Andrew Norton – Interview

I noticed Andrew Norton back in February after viewing his website featuring photography, video, and audio stories. It’s well worth a visit as Andrew has a light, engaging style that’s very entertaining. I was interested in his background in photography and radio production, and when I saw that he’d participated in a Transom workshop I contacted him for some additional information about that experience.

As a legit radio guy, Andrew suggested that we conduct an interview over Skype. He offered to record his end. I haven’t done this type of interview before so I bit at the chance. Unfortunately, it’s taken me forever to turn this around, even though I had the recording quickly transcribed through Elance – a web service I use to outsource some of my back office work.

Q1: Andrew, can you give me some background about yourself?

Norton: I originally started as a photographer and actually, the way I started photography was through shooting skateboarding. I was interning with a skateboard magazine while I was in school for photography. They offered me a job so I started as a staff photographer. Eventually I became the Managing Editor and all the while I was still shooting photos for them and going on trips, and also acting kind of as a Photo Editor, thanks to my background in Photography.

Q2: What pulled you into radio and multimedia?

Norton: At the magazine our Copy Editor recommended some podcasts and things like This American Life, Radio Lab, American Media. I started listening to those religiously and it got me interested in storytelling. It kind of opened my eyes to a new form of storytelling and when I was writing for the magazine I adopted a writing style very similar to the radio style of writing: very short sentences and very frank, but adding some humor and person touches to it. I would get people on the phone and do strange interview, little personal stories – that was kind of my outlet. So I learned to write from radio people and I became obsessed with listening to radio & podcasts.

At some point, I got a new D3S camera and it had a video function on it. So I started messing around digital video. The first video I did was me telling a story about a friend of mine who owns a hamburger shop. He makes his own ketchup – it’s like a 12-hour process and the recipe dates from the 1800s. So I brought my DSLR and a wireless mic and we spent a couple of hours together. I interviewed him and shot some B-roll (I didn’t know it was called B-roll at the time). I just asked him to walk me through the process and I made a short little video about him making ketchup.

Q3: How did that lead to Transom?

Norton: About the same time my wife and I got married. For our honeymoon we basically just took off in a car. The whole time we were on this road trip we listened to podcast after podcast. I saw This American Life’s Facebook page with information about Transom. My wife coaxed me to go, so I applied and got in. Transom is a two-month intensive radio-making boot camp. You eat, sleep and breathe radio, going from zero to sixty in two months. At the end of it you have two radio stories. I went into it wanting to learn how to formally interview someone, what makes a good story, and what kind of stuff do you need to collect audio.

I’d never thought about making a radio story. Transom selects people that want to tell stories but from various backgrounds from newspaper writing to someone in our group who was a nurse. Transom is really good at getting you into shape and within the first couple of days you have a recorder in your hand and you’re out there, breaking the ice, talking to people. I think that’s a testament to how good they are, and it’s also a testament to how small the technical barriers are when it comes to radio.

Q4: Which medium do you prefer?

Norton: I just call myself a storyteller. That story can be told through photos, through video, through audio. There are pros and cons to each outlet. It kind of depends on the story. The big pro of radio is that it’s just so much easier to do sometimes. It gives you more freedom because there are fewer technical limitations. It’s quicker. And it’s a lot more personal. Radio set-up time is five minutes. To do video you have to set up two video cameras, you set up your lights, you set up your audio – the set-up time is so long. And once you set everything up, your subject is hyper-aware that you’re recording them. It just takes away a bit of intimacy. People let their guard drop quicker with audio because you’re just there and yeah there’s a microphone in their face but they get over it quickly. It takes less time to go over a barrier.

One advantage of video, though, is that people are much more likely to watch it online. If I put a 5-minute radio story online, only people who are radio nerds are going to listen to it. But if I put a 5-minute video online, more people are going to sit at their computers and watch it. And even though it’s easier to get your audio stories out there now, if you’re not already established the odds of people seeing your video is higher than audio because video has virality built into it. If you do a 50-minute radio story and put it on PRX you hope people hear it; but the pass-around rate is way less. If your goal is to get as many ears or eyes on your work, and your means is just self-publishing, the best way to go is video.

Also, I think video is a lot easier to sell to people. If I approach a local brewery and say, “I’m going to do a 5-minute audio piece on you”, I’m not sure they’d be interested. Whereas with video, you can make more money on that and it’s an easier sell to people.

But for me, the best, the most innovative storytelling is on radio. All you have is the story – just the audio. So you really have to have your storytelling chops honed.

Q5: What equipment do you use for audio recording?

