (and you) deserve your best every single day…every single shot. At first you’ll feel as if you have a weight attached to you. Time…time…time…it takes time to get each of these elements done properly. Time to take out the sticks and set them up. Time to check out the light and move your sticks over a bit to get better light or pull out the stand light and umbrella and find an outlet and light your subject. Time to attach the mike and check audio levels. Time to really look at the story and get more than the obvious shots. Time to see the details that will really impact the audience. Time to think and do it right.
And it’s not over in the field. Now you’re back editing and you have more tape and more choices, cause you shot more than you did before. Your tape looks and sounds cleaner, so you aren’t straining to hear the bad audio that sounded so good in the field and sounds like crap in the quiet of the edit area. Nice. You begin editing and suddenly you realize you can really edit…you’re not just covering words with pictures or putting in a great shot just because you have it. You are creating a visual story with an establishing shot and details. You start getting excited and then look at the clock…and deadline time is coming up fast.
At some point all of this will click. Tossing up your sticks will be as effortless as turning the camera on. You’ll always keep the tripod plate attached to the bottom of your camera for quick and easy mounting. You’ll look at light as you enter a room and automaticaly set up in the best area…or put up your reflector or light/umbrella without thinking. At the same time you’ll have the mike out ready to clip on to the interview subject. While you’re shooting the interview, you’ll be visualizing your shots for cover. With time, all of this will become so natural and effortless you will forget you never did it before…and once again, you’ll be concentrating on what is most important: telling the story.
Sigh…yeah. That’s it. And now you know the secret you have a choice to make. How badly do you want it?
…well, not fingers. Work on The Basics of Videojournalism progresses. The focus this week is to get the chapter on shooting done, complete with illustrations. Those we take care of tomorrow with former McNair broadcasting student (and someday film cinematographer) Louis Martinez, who will be acting as our model for illustrations for the book. Author Larry Nance’s son Amani will be helping out too, being interviewed on camera.
All the while Larry is snapping the stills I will be shooting video. Yeah, this is gonna be one interactive book. We’ll not only show you with words and pictures how to do it, there will be a DVD (or two) with demonstration video and raw videos to show what you should be shooting (steady, well exposed, good light, etc).
Problem is…the more we write, the more we realize we need to write more.
Shooting was supposed to be a pretty basic chapter that has now expanded, is growing, and is taking on its own life. It seems to me that too many “how-to” books pretend to tell you “how-to”, but don’t really. So when Larry and I say, “This is how to…” we plan to show the basics and then some. Read, look at the photos, view the video showing HOW to, work with raw video files to see how it should look. Interact and learn. One thing I learned in years of teaching is that there are different learning styles…and I suspect a lot of folks who want to learn video are visual and kinetic learners – they learn by seeing and doing.
Of course all of the above is creating more and more work and research. But taking into account Larry’s personal knowledge base (which is expansive) and all of my musings and blogs, we’re off to a pretty solid start.