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…it never changes. The process of creating a visual story that is. Larry Nance and I are merrily working on our tome, The Basics of Videojournalism when what should appear online but some helpful hints for visual shooters.
Trouble is – they’re more than ninety-five years out of date.
Or are they?
Thanks to Amanda Emily, here is a list of hints written by Pathe’ News editor Paul Hugon in 1916 – during the birth of the movement of newsreel shooters. Let’s see how those tips stack up.
Right off there’s this advice. Still applicable today.
The object of motion pictures is to show motion. Only things in which there is motion are worthy of the cameraman’s attention.
Then there’s the highly technical advice on exposure using a hand cranked camera.
For each turn of the handle, eight pictures are exposed. The handle is turned twice in one second. Therefore 16 pictures are exposed in one second.
Translated to today’s terminology, most cameras set on auto expose approximately 30 pictures per second. And you don’t have to keep turning the crank to keep exposing new pictures.
And some advice we’re giving in the book. Use a tripod (dammit).
It is essential, to preserve the illusion which is the basis of the film business, that the pictures should be absolutely steady.
We’re in agreement on tilts and pans too! It is better by far to visualize and shoot what you see in several strong shots rather than taking the lazy route and panning or spraying the scene.
There should never be a panoram, either vertical or horizontal, unless it is absolutely essential to obtain a photographic effect, and in any case the panoram should be, not from the main subject to others, but from others to the main subject, where theattention will finally rest. It is very much better to take two scenes than one panorammed scene. Panoraming is the lazy man’s remedy.
There’s a lot more there and most of it pretty darn good. Shoot pretty subjects, striking effects of light and shade. A hefty dose of technical advice on iris and shutter. Ummmm…you can skip the sections on protecting the negative and shipping (by slow boat to China in those days).
And the conclusion is his Golden Rule…
Make as good a picture for others as you would like others to make for you.
Nothing but the very best is good enough. Think, and think hard, how you can make the best picture. Put it all down in writing; plan your scenes…
There is plenty of room at the top of your profession, but you will not get there by standing about or just grinding away. Brain work is ultimately the only way to big money. And the money is there waiting for you.
(well maybe those last few lines don’t apply anymore…)
For full text, go to the original article on Amanda Emily’s site.
…is the name of a site I was directed to this week. While the concept may not be original (one story a week) the execution is amazing. Joan Planas and Ana Salva’ have a vision of producing a story a week focusing on people. Plain people who have stories to tell that educate and inform the audience about their community and country.
I like that they spend the time to get to know their subjects over a day or week and the entire story is told in the subject’s own words (with subtitles as necessary).
But what I like even more is their artistry…their use of motion and exposure and music to make each story unique and real.
So check it out at HERE and let me know what you think.
Love this crawling quote on my husband’s computer: “It’s not that we say dragons are real…but we say they can be beaten…”
Dragons being, of course, totally (ahem) imaginary creatures that lurk in fairy tales and in the backs of our minds.
Well in the back of my mind lately there’s been a desire to cut out the seemingly endless hours I spend transcribing interviews. I’d looked into voice recognition software in the past and had an inkling there were some possibilities out there. What did me in was a marathon week of listening to and transcribing a panel discussion of high school debaters and interviews with five coaches. Oh – and presentations by the students too.
Word. For. Word.
Regular folks like to talk. Speech and debate folks take it seriously and my fingers and brain were seriously addled by the time I was through. Limpid fingers…mush for brains.
So I finally began my search in earnest and dragons kept resurfacing as a solution.
Dragons Naturally Speaking. Managed to finagle some coupons and points and got it for nearly half off and began my adventure last night. And was frankly pretty impressed. The program is set up for one voice and you have to go through a learning curve with the software. So I spent about ten minutes setting up my profile, which included reading sentences and learning how to insert capital letters and punctuation, how to start a new line and more and then I transcribed two short interviews in slightly more time than it took to view them. Wow.
The method to get this done could be considered multi-tasking to the extreme. Dragon was open to transcribe into MS Word. I had a screen with an interview playing back. I just had to make sure that Word was the active screen and I would repeat word for word whatever the interview subject was saying. Even transcribed some nats.
The only thing better of course would be to plug-in all audio directly for transcription…but this sure beats the old way of listen and type quickly and then back up and start listening and typing again. For my purposes I don’t need impeccable accuracy…so rough drafts are workable for scripting purposes.
And now I’m ready for that next big project – a series of interviews and nats for DSES…and trust me, it is gonna go together oh so much faster than anticipated.
…took about the time it took to walk up the ramp and board the USS Makin Island at her berth in Pearl Harbor.
