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April 15 2013

00:08

Hints for news(film) cameramen…

…it never changes.  The process of creating a visual story that is.  Larry Nance and I are merrily working on our tome, The Basics of Videojournalism when what should appear online but some helpful hints for visual shooters.

Trouble is – they’re more than ninety years out of date.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

And some advice we’re giving in the book. 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.


September 01 2012

22:12

Business…

Photo courtesy Kathleen Newell (http://www.kathleennewell.com)

Heads up – this is a “shameless self-promotion” posting. My visual storytelling business is up and running.

While small (with intentions to stay that way), I have plans to make it big – in quality. Although I’ve dabbled a bit with video production and its many challenges, I find my love of news and storytelling is leading me back into news – both feature and general.

So…if you want to keep up, check me out at the following sites:
http://thinknews.wordpress.com/ – my biz site
https://www.facebook.com/thinknews – facebook
https://twitter.com/thinknews – twitter
https://vimeo.com/cyndygreen – videos on Vimeo

Just FYI: work in progressing on The Basics of Videojournalism, although life is getting in the way some days.

And I will continue to post from time to time here on this blog – my first and favorite. Thanks for dropping by.


July 27 2012

15:35

Phone-ography…

A paradigm (para-dime) is typical pattern or model of something.

One of the paradigms of visual storytelling has been a certain type of camera. For years these cameras were the domain of professionals…large, extremely expensive, totally amazing pieces of technology. It took big bucks to get one and you made big bucks if you had not only the technical knowledge but the aesthetic sense and storytelling ability to use one.

Then…the paradigm shifted in the early 2000s. The big boys still made big bucks with big gear…but suddenly there was a new class of camera…halfway between the little consumer cams and the big professional guns. The pro-sumer camcorder. It had many of the nifty features of the pro cams, such as good glass and three chips and professional audio inputs. Manual controls. Good stuff all around, although noticeably not really up to pro standards.

And these little baby-cams began to gain in popularity as more and more people began to use them for an audience who demanded more and more video. The digital explosion send shock waves across the planet with the better quality cameras and affordable non-linear editing programs brought a new technology into the hands of the citizenry.

Another paradigm shift is going on right now and we see it every day and don’t even think about it. Cell phones began sprouting up in the 1990s…then morphed into phones that could take pretty lousy still shots…then not-so-bad stills. Then by leaps and bounds these little wonders turned into do-it-all mobile devices. Talk. Text. Surf the ‘Net. Shoot stills – and video. Not just plain ole video and stills, but high def stuff.

And they are taking over. Some years back when I began this blog I did a posting on Dinosaurs Fighting or Survival. Times had changed and if the pros who shot news (both still and video) didn’t change with them, they were out a job.

But back then the pros were either flocking over to the new technology or resisting mightily. It was a treat to their way of life – what they knew and could do.

Then technology ramped up its game and the gear got so good that the definition of “professional” took on a whole new meaning as more and more folks acquired the new smaller cameras. It quickly became apparent that the size of the lens and the heft of the camera had little to do with the ability to communicate. What mattered (and still very much matters) is a sense of aesthetics and storytelling. AND knowing how to make the gear you are working with work with you to tell the most powerful story possible.

But even the pro-sumer cameras (and many consumer cams too) had the familiar look to them. Lens in front, kinda boxy and rectangular. LCD on the side. It still looked like a real camcorder.

Enter the new mobile devices…thin, flat and less than the size of the palm of your hand. No optical zoom and minimal digital zoom. A new style of shooting and storytelling came with these new devices.

No longer able to pull in a far-away shot, you now had to zoom with your feet (or arms) to get in closer. The camera is no longer part of your body (hold it close to keep it steady…tripod it, cradle it). The camera is now an extension of your arm…your hand. In order to get a variety of shots you really need to get intimate with your subject. As in, arms-length close. Or closer.

And the storytelling end has had to change too. Rather than full-blown packages (including interviews, variety of shots, lotsa b-roll) stories are simpler. One long shot of an event such as a parade or riot. An interview covered with b-roll of an event or meeting. Impressions rather than full explanation. These “impressions” are often paired on the Internet with text and more information, which together tell a full story. The audience can choose to view the video and get the background from the other resources available or just read the information or just view the video to get a sense of what happened.

I doubt very much that mobile devices are going to take over the visual storytelling world any more than consumer or prosumer camcorders took over from professional gear. What they do is open up an entirely new way and new possibilities in visual storytelling to even more storytellers.

