Timeless advice…

…it never changes.  The process of creating a visual story that is. But then – what should appear online but some helpful hints for visual shooters.

Trouble is – they’re more than ninety-five years out of date.

Or are they?

Thanks to Amanda Emily, here is a list of hints written by Pathe’ News editor Paul Hugon in 1916 – during the birth of the movement of newsreel shooters. Let’s see how those tips stack up.

Right off there’s this advice. Still applicable today.

The object of motion pictures is to show motion. Only things in which there is motion are worthy of the cameraman’s attention.

Then there’s the highly technical advice on exposure using a hand cranked camera.

For each turn of the handle, eight pictures are exposed. The handle is turned twice in one second. Therefore 16 pictures are exposed in one second.

Translated to today’s terminology, most cameras set on auto expose approximately 30 pictures per second. And you don’t have to keep turning the crank to keep exposing new pictures.

Use a tripod (dammit).

It is essential, to preserve the illusion which is the basis of the film business, that the pictures should be absolutely steady.

We’re in agreement on tilts and pans too! It is better by far to visualize and shoot what you see in several strong shots rather than taking the lazy route and panning or spraying the scene.

There should never be a panoram, either vertical or horizontal, unless it is absolutely essential to obtain a photographic effect, and in any case the panoram should be, not from the main subject to others, but from others to the main subject, where theattention will finally rest. It is very much better to take two scenes than one panorammed scene. Panoraming is the lazy man’s remedy.

There’s a lot more there and most of it pretty darn good. Shoot pretty subjects, striking effects of light and shade. A hefty dose of technical advice on iris and shutter. Ummmm…you can skip the sections on protecting the negative and shipping (by slow boat to China in those days).

And the conclusion is his Golden Rule…

Make as good a picture for others as you would like others to make for you.
Nothing but the very best is good enough. Think, and think hard, how you can make the best picture. Put it all down in writing; plan your scenes…
There is plenty of room at the top of your profession, but you will not get there by standing about or just grinding away. Brain work is ultimately the only way to big money. And the money is there waiting for you.

(well maybe those last few lines don’t apply anymore…)
For full text, go to the original article on Amanda Emily’s site.

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Before…

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.)

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.

How far back does YOUR lens reach?

Calling all old-timers! My plan was to write a chapter on the history of TV news photogs for my Basics of Videojournalism high school textbook, but hey – I can’t find much in the way of resources, so I’m going to have to do some original research. Now I spend years at the knees of those much older and wiser than myself, listening with big ears and eyes to their war stories (some of which weren’t true). But I never thought to ask them how they got started or what happened along the road.

So if you’re an old timer – that means OLDER THAN ME (age 58) – please please give me a shout. I put out a similar appeal on Lenslinger’s blog and have a few solid leads, but I want more.

If you shot 16mm reversal; if you shot optical sound with black and white; if you shot black and white without sound; if you shot newsreels (oh please let there be a few left); if you sat in your mammoth skin painting hunting scenes onto cave walls…email me at once.

I want to tell YOUR story and the story of our ilk. Who knows…this may go beyond a simple chapter in a book for acne-ridden teens with dreams. This could become a book unto itself.

And if you’re younger than dirt (58 years old) but know someone who might fit the bill, rat them out. Send me their names and contact info (or ask them to get in touch).

How to find me:
Email is cyndyg@mac.com
You can also respond by making comments to this post.

And thanks in advance.

Addendum: Yes, I know about ROLL!! by Rich Underwood and have read this excellent tome. However, one source is not enough…I need a variety of histories and opinions.

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