Now here is where I should insert swashbuckling tales of past experiences on the ocean and all of my adventures. Um…no. Embarrassing as it is to admit, all of my time in the past asea, with few exceptions, was spent occupying a three foot section of rail and feeding the fish my breakfast or lunch. Whichever I ate last.
But this was a new day and a very new adventure.
Middle daughter Pearl’s ship was returning from deployment in the Middle East when she sent word that I could join something called a “Tiger Cruise” once the ship hit a safe harbor. That would be Pearl. Harbor.
Tiger Cruises are the Navy’s way of saying thanks for loaning us your (son, daughter, father, husband, etc) and letting us send them in harm’s way. Here – you can hop on board and ride the final (safe) leg of the trip to home port with them.
So here’s my story, written as I rode the high seas. Enjoy.
Thursday, June 14 began early when I rolled out of bed at five am. Literally. My bunk, at 8 feet long and about 2-1/2 feet wide was generous in every way except height. If I’d tried sitting up, it would have been an awakening jolt, since I had less than a foot of headroom. And since I was “ground floor” or bottom bunk, I rolled right onto the deck, about a foot below my mattress.
Welcome to life on board the U.S.S. Makin Island – the newest hybrid ship in the United States Navy. For the nine days I will be answering reveille’s call each morning, reporting to duty stations, eating meals with sailors and Marines, and bedding down every night in my metal coffin as the ship makes its way across the Pacific, returning from a seven month tour of duty in the Middle East.
I’m on a Tiger Cruise, sponsored by my daughter, Pearl Green. There are 264 other Tigers on board for this cruise. Tiger Cruises began decades ago by the Navy as a way to welcome families on board ships and allow them to experience first-hand the life of military personnel at sea.
DC2(SW) Green is a Petty Officer 2nd Class (Surface Warfare) and has been with the Makin Island since before its commissioning in October 2010. She has already sailed around the Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America on the Makin Island’s maiden voyage from Mississippi to home port in San Diego in the summer of 2009.
And I’m her 62-year-old mother, on board to observe both my daughter and my Navy at work.
The Makin Island is a monster of a ship, one size smaller than an aircraft carrier. At 847 feet long and 118 feet at her widest, she measures almost the length of three football fields. Standing, the ship is taller fifteen stories high.
The Makin Island is a bustling city afloat, with everything from a TV station to barber shop, to airstrip/flight deck, restaurant/mess deck and more. The 1100 sailors who run and maintain the ship are joined by a contingent of around 1700 Marines. Its mission is peacekeeping…to tour foreign ports and oceans, maintaining a presence…a position of strength, both for show and as a detriment to possible hostile action. And ready to act, if need be. (Unlike a cruise ship, this little lady comes loaded with weapons.)
First impressions were that functionality rules over aesthetics. The driving force behind the design of the ship seems to be a melding of efficiency and tradition. Electrical wires, gas lines, pipes run along walls and ceilings. There are few square doors…they are mostly oblong. And thankfully, as a concession to the many Tigers on board, the portholes leading between decks have been opened up so we can traverse the stairs with less effort. Without the Tiger mix, ranging in age from eight years old to seventy-four, personnel would disappear through holes in the floor to access the stairs.
These “stairs” are more akin to ladders on land, tilted at close to 75 degrees. “Ladders” are straight up or down, at 90 degrees. Probably 95% of the human traffic I see each day sprints up and down the stairs…at times backing up three or more deep to wait their turn.
There are several large ramps to accommodate moving large loads on carts and forklifts and elevators to move large loads from the main deck to the flight deck.
Extremely heavy loads include jets and helicopters, which ride on two enormous external elevators.
Lines form, predictably, three times a day leading into the mess deck. Breakfast was manageable – we were in early and sitting within five minutes. Lunch was a long line snaking back at least fifty people, but moved quickly and had us seated in 30 minutes. The CS/Culinary Specialist crew feeds the entire crew three times a day in a buffet line offering simple choices of main dish, sides, and drinks.
Life on board a Navy ship is built on routine…with bells and whistles announcing wake-up, meals, the hour, and musters. Drills and true emergencies can shatter this routine.
A “man overboard” announcement had all hands and Tigers scrambling to report to their respective shops for a head count.
Even though this was a drill, it was taken very seriously. Two members of the Engineering crew who were stationed elsewhere were tracked down and accounted for before a final all hands accounted for report could be filed.
I was introduced to the location and use of the EEBD/Emergency Escape Breathing Device built in to my bunk right after I stowed my personal belongings in a locker.
In the event of a gas leak or smoke I’m to don it and make my way topside. The EEBD gives me 10 minutes of oxygen to make good my escape.
