Newspaper video: Expensive kit is an ethical issue(apparently)

A couple of articles that I wanted to get on the blog – and off my chest – both from the Digital Journalist.

First , in a column piece PF Bentley asks that we “ Just Say…..Wait a Second”

So now you need to make the switch to video and the bosses are asking if you can do “that video stuff” on some ultra-mini DV camera and edit in iMovie. Ask them if you could shoot the big game with a digital point-and-shoot. Hey, cut costs more by only using Photoshop Elements. Finally, tell them you could further cut costs if they’d move out of their plush offices and sit in the newsroom with a plain, unfinished pine desk with a rotary phone with dial-up Internet.

Big Game!!! Not in the middle of Lancashire mate…

To be fair Bentley makes a good point

I got some news for you all: In the next few years we will be moving out of broadband and into fiber optic or powerline Web delivery which will enable full HD Web video and network broadcast online. This means that you are going to have to compete for viewers with 5,000 or more “stations” online. You better have some really good stuff to show ’cause you are not the only game in town for ADVERTISING DOLLARS

And his point is that you need good kit to do that.

I got some news. No you don’t.

I thought we had this discussion already. It would be nice to have all the greatest kit in the world but you do not need it.

When you are getting started paying 1400 dollars minimum just for a camera just on the off chance that you will be competing with “5,000 or more “stations” online” is false economy.

Ive said a number of times before that people have to invest in this stuff. Newspapers are proffesionals and want to produce proffesional content . An expensive video camera or edit suite doesnt do that. By that argument I could be a millionaire just by putting some fancy pants on.

You need to start with confidence. You have to start with training staff and getting them on board so you can get some of that ‘good stuff’.

Otherwise you are left with a bunch of gear heads shooting big game.
And the second post?

James Colburn has (perhaps) an ethical dilemma. ‘Great ,‘I think, ‘The ethics of all this online stuff area real challenge’.

Reading through the post I discover that most of it is a pixel-by-pixel breakdown of the relative resolutions of film, hdv etc. etc. You need to skip to the conclusion to see get his ethical point.

Some day. Somewhere. Someone is going to look at that picture splashed big across the front page of a newspaper and, knowing that it’s a frame grab from an HDV camera, will say, “Where did the extra data come from?” “It’s not what the camera recorded!” “How can these people (the newspaper) lie to us (the reader) like that?”

That’s when the tempest will start and the tears will follow

It’s Friday, and I’m tired, so excuse the language but holy shit! Is this serious.

By that logic newpapers lie to the reader every day.

When you publish a colour photograph is B+W or push a film by a stop to lighten it. When you crop an image or use a graded filter on your lens. It’s all manipulation. And let’s not get started on your editorialising when you frame the shot or where you stand or the angle you shoot from.

I’m getting to grips with the differences in the doco, honest-eye style of photo-journalism in the US compared to the UK. I know there are differences but this just smacks so much of an internal academic argument.

The worry is that if you put the two posts together you get a pretty convincing argument for buying really expensive equipment with good resolution because it’s more honest and ethical.

13 Replies to “Newspaper video: Expensive kit is an ethical issue(apparently)”

  1. Hey Andy:

    Thanks for the mention – I’m glad someone is reading my column!

    You know it’s not the gear that makes the photograph or video, but the person behind it. That goes to a point. If you want professional results you need the gear that will do that. I’m not saying you need some $100,000 CineAlta HD camera but maybe something that can at least record 2 separate tracks of audio.

    My other point is the atitude of publishers to spend money on still photography equipment in the past and now think anyone can shoot video on a handycam and budget accordingly.

    Lastly – I don’t agree with Colburn either!

    Thanks for keeping the discussion alive and having your site.



  2. Hi PF

    Thanks for the reply. A more reasoned one then the tone of my post deserved I think.

    Let me just say that taking a more level headed view I agree with your point about the attitude of managment in their seemingly anti-creative cost/benefit approach. But I think that is, in the terms of quality = expensive kit debate, a connected but seperate issue.

    I agree that you want professional results I suppose the difference for me would come in defining ‘what’ makes for that result and where the bar is set.

    I know that I can shoot on a consumer DV camcorder and get that broadcast on TV – mainstream terrestrial TV, not cable. I know that for two reasons.

    1. I can run it through the right test equipment and understand the engineering enough to make sure it hits the mark when I deliver it on a digibeta tape.

    2. If the content is strong enough the producer can get it on air.

    I would rather we spent most of the time and money at my disposal as an editor getting people up to speed with the second point than trying to get them to understand the first.

    I’m all for the right kit. If you hunt back through this blog you will see a few posts where I have taken and been taken to task over the issue of kit. But let’s make it fit for purpose now. If we are as cheap as we can go – I mean what the budget can afford and wont compramise the editorial quality (and there I would support your 2 channels of audio point to the death) – and keep the entry level low we are more likely to innovate as a profession

  3. Well said.

    For those who know me, I hate gear! When I was shooting behind the scenes political stills for TIME Magazine my kit was two bodies and two lenses. That was it.

    If I could do my job with a point and shoot I would of… and sometimes thought of covering a campaign with only those Kodak disposable cameras! But the non adjustable F8 lens would not work in low light (I never used a flash either).

    I think I’m more annoyed at the atitude of management than the actual gear.

    By the way, I’ve been editing three projects using FCP 6 and it’s a great upgrade. ProRes422 is definately a plus when you’ve been used to editifng in HDV with all it’s problems. It does however use up more gigs – so buy a few TerraByte hard drives!

    Albest, PF

  4. Believe me the managment attitude is the most frustrating part for me to. If they would just butt out and leave us to it…well you know what I mean.

    Election coverage using disposables – I see a mash up in the distance. 🙂

    Ive yet to get my hands on the new FCP. Ive just updated to a mac book pro so that I can run Avid on windows for my training gigs but Im sooo looking forward to getting my hands on Studio 2. Sad isnt it.

    I hear great things about this prores stuff so it will be nice to run some tests.

    Having said that the latest video stuff from adobe looks pretty exciting to. All these tools, so little time!

  5. From links on the front page, I came to this thread a few months late . . .
    My (UK) local paper has two kits of Sony A1 cameras, mics, tripod, lights, etc etc for journo’s to go filming.
    All very nice, but when you also have to carry Nikon stills camera kit on the other shoulder, together it’s all a killer.
    So I’ve shot a number of videos now using a Ricoh R6, and Fuji F31fd, compact cameras. Shoot the right angles and shots (remembering the zoom and sound limitations) and after a quick edit in Avid, the results were perfectly adequate for online video playback. In fact one video (of a car crash) was the most viewed of all our videos, proving it is the content more than the technology that gets viewers.

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