You never know how much you know…

…until you try to teach it. I think I’ve mentioned a comment Willie Kee made once, when I told him he would be a remarkable teacher. He said, “Yeah, and after I’ve talked for an hour…then what?” We always underestimate what we know…sometimes even the importance of what we know.

All this leading up to a couple of workshops I did last week in Canton, Ohio, for Gatehouse Media. In teaching video to high school students my biggest problem is they come in “knowing it all.” They are, after all, teenagers. Most of the folks at the Repository who came in for the point and shoot class admitted to knowing little, if anything, about video. There was not a lot of common knowledge to build on, so we started from the bottom. Here’s the camera – here’s what each button does. The basic shots. How to hold the camera still (you can’t unless you’re dead) while still breathing. Capturing/importing to iMovie. Basic drag and drop editing. A little on sequencing and patterns (repetitive actions), implied consent. Interviewing video style. They caught on quickly and seemed to enjoy the class (I’ll know more about that when the surveys come back).

Their two major concerns weren’t even technical. Concern number one was just how would they get subjects to agree to be “on camera” with such a small camera (Exilim), given that they are not in a broadcast market (nearest market is Cleveland about 50 miles away) and the locals either weren’t used to video interviews or were outright uncooperative. Concern number two was time management – how could they fold this new technology and its demands into their work routines.

The small camera issue was also brought up by the photo staff. Professional gear brings with it a perception by the public that you are professional. Prosumer gear/consumer gear can create a different perception. The only two comments I could reassure them with were that with time the local community would get used to the smaller cameras and change their expectations – but that it was also in how they carried themselves. The professional attitude does contribute to the professional look. A pro has a certain self-assurance – a stance – that says they are here to work. Amateurs uncertain. When I brought this up with Kathy Newell, she said that since 911 most of the pro photogs in Sacramento took to wearing their dogtags/press credentials all of the time. This might have to be the case when a staff makes the move to the smaller cameras – it helps telegraph who they are.

The time management issue is one that should take care of itself as the staff works more and more with video and becomes more competant. But this is also a whole staff/management issue. Reporters using the Exilim can shoot a few minutes of interview or cover shots…less than ten minutes of their field time I’d guess. However downloading and editing may take more time.

Photographers face an even more difficult dilemma – which should they choose to use: still or video? At this time stills drive the Repository – this is what the photo staff excells at and what the public buys the paper/tunes onto the website to see. As the paper becomes more active online the balance between the need for stills or video will shift – and management needs to consider which should be given preference. Should the photographer make a decision in the field to shoot video of a breaking story (where there might only be one opportunity for the money shot) or stills? There must be a policy that says which to go for – or a policy that says the photographer makes the decision. If the latter – management must totally support the photographer’s decision without any second-guessing. If the former, then photogs at least know which camera to grab. The same should apply to everyday assignments – because initially there will be problems. It will take longer to get both video and stills. There will be issues with doing either well – something has to give. Does the photog focus on stills and just peel off some video or visa versa? This should be an on-going discussion in the newsroom – looking back at stories done the day before and forward to upcoming stories.

More another day…


One thought on “You never know how much you know…

  1. Pingback: Meranda Writes » Blog Archive » Feeling amateur

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