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The blessing and bane of being a VJ is getting paid to do what you love. If you’re lucky, you have a staff job with an understanding news director or editor who knows that you will give your all if s/he treats you right. That means a living wage and a reasonable amount of time to do stories you love mixed in with the day-to-day assignments.
But that’s not the reality for most current and aspiring VJs. Love is one thing. Earning an income is another.
I’ve been checking out some sites that purport to channel VJ videos into potential cash flows. Although most cater to breaking news, there is room for other types of stories too. Read carefully and check each out yourself before leaping on board.
First up is cont3nt.com. Founded by former National Geographic employee Anton Gelman, cont3nt.com is the new kid on the block. Like most of the sites below, its emphasis is on breaking news…getting your just-shot breakers up on the site and out marketed to a global market. He has a variety of contracts from short-term limited to total buyout. Nice part is that if you have current clients he won’t horn in on them…but he does open up new market potential. All business is transacted directly by the freelancer and the client…cont3nt.com does not get involved in anything beyond providing the platform and collecting a small fee per transaction. They do require (as most do) that you sign an ethics statement. cont3nt.com also has a ratings system for their VJs…the more experience you have and the more and higher quality stories you provide, the higher your ranking.
eLance seems to be a meeting place on steroids for those seeking temporary workers and freelancers of all ilks, not just videographers. Potential employers post a job then view the matched freelancers. They have to deposit the full amount of the quote from the freelancer plus the commission to eLance…freelancer paid either when the job is done or when milestones are reached. Not just a VJ site though you may find the occasional gig there.
empahs.is is a crowdfunding platform for visual journalists. You have to provide the usual: a short proposal of two or three sentences, one page proposal outlining the scope/relevance of said project, your personal (short) bio, links to your work and a video pitch. Offhand this looks more like a still visual storyteller site…but check it out and let us know what you find out.
reportersunited is not just for the word folks…it’s actually targeting VJs. Like cont3nt.com it seeks breaking stories, but also wants good factual features. And I’ve worked with their team just enough to know they will seek clients if you have a good idea…and they act as an intermediary between VJ and client to ensure the story fits the need. What else you need to know: independent video news agency, adherence to journalism standards of facts/conduct/ethics, global distribution (all of these sites provide that).
storyhunter was founded by VJs and although you can provide story ideas, they also provide assignments you can sign up for. They do screen, so no newbies here. Their emphasis is serious work and breakers for working VJs.
transterramedia is another global site that accepts pitches from VJs and matches them up with clients. They do breaking news but accept hard-hitting general news and features. They do screen before allowing VJs on board and do work closely with their contributors (this from experience).
Vourno is fresh off the press…came out less than two weeks ago. It is a crowdsourcing platform aimed at “Vournos” or video journos. They solicit “pubs” to provide support and funding for projects you propose. The VJ owns the rights to their work…what Vourno does is provide exposure for VJs and their story ideas to a public willing to pay to see a story through. This is not an income stream where you are paid to work…your story is funded for what it will cost to produce and then you are free to market it to clients once it has appeared on the Vourno site for a specified amount of time.
Realize that I’ve vastly condensed the information and approach each of the above sites is taking…but the bottom line is they are potential money-makers if you have the skills, ideas, and commitment to follow through and provide what you promised.
In addition to these there are job/gig websites, including staffmeup, productionhub, mandy, mediamatch, journalismjobs. You can find others by doing a web search with the type of job you’re interested in and “job board.” These offer short and long-term gigs and even full-time jobs. Pay ranges from (what else) free to union scale.
So as bleak as the full-time staff market may be…if you are enterprising and industrious you may be able to make your passion a paying profession.
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.
Cameragod down under came up with a novel concept to booster the rep of one of my favorite sites – b-roll. (b-roll is the go-to site for broadcast news cameramen to discuss gear, gossip and more.)
Here is his tip – and a great one it is. I would never have thought of this.
And here is my tip – and oldie but goodie. Especially if you’re fairly new to the biz.
I look forward to more of these and hope to learn from an amazing group of peers.
…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.
…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!).
…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.
Technology makes everything obsolete, sometimes within days or even hours of a purchase. This holds true with pretty much everything related to videojournalism. Except.
The support gear.
What is support gear? Well it includes tripods, lights, mikes (and cables).
Like others, I tend to focus at times too much on the camera, the image, the quality of what I’m shooting when equal play should be given to what holds the camera, lights the image, and captures the sound.
So if you’re looking to get into the field of videojournalism (or related fields) make sure you include those items that make you a true pro and will most likely outlast your camera (or your next few cameras).
I have an Electrovoice 635 stick mike I got back in 2002. If it runs true to its siblings used in news, it may well last forty or fifty years. A solid hunk of metal…no batteries required. Wired of course…and I have several XLR cables to connect it to whatever camera I’m using.
For reaching further there’s the Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mike. Needs a battery or is phantom powered through the camera and can really reach out and grab sound.
And finally the Lectosonics wireless system…which can be used with the lav mike (clipped on to subject) or allows me to hook up the 635 or ME66 so they can go wireless.
You notice I have three different mikes. Stick mike/635 for general use and run and gun. Shotgun for sitdown or on the run interviews or nats. Lav mike when I want my gear to disappear and not be seen but still give me the freedom to move around.
Tripods – right up there with microphones as a necessity. A tripod is a platform to give your camera stability and allow the audience to see your images without shaking or the jitters. A good tripod may set you back anywhere from $400 to thousands, but again, will outlast your camera(s).
What to look for? Well the less you pay, the less you get. The minimum should be a half ball or full ball fluid head. That gives you good movement and lets you level the head w/out having to constantly adjust the legs. Worth every cent.
I have four full size tripods and a few little ones. My mainstay is a Libec DV22/half ball head. Then the old heavy duty Bogen, which is now used with my jib. A couple of lightweights – cheap little Slick and a no-name really lightweight set of sticks.
The toy tripods are a Pentax tabletop and the Press Grip. The latter lets me hang a camera or microphone pretty much anywhere.
And finally – lights.
The first light you should buy as a VJ is probably a good on-camera light. Tungsten as been the mainstay in the category, although LEDs are moving in pretty quickly and are recommended for their long battery life, weight, and for cool running. But be aware that LEDs are NOT full spectrum. For news they are acceptable, but your video may lack some color.
In the light category and right up there w/on-camera light is a good reflector. Something to bounce light around. Most of my time in news I got by with a little 20-incher, although now I have two 30 inch reflectors. One white to use for bounce and diffusion and the other gold on one side and silver on the other.
And finally – the stand lights or a light kit. Again, you’ll need to make some choices…this time tungsten, LED or fluorescent. Each has its merits and problems, ranging from throw to cost to color spectrum. Tungsten has been around the longest and has the most throw/is brightest. And costs less (most of the time). Fluorescents and LEDs are both pricy, but run cooler…and throw out less light.
And that is about it. Figure on spending at least a thousand bucks to get set up initially. Then keep an eye on what’s out there and add to your kit as you can afford it/or jobs require it. And remember – this is money well spent…on equipment that will follow you for years to come.