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OK…so this is totally shameless self-promotion.
Larry Nance and I have completed the first edition of the Teacher’s Supplement to The Basics of Videojournalism.
This 90 page coil bound book will soon be available at the Journalism Education Association Bookstore.
Contents include more than thirty lesson plans for teachers to instruct budding VJs, as well as suggestions for setting up and teaching a class, forms (Syllabus, Equipment Liability Waiver, templates for scripts) and sample rubrics.
But don’t wait too long. This is limited (at this time) to the 25 books that are being hand delivering to the NSPA/JEA conference in San Francisco tomorrow morning. So pick up your copy there or hop online to order.
…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Trouble is – they’re more than ninety-five years out of date.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.
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.
…technologies that is.
So in my gear bags I have stuff that is more than a decade old that can be married with my new toys. We’re talking June-December weddings here folks. Analog and digital. Fresh out of the box and faded with time.
My mainstay tripod/now too heavy for everyday use (purchased in 2002) is firmly fixed to the short jib I got a year ago. Old heavy tripod is a perfect base for a jib. Can hold the twenty pound weights and give a stable platform for shooting.
Ditto the XLR cables and Electrovoice mike. Old technology…heck dating back to the seventies (not mine but the concept). It can be married to any out-of-the-box camera.
I guess what I’m getting at is that while new is nice and in some cases better, some old stuff just won’t die.
I have a Canon ZR10…picked it up on ebay a few years ago. I have fond memories of my first digital camera…same camera…that I got right after bailing from news in 2002. Just couldn’t live without a camera in hand and it was affordable at the time (on a rookie teacher’s stipend).
That little baby still works and I pull it out occasionally just for old times sake. It has an amazing zoom, audio inputs…and while the quality is most definitely NOT high def, it puts out an acceptable image.
My gear bags are a combination of new and old, fresh-faced and creaky-old. I keep what works and find ways to marry it with what is current to make images that matter.
So if you’re out there in dreamtime wanting the best and newest, realize that it’s only gear. What really counts is your vision…what comes out of using the gear. Videojournalism is NOT about having all of the toys. It is about telling the story.
…again. Retro can be all the rage…and if you haven’t skidded over the 30 year mark, then either sit back and enjoy the ride or skedaddle. If you’re looking back at fifty, enjoy the memories.
It’s happened again.
There’s a whole generation now who have not lived without something I could never have conceived of at their age.
I was the generation that thought transistor radios, cars and TV were just, well, ordinary. (My folks saw them as a foothold to the future.) But then man landed on the moon and we all saw stars and beyond. The universe was ours.
Next thing you know we have a generation who ho-hums space exploration. In fact, they see it as something their parents and grandparents did. None of that stuff for them…they’d rather send out the robots.
Today co-author and friend Larry Nance sent me a link to something from our past…from the early days of visual storytelling.
Back in the day we shot on something called film. Kind of a bendable plastic coated on one side with a thin veneer of silver hallaide embedded in a gel. (I’m hoping here that the lesson of silver tarnishing in reaction to sunlight hasn’t been forgotten.) The film came in various sizes to fit different cameras (think SD or compact flash cards). Sizes ranged from 8mm to 16mm to 35mm and upwards. While the upper ranges belonged to the pros (and were prohibitively expensive), the smallest sizes (8mm and super-8 primarily) were affordable enough for home movie-makers.
Unlike today’s memory cards which just sit there and absorb data, film was mechanically pushed and pulled through the camera. On a still camera it was frame by frame…one shot per frame, then push the crank to advance. In “movie” or “film” cameras it clattered through at 24 frames per second. To make things even more fun, if you had a camera that could shoot audio (aka single system sound), then the audio was recorded 28 frames BEFORE the visuals.
How do I know all this? Years of shooting news with a single system sound 16mm camera. Years of threading said film into said camera. Years of editing A, B, C roll (and beyond!).
So what is this vision from the past that is sparking this posting?
Why the Digital Bolex of course.
In days of yore Bolex made some pretty nifty gear…small handheld numbers with a handle on the bottom for ease of use. And the new DB (Digital Bolex) has the retro look of its grandpappy. But with new guts and interchangeable lenses from what I can see.
So no more threading film…no more messy chemicals…just pop in the CF card and you’re out shooting in the style of yesteryear. It even has a 16mm mode (I gotta get me one of those!).
…determine who is equal.
Strange how similar discussions take place with very different people in far ranging venues.
So women are finally allowed to be “equal” in the military and over on the NPPA facebook page there’s a lengthy thread about equality. Some who think there never can really be equality and some who say it is a step forward.
After going around and around in some of the sparring I came to an epiphany: Those who make the rules determine who is equal. Those who have no input into the rules can never be equal.
So if I’m part of a bunch of guys wearing wigs in the 1700s and we decide that “all men are equal” it’s really just our way of saying guys like us. It takes two hundred years to look around and slllllooooooowwwwwllllyyy change the rules because, well not everyone’s happy with them. But in changing the rules I’m giving up my control, my power. The guys like me aren’t always happy about it. And even though it’s a rule…the law…I can kinda ignore it until I’m caught. Then they slap my hands a few times and I know it will take forever to really make that law effective.
