Game changer…

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.

Epiphany…

A sudden awareness of something wonderful! And it all came about because a former reporter asked where the reporters were in the photograph of newsreel cameramen that graces my facebook page. I responded that there were no reporters…just cameramen until the late 20s when soundmen appeared with all of their apparatus.

Epiphany.

No reporters for a visual storytelling media. Wow.

Well, of course – just ask Amanda Emily of newsphotog.com – there were writers back at the main headquarters, who took in the reels shot by the field cameramen and with the help of editors turned them into fodder for the masses.

But the sole responsibility of gathering information and visuals was done by newsreel cameramen, who were looked up to heros of the day.

In fact (I’m guessing here folks – and I know Amanda WILL correct me if I’m off base) there probably weren’t any real in-front-of-the-camera reporters until TV happened along.

So those of you lenslingers, shooters, camera carriers, BPJs, one-man-bands, videojournalists out there, laboring without any apparent support. YOU are who I salute today. You can trace your roots back to a noble profession that broke ground at the beginning of moving pictures.

Now quit wallowing in your glory and pick up that fifty pounds of gear and get back to work.

Not quite -30- yet…

Time to take a hiatus…a break. This blog has been up and running for nearly five years. Not much compared with say Lenslinger. But five years of both inspired and forgettable postings. And now the reason to rant and post is slowly dying. Five years ago the concept of singular storytelling…videojournalism…one man bands…backpack journalism was fresh and debatable. Now it is not only getting old and institutionalized, but it’s also become the poster child of savings for news departments looking for fast cheap content, who cut staff and pile more and more on those left behind. This is not the dream we all had for VJs…solo storytellers who would research, shoot, write, edit stories with insight and meaning. Those are out there (check out the facebook Storytellers group and b-roll), but more common are the Q & D in-and-out folks who are either overworked and doing the best they can or newbies who just wanna be TV stars.

So for a time…I’m stepping away and focusing on areas of interest other than this blog. There’s a book to be completed…stories to be told…and sunrises and sunsets to enjoy…

And while I seem to have stepped back from this blog, I have not stepped away from visual storytelling. It’s in my genes, just as it is in every child who wants to talk about their day or curl up in grandpa’s lap to hear about his childhood. We all want to hear and tell stories. And I want to break it down so that others can understand the steps to creating a solid story that communicates a thought…a timeline.

So see me not as gone…just hovering in the background, pondering…

(re-written 9/12/11)

The next generation…

Interesting…as newspaper VJs move towards more complex and larger camcorders, broadcast is downsizing to smaller, more mobile cameras.

In the beginning newspaper photogs were learning video – all about motion and audio. How what they had been shooting their entire lives had to be rethought once they stopped aiming for a moment in time and instead were aiming for a sequence and telling a story with flow of motion and sound. Video is more complex – more akin to weaving elements together than stopping time.

As they got better at their new craft, these new VJs, OMB, backpackers got better and better gear…and some of their gear is even redefining standards for moviemaking, not just news (think 5D here).

The opposite has been going on over on the broadcast side. The one man band has always been part of TV news…kind of the poor cousin. OMBs were used by the smaller stations or even larger stations in their outlying bureaus.

Mike Rosenblaum (among others) broke the collar of shame, re-coined the craft as Videojournalist and rightfully set things straight…VJs can be masters of vision. On my side of the coast KRON in San Francisco raised them to star status – and buddy Stanley Roberts showed that even the toughest glare-you-down street shooter could masterfully craft stories all on his lonesome.

Now the camera is following the craft. In a much earlier post (which I’m still looking for) I asked why TV stations weren’t allowing their VJs the freedom of smaller cameras (Stanley by the way does use a compact size Sony).

Earlier this week a major player in broadcasting announced that it was ramping up use of prosumer cameras by its staff.

Hearst Corporation’s Next Generation Newsroom Project portends a major shift in thinking for television news room. Beginning with three stations in 2009, moving on to six this year with six more projected to come on board next year, JVC GY-HM100 cameras are marching into the hands of camera crews.

These crews (according to Hearst) will NOT replace, but rather will augment the traditional broadcast newscrew…aiming at the Internet audience rather than the (again, traditional) front of the tube group.

The good – overburdened crews get a respite for their backs…and hopefully this move will continue so eventually all crews get the more portable cameras. Laptops to edit…this camera natively imports to both Adobe Premier and Final Cut. Hearst is going the PC route with Dell laptops and Premier (which is dual platform by the way). The camera is a three-chipper with 1/4 inch CCDs and has both XLR and mini-jack audio inputs. Best yet, it shoots to SD cards (don’t know if you have to use the nearly $300 SDHC cards or can get by with less expensive ones).

The bad: one little line buried in the end of the press release:

…the GY-HM100 is the ideal camcorder for the Next Generation Newsroom Project, because it is a full-featured professional camcorder that records to inexpensive SDHC solid-state media, yet it is not intimidating to non-technical personnel.

Yeah…those three words at the end. Non. Technical. Personnel. Hmmm….reporters? Interns?

(Thanks to b-roll for the heads up.)

Additions to the blogroll….

It has been an eternity since I did much with the old blogroll and I found a couple of sites thanks to teachj.

First is Digidave – Journalism is a Process, Not a Product. Some cool videos and more.

And AR&D – Reinventing Local Media has some great tips on standups and making them more relevant to a mutlimedia audience.

Nothing like late night web surfing to open up one’s eyes.