Today’s ups and downs…

Opening up the computer some days is a downer.  On facebook this morning one of my favorite local newspaper photogs posted his blog for the week about how the staff of a local Congressman attempted to stifle freedom of speech by telling the audience there would be no videotaping of the public meeting (in a public place) because some people didn’t want to appear on camera and because there was no way to control how any video shot would be used.  😦

So I moved on through facebook and hopped on over to my email where JEA (Journalism Educators Assn) has started up a new website – panicbutton – for high school media advisors and journalism students who need help navigating their way through attempts to suppress or control their high school journalism programs/newspapers/etc.  🙂

I feel secure for the future of journalism and am impressed with the depth of the panicbutton website and the support it offers – and hope sincerely that the Congressman and his staff rethink their handling of that meeting.

Final note about KONY 2012.  Sometimes things that appear to be right are not.  This movement to arrest an alleged monster in Africa for crimes against children is chilling on oh so many levels.  Granted – he does exist and it would seem the charges are valid.  However I am having trouble separating what appears to be a situation that is ongoing and has been going on for decades from what appears to be a filmmaker’s attempt to promote a film.  Does the film come first or the outrage or did the outrage fuel the film.  Plus from other comments, Kony is only part of the story – his opposition is just as brutal and should Kony be dethroned, hundreds or thousands of HIS supporters will likely die in a bloodbath once he is gone.  As one commentator noted, you can’t really take sides or attempt grandiose changes without being fully aware of the issues and knowing all of the players and consequences.  What is especially troubling about this is the speed with which is is spreading across facebook and other social media with few checking out for the facts.  Young people in this country and others appear to be galvanized for demonstrations in mid-April for a cause they support with all of their hearts (bring the criminal to justice) without researching enough to get the facts that might give them pause.  So 🙂 for caring and 😦 for not having due diligence. 

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Goodbye Anaheim 2011…

I’m back in my digs after a two day hiatus to the southlands. Getting a bit old and creaky for this semi-annual run, but the few hours of dancing around in front of an audience and seeing students play with toys was worth it.

What made it different this year? Well, when I’ve gone to conferences and workshops, I’ve always loved to get my grubbies on gear. Listening is all very well and good and educational, but I’m a hands-on type of person. So this year I took a bunch of new and old equipment so the workshop participants could do the same.

“Establishing a Broadcasting Program” had a mini-studio setup, with my (older) Sima video switcher, two cameras, and monitor. Nothing fancy, but enough so that folks could see how a very basic two-camera setup works. We even did a trial talk-through of a show (Camera one on two-shot, camera two one-shot of anchor two, take camera one, switch to camera two…camera one QUICK! get in on one-shot of anchor one, take camera one…). Also went over EVERYTHING I could think of that you might need for a basic broadcasting program and what each piece of gear does. Hung onto the mike topic a mite long…but pushing for good audio is important.

The workshop that really got going was “Painting with Light.” Took the attendees from using natural light to reflectors to a one-light setup with umbrella and on to three-point lighting. Kinda hard in a room where I had no control over the ambient lighting AND had to demo using an LCD projector (washing out the image a bit with the lights). But when the workshop was over the KIDS came up front and stayed for half an hour to play with lights and the effects of moving lights up/down/around. Backlighting was their favorite from what I could see. Oh…that and down-under-up-in-your-face Halloween lighting.

They left happy and I was left exhausted. But happy too. Thanks all for dropping by and hoped you took something away with you.

COUPLE OF CLOSING NOTES.
1. Yes the camera (HMC150) was in manual mode. I told ya I don’t like auto mode, so the zoom was NOT in servo.
2. Yes the lights ARE hot. Use the C-47 aka clothespin.
3. What I use works for me…what I brought is what works for me. What you need may be something totally different…which means research (and yes, I’d be glad to show you how I research for gear).
4. Safety first and safety always. The lights are hot. Folks are gonna trip over cables and can get hurt. And please please be very very careful about posting student images online without all of the necessary paperwork. I may moan and groan about how restrictive administrators/districts are about allowing easy access for posting videos online…but I do NOT want to be the one responsible for any repercussions resulting from thoughtlessly putting a student in harm’s way.
5. About that printout of the Powerpoint I handed out? Teachers – the basic lessons are in the “Lessons” category on this blog if you are interested. Try looking at earlier postings, say from spring of 2007 on. Or use the search function and look for “Basic Shots,” “Animation,” “Autobiography.”

Powering down in Portland…

Changing gear was the challenging workshop at the JEA/NSPA conference in Portland…at least for me. I’d done my research and the sad news there were no clear-cut solutions to the issues between the proliferation of consumer cameras and their various video file formats.

Carol Knopes with the Radio Televison Digital News Association (yep – they changed their name to fit the times) says she purchased a bunch of new video cameras and it caused such a hassle trying to decipher the file formats that she sent them back. I’ve had students laboring with similar problems, trying to use their new cameras and running into problems with the files not being recognized by their editing programs.

A tiny but passionate group sat in describing problems from issues with firewire ports going out on cameras to new cameras that weren’t recognized by their editing programs.

The only truth: everything is backward compatible. Nothing is forward compatible. Now that’s a generalization…but what it means is if you buy a computer or software, you can open older documents or files. You (again, generally) cannot open files from newer software. I ran into that when a student brought in a PowerPoint presentation I couldn’t open. Solution: go on the Internet and find a program that will convert/decipher it so my older software could read it.