It’s things like this that remind me that I’m not really on a cruise…but cruising on a military vessel. There are few comforts…other than seeing a daughter whose voice and emails have been our only contact for the past seven months. And we’re heading home. The countdown on board has begun and you can feel the excitement and see it in the smiles of crew, anticipating leave with loved ones.
By day three on the U.S.S. Makin Island everyone had slipped back into their regular routine. Today the reveille bell didn’t ring as softly, the wake-up music blared, and fewer sailors rose and dressed as urgently. It appears that reveille at this stage of deployment is more a suggestion to get moving…and some sailors use the surplus time for sleep rather than eating breakfast.
That made life for us Tigers easier with fewer crowds in the showers and bathroom, not to mention the breakfast chow line. After waiting in the long snaking lines for lunch yesterday, my daughter and I gave up on eating dinner in the mess hall, opting for some of her squirreled away stash of microwavable soup.
Once again we mustered in the Engineering Department where the First Officer gave the orders of the day. While I waited my seatmates, Pam and George Carter from Colorado, told me a bit about their experiences on board and their son. John Carter, I discovered, was the young blond sailor who was checking names off during the man overboard drill yesterday.
Pearl and I joined other Tigers and sponsors on the main deck, which had been set up as a giant show-and-tell display by many of the ship’s departments.
We wandered from the Engineering display of paraphernalia used as part of their firefighting duties over to one of the open bays where Tigers were learning how to patch a broken water pipe, but more fun, getting a chance to go hands-on with a water hose.
As luck would have it, the Carters wandered by and I got to watch Pearl walk Pamela through how to hold a fully charged fire hose while George snapped photos.
We were out on one of the massive elevators, used to lift aircraft to the flight deck…suspended perhaps a hundred feet over the Pacific Ocean under a bright blue sky. It was surreal. The ocean this far out to sea is a totally amazing shade of blue, which I’d never seen before. A pure blue, almost translucent, stretching to meet a paler blue sky with clouds far on the horizon.
After the fire hose demonstration we continued to watch Tigers, both young and old, learning how to handle firearms under the watchful eyes of Marines.
Further back on the main deck mats were laid out and a dozen sailors were practicing martial arts. I learned from Master of Arms First Class Lorenzo Garcia of Stockton that their duties include law enforcement and defense of the ship using small arms and hands-on combat.
Still full from breakfast, we grabbed fruit from the lunch line. Pearl explained that often the fruit was whatever could be obtained locally…so today we had Asian pears, mangos, grapefruit, and blueberries. At other times they had more exotic fruit such as dragonfruit, guavas, and starfruit.
While she sat handing out assignments to her crew, I worked on some videos and then headed up to Vulture’s Row to watch Flight Ops rev up the engines on some of the helicopters on the flight deck. One chopper took off and passed by the ship several times before relighting on the deck.
Every vantage point was crowded with Tigers and sponsors, enjoying another clear windy day upside. Marines in brown camouflage and sailors in blue camouflage explaining the scene below or just relaxing in the sun together…an interesting juxtaposition of peaceful family life on a warship.
Pearl finally finished her duties and caught up with me and once again we headed into the bowels of the Makin Island.
I was finding that there was a real mix of hard work and relaxation as the ship headed across the Pacific towards its homeport. While the morning muster was formal, interchanges between supervisors and the work force were friendlier, to the point of banter. Work was assigned, reports handed in, and occasionally a serious undertone would score the importance of certain assignments. The mission at this point was to make certain all duties were completed before touching home base…otherwise leave might be endangered.
Navy time is sometimes confusing.
The Tiger handout I received on boarding showed a 5K walk/run this morning at 8am…however times change daily and we didn’t check the announcements the night before, so we nearly missed the 7am gathering time to sign in along with dozens of other sponsors and Tigers.
Already on deck were a handful of Marines and sailors doing their PT (physical training). The Navy has strict weight and body fat requirements and will crack down on individuals who do not stay within required parameters.
By 8am everyone had signed in and the event began with half of the runners heading towards the bow and the other half towards the fantail. A brisk wind I’d estimate at 20-25 miles an hour slowed progress forwards but made walking to the back of the ship easy.
Events such as this one really highlight the purpose of the Tiger Cruise. Fathers with daughters, mothers with sons, generations sprinting together or ambling side by side just enjoying some time together after a long separation.
You could see the pride of Marine dads as they allowed their daughters to keep up with them…and Navy sons slowing down to let fathers keep up. Or the young boy who used the heavy wind to fly past his Marine mother.
Once back at Pearl’s station one of Pearl’s officers told her to check the news because he’d heard of a fire between Stockton and Lodi.
The Navy takes care of its own – and part of this is a system to enroll family members into their system so that the military umbrella reaches out to ensure family is safe. This means checking in on family if there are floods, fires, or over events and if necessary, making sure they are evacuated.
