My post on the challenges of shooting multimedia during a visit to Iraq this month proved a popular one (thank you!). A week of furious editing in both radio studios and on my own video edit software later and I’ve learned a load more. Here are the highlights…
8 more lessons learned in shooting multimedia
01. different mediums, different audiences
I wrote on a previous post how a difficulty of shooting for different mediums was juggling all the kit. Well, since coming back I’ve really come to realise how you also have to juggle different audiences some times. I went out primarily for my local radio station; the brief: meet local soldiers, find out about their life on the front line, get some good home references (like supporting local football teams) and messages back home to loved ones. Your typical local young house-wifey type content.
In taking out a camera though, I gave myself a second agenda – an audience on the web very different from my radio one. Now the challenge before me is to produce content for two different audiences with the same raw material. So something fun – like this; and something a bit more serious – like this.
02. different mediums – helpful sometimes
OK, so holding a mic and a camera ain’t easy but it can cover your back too. The external mic on my camera failed me on one interview, but luckily I had the same interview in mp3 from my Marantz recorder. A bit of tricky synch work and you’ve fixed the problem.
Self-shooting without a tripod made interviews a bit of a challenge. I had to be close enough to my subjects to pick up audio on my Marantz recorder, but far enough away to get a wide enough head shot. The result: most interviews were in extreme close up! Although close ups are often recommended for online video in its smaller 720×526 screens.
04. get to know your camera
I didn’t have enough time to really practice with my camera before I used it for the first time. I meant a lot of wasted tape as I tried to ride the iris or adjust the manual focus.
05. keep it manual
I don’t regret keeping all my settings – but namely white balance, focus and iris – completely manual.
06. log it
I logged everything as I shot, which has saved time in the edit. Also my logbook provided a great home for memes, sketches and ideas.
07. be prepared…
…for technical hitches. I was very positive about my budget film making kit earlier this year, but remember, pay peanuts and you get monkeys. Adobe Premiere Elements is great value for money, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why it crashes every time I try to capture video. And the image recorded is shifted ever so slightly to the left. And when I recorded video with my external mic plugged in but not switched on I got a nice blast of Iraqi radio on the soundtrack instead.
08. oh and one bit of advice to anyone else who takes recording equipment to a military theatre…
…don’t record anywhere near a military radio kit. Number of interviews lost: 2. Number of amazing pieces to camera on top of a moving vehicle lost: all of them
All the radio content has been broadcast this week on 96.9 Viking FM in the UK. Lots of content including interviews, audio slideshows and video is online – click here. I will put up all my audio shortly. And more video coming soon!
Here’s an interesting look into what a post-print digital newsroom might look like, from Steve Outing in the Editor & Publisher.
It’s crux is a reduced core of multi-media journalists, who – as well as writing, shooting, podcasting and blogging – create web 2.0 communities around their specialism.
Sounds great, for those left with the jobs, but involves huge job losses in circulation, print, middle management.
Journalists undergoing training get excellent tuition these days on media law. The difference between libel and slander, section 39, contempt of court, jigsaw ID, all that.
The idea: to leave the course with an instinctive knowledge of when a story isn’t legally sound. Some alarm should go off in your mind.
All well and good, but just 2 weeks after finishing my training, in June 2007, I found my way to court for the first time, on my own, covering the sentencing of a woman who’d been convicted for dumping her stillborn baby on the banks of a river.
It hit me then: I knew the law – but I sure as hell didn’t have a clue how to cover a court case. The practicalities. So everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned on the job, covering trials for murder, rape, fraud, armed robbery you name it for nearly two years.
The questions you were afraid to ask (or never got told)
How do I find out about court cases?
To find out if a case is due to appear in a given court, on a given day, the online source Courtserve is a good first stop. You can browse cases by court, although the next day listings won’t appear until mid-afternoon the day before.
Every Crown and Magistrates Court has a listings department; it’s good practice to call them to confirm the appearance as often changes are made at the last minute.
Finally there is no substitute for maintaining a thorough court diary (court jester) on your newsdesk. Every time a crime hits the headlines, note the arrest and follow up subsequent appearances.
What is the legal process?
Keeping it (very) simple: once someone has been charged they will appear at their local Magistrates court, and depending on the seriousness of the crime, it will be sent to Crown Court. There is often at least one Preliminary Hearing where details like the defendant’s name and address are confirmed.
Then comes the Plea and Case Management Hearing (or PCMH) this is where the defendant will plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” If it’s the former it goes straight to sentencing, if it’s the latter, a date will be set for trial – and a window for that trial to take place.
