Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The three-Flipcam experiment

Political Reporter Charles Crumm
We've been doing a lot of work at JRC to improve the quality of our videos lately — we've actually just kicked off a company-wide training program that I'm proud to be a part of.

It's definitely something the staff here at The Oakland Press has been craving, as exemplified by Political Reporter Charles Crumm's efforts to make his weekly video series with our colorful County Executive L. Brooks Patterson more pleasing to watch.

Crumm was one of many on our staff to receive training from a local public access consortium called CMNtv and has pitched in to help the filming of many Oakland Press-related segments we've done with CMNtv at their studio.

I'm thinking it's this experience — particularly the knowledge of how TV work is generally done with multiple cameras — that hatched his idea to use multiple Flipcams to film his weekly interviews with Brooks.

For the first time around, it's certainly not perfect. In fact, backlighting on the Flipcam set up to shoot the close-up on Crumm made the footage unusable, so he wound up with only two angles rather than the three he was aiming for.

As one of the trainers for our new video program, I suggested to him that the close-ups could have been closer and a little more off-center, and the video could've been tighter in terms of time too. But all things considered, it's much more pleasing to the eye to watch this conversation from two angles (did you know you're naturally inclined to focus on something — anything — for a mere four seconds before turning your eyes in a different direction?) than just a talking-head style video. I'd also like to see Crumm do a reporter intro — and maybe he did, but couldn't use it because the camera set to him had lighting issues.

The neat thing is that Charlie — after borrowing a Flipcam from me and a third from another coworker — did this all on his own. I think it's a good model for improving Tier 1 videos (talking heads) when applicable.

Here's the video, and below, read what Charlie had to say about this experiment:

"Overlooking the fact that you have two old guys on camera with faces made for radio and voices made for print, here is the background and some observations:

I showed up a half-hour early for the 9:30 a.m. appointment so I would have time to position the cameras, one pointed at each of us and a third for a broader establishing shot, and enlisted Patterson's secretary to help me frame the camera positions. I also wrote out the questions in advance with the goal of keeping the final result to 5 minutes.

I wound up using mostly two angles because I inadvertently pointed one camera right at the window. I left a frame or two in the final video to illustrate the undesirable result.

While flipcams have great audio, the audio volume varies with distance. You'll have to beef up the audio during editing for the shots from the cameras furthest from whoever is speaking.

Editing is a bit more time-consuming since you're jumping sequentially from three different angles.

In short, it's a bit more complicated and best planned out in advance, but not right in all situations.

But it's doable and I plan on doing it again, based on availability of flipcams, subject matter and subjects to interview." — Charles Crumm

See the full story, Patterson: GOP presidential nomination a two-person race

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