After a tense fifteen minutes to enroll my husband into the system (he is still back home in the Lodi area) we learned that the fire was actually 35 miles east in the foothills. A false alarm, but it was gratifying to know there was a system in place to give service members some peace of mind about their families.
The bond between the sailors in Pearl’s department is a big part of the support system that makes life bearable during extended deployments. The Makin Island left back in November, just before Thanksgiving. During the past six months former strangers have become friends and family. Everywhere I go on this ship young people step aside or offer a hand. They wait patiently when I have at times struggled with the steep descents and ascents. Chairs are pulled out in offices. My title is either Ma’am to people who don’t know me or “Mom” to the young people in Pearl’s office.
I came on board three days ago…and already I feel as if I’m home.
Sunday we began rocking and rolling as the Makin Island hit weather on the way home. Most of the time the only movement has been a gentle tilting, barely noticeable. Today it became very evident, with the tilt becoming at times a lurch.
Sunday is the only day of the week when reveille is not sounded and sailors take advantage to sleep in late (or all day). A “steel beach picnic” had been planned for the Flight Deck, but due to inclement weather it was held on the main deck. Four long lines between two buffet tables with hot dogs, hamburgers, barbequed chicken, and spare ribs and all the sides. A game of basketball went on to there rear of the deck. Music blared.
Pearl and I chose to sit in the mess, which was only slightly quieter and then decided on an early bedtime.
Reveille sounded loud and clear Monday morning and Pearl rushed through breakfast while I met a new Tiger – a retired Sacramento police lieutenant, now living in Arizona. It seems every new Tiger I meet is from another state, so it was nice to talk with someone who actually knew where Lodi was. So far I’ve met Tigers from Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona, Texas, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.
When I caught up with Pearl at her muster, she was telling her DCPOs (Damage Control Petty Officers) that there’d be extra clean up tonight unless someone confessed to trashing their working area the night before. (She and another team member had swept and cleaned up before leaving and someone had messed up overnight.)
I then got a personal grand tour of the ship; from Medical (where I got some naproxen for my hip and knee pain) and then down six decks to the Central Control System where all ship systems are monitored. This is how the Damage Control crew keeps an eye out for potential problems and monitor emergencies as they occur. They can see and control everything from the septic system to water pressure in fire mains to hot spots on board.
Then it was up five decks to the access ladders to get four decks down to the main engine room, where I got to see both the gas and diesel systems and the main drive shafts for the propellers. These are the only areas on board I’ve been that were not chilly…but comfortably warm.
Back on the main deck Pearl perked up when she learned the ship’s mess was putting out free cases of water and Diet Coke for the taking. Sailors from different departments were grabbing cases and heading down to their shops, so she grabbed two cases of water and handed me two cases of soda – the reaction down below was upbeat when the free supplies arrived.
So here we sit…with a happy crew around us awaiting their assignments for the day. We are more than halfway home at this point and I’m ready to see land myself. The thought of working on this ship for as long as these young people have – more than seven months – and for some, days without seeing the sky, is more than I can imagine. What I can imagine is the explosion of bodies once the ship hits port and the crew is heading down the ramps to family and home.
Along about Day 8 the adventure began to become old. The constant movement of the ship…the engine and ventilation noise…the bone-piercing cold and metal walls penetrated and made real what our sailors and Marines live with for months on end. This is not a fun cruise, but day to day existence in a metal hull…with each individual performing their duties as part of a whole.
It is only now that I realize the yearning for solid land and home that our service men and women have and why with each wave we pass over and every minute that passes their smiles are broader and their steps lighter.
Along with the endless duties to keep the ship in perfect working condition and shipshape, aka clean, much is done to keep spirits up. From Monday’s lobster tail dinner to Sumo wrestling to last night’s Bingo game…from the library and college classes available…there always seems to be an event or opportunity to forget for a few minutes where you are.
But only for a few minutes.
One thing I do know. I will NOT be standing between any sailors on board when the gangplank is lowered and leave begins. And not just because they deserve an unfettered leave, but also for my own safety. I foresee a stampede to dry land in the near future.
I missed reveille for the first time this morning…or so I thought. In reality Pearl and most of the other females I was bunking with had been up for an hour or more, ironing their dress whites, applying make-up and helping each other with their hair.
Today is homecoming.
All of the sailors mustered on the hanger deck in their dress whites and then marched up the ramp to the flight deck. It was time to “man the rails.” Sailors marched around the edge of the flight deck until they were spread out within arms reach of each other, totally encircling the deck. More sailors were stationed below on the catwalk and above in Vulture’s Row.
It was cold and blustery and many of the young “tars” were shivering. But everyone was breaking into smiles as we made our way through the channel and past the Naval Air Station.
