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Heads up – this is a “shameless self-promotion” posting. My visual storytelling business is up and running.
While small (with intentions to stay that way), I have plans to make it big – in quality. Although I’ve dabbled a bit with video production and its many challenges, I find my love of news and storytelling is leading me back into news – both feature and general.
Just FYI: work is progressing on The Basics of Videojournalism, although life is getting in the way some days.
And I will continue to post from time to time here on this blog – my first and favorite. Thanks for dropping by.
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.)
A paradigm (para-dime) is typical pattern or model of something.
One of the paradigms of visual storytelling has been a certain type of camera. For years these cameras were the domain of professionals…large, extremely expensive, totally amazing pieces of technology. It took big bucks to get one and you made big bucks if you had not only the technical knowledge but the aesthetic sense and storytelling ability to use one.
Then…the paradigm shifted in the early 2000s. The big boys still made big bucks with big gear…but suddenly there was a new class of camera…halfway between the little consumer cams and the big professional guns. The pro-sumer camcorder. It had many of the nifty features of the pro cams, such as good glass and three chips and professional audio inputs. Manual controls. Good stuff all around, although noticeably not really up to pro standards.
And these little baby-cams began to gain in popularity as more and more people began to use them for an audience who demanded more and more video. The digital explosion send shock waves across the planet with the better quality cameras and affordable non-linear editing programs brought a new technology into the hands of the citizenry.
Another paradigm shift is going on right now and we see it every day and don’t even think about it. Cell phones began sprouting up in the 1990s…then morphed into phones that could take pretty lousy still shots…then not-so-bad stills. Then by leaps and bounds these little wonders turned into do-it-all mobile devices. Talk. Text. Surf the ‘Net. Shoot stills – and video. Not just plain ole video and stills, but high def stuff.
And they are taking over. Some years back when I began this blog I did a posting on Dinosaurs Fighting or Survival. Times had changed and if the pros who shot news (both still and video) didn’t change with them, they were out a job.
But back then the pros were either flocking over to the new technology or resisting mightily. It was a threat to their way of life – what they knew and could do.
Then technology ramped up its game and the gear got so good that the definition of “professional” took on a whole new meaning as more and more folks acquired the new smaller cameras. It quickly became apparent that the size of the lens and the heft of the camera had little to do with the ability to communicate. What mattered (and still very much matters) is a sense of aesthetics and storytelling. AND knowing how to make the gear you are working with work with you to tell the most powerful story possible.
But even the pro-sumer cameras (and many consumer cams too) had the familiar look to them. Lens in front, kinda boxy and rectangular. LCD on the side. It still looked like a real camcorder.
Enter the new mobile devices…thin, flat and less than the size of the palm of your hand. No optical zoom and minimal digital zoom. A new style of shooting and storytelling came with these new devices.
No longer able to pull in a far-away shot, you now had to zoom with your feet (or arms) to get in closer. The camera is no longer part of your body (hold it close to keep it steady…tripod it, cradle it). The camera is now an extension of your arm…your hand. In order to get a variety of shots you really need to get intimate with your subject. As in, arms-length close. Or closer.
And the storytelling end has had to change too. Rather than full-blown packages (including interviews, variety of shots, lotsa b-roll) stories are simpler. One long shot of an event such as a parade or riot. An interview covered with b-roll of an event or meeting. Impressions rather than full explanation. These “impressions” are often paired on the Internet with text and more information, which together tell a full story. The audience can choose to view the video and get the background from the other resources available or just read the information or just view the video to get a sense of what happened.
I doubt very much that mobile devices are going to take over the visual storytelling world any more than consumer or prosumer camcorders took over from professional gear. What they do is open up an entirely new way and new possibilities in visual storytelling to even more storytellers.
Yeah – it’s nice to belong to an exclusive club. Been there. Done that. But the new wave of stories coming at us will open our eyes and the world even more. And can that be a bad thing?
Transparency: Co-author Larry Nance and I have been discussing how to include all levels of gear in our pending textbook,The Basics of Videojournalism. He is a big proponent of technology and not only keeping up with the latest, but staying on the cresting wave as it thunders across the ocean. So expect full inclusion of not only prosumer and consumer and DSLR…but also mobile devices in the book.
