A new crop of video journalists await

Right now my office looks like a camera store warehouse. Boxes of Canon HF-10 video cameras, Sennheiser wireless kits and shotgun mics will soon be deployed into The Spokesman-Review newsroom.  Next week, seven S-R journalists will attend a two-day in-house video workshop where I will teach the basics of shooting and editing video.

Each journalist has been assigned a MacBook Pro loaded with Final Cut Express software. Their newsroom roles are diverse–a breaking news mobile journalist, a music culture writer, two business reporters, a sports reporter, a photojournalist and our state legislative reporter.

Two days. That is the amount of time I have to share what has taken me four years to learn. The reality is that what I teach in this short workshop is only the framework of what these innovative journalists will need to learn. The heavy lifting will have to come from them as they learn to master the fundamentals over time.

One of the things I’ve discovered from other video workshops I’ve taught, is the less technical I get, the better students are able to grasp the fundamentals.  Spending a week watching Final Cut demos is not an effective way to teach video editing. The more hands-on training a student has, the faster they will learn.

After the workshop, my plan is to be a coach until each new video producer feels comfortable enough to fly solo. I will give constructive criticism and editing help on each video they produce. Truth is, most of these first productions will probably suck. I’m ok with that—and so should they. Video storytelling is tough, especially for word-oriented people. But with time and feedback they will get better, their editing will become faster and their storytelling confidence will grow.

These seven journalists were chosen because each has shown a willingness to adapt to change professionally. As our website grows in importance, their videos will help enhance Spokesman.com’s content in way words and pictures cannot do alone.

15 thoughts on “A new crop of video journalists await

  1. Wow Colin – I’d love to be a fly on the wall for those two days! You’ll be great. I’m sure you’ve thought of this too, but I give my students lists of sites to go watch good stuff for ideas. NPPA, OJA etc. Sort of goes with the thinking of reading good literature helps to make you a good writer. Watching good visual story-telling helps to make you a better storyteller.

    Have fun.

    And – wow…new gear!

  2. Colin, would you please tell us how you are dealing with the AVCHD format? Not a tech manual, but simply, do you record in that format? If so, what do you do about file size, and how do you get the file into your editing software? If not, then what do you do instead?

    Good luck with your class! Wish I were there!

  3. Hi Mindy,

    AVCHD is a not the best format, but I think is workable for most newspaper video storytelling. The key here is to make sure the computer hardware is able to handle these large files. We got capital funding for 15-inch Macbook Pro laptops with 200 gig hard drives, 4 gigs of ram and Final Cut Express 4 software. Final Cut handles the files through its log and transfer window easily. It’s actually pretty simple to review each clip by quickly scrubbing it and setting an in and out point. You then drag it to the transfer window. From there, Final Cut Express converts it into its intermediate codec (a file it can edit). This real-time conversion makes the video files very large, but the laptop seems to handle it just fine. I then edit like normal.

    When my edit is done, I export as a self-contained Quicktime movie. I then send that file to Sorenson Squeeze 5 or Visual Hub for compressing for the web.

    Of course in real world use, this workflow might crash and burn. I’m crossing my fingers here. We really wanted to go to a tapeless workflow. We have been using standard def Sony hard drive cameras. They have performed well and we will continue to use these. I am phasing in the AVCHD cameras slowly. The benefit the HF 10’s has over the Sony is its audio capability. Producers who get this camera will also receive a Sennheiser wireless kit and a mini Canon shotgun mic. This camera can record two channels of audio and has a headphone jack. You just don’t find that in camera under a grand. The video from these cameras is stunning. It makes great frame grabs. It also shoots excellent still frames. I just wish Canon, Sony and Apple could get together and produce something that Final Cut could read natively without having to convert the file.

    The next big issue is what do you do with this project file that can be tens of gigs in size? For now we’ll park them on firewire drives and probably trash some of them after awhile.

    We just installed a new Merlin video archive system that will archive the finished self-contained Quicktime movie. This system is pretty trick. As it ingests your video, it converts the story’s audio dialogue into searchable text. We are the first paper in the country to get this system. After I use it more, I will blog about it.

  4. Thank you so much, Colin. This is valuable info for lots and lots of people. I’m going to point over here Tuesday from my blog. Your generosity is much appreciated!

  5. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » AVCHD becoming less of a bear

  6. Randy, the Sennheiser mic is a wireless (ew100 G2) that plugs into the cameras 1/8 mic jack. A Canon DM-100 shotgun mic fits into the mini hot shoe. Hence the ability to record two channels of audio.

  7. Right. I was wondering if you mounted the wireless receiver anywhere or just put it in your pocket in order hook up both mics at the same time.

  8. I’m curious about getting into Final Cut for multimedia production — right not I use Soundslides — but I don’t see a simple way to post the finished piece as a flash object in a website. I’d love to see that covered in a future tutorial.



  9. Colin, I’m getting ready to outfit our 32 newsrooms with video gear and I’d be grateful to know what equipment you are deploying to go with the HF-10s. I’ve been looking at the HF-100 since even with a couple of Class 4 or Class 6 8GB cards, it’s less expensive than an HF-10. Which Sennheiser kit are you using and did you give them Canon DM-100s? Any recommendations on tripods, bags, and/or headsets?

    We’re looking into similar setups for our handful of full-time photographers and then Kodak Zi6 pocket cameras for every newsroom to share between reporters.

  10. Seth, People who got the HF-10’s also received a Canon DM-100 shotgun mic, and a Sennheiser ew112-P G-2 wireless kit. You don’t need large tripods with these, just get something that will hold up. Anything from Bogen/Mannfrotto is great. Take a look at model 728B. For headphones take your pick. Look for something that doesn’t have too long of a cord–you get tangled up when shooting. I don’t know the Kodak camera your are using. We have canon point and shoots (model 590, and G-9’s) for reporters. They shoot decent web video also. For bags, most of our MoJo’s are getting a camera backpack that has a laptop sleeve. Hope that helps.

    Just FYI, make sure if you buy Canon HF-10o’s you have fast computers and lots of ram to edit on.

  11. Colin, Thanks for the detail. Are you teaching any workshops on the west side of the mountains anytime soon? The Kodak is similar to the Flip – bare-bones. A few nice differences: the Kodak uses AA batteries, has an SD slot, and records 720p in .mov.

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