We passed the U.S.S. Midway, now on display in downtown San Diego – with its Welcome Home sign. Under the Coronado Bridge and towards Naval Base San Diego, and finally we were pushed up against Pier 13 by massive tugboats.
Below hundreds of family and friends waited and cheered. Everyone broke for below deck once the formalities were over, quickly packing and grabbing bags and heading back to the hanger deck to get into one last line.
The line out the door to freedom.
Being inside we missed another Navy tradition: first hug, first kiss, and new dad.Drawings were held for the first two, with two random sailors allowed off the ship before anyone else to greet their loved ones. All new dads were next…getting first glimpses of children born while they were at sea.
Then it was time for the rest of us.
Out the hanger doors, down three flights of stairs and onto solid ground for the first time in ten days. We passed through a guard gate and all around us sailors were greeting loved ones…and beyond the crowd was Pearl’s little sister Alexis, who grabbed and hugged her tight.
All that is left is the trip home for a relaxing night together.
Tomorrow is another day. Pearl has a 24 hour duty starting early in the morning, so her true freedom does not begin until Sunday. An interesting thought – that our soldiers and sailors live apart from family and friends, treasuring moments off ship and off base so that the rest of us are protected and can lead our lives free – often totally unaware of their service and sacrifice.
Yep. It WAS an experience. And what I experienced was just a moment in time compared to what our troops experience daily.
And now for the link to Videojournalism. The story of what I did and why. Some of the resulting videos are linked above…what you may not have realized is about 95 percent of what I shot on this trip was done on a Kodak Playtouch z10. Yep – a point and shoot.
The book I’m co-authoring with Larry Nance will cover all bases/all gear from P&S through consumer and prosumer with a dash of DSLR thrown in. While I’ve used the last three, I only had a passing nod to the P&S gear.
And I will tell you that with all of the climbing up and down ladders ( I refuse to believe anything that steep is a staircase…sorry) having a camera I could shove into my pocket was a real savior.
In fact – here’s my gear kit for most of the shooting I did. One small camera bag. One Playtouch. One mini-jack lav mike. An extra battery. And two teensy tiny super-cute lens adapters (wide angle and tele). I took along a tripod but only used it once – and because the wind very nearly swept it away on the flight deck along with the camera, I returned to hand-holding the camera for security.
Shooting was a real lesson. Cameras at this level are pretty basic – fixed lens with digital zoom. So I had to zoom with my arms and legs. No manual control. Goodbye aperture control, while balance, focus. Oh wait – there was a switch topside so I could take (mountain icon) kind of infinite focus shots or (flower) close-ups. Not enough heft to help me balance it properly…I had to learn the correct way to hold it, all the while avoiding touching the touchscreen (which was very sensitive).
And my shooting style changed and along with it, my editing style. While you can tell a full story with a variety of angles and shots and you can (thanks to the mike input) do interviews with good sound, you have to think it through and plan accordingly.
My plan was to shoot a series of short nats videos to post quickly and have enough back-up video to eventually produce two more longer videos. One on the trip itself and the other on how I used the camera on the trip. And that’s where I pulled in my Canon HV30…to shoot some standups with me explaining the Playtouch and to get some shots the Playtouch couldn’t – good telephoto shots of aircraft flying by and LPACs coming and going.
By way of closing, I’d like to recognize PAO (public affairs officer) MCCS Donnie Ryan for tolerating my pleas for help and helping post videos and send postings while underway. He struggled mightily with the ship’s balky Internet until he saw success. Thank you for your efforts.
I’ve been to two of these in the past week with another one coming up on Thursday. For you newbies, a dog and pony show used to be a small traveling circus – but in the biz it is a show put on for the entertainment of the media or the masses (see Addendum at end). In the case of my projects, it was more for the masses than the media, but still each had its challenges.
Generally D&Ps are not real visual stories. Oh, the folks pushing them may think they’re the most wonderful thing in the world, but trust me. Visual they ain’t. So it’s up to the VJ covering the event to discover and reveal the true meaning or purpose of the event.
There are a couple of ways to present stories like these. Example: the first event was an awards ceremony at a local college. At this event I was taping my high school MESA (Math, Science, Engineering Achievement) team receiving awards and I didn’t want to work the crowd or the stage so I set up beside the sound board in the back of the room and plugged in to get good audio. Venue: a large dark auditorium. I just rolled on the speeches and presentations. That was it. When I edited, all I was aiming for was snippets of the event. Four videos focusing on four different speeches or presentations. Rote shoot and playback.