Update – forgot that an earlier posting has a number of examples of mobile storytelling (using a Kodak Playtouch). Check it out.
I love it when thoughtful management sees potential in employees and asks them to become Videojournalists. Chosen properly and allowed a reasonable amount of freedom in their work, VJs can produce stories as well as and often better than two-man crews. Take a look at Lenslinger, Stanley Roberts, and Michelle Michael. And they’re only the surface.
OK…so I hate it when management stomps in and tells nearly everyone in a shop they will become VJs because they are “underperforming.”
This news came from a trusted source and and first evident I saw of it was then a KXTV crew showed up at an event with….a babycam? From the look on the shooter’s face, this was NOT the camera of choice. Heck, the entire body of the camera was about the length of his former camera lens.
Now you know I’m a big advocate of lean and mean and Videojournalism. But in the right place and at the right time. And punishing an entire staff and forcing what is essentially a cost-cutting hatchet job on them is not the best motivator.
Although, apparently, keeping your job may be the part that motivates.
I’m guessing it was a take this or shove your job move by management.
…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.
Just as summer is heating up and it is time to slow down, my life is heating up and I can’t slow down.
Larry Nance, my co-author and buddy, is setting up the website for The Basics of Videojournalism while I keep hacking away at the keyboard, one chapter at a time. We’re on a deadline and can’t hit the brakes til we’re done. We meet weekly to keep each other updated and on track. His wonderful wife (a veteran educator) has taken on the duties of proofreading (thank you!!!).
My garden (gotta have some kind of personal life here) is growing. An experiment in recycling in turquoise, I went with raised beds made of commercial size pipes. We’re talking big suckers here – about two feet across and three feet long. Cut from the ends of pipes at a south Stockton company putting in water mains somewhere. Dig into the ground a foot or so, add some hardware fabric at the bottom to frustrate the gophers, a line for drip irrigation and tadah! A nice easy to keep up garden with seven plus types of tomatoes, two types of eggplants, four types of squash…and more.
Working on a couple of videos…my second for Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s program plus a new client who wants some sizzle for her website. And there’s more in the works – a trip planned with accompanying video and articles for my local rag, the Lodi News Sentinel
Why this posting though? Who knows – a reality check for myself perhaps? This blog is what got me going, made me dive into myself and get out of some pretty deep ruts…at times I thought I’d abandon it, but it kept calling me back. Blogging makes me view the world in a different light – thru the eyes of a lifelong newsie with a love of all things visual. My visual world has been rocked and torn apart as technology has outpaced the media’s ability to keep control of who it is. Journalists and photographers are trying to hold on to their livelihood and the ability to control and funnel the news as they see fit, refusing to allow the evolution of the revolution of communication.
I’ve been watching a thread on the NPPA facebook page, with the usual chatter about citizen journalists. How bad they are. How cheap newspapers (and TV stations) are for using their stuff. How the industry is suffering (from both a lack of quality photography and ethics and/more important to some – paying jobs). And somewhere in there the notion that journalism owns news began to disintegrate. The media doesn’t “own” news or even the right to cover or determine what is or is not news. News just is. It exists. And more importantly, it belongs to the audience.
Think about it – what would have happened on 911 if the broadcast media had charged people to see the attacks? And think now – how is that different from newspapers charging folks to buy their news?
Another angle – journalists boast that they cover both sides of issues. Truth be told – most issues have a plethora or sides.
So here I sit…dancing an intricate tap dance on a tall fence, trying to figure out what’s gonna happen next. I know all of the arguments on both sides, and agree with some of each side’s arguments. Honesty and ethics – yep. The tendency of big media to dictate news and, by choosing what to cover, to determine what people should hear/know/see – um, no. Concise beautifully written factual articles by BOTH pro and citizen journalists – yep. Slanted articles written with venom and malice – by both pros and citizens – never.
All I know is, I want my news and I don’t want to it to be entertainment, slipshod, biased, or too tightly controlled. And I’m willing to pay a reasonable price for it.
Now back to work on the book. I’m guessing both citizen (video)journalists and (wanna-be) professional videojournalists can benefit from it.