Yeah – it’s nice to belong to an exclusive club. Been there. Done that. But the new wave of stories coming at us will open our eyes and the world even more. And can that be a bad thing?

Transparency: Co-author Larry Nance and I have been discussing how to include all levels of gear in our pending textbook,The Basics of Videojournalism. He is a big proponent of technology and not only keeping up with the latest, but staying on the cresting wave as it thunders across the ocean. So expect full inclusion of not only prosumer and consumer and DSLR…but also mobile devices in the book.


April 12 2012

07:19

Do. It. Yourself.

We all have those little tricks up our sleeves…the tricks we use to fix it, shortcut it, or make it easy for ourselves.

Some years back I posted a quick little emergency “fixit” for those days when your last miniscule lav windscreen disappears. At the time I was experimenting with using my computer with a camcorder plugged in to see if I could record “live” into iMovie.

It worked. The way I shot the video I mean. And the trick works pretty well too. All you’re doing is creating a dead zone above the mike head that keeps wind from hitting the head.

Fast forward six years to today…or rather earlier this year. I needed a way to fix my Lectrosonics wireless receiver to my Panasonic HMC150. The body is so compact and nearly every surface has dials or gizmos that I couldn’t figure out where to put it. Out of desperation I would use the hand grip…or pocket it tethered to a long enough XLR cable. Awkward.

Looked around on the Internet, but most of the fixes either didn’t look like they’d work with my camera or were way too expensive. So I did what any sane person with too much time on their hands would do…I diddled and daddled and did some thinking to boot and came up with my own gizmo.

The solution was both effective and affordable. One two by four inch piece of plastic, about 3/5 inch thick. One cold shoe attachment. Industrial strength Velcro.

I’ll make a video later on…but here’s the drill. Countersink a threaded hold into the plastic. Fill said hole with super glue and screw in the cold shoe. Wait for it to dry. Attach Velcro to fit. Put mated piece of Velcro onto your receiver (or whatever else you want to attach to the camera).

Cost: assuming I could have bought just enough for this one holder, probably less than $10. As it was, I bought enough plastic for four holders (around $14), five of the cold shoes at around three and a half bucks each, and the Velcro roll ran nearly $15. The super glue I had lying around the workshop.

What would I do differently? I got the cold shoes cheap on Amazon.comAmazon. If I do it again, I’d probably go for more heavy duty shoes…I can tell the ones I got are not sturdy enough for long term use.

Oh – and once I went to all of this trouble, I found exactly what I needed (same basic design, but metal) over at B&H.

So – two of my tricks are out of the bag…and my partner in crime, Larry Nance, is working on more fixits, make-its, and shortcuts for our book, The Basics Of Videojournalism. The OMB, VJ – the current day Jack (and Jill) of all trades.


December 31 2011

20:18

Back in biz part 2…

The basic groundwork has been laid for the business. Right now it’s just me and the gear and my worksite, thinknews. But in order to make this viable I need an extended list of folks who have professional experience AND who I can work with. The latter is right up there with the experience because if I can’t work with someone…if I can’t trust them totally…they are useless.

This next week is dedicated to contacting old co-workers and friends to get their information, gear list, and rates. The purpose is threefold:

1. Want to be able to hand off jobs I cannot take due to scheduling or other constraints.
2. Want subcontractors for any jobs I get that require more than me and my gear.
3. Want folks who are lower and higher on the food chain than me – once again for referrals. Most of the folks I plan to work with are right in my range with rates and gear…a few have more/better gear and a few have less/more prosumer gear. If I get a client I feel I cannot serve due to their needs, I still want to make them happy by referring them to someone who can service their budget and needs.

So far…so good. Seems there is an overabundance of cameramen/editors but (wow) a shortage of talent/narrators. I’ve actually been eyeballing the husband (with his amazing shock of white hair) as talent. ??? Was that the sound of the door slamming and rapid retreat of footsteps???


July 25 2011

15:59

Professional vs. pond scum…

There’ve been a few discussions (this is one) going on over at b-roll, as well as some stuff happening in my own life that gave rise to this topic.

What IS a professional (videographer). And what is pond scum (well, pond scum floats…I really mean bottomfeeders)? And can one morph into the other?

Too often those at the top of the food chain look down with distain at those trying to climb out of the bottom. And those at the bottom often desperately love what they do and would (and can) do it for free.

Free – there’s the first difference.

A professional knows their worth – that their time is measured on dollars, based on experience, talent, technical knowledge, and gear, taking into account their market and a few other variables. And they charge accordingly.

