In our book we briefly focus on the big range of camera equipment you can use to go out and shoot a story. While the big channels in Belgium most of the time work with two- or three-man-band crews, on an international scale you see more and more one-man-bands.
Early 2000 the American Journalist Michael Rosenblum introduced ‘video journalism’ in Belgium and some other European countries. Some local tv channels quickly adopted this way of filming, mostly to cut budgets. Which was the wrong reason to do it.
Video journalism can be great way to tell a story. As an example Michael Rosenblum tweeted early 2014 about a story on the Irish local tv channel RTE News: Dublin Dockers by Philip Bromwell. It is a story on how work in the docks evolved over the years.
Take it look at it here:
Is this video journalism? Strictly: yes. Great isn’ it?
A story completely filmed on and with an iPhone.
But what is the added value? Not a single moment in this story Bromwell uses his iPhone camera to improve his storytelling. All the credits are for Apple, because they created a camera with broadcast quality. But when you take a good night sleep, will you remember this story the next day?
The journalist is the cameraman, without the added value of being a good storyteller.
Is there a way to do it better?
Yes, there is.
Compare the Bromwell story with the work of the English video journalist Olly Lambert, specifically the story he shot in Syria: ‘Syria Behind the lines. Take a sneak peak at it here:
‘Syria: behind the lines’ is a compelling and evolving story where Lambert is capable to drag the viewer into his story and never let go. Therefore he uses several techniques including a specific type of voice over: he ‘comments’ on the scenery he is seeing, never using a dramatic tone, just telling what is happening and how he feels about it.
This is video journalism at its best.
Footage/camera/journalist/voice over are one indivisible unit.
So, when budget cuts are forcing you to rethink the way stories can be made,
dare to make choices in the way you tell stories and only then video journalism can be a gain.
American journalist Jeremy Markovic shot in june 2014 a story for NBC Charlotte on a stand off on a parking lot in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Markovich is telling on his blog how he begs his producer to go out there and shoot a story with a cameraman, but because of some choices that had to be made that day, he didn’t get one.
Nevertheless Markovich went out there and decide to film a story with his iPhone.
The quality of the footage isn’t that good, but the way he tells his story maks that up.
Watch it here:
Markovich writes this on his blog about how he produced the story and what the differences with the classic way of filming.
Jeremy Markovich: “I shot the entire thing with my iPhone. I asked for a photographer but didn’t get one, and that was actually for the best. While there are stories where having a photographer or even just a full sized camera will work better, in some cases an iPhone should be your first option”.
There are three things we can learn:
1. Nobody tends to hassle you – We, as a society, are now conditioned to seeing people take pictures and video of anything with their smartphones, no matter how small or inconsequential. I needed pictures and video of parking spots and poles, which on their own are quite boring things. Mashed together, they make a story. But individually, I’m just a guy with a phone taking pictures. That’s quite different than rolling up somewhere with a big camera, a photographer and a microphone. People who own things like malls, shopping centers and whatnot will run you off when they see you show up with a camera in tow. But with an iPhone, you’re just another guy taking shots of random stuff. Yesterday, people left me alone.
2. People are closer to their true selves – I always identify myself before I ask people to talk to me. I say I work for a television station. I’ll show them ID if they ask for it. But in some way, I’m not sure if they believe it. Yeah, right, they think, I’ll believe it when I see the story at six. But people I interview with the iPhone always seem more genuine and relaxed. I think it has something to do with the fact that when people see a camera and a microphone and someone says we’re rolling, they stiffen up. It’s interview time, and I’m being interviewed, they think, so I need to say things that people on TV say. I’ve always found that people talk like people ACTUALLY talk when I’m talking to them for a print or online story. There’s less pretense and there aren’t the lights and the nervousness is gone. You’re just having a conversation. The iPhone’s about as close as I’ve ever gotten to that.
3. It’s portable – I’ve shot at least two other stories almost completely on the iPhone. During the snowstorm earlier this year, I went out and skied through my neighborhood with my dog. The resulting story was fairly simple, and I didn’t even need to go into the newsroom to edit.
More on his blog.
Video journalism can be a wonderful thing. Cherish it, don’t downgrade it.