Shameless self-promotion…

While I’ve got your eyes and ears, let me plug the book Larry Nance and I have been laboring over for the past several years.

The Basics of Videojournalism.

This is a hands-on book written by two experienced pros that focuses on what you need to know to tell visual stories. Critical are knowledge of law and ethics. Without those two, you’re just another wanna-be with a camera.

Our second section walks you through the parts of the camera, types of mikes, computers, software overview, tripods, lights, and other goodies you need to know about. We don’t tell you what to get…but try to give you the knowledge so you can choose wisely.

Third section is the “how to” part of The Basics of Videojournalism. How to use the camera, the tripod, the mike, the lights. How to conduct an interview and do a standup. Some hints for quick and dirty cover-the-story-and-get-it-to-the-audience. Scripting, logging, editing basics. Concluding with a catch-all section on random other stuff every VJ keeps in his or her bag of tricks.

And for you instructors…our Teachers’ Supplement is already out and on sale at the JEA Bookstore.

So like us on facebook and visit us at our website. Start up a conversation, ask questions. We’ll try to answer them and look forward to your support.

It. Has. Begun…

…got butterflies in my stomach. A big move today…the facebook page for The Basics of Videojournalism is up. It has become too real.

Obviously this is part of our marketing plan…co-author Larry Nance and I know this book is good. That it fills a need for educating the new wave of visual storytellers in everything from ethics to law to technical and aesthetic aspect of the craft. We’ve labored long and hard and continue at this point to work on finishing up the image acquisitions necessary to illustrate the book.

You won’t see the first edition – an ebook – for some months. We’re working our way to that goal and can see the finish line.

So, loyal audience…please check us out and friend and like and even love us. As we love visual storytelling…knowing that both you and we want to ensure that those to come learn it properly.


Lesson Plans Available!

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.

What’s old is new…

…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?

Bolex_D16_SimplifiedWhy 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!).

The Basics of Videojournalism

Haven’t updated this in a while, but the book co-author Larry Nance and I have been sweating over is getting closer to publication. The Basics of Videojournalism is two chapters closer to completion. Law and ethics are done and we are moving into our final chapters…mostly dealing with post (organizing, writing, editing, exporting).

Do. It. Yourself.

We all have those little tricks up our sleeves…the tricks we use to fix it, shortcut it, or make it easy for ourselves.

Some years back I posted a quick little emergency “fixit” for those days when your last miniscule lav windscreen disappears. At the time I was experimenting with using my computer with a camcorder plugged in to see if I could record “live” into iMovie.

It worked. The way I shot the video I mean. And the trick works pretty well too. All you’re doing is creating a dead zone above the mike head that keeps wind from hitting the head.

Fast forward six years to today…or rather earlier this year. I needed a way to fix my Lectrosonics wireless receiver to my Panasonic HMC150. The body is so compact and nearly every surface has dials or gizmos that I couldn’t figure out where to attach the reciever. Out of desperation I would stick it in the hand grip…or pocket it tethered to a long enough XLR cable. Awkward.

Looked around on the Internet, but most of the fixes either didn’t look like they’d work with my camera or were way too expensive. So I did what any sane person with too much time on their hands would do…I diddled and daddled and did some thinking to boot and came up with my own gizmo.

The solution was both effective and affordable. One two by four inch piece of plastic, about 3/8 inch thick. One cold shoe attachment. Industrial strength Velcro.

I’ll make a video later on…but here’s the drill. Countersink a threaded hole into the plastic. Fill said hole with super glue and screw in the cold shoe. Wait for it to dry. Attach Velcro to fit. Put mated piece of Velcro onto your receiver (or whatever else you want to attach to the camera).

Cost: assuming I could have bought just enough for this one holder, probably less than $10. As it was, I bought enough plastic for four holders (around $14), five of the cold shoes at around three and a half bucks each, and the Velcro roll ran nearly $15. The super glue I had lying around the workshop.

What would I do differently? I got the cold shoes cheap on If I do it again, I’d probably go for more heavy duty shoes…I can tell the ones I got are not sturdy enough for long term use.

Oh – and once I went to all of this trouble, I found exactly what I needed (same basic design, but metal) over at B&H.

So – two of my tricks are out of the bag…and my partner in crime, Larry Nance, is working on more fixits, make-its, and shortcuts for our book, The Basics Of Videojournalism. The OMB, VJ – the current day Jack (and Jill) of all trades.

Going in circles, biting my…

…well, not fingers.  Work on The Basics of Videojournalism progresses.  The focus this week is to get the chapter on shooting done, complete with illustrations.  Those we take care of tomorrow with former McNair broadcasting student (and someday film cinematographer) Louis Martinez, who will be acting as our model for illustrations for the book.  Author Larry Nance’s son Amani will be helping out too, being interviewed on camera.  

All the while Larry is snapping the stills I will be shooting video.  Yeah, this is gonna be one interactive book.  We’ll not only show you with words and pictures how to do it, there will be a DVD (or two) with demonstration video and raw videos to show what you should be shooting (steady, well exposed, good light, etc).

Problem is…the more we write, the more we realize we need to write more.  

Shooting was supposed to be a pretty basic chapter that has now expanded, is growing, and is taking on its own life.  It seems to me that too many “how-to” books pretend to tell you “how-to”, but don’t really.  So when Larry and I say, “This is how to…” we plan to show the basics and then some. Read, look at the photos, view the video showing HOW to, work with raw video files to see how it should look. Interact and learn. One thing I learned in years of teaching is that there are different learning styles…and I suspect a lot of folks who want to learn video are visual and kinetic learners – they learn by seeing and doing.

Of course all of the above is creating more and more work and research. But taking into account Larry’s personal knowledge base (which is expansive) and all of my musings and blogs, we’re off to a pretty solid start.



A quick roundup of recent thoughts.

Has the Internet made us more of a world community than a nationalistic community? There is SO much out there and the wise surfer will learn as much about far-flung events as regional ones…all the while focusing on whatever toggles their switch (i.e., personal interests).

So maybe that’s why today we care more about the world and our hyper-local sites than regional news sites.

Ah well…

Tomorrow early (very early) I head for San Francisco to BAVC (Bay Area Video Coalition) for training in how to edit with Premiere. My first serious venture into PC-Land nonlinear editing.

Oh – the the photo above? Middle daughter will be flying back with crew-mates to her new home – the Makin Island, now ported in Mississippi. Sometime soon they’ll head out to sea and sail around the South American horn on a good-will tour. Final destination: home port of San Diego.

Well to keep her busy, we came up with an idea…Lego animation. Something tiny she can shoot with her still camera and edit in MY old Ti-Book (Powerbook G4). While her animations will be Navy and sailor-themed, I kind of caught the bug myself and will be trying some news animes.

Oh – and thank you Larry Nance for pointing out what a sloth I am. I like to buy tech stuff and made the mistake of letting Larry know I was buying a Beta deck and quite a while back a U-matic deck to dub down a buncha old tapes. Larry called me on it, asking if I’d done any dubbing. So now I have to get to work…dammit.

Enjoy the day while you can…