The trial itself will take place: the jury sworn in, then opening statements, before the prosecution and defense have full blow at all the evidence with witnesses galore. Both sides sum up, before the judge sends out the jury. After deliberation lasting hours to days, they return a verdict. At which point the judge adjourns the case while he decides a sentence. He may also ask for psychiatric reports to be prepared which can delay the process.
The sentence is given, and case closed.
What should I wear in court?
I would always recommend wearing something vaguely smart, but I’ve never been kicked out for wearing trainers and jeans. It’s no worse than the relatives of those appearing will turn up in.
What can I take into court?
Into the courtroom itself you can take your bag, a pen and notebook. Phones are allowed but for the love of God, turn it to silent (be paranoid about this!).
Broadcasters: you will have to surrender your mics, cameras to the security desk. I recommend approaching them with eye contact and a smile and the line “I need to hand this over to you” If you leave it for them to find it in your bag, then it gives them a major lecture-licence which we could all do without.
Where am I supposed to sit?
Every courtroom has a press gallery, usually in the ‘pit’ of the courtroom. There’s also the public gallery, but press is preferable because you can swap notes with other reporters.
What happens if I arrive late or need to leave early?
People are allowed to come and go from a courtroom, but it is customary to turn and give the judge a respectful nod as you leave or enter. At some stages, arriving or leaving will be banned.
How do court rooms work?
When you arrive you’ll go through a security check, often with a metal detector. A frisking isn’t unusual. Broadcasters, handover your recording equipment.
Then there’s a lobby, with access to all the court rooms. You’ll see all sorts in here:
- A group of people looking scruffy: normally the family/friends of the defendant, and not unusually the defendant themselves.
- People dressed smart, looking nervous or crying: often witnesses about to spill all.
- Smart looking people sitting next to them: the detective on the case, hoping the witness says the right thing.
- Very smart people in a gown: the clerk of the court: They’ll call in witnesses and announce the start of proceedings in a certain courtroom.
- And the people you’ll probably want to ID the fastest: other journalists. Make friends-you’ll need to share notes and know you’re in on the right case!
I’m in the court building but I don’t know what room I’m supposed to be in, what do I do?
Navigate your way round with the flatscreen monitors dotted around. There’s at least one in the lobby, listing all the cases due that day (by defendant’s name, case number, case stage, place and time).
Each courtroom usually has a room specific monitor outside it.
Still you’ll need to keep your wits about you – there’s nothing worse than realising you’ve gone and sat in on the wrong case.
How do I find out if there are any reporting restrictions?
Normally there’s a note on the press bench. Again, this where it’s useful to make friends with other hacks – especially PA or the local paper. They’ll tell you if there’s anything you should know about.
Who can I talk to for help?
Your afformentioned journo friends. Also you can usually approach the court clerk at an appropriate moment, or one of the council. Every court also has at least one attached freelance court reporter who files copy for organisations who can’t be there. Living in the building they’ll tell you everything and anything – but be warned, they earn their living on passing on court copy, and a reporter present = one less sale.
Will I be upset?
You may be. On a murder or sexual assault case the details are graphic and unrelenting. Be prepared for sex assualt cases in particular, when the charges are often listed by each individual ‘penetration’ (which is then described). And you’ll hear bad language all over the shop, including from barristers and the judge (when reading out witness statements).
Am I allowed to approach anyone?
On a big case, you might want to interview the police on the case or the family of the victim. There’s no problem with this, but use your common sense and tact. Courts are very distressing places for some people.
What are good questions to ask?
If you’re looking for that extra scoop or new angle, try and speak to the officer who tried the case after verdict (they’ll be at court). Were there any previous convictions you can now report? By arrangement the families may give a statement or take questions outside court. This is usually done with arrangement with the police press office.
What happens if I get any grief?
I’ve never gotten grief from someone involved in a specific case. The only resistance you’re likely to encounter is – bizarrely – from the people who work in courts. For some reason, no-one’s ever told them the important role journalists play in justice and democracy, and you’re seen as a nosey parker.
The answer: remember Lady Justice with her two scales. Justice is to be done and seen to be done. If you need to give a (minor) court official a reminder on this, all the better.
I’ve been working in broadcast news for two years now, and I’ve been following it, I guess for five. And well, I think I’m just a bit tired with it all. With the formats, with the delivery, with the writing, with the style, with the editorial choices.
Surely there must be something different?
Here’s thing: I don’t think there is. We all know radio is in a state, and as for TV? Well I could write a long diatribe, but it’s been done already, far more succintly and wittily, and then put on television by Charlie Brooker:
Watch part one here:
Then part two here
And part three here:
Whether you like it or not, or whether you think it’s the way it’s always going to be or not, I am convinced there is room for something different.