There are some meaty stories out there…and producer John Goheen began stalking them more than a year ago.
A unique alignment of numbers occurred last year. November 11, 2011. 11.11.11…and a tie-in with “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” which marked the war to end all wars. WWII. Sadly this was a great misstatement.
Goheen put out the call for volunteers to each document the day of a veteran in their area for his vision of a documentary honoring our service men and women, both active and retired. Thirty-seven photogs responded and came through with stories ranging from Veteran’s Day ceremonies to features on individual veterans.
Although only 15 videos were included in the final documentary, the rest are available on the V-Day 11.11.11 website under the link to “Stories.”
And the range of stories is as remarkable as the men and women who sacrifice daily to keep our country’s freedoms safe. I was lucky enough to follow Stockton WWII ace pilot Bill Behrns around on that day…with some unexpected results.
I will tell you that the only thing scarier than the ride in an aging and very rattly WWII plane was the trip to the airport with Bill driving. And yes – he still drives a mini-van with the same style and speed that he took to the air in during WWII.
BTW – if you know a veteran’s group or are interested, the film will be made available for educational purposed.
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.
Before the Internet…before TV…and pretty darn near alongside silent movies and radio way back in the early decades of the 20th century there was a breed of men who braved all manner of dangers from dancing beauty queens to crashing zeppelins to bring the news to theaters around the world.
And now Amanda Emily has rounded up their tall tales into a tome of her own – From Behind the Lens: Short Stories of the News Photographers From the Pre-War Newsreel Era. A must read for all who love history, news, both.
Newsreelers were the very first VJs…but this time let’s call them Visual Journalists. Heading out alone or with an assistant (and then a soundman beginning in the late 1920s) they covered the events of their time from serious to sensational. In Amanda’s book you will read the stories behind the news as well as learn about these remarkable men, who were looked upon as heros in their day.
I encourage you to take a look…I know I’m ordering mine tomorrow.
(Transparency: Yep, she’s a bud of mine…but I wouldn’t be posting here unless I believed in her and her book. She’s an old soul in a young body.)
Every now and then something comes along and the reaction is, “COOL! Why didn’t I think of that?” (or…”I thought of that years ago and it’s FINALLY come out.)
Back in the early 2000s JVC had something called the GY-DV300u aka the Streamcorder. That little gem was way ahead of its time. I grabbed one because after some pretty heavy duty research I found it had all the gizmos I wanted and needed to have a life after a multi-decade career as a broadcast news cameraman. But it had that little extra “umph” in the background that intrigued me – the ability to stream live to the web. And for some reason it never really took off. And the camera and it’s revolutionary potential kind of faded away…
Until NAB this year when the 300u’s great granddaughter returned. And with a vengeance.
Meet the JVC ProHD Mobile News Camera! To me it’s an old friend gussied up and modernized. But it is a game changer and this time the time is ripe for it to reach the heights it missed last time around.
What’s new? Okay, so I admit I’m addicted to glass. A 23x zoom. Something that can reach out and pull you (and your audience) in close to situations you don’t even WANT to get close to. Most prosumer cameras in this price range only have a 10x or 14x zoom, leaving you miles short of the shot you really want.
Dual slot recording…the less expensive version of this camera, the JVC GY-HM600 ProHD Camera has two slots for continuous recording too, but lacks the ability to record in HD in one slot and SD in the other. That ability allows you to shoot HD for the main event but SD to stream back quickly to the station for on-air. Wow.
I don’t even need to get into real manual controls, XLR inputs, three chips (1/3 CMOS)…the usual suspects in a pro’s array of necessary tools.
What happened in the past ten years that makes this new again?
Well, this time news is READY for a camera like this. In 2002 (when I got my JVC 300u) going live on the web was something entertaining…fun. But nobody in real news considered it seriously. After all, it wasn’t really professional – was it? Tiny little camera, poor quality…and there were live trucks and microwave trucks to handle important stories.
Times change…and now cell phones and Skype can put out decent enough (okay, so even I debate that one) images for news. Plus, reality has set in – financial reality. With the competition out there, lean and fast may make the difference between survival and death to cost conscious news organizations.
And while I absolutely love those good ole days, I’m a realist. What I see is a camera that may mean survival.