Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting videos even your photographer buddies will think is cool

Face it, as reporters we are still on the low end of priorities when it comes to video.

Yes, it's now a requirement for us to know how to shoot, capture and edit video stories in a multimedia world. But try arm-wrestling for equipment, and you're going to lose to the real photographers in the newsroom, whose jobs are increasingly dependent on video expertise. And they should.

I'm not one to sweat the small stuff.  Online video is still an open adventure, and to be truthful, most web surfers would rather watch "On A Boat" (33.8 million views and counting) than any serious piece of news you're going to produce (200 views and hoping for more).

For the new video series, I'm using a Canon Elura 85 that our newsroom bought in 2005.  I don't think they even make the model anymore.  Our photo department long ago graduated to Canon HD cameras.

So I'm using the old camera no one else wants, and I'm okay with it. But it's funny, when I started asking for feedback from people I know and respect, everyone complimented the production values of the new courts vlog.

My main mentor, Stacey Jenkins, who taught us video two years ago, said I've got my lighting right. One of our most prolific videographers, Jaime Oppenheimer, said it was "awesome."

That's the beauty of this DV camera:  you have control over the settings, so I can adjust exposure to the low-light situations that sometime plague the courtroom. No matter what the price, try to get one where you can switch to manual in a pinch.  Also important is a jack for an external microphone. If you've got those, you can really do some good work.

What is most important for reporters shooting video, is capturing decent audio.  And let me just say, the audio on your beat is better than mine.  Courtroom acoustics tend to really suck. Even the television guys, who've been doing this for years, complain about courtroom audio.

I'm still working on perfecting the audio, but for the meantime, I've got a wireless mic set on loan from the photo department.  It was one they're not using. Scored on that. Another tip, show an interest and work hard, and you'll have friends who will help you out, such as pointing out the good equipment that no one else is using (thank you, Jaime)

I'm still also carrying the $10.99 Nady microphone I bought two years ago. It still works great for interviews. I also pack an Azden shotgun mic I found collecting dust in a closet, which can pick up sound from across the room. My next experiment will be to use both the shotgun and the wireless to collect even better audio from court hearings.

I'm hoping not using this camera forever.  We're holding out hope for some more higher resolution video cameras for reporters in the next budget. In the meantime, I'm using what I have.  And I'm not complaining.

I'm finding it matters less about being a gear head and more about what you're collecting with the equipment you have. I mean, in the old days, I don't remember ever hearing good reporters complain about what kind of pen they had.

What are you using to shoot video for your stories?

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