Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Your Video Converter Hates You

This week was my first opportunity to ditch the lab equipment, with its funny camera light and unreliable tripod, for the sleek camera gear at KOMU.  But better equipment meant I had to be a better photojournalist.  Last night I couldn't rely on an automatic zoom to de-fuzz my shots; I had to use my own shooting judgement and make sure I capture the best video.  This was all more work but the feeling of accomplishment was well worth it when I got back to the station and saw my personally focused, zoomed and angled shots in the editing equipment.  I have to admit, not all the shots were what I expected them to be, but these couple of weeks are my time to make mistakes.  
  I arrived at the station a little before 6 p.m. to prepare a VO (stands for "voice-over" if you're now confused, not "vile-odor") for the 10 p.m. show.  My producer handed me an email.  I am to report on an open forum hosted by a local, non-profit organization called "COLORS".  COLORS stands for Columbia Locally Owned Retail and Services. Here's their site: Basically, they are a non-profit that promotes "buying local" instead of the big-box stores.  But the forum didn't have anything to do with Columbia's small businesses.  The forum was the public's only opportunity to ask questions of the eight candidates running for the Columbia Public School Board.  The applications went out last week for candidates to apply, and the vote was to take place within the week - today, in fact.  COLORS noticed that the vote was happening quickly and the contenders had barely any time to voice their positions, so COLORS decided to launch this forum.  There was a good turnout with six out of the eight potential board members showing up, but I still had the problem of getting interesting video out of an average public debate that was unlikely to get juicy.
I was happy with the bite I got from a COLOR volunteer. I asked why a non-profit like COLOR, which usually deals with small business, is interested in Columbia's public education.  The volunteer, Sean Spence, said that Columbia's small businesses want an educated workforce and educated consumers.  Good bite! I was set in the interview department.  I tried getting a current school board member on camera, but he declined.  Plus, my producer gave me strict instructions not to interview any school board member.  You know the deal with politics - you interview one and you have to do them all! Not possible with eight people running.
My video was not as easy as my bite.  The forum was in an awkward, boxed room with the typical dais, host podium, and eight rows partially filled with an emotionless audience.  I got video of the brochure with "COLORS" written on the front so I could reference who hosted the forum.  Other than that, I made sure to shoot medium shots of the candidates so viewers could clearly see the faces, and the usual close-ups of people writing, hands wringing etc.
The shoot and interview went well, but KOMU got a little hectic.  I completely underestimated the time it takes to import the video from the chip into the editing equipment.  That oversight cost me some valuable time.  Instead of editing and piecing together beautiful sequences, I was stuck with a written script and unedited raw video processing like a melting glacier in the video converter box.  And I'm talking about a glacier before Global Warming - the slow melting kind that once capped our planet.
But in the end, the VO was written and the sequence was edited, and never again will I import that much video.  But hey - I finally got to use the cool KOMU camera.

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