Teaching Examples

Cheap cameras fine for video?
January 4, 2007, 3:29 pm
Filed under: journalism, newspapers, online, video

Here’s a report on newspapers shooting video — from the trenches:

At Bakersfield.com we’ve taken a decidedly low-fi approach to video. Ninety percent of our video is shot by reporters and 99 percent is shot with point and shoot, consumer-grade cameras. With our staff (~24 reporters) and our equipment (2-3 cameras) we’ve been able to shoot and edit 600+ videos this past year. We’re averaging about 700-800 views per day in recent months.

That’s from Davin McHenry, Web editor at The Bakersfield Californian. His post gives a realistic opinion of the insistence of some on buying only top-notch video equipment and shunning cheap consumer or “prosumer” camcorders.

You can scoot on over to the Bakersfield.com video page and see what you think. I’d be very interested to see your comments!

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4 Comments so far
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Visual quality is fine, audio is uneven on some of the clips, the reporters are miked better than the person they are interviewing.

The audio track should be recorded at the highest quality. The video or visual images can be supplemented by stills, graphics or b-roll if there needs to be a trade-off.

Comment by Ron Diorio

Thanks for the comment, Ron. You’re quite right about the audio. Compare what good audio Cyndy Green got with just a cheap external mic in the Wyoming cattle drive video. Too many people rely on those built-in condenser microphones in video cameras and digital audio recorders. Bad sound really is a huge flaw in some of these packages.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

One of the training issues remaining in Bakersfield, and I think Davin would agree, is how to better use the point-and-shoots. You need to recognize when you’re just not going to bet good video or audio and make the appropriate adjustments. You must think ahead. It’s not mindless point-and-shoot. It’s point-and-shoot with a plan.

Comment by Howard Owens

It is entirely possible to produce good content with cheap cameras. See this music video, produced with a cell phone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsxCPMpRRK8

But much of what we do as journalists involves making a story rather than just covering it. Plane crashes and shootings aren’t going to happen in front of your staff very often, no matter how many point-and-shoot cameras you put on the street. Much of what we do for a living is to explain boring stuff in interesting ways.

To make compelling video of those stories takes talent and decent gear. And any business that depends on gear should have equipment that stands up to daily use.

Beyond that, though, we need to produce stories that have more than novelty. We don’t want our video to become the pet rocks or cb radio of this generation. If all you want is traffic, run porn or mentos videos … or maybe porn AND mentos videos….

The buzz these days is all about community. But newspapers have ALWAYS been about community. Newspapers exist to land on the doorstep of people who have put down roots, who are raising their kids, and who are fully vested in their neighborhoods.

We need to invest in serving our communities online — in ways that our viewers will remember favorably. Quality counts. Viewers — our subjects — have very long memories and will never forget that we made them look bad or made their voices sound awful.

As a journalist of long experience, I can tell you that nothing is as final as the door slammed in your face by a news-making person who once had a story done on them they didn’t like. And no one is as helpful as the subject who respects what your institution has done to them previously.

Your community deserves steady, clear video with good sound.

Comment by Chuck Fadely

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