I suspect until a definitive format emerges for video, there will be a battle between manufacturers as they push their proprietary formats, hoping they will be the winner. There’s copyright bucks involved.

So the (temporary and frustrating) is as follows.

1. Do your homework. Research your camera, know your software and computer…they are all parts of the same team and must work together and communicate and understand each other.
2. If you’ve made the mistake of buying something that does not work – be it software or hardware, begin your search for a solution.

I suggested to attendees that they use fileinfo.com for information about their video file format and links to free downlaods that will convert to a more useable format.

Wouldn’t you know it – one of the attendees suggested what may be a better solution: anyvideo which he says will convert any video to another file format.

Let me know how these two work for you. I suspect (since this is only the beginning of the problem) this will be a big workshop next year.

On the ground and running (kind of)…

…or rather limping. Kathy Newell and I arrived last night in Portland for the JEA/NSPA conference. It’s nice to be in a city where the public transit not only works, but is reasonably priced.

We both have sessions this morning and tomorrow. Today is critiquing student videos. Tomorrow is workshops.

Oh – and the limping. Well, I have a bad knee (courtesy of a line drive by Willie McCovy back in the late 70’s) and had a ton of fun walking around the convention center district. Today is payback. The knee went out, so I’m confined to short hops.

Heading for JEA/NSPA…

Come April 15 I won’t be worrying about what I owe (or get back) from Uncle Sam…I’ll be white-lining it north to Portland for a conference. Kind of a good feeling – my very first conference as a teacher was the same JEA/NSPA gathering in the same city. Difference is – this time I AM a teacher…not just a wanna-be.

Buddy Kathy Newell is coming along for the fun. We considered flying up for about a millisecond…but since all flights seem to go somewhere else first, a straight drive is the solution. Oh, and we’ll be loaded for bear with light kits and toys too…so FTR is simplest.

We’re putting on three workshops. Basic Light (aka using what is there or natlight), Advanced Light (bring in the light stands!) and another we haven’t titled, but we hope will cover the compatibility issues between PCs/Macs, nonlinear software, and the different format that hard drive/memory card cameras shoot to.

If you’re heading that way too and have questions or issues you’d like answered (or at least tossed out for discussion) give me a shout.

And see you there…

Spring daze…

Kathy Newell emailed me asking what was wrong – why haven’t I been posting lately. Blame it on spring doldrums. No energy. A bit more time in the garden would help…except school is taking all my time. And i have a great post today – but not here. Promised Angela Grant I’d write some stuff for her and when I saw some new flash drive camcorders I spun out a short review. Should pop up in the next few days.

There’s another one on tripods that should be done soon.

TGIF tomorrow. Should be the start of a warm mellow weekend, but I’m off to LA to do a couple of workshops. Also had an invite to attend the Rhythm Emphasis Jam on Friday night at school – almost cancelled the trip but thought better of it. They’re MY breakers and I really wanted to see them compete. (If you have the night free and are in the Stockton area – drop by McNair High School starting at 5pm. Door price is $5)

Enjoy the weekend and I’ll see ya if you’re at the JEA confab in Anaheim!

e-Trends…

Hopped over to the JEA listserve thing morning and picked up on a thread called “Fighting for Newspapers.” Now a lot of papers take part in something called NIE/Newspapers in Education. Companies and just plain folks donate subscriptions to their local schools and people on vacation allow their subscriptions to be sent to their local schools so teachers can use the papers as a teaching tool – and not just for journalism. Social studies teachers, reading teachers and many others take advantage of this excellent resource. So what’s new? Here’s one example:

“The roiling waters of the American newspaper industry finally caught up with the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.
In March, we unveiled a jazzy, new Page 1 design and local news focus; in April, we downsized the Sunday TV book; in May, the Business section was redesigned and market listings were reduced; and this month, we announced the Express-News won’t be available in some 30 South and Central Texas counties in 2008. An option for readers there, and students in the Newspapers In Education program, is what we call an e-edition, an online version of the Express-News.” (Bob Richter/San Antonio Express-News)

The result was expected…there were dissenters. But the age of some of the dissenters suprised columnist Richter. Journalism students at San Antonio Christian High School want their print newspaper – not the electronic version.

“”Not only should the Express(-News) keep its students in mind while making such rash decisions as taking the newspaper out of our classrooms, but it should also value itself as well,” wrote Gretchen Mahan, editor of the school’s slick monthly, The Revelation, in a letter.”

You can check out a couple of Richter’s columns on this subject here and here.

A half dozen teachers on the listserve chimed in with their feedback…from suggesting schools find supporters who will donate subscriptions to others who said that even with donated subscriptions they cannot receive the newspaper because the papers have decided to go with the e-subscription/edition for NIE.

Now the underlying reason for this change is pretty obvious…financial. Newspapers can’t afford to keep spewing out expensive paper editions when they can just forward a URL. But kids – J-kids especially – have a lot in common with the older generations. They like the feel of something real in their hands – something they can show and share. And as a teacher, I’ll tell you it’s a whole lot easier to give everyone a print paper and direct them to read certain articles or analyse the layout of the paper than to cram a class of twenty on four computers.

I hear the angst of the J teachers, some of whom think this trend towards e-papers can be turned around. This unfortunately is not a trend anymore. It is an avalanche. The problem for newspapers (and other media) is not whether they are going online…but whether they can survive and ride it out or whether they will be sucked under the raging forces and die.

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