The second event was an hour and a half speech by a New York Times best selling author. There was something of interest – his service dog. Venue: a large flatly lit general purpose room. So I got some b-roll of the dog before the speech and then the book-signing afterwards. And rolled (and rolled) on the speech. The library wanted to document the event and pretty much is letting me decide what to do with it. This time I’ll pick out the four or five best sound bites from the speech and string them together, but will also do a mini-package TV style for them to post on their website using the b-roll.
Final event will be a presentation to a local legislator at a lunch for disabled veterans. Venue: a military armory set up with lunch tables for the vets. For this one I’ll skip the shoot and playback and just do a simple package, most likely focusing on either the re-election race the congressman is in or use the presentation as a way to segue to issues of veterans in today’s society. Don’t know yet and don’t want to predict what might strike my fancy.
You’ll notice that I kind of had a plan for each story – and I had that plan BEFORE I headed out to shoot. Having a plan is important so you have a sense of direction of where to take the story. Equally important is being able to change as the story changes…being flexible. So while the MESA event was pretty much set in stone, the library event had some wiggle room because I had a client and more time. And the veterans event has yet to happen, so I need to keep my options open.
Each of these venues, by the way, had the same feel even though they are very different. A focal point up front with an audience watching. Not a lot happening, so you, as the storyteller, have to make it happen with images you see and capture and words you write to explain.
How to shoot these? Unless you have a prepared copy of the speeches (and trust me, with politicians you often do) be prepared to roll at any point. Generally once a speaker gets their pacing, it is after the opening remarks and obligatory thank yous (to everyone on the planet it it seems). Second best roll time is towards the end as they summarize. But don’t be caught off guard…those great sound moments can pop up anywhere and you need to be prepared. Just as important – you need to NOT roll. A lot of speeches are mundane, too technical, not focused, or even just plain bad. What you are aiming for are highlights that will help your audience understand the gist of the event.
While you are shooting you need to determine how you will present the information and video. Sometimes you’ll just go with a SOT (sound on tape or sound bites), other times you may want to explain more and add narration and b-roll. So cover your bases and get those cover shots (of the dog, of people listening). Don’t forget your wide, medium, and close-ups. Assess the audience and get shots of folks leaning forward or sleeping. Shoot the signs and literature. Find those shots that will help you, in the end, tell the story.
Addendum: more on dog and pony shows. Literally speaking, they are somewhat meaningless entertainment – not opera or true art, but a mild distraction put out there for those out of the mainstream. Today the meaning is tilted more towards a show put on just to put on a show…to attract attention with no real purpose other than that. I’m gonna hafta give that my first two projects probably don’t fit that category…the awards ceremony had meaning and the author talk was educational (even thought there WAS a dog involved). Gonna have to wait and see on the political presentation though.
I’m posting videos two and three up top here/read the backstory below. As soon as video one is cleared for public view, will put it up also.
Apparently I can’t embed this one/so here’s the link: Click Here.
There is absolutely NOTHING like a pending deadline to get those creative juices running.
I have two videos and both are due tomorrow. Due to factors beyond my control, shooting wasn’t completed until Saturday and then life got in the way of editing. So at 6am this morning I dove into the projects.
Neither of these is scripted by the way – they’re both for an arts organization in San Jose and I have plenty of good interview sound (12+ minutes of edited-down bites) and cover shots (mine and the ahem…stuff they provided/more on that later). Plus I’ve got a whiz banger of a college student trying to prove his creds by creating a music bed for me. Oh – and I already jammed together a short demo for both them and a contest last week. But I want both of these vids to be new/different.
So how do you produce a video or two on deadline without a script? It helps that I interviewed the three main players with the organization and got not only great sound bot a sound understanding of what they’re doing. It also helps that they’ve given me a lot of freedom to pull this off (no bosses hanging over me nitpicking away at my every thought and edit).
My first goal is to lay down the audio bed for the one minute version. Plus a drifting logo. Done. That defines my time constraints – and I like to be right down to the nanosecond on that.
Right now I’m logging the sound – I already pulled the relevant bites and am transcribing and noting TRT for each. Then it’s off to the kettle for another cuppa tea while I read over the transcripts and mull over my strategy. I’ll grab a series of strong sound bites and play with them and the music bed…then slam in some strong b-roll. That should take care of v id1 in a few hours.
The longer and more challenging project has to be in storytelling mode and three to ten minutes long. More on that later…
(About the “aham” above…while the videos provided for b-roll from my arts org are okay, they are not professionally shot, although I will say one had an pretty good editor. I had no raw footage, which is my preference. Plus downloading standard def youtube videos is not my idea of image acquisition. Not to mention the issues of using hi def and standard def in the same project…but we can make this work. You do what you have to do.)