Why the fuss here?
Let’s time hop back to the early 1970s. Freshly minted diploma and eager to work, I got told way too often that I wasn’t getting interviewed BECAUSE I WAS FEMALE and nothing could force a company to even look at me.
Well I didn’t want to force anyone to do anything…I just wanted a job. And I know (now) at that time there were millions of other women, blacks, Asians, you name it all in the same predicament.
Thank you FCC for that ruling in the summer of 74 for mandating that anyone using the airways in this country HAD to consider all comers. What happened is there was a scramble to hire anything female or not part of the mainstream white male culture that controlled broadcasting in those times. (Not saying that was a good thing…because in those early years there were some pretty bad hiring decisions made in haste, but over time those who couldn’t hack it were history.)
The door was open and I went in.
Six months after getting my first job I went to an NPPA workshop taught by Ernie Crisp. Who told the assembled newbies that women would never be able to work as broadcast cameramen because the gear was too heavy for them. That was the mainstream thinking of the day.
Hmmmm….guess I wasn’t good at listening, cause I stayed under cameras for the next 25+ years.
Those who make the rules determine who is equal.
Think about it.
…and its deep rooted trust of technology.
I’m an old geezeress. Got my toehold in news in the waning days of film, shifted to 3/4 tape and took off running and never looked back.
One thing that was embedded in my nerve system was to always use manual controls…never trust the machine. This was especially important in the early days of tape. Even with manual control of audio the gain control on those rinky dink cameras and record decks would flatten out loud sounds. So say you were taping a gun battle or explosion…all you’d get would be a Whoosh! Capped off the high points.
Same thing with auto focus and iris. Trust the machine and your aperture would open and close with each passing white t-shirt and your focus would track whatever hit its sweet spot. Kind of like being on a trip to hallucinationland…your camera on auto was like a happy hippie on hemp.
And white balance…in the early days there was a single setting on the camera. Auto White. Now that was a mite confusing because the Auto White actually required you to push a button to set the white balance. Skip the Auto White and your video would go green or blue.
Years later some smart geek added in what is now called Auto White…where the camera does all the work. Most of the time acceptably.
So what’s the deal? Well today I had a facebook posting interchange with a former student about LED lights (and their lack for full spectrum color) and the need to use warm cards to white balance.
His response…white balance today is good enough you don’t need to manually balance.
This young man is part of today’s video revolution where good enough is good and you trust your camera to give you that. If the camera doesn’t get it right on, save it in post.
I suppose I should take hope in his raw talent…but if he aspires to become more than a wedding videographer he is going to get that hard slap of reality when he attempts to transition to the very real and professional world of cinematography and movie making. I’m not pushing it, but am gently (and not so gently) nudging and giving advice.
Yeah…just call me a geezer and leave me to wander back into my own world of how to do it the right way. I’ve had this conversation before with others and “good enough” ain’t good enough for me.
New means hope. New birth. New life. New Year. A fresh slate and the opportunity to re-write our old lives and mistakes…to move forward and become better.
Today I close out my Cyndy Green/thinknews facebook account. That was new last year and while it was entertaining and fairly easy to pull off, it had zero effect on my life, either personally or professionally. Flushed out of my system by the end of the day. (Word of warning: when you attempt to delete a page, facebook does NOT make it easy. There’s a twelve day waiting period. I won’t even go into what is involved in deleting your original account.)
But before going I added a posting, courtesy of a friend – Disruptive Innovation – and right now I’m reading one of the links from that article: Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism, about Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen’s theory (and books).
Scary stuff this. In my youth we would have called it mind-bending. And it is – this concept flip-flops conventional knowledge that businesses sell products and newspapers sell news to all businesses are answering the call from individuals who want to hire them to do a job – to fill time.
So if I have play time, I may want Disney to “sell” me a vacation at Disneyworld. If I have the “job” of getting to work from home, I can consider hiring public transit, a taxi, or an auto dealer to give me a mode of transportation to fill my “job” requirement.
Which brings us to journalism. Here’s how traditional journalism works:
Most traditional news organizations operate a value chain that is made up of three distinct parts. First, there is the newsgathering; this comprises all the resources and processes required to collect, write, shoot, edit, produce and package news and information. Second, there is the distribution of the product; this encompasses all the ways that news organizations get their content into the hands of the audience. Third, there is the selling of the news; this part includes not only sales and subscriptions but also advertising and marketing.
Christensen advocates finding ways to fill the “job orders” of an audience who has time to fill on a commute or waiting in line for a cup of coffee.
Now this is not a light read…and there is a lot to absorb, made easy by examples of disruptive innovation from the past and present…and businesses that failed to heed the new and those that are riding the crest and succeeding.
One scary concept: cannibalism. We often joke in news that we eat our young. The disruptive theory states that if your business is going to be taken down by disruptive innovation, it is best that YOU be the disrupter…the cannibal who devours itself. The odds of survival are increased for the company if it attempts to reinvent itself, keeping the parts that work, rather than simply dying because another company took the best and won.
