Saturday, November 22, 2014

On shooting video stories: Learning curve is steep, but the climb is worth it

   It’s hard to define bad video technique until you actually see it: bad pans, bad focusing, bad fades, bad zooms, bad audio.
   The word ‘bad’ sounds, well, bad. But ‘making bad’ on your first few videos isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, we all have to start somewhere, right?
   A few weeks ago the KSU Teaching Multimedia class got started on their first video assignment.
   The goal was to get their your feet wet by handing the gear, practicing with moving images, getting comfortable with sound, and then developing a workflow to put it all together.
   Before they shot their story they were given a list of video news stories by established media to view. Then they had to find subjects that would lend to visual variety and sound (the assignment before this was learning how to capture sound and edit using Audacity). Finally, with a list of guidelines to follow, they had to shoot and produce their own stories.
  Keep in mind that this class is also extremely fast paced. In only four months they learn basic still photography and audio skills, as well as create blogs to post their timelines, interactive maps and opinion polls. They don’t have the luxury of time.   
  I expected bad video because most of the students took the class because they had no visual journalism experience and wanted to learn; and to learn you have to do; and the more you do the better you get.  This is why they are given a second chance, and are currently working on their second video, due at the end of the semester. I hope to see improvement, not only because they've done it before, but because they have the benefit of learning from one another's videos on our YouTube Channel.
  It's understood that the learning curve to shooting video is pretty steep. Still photography is hard enough, with camera controls, compositional rules and lighting techniques to worry about. But throw in the added elements of movement and audio, and, well, beginners can have pretty bad video! 
  The following two stories were chosen from this class because I think it’s important to demonstrate the spectrum of work students do. You will be able to tell which one works, and which one needs work.

  Sure, I can say in a classroom or write in a blog, "Don't do this, and yes, do that..."  But you really have you see it to get the picture.
   For this third bad audio video (click here), I demonstrate really bad audio, and it isn't a product of my students. It's mine!
Even us experienced types can screw up, as this brief weekly Dog of the Week video proves. Normally, the Sennheiser hotshoe mic on my DSLR cameras does a fine job of recording quality audio. But not this time.
   While producing the video using Adobe Premiere Elements 11, I was horrified to hear annoying static during the interview. Perplexed, I had a gut feeling it could be a battery issue, so I did a test. I recorded sound suing the old AAA battery, then replaced the battery and did another recording. The new battery fixed the problem.
   This bad audio makes it a bad video story, and even a cute puppy can't save it!
   Tips for recording quality audio include keeping the batteries fresh; record in a quite space, use a quality mic that minimizes distracting background noise; keep close to the subject or use wireless mics with a transmitter.
  Here's another video I did that encompasses decent shooting techniques and audio: Say cheese!
  A few tutorials on shooting/editing video:
·      NYVS video shooting
·      Media College
·      DSLR Video Shooter

Monday, November 17, 2014

Big crowd enjoys Tiedtke's song & 3,200 lb block of yummy cheese

  Fighting the crowd. Recording several speeches and editing them down to only a few minutes. Capturing enough B-roll to tell the story of a gigantic hunk of cheese.
  These were the challenges I faced Saturday during The Anderson's big Wisconsin cheese slicing event at the Talmadge Ave. store.
   The only technical issue I had was that the bottom half of the Canon 5D Mark III camera kept loosening up, which literally makes the camera go dead. At first I thought it was the battery, but it was full when I started. Then I wondered if I had a full memory card, so I stuck an empty one in the slot. But, alas, it was the separation between the camera body and battery compartment. Thank goodness it happened before, so experience paid off.
  I am also thankful I didn't have to shoot the stills, too. When I do both video and stills, it's ultimately the stills that suffer. I'm not going to say it's impossible to shoot both equally well, but I admit it's not easy. My colleague Jetta Fraser shot the stills.
  Here's the link to the Toledo Blade story, video and photo gallery: Say Cheese!
  Despite the thick crowd that made maneuverability difficult, it was a fun story to shoot, and the cheese was yummy.
   I was also fortunate that self-described 'cheese goddess' Paula Larson brought back Tiedtke's memories when she sang two renditions of the Tiedtke's song. The sing-a-long gave me enough time in the video to showcase the cheese-cutting and taste-testing process, otherwise known as B-roll.
  Who cut the cheddar cheese?  Dan Anderson did, of course!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Owens Outlook editors attend national student media conference in Philly