Day Two: Saved! My volunteer music creator came through early this morning (well, he emailed it last night) and I was able to drop the music bed in in place of the old one. It sings and zings! Trying to showcase a complex organization in a minute or less is a challenge, but one I’m pretty sure I pulled off. Music bed/sound bites, and b-roll and stills, all woven together into a tight little bundle. Into the Dropbox by 9am and on to video #2.
Now when I’m doing a series of related vids and know I’ll be using the same resources I take an easy shortcut. Stole the sound bites from the Artshots video and copied to video timeline #1 from yesterday. After logging new sound, I marked and popped the new bites into the same timeline and then created a new sequence for my final video project/the one I’m working on now and moved a copy of all bites over to that timeline. Saves a lot of time and grief.
Each of these videos has to be a bit difference. Artshots video had to be a 90 second sizzler. #2 video (for TechSoup) had no boundaries except it had to run about a minute. #3 video (for Cisco) can run up to ten minutes long…which is nice. I can just pick a pace and edit along until it is done – and right now I’m hanging in there at about five minutes. Just about right. Once the flurry is over (say about a month from now) I’ll link to all three so you can see how they went.
…okay, time for some overinflated self-promoting grandizing.
A bud of mine – Larry Nance (no not THAT one, THIS one) and I have been working on and off for the past five or more years on a textbook on videojournalism. We kind of slowed down and resumed normal life for a while, but then decided this year to make the push and get it done.
Problem is technology has changed so much we’ve pretty much had to do a major re-write. So we’re each writing a chapter or so a week and meeting weekly to discuss what to do next.
Larry – he’s the artist, video production guy, and businessman. Me? I’m the newsie.
But between us we harbor a wealth of information and tips.
The book is becoming a reality – I almost want to say, “Slowly.” But that aint’ the truth. It is moving along at a respectable pace and (fingers crossed and don’t hold us to this deadline) may be done with the writing portion by the end of May.
What’s up next? Planning and shooting the visuals (stills) and accompanying video (examples and raw footage to practice editing). That will add on another month…and then.
….publish…???…yeah, right. PUBLISH!!!
If you want to have input, go to The Basics of Videojournalism and check out the Knowledge Base. Let us know if there’s anything we should add or delete or change. Time’s a-wastin and once this puppy is done…well I’d like to think it is done…but reality tells me we need to stay on top of it and make sure it stays CURRENT.
Used to hear versions of this every day when I was still working the field. How come you’re covering THAT story? Why don’t you do some GOOD news? I called your station and they won’t cover (insert grand opening of brother’s store, daughter’s ballet recital, whatever…here).
So I’m about to give away some dirty little secrets and (if you listen carefully) some pretty solid tips on how to get a bit of broadcast news coverage. All of the following is pretty much verbatim in answer to a request from a member of my husband’s church. She had a friend who was opening a fitness center. From any angle (except a few of mine) a non-news story. One word. Boring. But here’s what I suggested.
If I knew how to make the media do anything, I would. But there are ways to get to the top of the pile for consideration. Realize that every day every media outlet has hundreds if not thousands of requests to cover events. The trick is to make it topical – current and of interest to a wider audience. Make the media WANT to come.
My first thought was…oh no (remember, I’m a slug) not another fitness center. THEN I saw it was located right next to Donut King and got a chuckle out of that. Also…seeing that one of the classes has already been featured on ABC (nationally or locally????) is a plus. There is interest in anything new and unusual.
So…you need to plan your strategy, remembering even then that it is hit or miss. And even if you do get a call saying they may come to do the story…a breaking news story will cancel any plans.
Do NOT push this as a grand opening. The interest is more in what is new and different. I don’t know the hours for your grand opening or if they would allow media in before (a day or two)…but you might consider aiming at the morning shows. There isn’t a lot of news happening at 5am most days, so if you offer a live crew an opportunity to send the reporter in to sweat it out and learn how to use the new gear or learn a new movement (reporter participation is good), then you may get a crew down. If you contact the Record you should have the same pitch…although they are more likely to cover a class after the fact than a grand opening. The business of news media is to provide information and to some extent entertainment…which is why I recommend selling the story in some way other than “a store is opening up.”
Send your first release out about two weeks before the event (email or snail mail). Follow up a few days later with a short phone call – “Hi, just checking to see if you got the information on the fitness center and their new (equipment) and (whatever the class is). If you’re interested in doing an early live shot, we’d be glad to have your crew test out the (class and/or equpment). Keep it short…and the best times to call are 5:30am-8:30am, then 9:30 to 11am, then 1pm to 4pm. Why? If you call during or near the time a show begins (with the exception of daybreak news) they won’t really be listening to you. If they are abrupt it may mean they are dealing with a lot of pressure due to breaking news or changes in the schedule. Yeah…lotsa stress in a broadcast newsroom.