Norton: It’s pretty simple: a Sony M10. It’s just a little handheld recorder. I also use an Electro-Voice RE50 mic, which is just a standard microphone with a little windscreen on it. Finally, I use a pair of headphones. So it’s pretty small for radio standards. And very non-invasive.

Tascom iM2 mic for iPhone

I recently purchased the Tascom iM2 stereo microphone for iPhones. The product cost me a whopping $29.27, and after struggling with the Tascom software app, I spent an additional $5.99 to purchase the Rode Rec app from iTunes. (One note: I think Rode lists their app at $4.99, but I was charged $5.99.)

Bingo! For about $35, I now have an easy-to-use portable field recorder mic that I’ll always have with me because it’s so light and small. It’s that latter point that motivated me: “always with me.” The recording quality is solid — Tascam iM2 Sample (.wav) — and easily executed. Just clip the Tascom iM2 into the 32-pin port of your iPhone, open the Rode recorder app, click “Record” and you’re running. Even better, short recorded files are easily sent via email directly from the iPhone.

The Tascam iM2 is available at Amazon.

My advice: don’t horse around with the Tascam recording app. Just go for the Rode Rec app. It’s intuitive and it works.

StillMotion’s KNOW Workshop


 

I recently attended a multimedia/filmmaking workshop put on by Toronto-based StillMotion. The company is hosting 36 workshops in cities around North America in the Fall of 2012. I recommend attending one of the storytelling skills sessions (roughly 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM). (I didn’t find the evening editing session to be as good: if you’re new to editing I think it would flow too quickly and if you’re familiar with editing I think you’d be familiar with most of what they covered.)

Here’s what I liked:

  • StillMotion’s presenters were experienced and very competent. I was very, very impressed with their work product: both wedding films and commercial work. (And StillMotion’s commercial clients are pretty “premier”, like Showtime, Callaway, the NFL, etc.).
  • StillMotion emphasized connecting EMOTIONALLY to subjects/characters being filmed.
  • StillMotion provided a step-by-step walk-through of two projects (a wedding highlights film and a commercial project), plus they discussed a third feature-length film project in detail. This was really interesting, as they took us through how the projects originated, how they worked with clients to prepare for the shoots, specific decisions they made when shooting and editing the films — and the rationale behind these decisions.
  • The presenters were young and enthusiastic. Helpful over a long workshop (which started at 9:00 AM and finished at 9:30 PM).
  • The presentation format was relaxed and informal.
  • StillMotion stressed using tools and techniques for specific purposes, not just for cool effects. They repeated that message often to drive the point home.
  • StillMotion demo’ed the equipment they use, including a simple DSLR filmmaking kit they typically use “for 90% of a shoot”.

If you can attend the one-day workshop I think you’ll come away impressed.  Even if you’re familiar with a lot of the gear and techniques, these folks do outstanding work and you’ll learn from how a commercial shop approaches it’s clients and keeps production humming along.

 

Ryan van Duzer – Interview

Ryan van Duzer’s intro to a short clip pretty much says it all: “My name is Ryan van Duzer, and I travel in search of adventure and, most of all, fun! [War hoop]”

I heard Ryan give a keynote speech last year at a video conference. He described his origins as an adventure filmmaker and how he’s taken the simplist of equipment and built a career traveling the world and producing shows for the likes of Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the Travel Channel.

Here’s what inspires me:
1. Ryan isn’t obsessed with gear. He takes what he has and makes it work.
2. Ryan has been successful by force of personality (which since he does travel narratives, means he builds his work around an interesting character).
3. He’s getting it done.

During the keynote, Ryan insisted, “There’s nothing I’m doing that any one of you out there cannot also do, right now.” From a technical point of view, that’s true. Simple gear, simple technique. But not everyone’s Ryan van Duzer – and like a charismatic preacher he’s got a high-energy style that is not easily replicated. He’s got … character. I find myself very tolerant of the sometimes poor image quality and wind noise and other blemishes on Ryan’s work because I can experience his adventures through his character. I never thought about riding a Big Wheels tricycle across Iowa, but with Ryan I can see myself doing that. Maybe.

Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions about his work.

Q1. You’ve managed to document a number of long-distance bike trips with very simple, light-weight equipment, shooting the whole thing solo. Can you tell me a little about how you did that?

Duzer: My first big bike trip was from Honduras to Boulder. I really wanted to document it and I used my trusty Sony DCR-PC9 (about the size of my palm). Having a small camera is KEY to documenting bike trips. I’d say that 60% of my footage is recorded while riding, so my camera needs to be small so I can hold it easily and not crash. Charging batteries is also very important, I usually poach plugs at any cafe or restaurant so I always have power. I also use a little tripod so I can set the camera up on the road and ride past it. It can be a pain but those shots are crucial to setting the scene. I have tons of footage of me pushing the record button and then running to my bike, riding past the camera and then running back to pick it up off the road.

