It’s a common bit of advice round many offices (and the halls of academe are no different) that you should always have a bit of paper in your hand to make you look busy. And it seems to be increasingly true that many people feel that you have to have a high-quality, often large, camera in your hand to make you look like a video journalist.
That doesn’t just extend to our own personal confidence. A newspaper VJ I know recently reflected on the time he wasn’t allowed through a security cordon with his little Panasonic camera, despite having a press pass, but the local TV crew just walked straight in.
Looking the part is often as important to some as actually doing your job.
‘Now, Andy’, I hear you say, ‘don’t kick up this whole quality kit debate again’. And I promise I won’t, at least not yet. The reason I’m raising it is that it the whole idea of how journalists are perceived and how the technology changes that , especially when you shoot video, took a different direction for me this week.
The right tools
That thought process was started as I caught up with my feed reading and came across a bit of cross posting by Mindy McAdams and Angela Grant questioning why some talking head video interviews are so dull.
I commented on a couple of my own theories why and a possible solution that involved shooting two interviews. One to get the story straight and one to get the interview to tell the story. Mindy responded:
Some people have suggested that you should do the complete interview the way you would for print — with your pen and notepad in hand — and only afterward, turn on the camera. Only then will you know the right questions to ask for the video.
Reflecting on that I thought, why bother with pen and paper. Shoot the video – tape is cheap – and you have more footage to play with. But I also have to admit that a pencil is less daunting for the interviewee than a video camera.
(added later: Just to clarify, in the light of some comments, that I was thinking about that in the context of gathering content for an interview that was usable in the editing process. I wasn’t dismissing pen and paper or note taking as useless in the face of video. Although I appreciate it can be read that way. I suppose I should have said why not pen and paper and video as well.)
This got me thinking about a conversation I after the official ceremonies at the Manchester Meld event . I was talking to one man video whirlwind David Dunkley Gyimah and Fee Plumley , director of the phone book ltd, who has been experimenting with content for mobile phones since 2000 including their latest looking for ‘Portable Electronic News Gatherers’ (or ‘PENG’) – nice phrase.
We where chatting about the role mobile phones and mobile content had to play in the growth of video online. In particular we kicked around the idea that the next generation of phones will have such good multimedia that they become an instinctive choice for filmmakers and journalists. If that sounds like a simple proposition, just try kicking that one round a room of journos, technologists and photographers and see how long you sit there.
One of the many points that came out that gave me food for thought was that idea of the level of permission a camera or microphone gives you as a journalist. And it reminded me that the technology creates a fine balancing act for journalists.
Sometimes the technology opens the door, like the TV crew, and other times, like an interview, it closes it. When choosing technology we should be thinking about the door we want to open as much as the way we are perceived.
Okay, so it’s an extreme example. But there are many environments where even a cheap camcorder would single you out and change the way people react to you. But a mobile phone is an acceptable piece of technology in many communities. You have permission to get a mobile phone out to film.
It’s an appropriate technology for that environment.
I’m not saying this to promote the use of mobile over other kit. A mobile phone won’t get you through a press cordon. But it may be invisible enough to get you the video you need to tell the story and that’s what it’s all about.