Whatever you send out – KEEP IT SIMPLE. The “5 Ws.” Who, What, When, Where, Why. Plus a SHORT graph with your pitch.
All it took was a bit of planning…and the daybreak “happy talk” news show in the area bit – hook and line – and her friend’s store was a star for a brief moment in the market.
Lesson to remember: news departments don’t have to come to your event. Their job is to provide a service to a wider community…in the case of TV stations is is generally regional. Their job is to provide news and information that are meaningful to the lives of their audience. Your little store opening or dancing daughter only has meaning to a small group of people. In order to get your story to the top of the food chain you have to provide an angle that will make it more palatable to the assignment editor and of interest to a larger audience. Good luck with that.
Every now and then ya get a student who is worth it. So Kathy Vang, one of those rare ones and now a former student and a college freshman, sent out an appeal for a volunteer to shoot a benefit fashion show being produced by the San Joaquin Delta College Fashion Event Production class. Sucker that I am, (for memorable students) I agreed.
And I soon saw why Kathy was so passionate. She’s had a continuing love of style since I’ve known her and her new (I am NOT jealous) mentor, Leslie Asfour, was the quiet kind of leader I admire. She has the magical touch that allows students to lead and learn and love what they are doing.
On to practical matters.
Event videography is simple and challenging. First rule: get there early enough to scope the place out and choose shooting locations. Took me about fifteen minutes of questioning and roaming to select my spots…and another five or so the change my mind and set up in better locations. The event had chairs arranged around three “runways” … really just wide aisles between chairs. Models would be walking up Runway 1, then as they paused at Runway 2, another model would enter and the two models would walk the length of the runways, return and move over the the next walkway. Eventually there were models walking all three runways simultaneously.
So the HV20 with wide angle adapter centered on Runway 2 and included Runway 1 in the background. Classic wide shot.
My little babycam…an original Canon ZR10 (and my FIRST digital video camera) may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but it gets my vote for longevity and for being a good back-up camera. The plan for this little sweetie was to focus on the main staging area…the lights at the head of Runway 2…to capture the sass and toss before the walk.
In editing I’m planning on using the HV20 as the bed…with the ZR10 an overlay in a box, mirroring whatever shows in the HV20 video.
Final camera on the floor was my Panasonic HMC150. Handheld for cutaways and shots leading up to the event. Folks wandering in…wine poured…hors d’œuvres making the rounds. Yep. Very genteel.
The lights dimmed and as the music started, I hit the record buttons on the HV20 and ZR10. And worked up a sweat getting my cutaways. Held the camera sideways, rotated with models, did some floor and static tripod shots with plans to edit, edit, edit. Brain on…plotting shots out three, four, ten ahead of the record button. Sequencing a story.
We’ll see how this works. Video is in the hard drive and I’m converting the standard def ZR10 over to high def so I can edit it in with the video from the other two cameras.
And this wasn’t entirely altuistic on my part. With an eight year old demo reel, I need some sizzle to attract clients. So the plan is to give my “clients” what they want – a show tape…and then create my own short and long form videos.
Oh…all the while working on a dishcrawl and some family videos. Never let it be said I’m lazy. (or bored)
NOTE: as with many events, you are competing or working alongside other photographers. At this venue there were at least four still photogs (not counting the many handheld cameraphones, flip cameras, DSLRs in the audience). We had a quiet pow-wow before the event, staking out our shooting areas. The official photog claimed the floor at the end of the main runway, while the others chose Runways 1 and 3. I let them know I’d be working all areas and would stay out of their way. Rule of thumb: work WITH other photogs. They are NOT the competition…just folks like you, trying to get their job done.
Another rule of thumb: DON’T block the audience. They are paying to see. A quick way to lose a client is to loose what is important to them…paying customers. So while we did our silent ballet, shooting models and angling for the best shots, we also were all very mindful of the audience.
How do you make this work? Have eyes all over your body. Seriously. Know where the players are…where you need to be…where your subject is, was, and will be. Figure out the patterns in the room and take advantage of them.
As the only videographer I had to really work the room. While still photogs can stake out a spot and aim for that one best moment, I had to get all three runways, low/high angles…everything my lock-down cams weren’t getting. And while they could, for the most part, shoot around me…I needed spurts of real time to get my shots.
But – hey – it all worked out. We left shaking hands and thanking the DJ for his smooth moves…and moved along to our own personal versions of post.
Thanks to Advancing the Story for the 25 Commandments For Journalists.
…15 or more years ago to an invitation to do some media training for a group of Elsevier editors. I began compiling them because I had just asked myself what was the most important thing to remember about writing a story, and the answer came back loud and clear: “To make somebody read it.”
My two favorites:
5. Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. “No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand.”
6. And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says “Nobody has to read this crap.”