Taking me to task


In my last post, “Sequencing Video” I was taken to task from TV photojournalists for letting my camera run instead of starting and stopping when I was shooting a sequence for a story. Oreo writes:

“I encourage you to work however is most comfortable for you, but when I shoot, I (usually) start and stop recording when changing shots. This leads to less wasted media, and less time in editing looking for the shot you want. It is also referred to as “editing in the camera.” I can’t give you any hard and fast rules that I have on when I roll constantly, but it’s usually when the action is happening rapidly or the record button is not easy to reach due to the way I’m holding the camera.”

And from Lisa Parisot:

“I think your technique might work however I teach students in my classes to turn the camera off between shots unless they are recording for sound, or if it is a breaking news event where every second counts. I learned to shoot news when the amount of film stock was limited so we had to sequence in the camera. I teach this method to my journalism students for two reasons – so they learn to edit in the camera which saves time in the edit room and so they learn to anticipate what shots they will need to tell their story.”

I defended myself by saying I don’t do that very often, which is true to my style. I got to thinking though—What do TV news shooters really do when they say they edit in camera? I realize that many of you still edit tape-to-tape instead of the modern method of non-linear–ala Final Cut Pro. Does that change how you shoot?

My interpretation of editing in camera is to shoot sequences that include a variety of wide, medium and tight. I usually try to shoot more than I think I will need and I tend to work off the tri-pod for anything other than long shots. I can hear our TV lenslinging brothers and sisters cringing at that. I just find that I can move, compose, move, and compose, faster that way. I get more visual variety by getting the camera on the ground or above eye-level quickly and I can react to a great moment faster. I see a lot of newspaper video shooters using this method. It’s probably because we come from photojournalist backgrounds, which has little use for the pod.

When I’m on a story where there are TV news shooters, I see them lugging those massive beta-cams and lead-pods around and I think, “man they’re missing shots.”

Case-in-point. I shot this video and other than the interview, the rest was shot off the pod. When a TV photojournalist showed up at the event, he shot everything on pod and didn’t move around much. Because I was mobile I got close enough and was able to sequence the emotional scene at the end quickly. On the local news that night, all the viewers got was a quick interview with pod level b-roll and not much emotion. I’m not saying that’s what you always get if you’re tri-podding, but I wonder if, again, there is a difference in the way newspaper shooters, with their five pound, optically stabilized cameras might have some advantage over the larger ENG cameras.

I’ve learned to hold my breath a lot when I’m shooting. Plus, my display for my work is a 480-pixel window versus a 50 in high-def monitor for broadcast. Could some of you who shoot TV news share your thoughts on how you edit in camera? Also, how do you balance the need for steady video versus getting a great shot on the fly? 

7 thoughts on “Taking me to task

  1. ‘Editing in the camera’, or what I’ve always heard called ‘Shooting in the Can’, isn’t complicated. Mainly, it’s just stopping and starting you Record function between shots. MOst every phtog I know does this – except when the action is flowing so fast you’re afraid you’ll miss something (think war vets returning at airport). Shoot ‘in the can’ long enough and you’ll find yourself truly editing as you go, juggling wides, mediums and tights, recognizing natural transitions and building a mental storyboard that will you save you time (something we ain’t got alot of) in the edit bay. I’ve done it that way for so long, I don’t consciously think about it.

    As for tripods, any (TV news) shooter who doesn’t use one is a rank amateur. Why? Mostly because they extrapolate the amount of long shots possible as well as the number of STEADY close-ups you can get. Having said that, you need to really mix it up – shoot off sticks and then shoulder up, shoot and move. That way when you get back to the edit bay , you have a cornucopia of differing looks, from the highly compressed long shot to the widened-out macro close-ups. Nothing feels better than mixing up the shots and any shooter who merrely parks it on the sticks and leaves it there is erring on the side of safety and being lazy too boot. I cannot stress the importance of tripods enough (even for lighter cameras), but you must know WHEN to properly abandon it. You hit on it earlier: shoot and move, shoot and move – whether you’re running around with the beast on your shoulder or you’re dragging your sticks along.

    Oh – do what works for you of course, but I’d advise against holding your breath during shots. Try instead to slow your breathing – as not to ruin the shot when your lungs give out. Just a thought. Speaking of which, you’re provoking much thought here on your blog and I applaud you for including TV shooters. We’re NOT the enemy – unless you’re blocking our shots. Then it’s On Like Donkey King!

  2. Oh – another thing. There is also the issue of psychology when it comes to using your tripod. A couple days after that jackhole shot up Virginia Tech, I was covering a student memorial on that very campus. Standing close by with my camera on my sticks, I captured rock-steady tight shot after rock-steady tight shot of students mourning the loss of so many classmates. Meanwhile some goob with a newfangled handycam walked from crying student to crying student, jamming his tiny lens inches from their face and rocking back and forth like he was shooting close-ups for a music video. I don’t care whp he was shooting for or what kind of immedicay he was trying to achieve – THAT GUY was being an asshole.

  3. Colin, I’m preparing to teach reporting students how to shoot this week. In preparation, I went over my notes from Rosenblum’s Travel Channel Academy, which I attended last summer. He started us off with his “Five Shot Method” (TM), and part of that training is to frame the shot “perfectly” before you press the Record button. Then you silently count to 10 (at least). Then press the Record button to stop the tape.

    I’m no editing expert, but I had struggled mightily to edit video before that lesson. When I went out to shoot my first tape for TCA, I spent two hours on the scene and brought back only 10 minutes of tape.

    It was the easiest editing I have ever done! I could cut anything together with anything else!

    Even though I have known from my very first shooting experience to “hold the shot” for 10 seconds — and I followed that rule, I swear — the moving around with the taperunning made for a lot of bad tape and a lot of wasted time.

    I have seen how forcing yourself to get the shot, record, and then stop recording really pays off in the editing.

  4. Lenslinger is right, one needs to know when you can be successful off the tripod. I’ve had to instruct at two different papers, and when I didn’t emphasize the tripod enough, it showed. I think beginning shooters should err to the side of steadiness and slowly learn when and how to shoot handheld successfully.

    I tend to leave the camera running the way you do. I understand all the arguments against it, but I usually do it for the sake of audio. If I’m rolling, and I hear something through my headphones that I think I’ll use, I can then compose a shot quickly enough that I’ll only need to cover a second or two of audio with some other video.

    Yes anticipation is better, but I’m not always ready. Maybe with more experience I’ll stop and start more often.

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