What an evolution!

CP 16

Boy howdy, how things have changed.  I recently wrote an article on the evolution of using cameras in the courtroom for the RTDNA Daily Communicator.   I signed off with the fact that I had first used a 16mm film camera in a court during a test year in Florida in 1978.  You could mount either a 100-foot or a 400-foot roll of film in the camera’s magazine.  That gave you a bit over a minute or close to five minutes of film to shoot at 24 fps.  My former colleague, Mark Douglas—now an investigative reporter with WFLA-TV in Tampa, commented that he too had used a 16 mm camera in the courts in that era.  “We would have to be quite judicious in deciding when to ‘roll’ because of the limited amount of film stock,” Douglas wrote in his post. “We also had to apply Vaseline to the hub of the film spool so it wouldn’t squeak when we hit the trigger during important moments in the trial.”

Both Mark and I worked as one-man bands using 16 mm cameras. I used at least three different models: my favorite was the CP-16.  It was lightweight and easy to use, almost like the near-foolproof point-and-shoot video cameras of today.  Nevertheless filming in a court always presented challenges.  I would tape an Electrovoice microphone to a light stand and raise it close to a speaker in the ceiling to get good sound in the courtroom.  Then if I needed to grab someone for an interview outside the courtroom, I would rush to dismount the mic and run outside with my equipment before they got away.

Compare that to the 3-camera shoot in the Zimmerman trial and the horde of media representatives.  Boy howdy!

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BIG camera videojournalism with a small camera

G. Stuart Smith demonstrates one monopod use with an iPhone. Photo by Jesse Turnure

As video cameras have gotten smaller, lighter and cheaper, it’s now possible to do full-featured video packages with smartphones such as the iPhone.  I showed attendees at the Excellence in Journalism convention some of the trials and tribulations of doing that at a session on BIG Camera Videojournalism with a small camera.  Chuck Fadely of the Miami Herald joined me in the presentation.  Here’s a story, with video, done by University of Missouri student Jessi Turnure for the RTDNA.   (By the way, Jessi in shooting the video interview with her new iPhone used an app I suggested in the session, Filmic Pro, that lets you lock the focus and exposure, as well as monitor the audio, while shooting.) 

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Award-winning KARE-11 TV reporter Boyd Huppert was back at the Excellence in Journalism convention again this year, giving his audience tips on video storytelling.  In this video he describes how storytellers should let viewers discover surprises, not by telling them, but by letting them experience them through the video.  The video is shot and edited on on iPhone.

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“Mic a dog”

At the Video Storytelling Bootcamp at the Excellence in Journalism Convention in Fort Lauderdale, CBS photojournalist, Les Rose, talked about the importance of sound.  Using the idea of “mic a dog,” he said put a microphone on anything that is important to the story; he said he even miced a leather-bound book one time to get good nat/snd.   As far as shooting sequences, Rose says the key to getting good video is to anticipate the action.   I shot and edited the video of Les Rose with an iPhone.  

Al Tompkins speaking at EIJ

He made the presentation with Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins, the author of the book, Aim for the Heart. He said solo videojournalists need to be more efficient and aware of their limitations:  ”The more stuff you’ve got to do,” said Tompkins, “the more you’ve got to be focused.”  The session kicked off the three day convention in Fort Lauderdale sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Radio Television Digital News Association.

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The rise of VJs continues

The 2012 RTDNA/Hofstra survey by my colleague, Bob Papper, shows that the number of TV stations mostly using or using some OMB (one-man bands) is nearly 70 percent.  When Bob started the survey in 2008, it was just under 50 percent.  He attributes this year’s increase to stations in the 26-50 market range (http://www.rtnda.org/media/three.pdf).   Only 14 percent of TV stations do not utilize OMB in any way.  

Here’s a link to a graph which charts the increase over the years:  http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/visualizations/new/stack-graph-for-categories/percentages-57/1

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Law and ethics discussion on videotaping

On the Media, the program about media topics broadcast by New York public radio WNYC, tackled a couple of interesting topics related to news videographers in its June 17th pr0gram.  With so many confrontations between news photographers and the police, NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher weighed in on the rights and responsibilities of photographers (http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/jun/15/perils-filming-police/).  Then photojournalist Lauren Pond, talked about her experience shooting a documentary about a Pentacostal minister who was bitten by a rattlesnake and died.  She continued shooting the scene and talks about the ethics of capturing the footage or coming to his aid (http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/jun/15/when-put-camera-down/).  You can click on the links to access the podcast of each interview.

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Moonves says embrace risk and uncertainty

CBS president Les Moonves told Hofstra University graduates the key to success is to be flexible in life–in other words, be able to “turn on a dime.”  I shot the video with an iPhone and edited it with Voddio.  Note one drawback of shooting iPhone video is the inability to zoom for a CU of the subject.

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The rise of solo videojournalists

My Hofstra University colleague, Bob Papper, surveys the broadcast news industry for the Radio Television Digital News Association.  He has been asking news directors for four years whether they use one-man bands.  The rise in the usage has been remarkable.  I’ve created a graph of two of the possible responses (Yes, Mostly use OMB and Yes, Use some OMB), which visually demonstrates the growth of solo videojouralists in the TV news business.  In that same period, the stations responding that they do not use one-man bands dropped from 28% to 16%.  You can find the graph at Many Eyes: http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/visualizations/one-man-bands-rise-at-tv-stations

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Is smaller better?

I upgraded my cellphone to iPhone a few months ago.  I’ve been playing with the video functions.  I recently shot a story with the phone and edited it with the Voddio app from Vericorder Technologies.  I learned the editing process by trial and error and watching the instructional videos posted on YouTube.  Here’s the result: http://youtu.be/ZClGK7rYczQ

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The best camera…

…is the one you have with you.  On vacation in Belize I shot video of a whirlwind forming over the ocean that swept past a small island and our sailboat.  I shot it with my Panasonic Lumix, a camera waterproof down to 40 feet.  I posted the video on the Weather Channel site (http://iwitness.weather.com/_Belize-Whirlwind/video/1717143/148597.html).  It proves the maxim, the best camera for a story is the one that you have with you!

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