Those who are not pros work for free…for the experience…for something for their demo reel…or just for the heck of it.

Pause for a bit of explanation – pros work for free from time to time for worthy causes or marketing purposes (win a free wedding video!).

Now I’m going to split the non-pros off from the pros and get into the nitty-gritty.

You can probably categorize the non-professional videographers into several strands.
1. Hobbyist
2. Student/Beginner
3. Clueless/Wanna-Be
4. True bottomfeeder

The Hobbyist is someone who does video for the love of it…and can and does achieve professional standards often. They’re not in it for the money, but for the love of the craft. (Again, pros are in it for the money…but in most cases there is also love of the craft. They want both though…to work and get paid for something they enjoy doing.)

Student/Wanna-Be are future pros if they play it right. They have learned the basics and are working to gain experience and listen and learn. They have a goal…to become a professional.

Um…Clueless/Wanna-Be. They may look like Students but don’t have the common sense or brain matter to rise above point and shoot. They’re either so into technical standards they don’t bother with aesthetics and the craft of video or they just like to walk around with a camera to impress, but never ever ever seem to move forward. They don’t have a plan or a goal beyond today.

And now for the Bottomfeeders. They’re the ones you have to look out for. They may look like pros or something between a beginner and pro, but they are not into learning or quality or ethics – they are in it for the money (and possibly the flash). They undercut pros in their market, do a shoddy job, and give the entire industry a bad name.

Why all this ranting?

First let me admit to an addition. I love to cruise craigslist. Primarily for the antiques and farm and garden section, but I also from time to time check out the gigs. Not the jobs (TV) section – after looking in there once or twice I had to sterilize my computer. It was NASTY.

And that’s where I (and many of the folks over on b-roll) find our laughs. So many many ads for video-related jobs, all offering no pay and an “opportunity” to work for “experience.”

But I found my first example that concerned me in the photography (for sale) section. A young woman placed an ad for her services as a photographer. She admitted to being a student, but wanted to charge $100 to take a portrait. She wanted to charge clients so she could learn and get experience. No online portfolio…nothing to indicate her abilities.

After an email correspondence I got her name. Yep – a real raw naive teen (ish) girl. She put herself out online and made several huge mistakes.

First – with one email I got her name and could easily, if I wished, have tracked her down or set up an appointment. Jail bait.

Second – she wanted to charge too much for her experience and without any proof of her work or mention of equipment other than having taken an ROP photo class and knowing PhotoShop.

Third – as mentioned above, what can she do for the price she is charging? Does she have a rate sheet…what does she provide for that price? How far will she travel? Where are some examples of her work?

I’m hoping she takes the advice given and sets up a webpage with examples, looks into contracts, rate sheets and more. She is a Student/Beginner…willing to learn.

The next one is similar, involving a teenager with aspirations and no clue about professional conduct. He offered to shoot senior portraits of a friend for free…and they went out over several days to a number of locations and different times (daylight, twilight, night). He shot quite a few photos – and then told his friend she had to pay $350 for the photos because he was a professional.

Ummmm – PROFESSIONAL?

I got involved because his “friend” was also one of my photo students who listened in class, earned an A and had her own concerns about his professionalism. Plus, she was extremely upset at the bait and switch.

A moment to pause for vainglorious shameless self-promotion.

MY student, while working with the above-mentioned “pro” kept questioning him about depth of field, light, aperture – and was able to asses his total lack of knowledge in those areas. Love it when a student actually LEARNS!

In the end she was able to beat him back, give him a token payment and NOT use any of his photos (98% of them were technically poor).

This guy may or may not learn from this. The friendship was broken, but may mend. But he seems to be meandering along his own self-centered path…not willing to move forward and take the necessary steps to become a professional. A current and future Bottomfeeder.

But his problems were similar to example number one, the craigslist babe.

No proof of prior work (no examples, just his word). No professional standards, rates, or contract. Bait and switch of the worst kind.

Now I do have a couple of students involved in video in their communities who are students. One is Cambodian, the other Hispanic. They took my high school broadcasting class and eventually set up their own production companies, shooting events/weddings within their tight-knit neighborhoods. (I’ve now seen Asian and Hispanic weddings from the inside! And pretty darn good productions at that.)

These two very different young men are moving thru the early stages of professionalism. They did some work for free for family/friends…then moved on to either working with a local pro or working on small events for token pay…then bigger projects on their own…to hiring assistants. They drove themselves to learn as much as they could, and still call or email with questions. Their raw talent and drive amaze me.