Something aimed at a younger audience; with a journalistic transparency, a complete fluid harmony with digital and web technology, delivered differently, cheaply, eco-friendily, telling different stories, off the agenda, breaking the rules, offering something new.
To avoid sounding like the Alistair Darling when he gave his speech about how to fix the economy the other week (and didn’t actually announce anything), here is – for what its worth – my own TV news manifesto. Just some ideas; debate them, slate them!
a new news manifesto
This is my own idea for an online based alternative news platform. At its heart is a daily studio news programme, uploaded to the website and to Youtube. It is of no fixed length – only dictated by the content.
Ignore the stories of the mainstream media. That means crime stories are out. Court stories with no lasting impact are out. Surveys, unless by major bodies are out, so is the sort of PR pollster rubbish that fills the airwaves. If people want that they have no end of sources. This will be different.
Rather than just reporting on a problem and ending with the cliche “whether this problem will be solved is yet to be seen” there’s a good argument for solution journalism. Jake Lynch and Anna McGoldrick suggest it as part of their own ideas on Peace Journalism (could it be adapted to non-conflict reporting?) Reports which examine how a problem might be solved rather than just reminding us there’s a problem.
A younger audience; a digital existence
A programme for the ‘web 2.0 generation’. That’s the people who blog, use facebook and myspace and exist in a digital online world. It’ll be up front and direct, but not patronising like Newsbeat‘s “something bad has happened in a place called abroad” style. VJ pieces will be created for web use not to mimic TV styles.
At its heart will be the ethos of video journalism. David Dunkley-Gyimah laid out his own manifesto on this here. As well as staffing young creative VJs for firefighting stories and assignments, this brand would tap from a huge source of international freelance sources as well as other existing solutions like Demotix and Vimeo. Stylistically it would take its cues from already successful projects like Current TV. Packages are edited fast and with attitude -they know the rules of conventional film, but aren’t afraid to break them.
It would have an international focus, remembering the unreported stories. It believes the phrase “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. It would focus on unreported issues and people with the story tellers getting right into the story. Creativity is the norm, and the packages do not try to emulate TV news in content or form.
But what about the main agenda?
This wouldn’t be ignored – but would be wrapped in each show in a “newsbelt” form – “the stories the other shows are talking about” It would need to feel connected to the national agenda but not neccessarily following it.
A key element to this type of journalism would be transparency in reporting and editing. Packages would be VJ produced – from the root to the fruit – and VJ led. In other words the viewer follows the VJ as they investigate and tell the story. If it’s from a press release the audience deserves to know that. There would also be an openness in editing with misleading cutaways, noddies and GVs removed, and edits to interviews clearly signposted (for example through a flash wipe). Agency footage labelled as such so viewers know it’s not inhouse. Images of reporters can appear on screen as they cover the story.
The platform is digital – through an accessible, well designed fluid website. Viewers can watch whole shows or individual reports. Each show would have no time requirements as broadcasters do. It would need to host an online community of viewers who watch, comment, submit and review. They are reflected in the content. The people at 4iP lay it out quite nicely right here.
The journalism would have attitude, and would be not afraid to take risks. At its heart is good story telling and brilliant writing. Creative treatments would set the standard mainstream broadcasters will adopt months later.
Cheap and green
The video journalism model is cheap and green. One man bands on assignment, sourcing, shooting and cutting themselves. No need for live satellite link ups or expensive foreign trips housing 5 people in big hotels (what’s wrong with a hostel?) The central programme itself would be studio based but avoiding the “absurdist cathedrals of light” preferred by the mainstream. Solar powered lighting? Light cameras on light peds?
The central programme is relaxed, young and doesn’t appear to be trying too hard. The team have the mind set of the Daily Buzz and create great moments even when they’re not trying too. Stylistically the presentation takes its cues from a more fluid version of C4 News in the UK, with almost constant (but not distracting) camera movements.
This news platform doesn’t need to report the mainstream stores – because there is a plethora of media to do that already. It avoids the distorting pressures of the other networks, like the need for live pictures from the scene, uninformed 2-ways and time pressures. It focusses on bringing something new, but allowing analysis too. It’s VJ packages are well produced – but do not try to emulate the style of TV news.
That’s pretty much all I got. As i mentioned I strongly feel there is a demand for a new way of doing things-we just don’t know what that is yet.
And just a quick disclaimer: I’m just a young broadcast journalist with only 2 years under my belt. I certainly don’t suggest this any good a solution, or that I should have anything to do with it. But for what it’s worth I thought it was worth jotting down.
You might agree, or you might disagree…stick your thoughts in the comments box!