Me, center, and my hard-working Owens Outlook students ready for our journey, RV style. (Photo by Sean Ferry)
 Five Owens Outlook editors brought their cameras to the College Media Assoc. conference in Philly. (Photos by Lori King)
Amanda and TJ capture the underbelly of the Liberty Bell during a site-seeing walk around the city.
Packing up. (Photo by Sean Ferry)
    The photos tell the story, as they should. Though it’s impossible to sum up their overall experiences and amount of learning in a few blurry photos (Canon G-11 not the best for low light situations!).
   Our destination was the National College Media Association convention in Philadelphia from Oct. 29 - Nov. 2.
New York Daily News photojournalist Todd Maisel shows his 9/11 photos.
   On the morning of Oct. 29 we met in our regularly scheduled Intro to Photojournalism classroom. Five of the 10 students were going to the conference, so they came to class towing luggage.  After an hour of class, guest instructor Dave Cantor took over for those remaining.   
   With much anticipation we finally piled into my 2012 Forest River Sunseeker RV for what ended up being a 12-hour haul to the City of Brotherly Love.
   I consider myself to be one very, very lucky student media adviser because all five students who went to the conference are editors on the Owens Outlook, the online student newspaper.
  Attending were editor-in-chief Katie Buzdor; assistant editor/webmaster TJ Barney; news editor Janelle Smith; features editor Lacie Hayek, and sports editor Amanda Aylwin.
   The conference, held at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, was a bit overwhelming for all of us. The pace was fast and the lessons were many. There were about 2,000 college media students and their advisers who attended more than 325 workshops. For three days there were workshops every hour, beginning from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., with no scheduled lunch breaks. That equals out to be about 20 workshops we all attended!
   Workshops included everything from How to Write Feature Leads and Nut Graphs, to Maximizing your Website’s Potential.  There were multiple workshops for everyone, no matter their niche (sports, layout & design, management, etc.).
   This is the same conference I went to last year in New Orleans. It was at that conference that I learned about the News Academy, which I adapted for the Outlook. I realized the students needed journalism training before they could do actual journalism, so I ended up shutting down the online paper last year for News Academy training. We also discovered Student Newspapers Online (SNO), a WordPress platform, and our current website host.
   So, with a newly trained staff and a new website platform, we re-launched April 1. And I must say the results are stunning! There is no doubt in my mind that the New Orleans conference is what made this year at the Outlook possible.
   I’m really hoping the current funding issues at Owens doesn’t prevent a new class of students from going to the conference next year. The wisdom and confidence they gain is invaluable and worth the expense.
   The students will blog about their #collegemedia14 experiences soon. I will add links to their blogs when they are posted. They can express what they learned better than I can. 
Student photojournalist Christian K. Lee shares his experience of covering the Ferguson riots to a packed house.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

CMA Storify lesson on Photojournalism: Tools of the Trade

My Storify #CMA14 lecture on Photojournalism: Tools of the Trade

  Finally! I've been waiting an entire year to attend my second College Media Association conference, and the time has come.
   This conference will be special for me, not only because am I presenting two workshops (cell phone use in the media and tools of the photojournalism trade), but because five student editors from the Owens Outlook online newspaper staff and Intro to Photojournalism course are going with me.
   The editor-in-chief, assistant editor/webmaster, sports editor, news editor and the features editor are all taking the trip with me in my RV to Philadelphia on Wednesday. They will not only gain valuable information from the dozens of workshops they will attend, but it pretty much cements their dedication to returning next semester!
   The following is one of two Storify lessons I prepared the conference.
   This lesson is for the Tool of the Trade session. Since I only have 50 minutes, which is definitely not enough time to get too deep into any one topic, I used Storify so they can view the articles and YouTube videos on their own.
   Thus, I wouldn't necessarily consider my workshops as a teaching gig, but more discussions, and I'm the moderator.