More on workflow…

In the last post I did an overview of workflow…in some areas too detailed and in other areas not enough detail.

Workflow is critical to VJs in both print, broadcast, and online media because it defines how quickly they can post their stories.

An idea workflow would be shoot, capture, edit, post. However with the many cameras and formats available today and the quirkiness between formats and editing programs, it can become complicated.

JVC has a fairly new three chip memory camera which shoots in native Quicktime and imports right into the newest version of Final Cut Pro. But not into Final Cut Express.

My Canon HV20 slides right into my MacBook with Final Cut Express but freezes up when I try to send video to the school computers with iMovie 6.

It should be obvious that before you purchase a computer, camera, or editing program you have some research to do.

Tape, generally, is a no-brainer. The issue with tape is the real time capture…and the occasional problem when you import high-def. I’ve watched my laptop struggle with incoming high-def form the HV20…lagging minutes behind. I’ll watch the laptop and the LCD on the camera, and the laptop will be as much as five to eight minutes behind in processing the incoming video.

Standard def comes in with no problems.

AVCHD, a format supported by Sony and Panasonic, is used by both hard drive and memory card cameras. According to Wikipedia, transfer time from camera to computer can be as little as eight minutes for an hour of video. Wowser – a real time saver.

But you if have Final Cut, you have additional hurdles to jump. Your video has to be reformated to work with your editing program, which can add significantly to your capture time. (Note: apparently with the newest version of FCP and the newest MacBook Pro this is minimized – IF you use the right type of camera.)

I’d like to hear comments from those of you using memory and hard drive camcorders and how you handle your workflow. I’m going to make the leap later this year…considering selling my JVC GY-DV300u and getting a memory card camera (thinking of sticking with the JVC). Tell me your disasters and your triumphs.



Workflow…what exactly is it?

In creating a video story, it’s how the visuals flow from concept to the final product the audience sees. This includes:
Choosing a story and selecting an angle
Choice of camera, mike, other gear (yes, a tripod! – well, 99% of the time)
Choice of shots on scene as the story develops (this changes constantly…every minute, every second and even after you leave the scene)
Choice of people interviewed – or not
Questions asked of each interview subject
Process of downloading video into the computer…do you capture it all or just select scenes. How does your camera (and how your camera records media) download?
Logging video and writing the script
Recording narration
Editing (which shots will you use – or not, which segments of nat or interview sound)
Output – how is your audience going to view the final video? How you will save/compress your final version so the audience can view it?

While I’ve been out of the game for a while, workflow was always a big part of covering news. Some parts have remained virtually unchanged. Others are tremendously different.

In the film days we had to shoot – then PROCESS the film – then the reporter had to look at the film to get sound information (unless s/he was smart enough to have a tape recorder) – then we had to literally cut and glue the film together in A/B rolls.

Move on to 3/4 Umatic videotape. The original cameras came with a very bulky CCU (camera control unit) and recorder. My first videotape news camera couldn’t have weighed more than five or six pounds. All plastic with (ugh) plastic lens (almost melted it at a fire once when I got in close enough to get good shots). So we shot and then went right to viewing. Gained an hour without having to process the film. On the downside, shooting became more of a challenge due to the inability of early cameras to record in low light conditions. So I carried a two to three light kit. Editing was one channel sound only – the second channel was for cue tones for the playback machines. I learned that the hard way…being every the curious little innovator, I went behind the edit decks and was happily switching out audio cables so I could have ambient noise in a package – hey, no one said NOT to do it. So when my top story hit the air that night and the first critical sound bite came up on channel 2 – the machines stopped. They started the story up again and the machines stopped at the next sound bite. Lesson learned. Don’t fool around w/o checking with engineering. (On the up side, when the network crews passed through and found out what I was doing they were overjoyed. They knew enough to mix the sound down to one channel…and I picked up an extra hunk of cash whenever they were in town cause they wanted me as the editor.)

Workflow remained the same through Beta (albeit with fantastic upgrades in quality). Then came DVC Pro with embedded timecode and edit decks that could handle it. Another timesaver. When reporters logged interviews or sound, they’d write down the exact time (or as near as their pointy little heads could get) and we’d just enter the code into the deck and the machine would swoosh right to it.

I did a bit of nonlinear for my old station (KOVR) before I bailed into teaching. I was shooting DVC Pro and dumping into an Apple iBook and using iMovie to edit stories Boy were the guys up in the main office upset. I’d edit packages with effects (never overdid it though) they couldn’t get without reserving time in the production department’s big bucks edit suite. And then I left. But not before realizing that the workflow had changed again…shooting was a breeze. DVC Pro cameras were lighter, were a breeze to use (perfect access to all manual controls…nearly one hand could reach them all), shot crisp clean video). But I lost time – had to dump in real time into the computer.

That’s how it’s remained for years until in the past three or four years hard drive and memory card cameras have come out. I’ve been on the sidelines watching…waiting to see if they’re any good. In the past year the memory card cameras have been moving mainstream (with some shops opting for hard drive cameras). In news I honestly think memory cards are the way to go – removable media is always better. You can pull a card out – turn it over to someone else to edit or run back to the shop – and push another card in to shoot some more. Plus a bad card can be replaced. Trusting my livelihood to one hard drive would make me nervous.

The up side – from what I’m hearing, workflow time is going down again. You can pick and choose what to download. Capture times seem shorter/less than real time.

Now everything above is vastly oversimplified. Especially the use of memory card cameras. You have to do some research about the format each camera records to – and some formats will increase the amount of time it takes to get video into the computer or you’ll have to convert the format to a more editing-friendly format.

As a teacher I’m just as concerned about time as any news photographer. My students have limited time in class to learn and get their work done. I don’t want them sitting around waiting for mandellas to spin and video to download. Well – maybe. They do learn patience and learn that if they overshoot, they have to watch it a second time – hopefully learning that maybe next time they’ll shoot less and maybe also learn that they need the tripod and NOT to move the camera so much.

A (very) full summer…

Coming from a career that demanded more than 24/7, it’s hard for me to sit back and do nothing during my summer break. After a few days (heck – a few hours) of relaxation, I get bored. Not bored enough, mind you, to clear out the back forty. But after months in a classroom full of high school students, bored enough to look for adult company.

This summer, as part of an experiment, I’ve offered to shoot the occasional news story using video for my local paper – the Lodi News Sentinel.

The why? First, can’t live without a camera in my hand and a reason to turn it on. Plus, a lot of curiousity about whether video adds audience to a website.

So far, I’ve posted one – about the dedication of a new section of a county park. I think the video added something photos and maybe even words couldn’t – a sense of place. What the area really looks/feels like.

My final reason for wanting to volunteer in this capacity is to learn how a newspaper works. I’m not sure if the Sentinel is an exception or the rule, but from what I’ve seen it doesn’t have the chaos and tension of a broadcast newsroom. Discussions are thoughtful, focusing on the subject at hand. I’ve only had one or two news directors who could equal Editor Richard Hanner; a thoughtful man who paces his thinking and questions in such a way that the listener must also slow down and reflect before responding. None of the shoot-em-out style so often seen in old movies.

The organization and workflow mirror broadcast news…with differences. More on that later, as I continue my journey.

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