Now this information is in my system, it is time to mull over its meaning…
Oh – and here’s one of my favorite lines in the article:
A cautionary note: Due to the rapidly changing media landscape, some of the examples provided in presenting these frameworks may no longer be relevant.
Things change THAT quickly.
…and it caught me off guard.
Here’s the scoop. The traditional model of TV news is a building with employees who scatter like ants every day in search of news. They are given assignments by the assignment desk or take off running at the sound of a breaker. In the past these jobs were well-paid, stable employment. The public saw those who worked in the biz are part of the glamour industry.
Trouble is the word “glamour” has two meanings. Compelling charm/beauty or enchantment. Trickery.
That “glamour” is only surface deep. But enough of that. Back on track.
The new paradigm revealed itself beginning last week, picked up speed, and slapped me in the face. And it’s right in character for these times.
I’ve run across or been made aware of at least four new businesses that are seeking videojournalists to either contract with them to sell already produced stories or to pitch stories for production. All of these companies host the videos, seek out buyers, take their percentage, and then pass a payment on to the VJ. Sometimes substantial, sometimes not. (I’m guessing more of the latter than the former.)
Another thing all four have in common is a requirement to sign a contract with clauses mandating ethical behavior.
The types of stories being solicited range from international breaking news to entertainment to features.
I tell you…at this point in time at this time in my life this seems heaven sent.
Too old to get a job at the traditional station (old ugly and cantankerous) but too young to curl up, retire and die (inside and out). Working on my own on stories I want to produce.
Maybe I’ll curtail the curtness and try the sweet ole lady act.
Don’t think so.
In the beginning there was the Newsreel Cameraman. Hauling around more gear than a pack mule, he (no shes back then) covered the news and view of the nine-teens and twenties, joined by an Audio Man in 1927.
That was the original VJ. Rough and tumble, but always got the story.
These NR guys held on tenaciously through the birth of television, only getting phased out in the 1960s when the majority of the public chose the boob-tube over the big screen for their daily dose of what’s happening.
In the meantime a new term sprang up on the broadcast side of news: OMB. One man band. A reinvention of the NRC, they (once again) hauled around a camera, audio gear and enough love of news and what’s happening to gather the news in their markets for a hungry audience. I’m guesstimating maybe late 1950s with film and optical audio through…hmmm, today’s digital workflow.
And now we have divergence.
Sometime in the 1990s print photographers discovered an entirely new unheard of medium. They called it multimedia. It was all new – if you could actually believe editing sound with your still photos and then playing it back. Wow.
Then these brave pioneers moved on to an even greater discovery. Something they called video. Imagine, if you can, moving images with audio embedded! Why the world had never seen the likes of it before. But what were they going to call themselves if they no longer shot stills?
Well there were a number of options. Out of the nation’s capitol came the term Backpack Journalist. Made sense because (theoretically) you could fit camera, computer…your entire office into a backpack. Visual Storyteller was another one. Multimedia Journalist or Storyteller was another choice. But most of them went for Video Journalist. And so they laid claim to this new territory as original and new and totally theirs.
Um…but what about those broadcast folks? Weren’t they shooting video too?
Not they way we are, chimed the (print) VJs. Our style of storytelling is unique. We’re not TV.
Looking at it from afar (and for a while from the middle of it) I’d say the two are pretty much doing the same thing.
1) Both use cameras
2) Both gather sound
3) Both work alone to gather and disseminate visuals stories to their audiences
1) Broadcast VJs tend to use cameras meant for “run and gun” shooting with easy to access exterior controls, professional audio connectors, and good zoom lenses.
Print VJs opt for hybrid DSLRs that shoot both stills and video. While they have more control over depth of field with a wide variety of interchangeable lenses, they must also add-on audio accessories and other gadgets.
2) BVJs generally run on a tighter schedule with more packed into a day and more expected of them. Anything from a single package to a few VOs and VOSOTS to a combination of all of the above.
PVJs may have to shoot multiple stories daily also, but often seem to use video for more long form stories or VO/VOSOTS.
3) A good BJV can turn an exquisite daily story using a variety of options from a NATS pkg to pkg complete with narration and stand-up. Day after day, week after week.
A good PVJ can turn an exquisite story in a few days (from what I hear and see on the professional boards) generally a NATS pkg using the voice of the interview subject rather than narration.
You may have guessed two things by now. I tend to favor the BVJ…but there are some equally damned good PVJs out there. The good ones have more in common than not. They live and breathe visual storytelling. They see the kernels of truth, the compelling images, and understand the flow of time and words well enough to go beyond the basics. And more importantly, they learn from everything…from each other, from their subjects…each story is an opportunity to get better.
Why this posting? Just had to get it out of my system. Don’t want history written up improperly with the lineage of VJs lost to the most vocal shooters. Those quiet guys behind behemoth hand-cranked cameras deserve their place in the books too. (And don’t forget…many of them were former still photogs.)