So – so do as I do – enjoy a good laugh from time to time online reading those trolling for free labor. But don’t get mad. This is a free market and those who don’t check out credentials before shelling over money have only themselves to blame. And don’t judge those who take the gigs too much. They may be clueless, they may be hobbyists, or bottomfeeders. Or they may be you – years ago in the same situation, but different time. Someone with a love, a passion for all things visual who just wants to (eventually) get paid to do what they love.


May 12 2011

05:32

My ugly mug…

…yeah. So I’m not the most attractive face on the planet and generally have spent my life behind a camera shooting those much more worthy.

But lately…been thinking. Maybe a series of web videos…podcasts…on the subject of video and journalism might not be a BAD thing.

So long as I don’t scare the livestock and children.

Hmmm…something to ruminate over….


March 31 2011

05:37

This ‘n that…

Summer is not approaching as rapidly as I’d like. What I thought would be a short term gig in the classroom teaching photography is now a full term of five months, so planning and prepping for my post-retirement production site is going slowly.

On the up side – I did order and have worked with my new camera: Panasonic AG-HMC150.

Went out on a trial run last night with dishcrawl. Think pubcrawl, but with food instead of beer. Nearly five hours of in-and-outs to four restaurants. Began by tagging along with official videographer Diane as she and dishcrawl founder Tracy Lee interviewed the owners/chefs at some of the restaurants. They allowed me to shoot some b-roll for them as well as work as backup camera on several interviews (This was a camera-only trial run, so I was mikeless. They plan to synch my video up with Diane’s miked video in post).

A challenging night. We began with setting sun light and shadows and progressed to full night, shooting by streetlight, in dining rooms, kitchens, and at one point even tried shooting as the crowd crawled past a dark corner. I got to test the little Panny out in a wide range of light temperatures and started becoming familiar with the placement of the buttons and dials.

Becoming familiar? A REAL videojournalist/shooter doesn’t even have to think about where her buttons and dials are on the camera. The camera should be as much a part of the VJ as their nose or fingers…an extension of their body. That used to be the case when I was in the daily mix of news…but it is now eight years later and I have to get back into the zen zone of shooting.

Back to the future. Over the next few months thinknews will have fresh new video examples, posted to vimeo and shot on my new camera. The intent is to show potential clients what I can do with current gear…what my current skill set is.

My byline has always been, “Can’t live without a camera in my hand.” So in retirement I do not plan to retire from who I am…but continue it at a pace that makes sense.


December 28 2010

15:55

New links to updated sites…

In anticipation of the New Year, my other two wordpress sites have been updated.

Check out The Basics of Videojournalism, an overview of a textbook on visual storytelling I am currently working on.

Also, beginning in June I’ll be out and available for hire as a freelance videojournalist – the site for that is think-news.

If you look to the left in the sidebar, you’ll see I’ve added both sites to the blogroll.


July 25 2010

23:56

Call of the open road…

Retirement isn’t what it is cracked up to be. I’ve had what would amount to a regular summer off for a teacher and have been busier than any other summer.

Volunteering to set up a website for an organization my husband belongs to. 48 Hour Film Project. My first post-retirement gig. Cleaning corners of the house that haven’t seen light since we moved in fifteen years ago. Training my replacement (would you believe the head of the Socials Studies department at my high school?) in the basics of video. Finishing up all of those little projects left over at the end of school. And more.

All of this so I wouldn’t feel guilty when the open road called again…as it has. Wednesday I answer that call, heading into the Old West by going east to Wyoming.

And I’ll have company…veteran VJ Kathy Newell will accompany me before heading off to her newest gig in one of California’s many wine regions.

If you live along that open road, give us a shout and we might just drop in (if you offer us story ideas and a chance to sit down and chew the bacon).

I’ve got a couple of little potential VJs sitting up in the north corner of the state, waiting for their great auntie-in-law to turn up and turn them on to what good photography is. They’ve got the first part right – they love to shoot. Now they just have to learn the rest of it – and keep that love going.

So sit back and relax and listen…you might just hear the old van wheezing by with a couple of dreamers looking for the truth. On the road again…


June 09 2010

18:23

Need a VJ?

Two weeks and I’m officially off the district payroll (no longer teaching) and unofficially looking for the occasional job. Here’s how the ad reads:

Master storyteller, visualizer seeking compelling stories. Thoughtful coverage, precise writing, solid shooting and editing skills. Available for hire as freelancer or long term contract basis.

Wishful thinking maybe…but then if you’re a regular, you know already I can’t live without a camera in hand.


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