Q2. Speaking of simple, light-weight equipment, are we looking at the shadow of your video camera that you use for all this stuff in the first few seconds of your “Cycling the Southern Tear” video? That sucker’s TINY. Do you really use equipment that small and simple?

Duzer: Yeah, I used the Canon 300HS for that ride. It’s a tiny photo camera that shoots great full res HD. In good light, the footage from that camera looks as good as any camera. I love having a small camera that I can whip out at any time. I keep it in a handlebar bag so I can pull it out quickly and film wildlife or anything else that pops in my view.

Q3. You studied journalism in college. How important was that training for your subsequent projects? You manage to produce interesting videos using simple audio/video gear, no lighting, no assistants — is there some underlying secret sauce you learned in J-school pulling these videos along? What do you think accounts for their success?

Duzer: No offense to my J-school but I was trained more as a dorky local news reporter than an adventure journalist. I did get training on Final Cut which was great, but the style I learned was in producing short news packages. My secret is to keep it simple-stupid, focusing more on the content than fancy gadgets. I’ll never get any high end commercial work, but that’s ok with me. My main goal is to produce fun, entertaining and inspiring content.

Q4. Your style seems pretty consistent across the videos: an audio narration over clips of you (subject) moving through a location (your point of view), with some additional shots of subjects/people/locations you find interesting — again with the narrative voiceover tieing these additional shots together. Is this style something you intentionally do? Or did it just evolve as you started shooting video?

Duzer: I think in order to tell a good story, you have to have some VO to tie everything together. I also focus on soundbites from the people I meet on my adventures…it’s a lot more interesting to mix it up with VO and interviews, my voice gets boring and I always find characters to spice up my videos.

Q5. Where did you start shooting video?

Duzer: My main goal is to host an adventure travel TV show and I got my start working in public access in Boulder. I had to shoot and edit all my own stuff which was a great learning experience. I created a show called ‘Out There’ which played for about a year starting in 2006. From there I began to get more professional jobs with Travel Channel and other travel websites.

Q6. What are you doing now and how has your work evolved from your earliest bike-trip videos?

Duzer: I just traveled to 17 cities in Europe for 60 days with a company called Viator, shooting over 100 short travel videos highlighting their tours. I’m also in production of a travel show I’m hosting called Paradise Hunter. My style is pretty much the same from my first bike trip videos, goofy and loud! I’m getting better at story telling and editing with every video and I’m always excited for the next project.

Sound Piece

Gearing up for football season is always an exciting time around our house. 2012 is no different. We have 2 boys, both play football but at different high schools. The programs are different – in some ways like night and day – so it’s an interesting contrast in styles, personalities and perspectives. But, hey, underneath it all at any football program is a lot of hard work. Sweat. Frustration. Exhaustion. Commeraderie. Competition. All that stuff which makes it such a fertile environment for honing multimedia skills. There’s a lot of action, a lot of passion and emotion, and if you stuff your camera in there some fantastic imagery.

There’s also wind, distracting noise, 250 lb. guys smashing into each other at full speed (with potential camera/audio gear collateral damage), swearing (high audio recording spikes), coaches who don’t know what you’re doing in their practice, and all kinds of additional impediments to a good multimedia story. Perfect!

Here’s a little “sound piece” that I put together during practice. Later in the season I’ll add some narration layers across the top of shorts like this to build up more of a story. And this year – my resolution each season – I want to find a kid who will serve as a central character through whom we can all experience this football thing.

Stills captured with Nikon D700 and D300 using a 17-35 f/2.8 lens. Video capture with (new) GoPro HERO2 (I’m lovin’ this thing!) Audio capture with Audio Technica AT8035 shotgun mic mounted on a monopod (serving as a multi-use boom pole), pumped into Marantz 661 digital recorder. I dropped in one audio track (the “swoosh” sound) purchased off Pond5. Project edited in Final Cut.

“Easy Release” iPhone App

“Easy Release – Model Release App” for the iPhone or iPad ($9.99 on iTunes) is a nifty little application that helps you overcome this tedious element of the modern world. The software replaces paper-based model release forms, allowing the user to collect all information and model signatures on your iPhone or iPad, then email a version of the final release to the model (as well as store the release on your mobile device for you own records). The software comes with an industry-standard release verbage (acceptable as-is by Getty Images, Alamy and other photo agencies, or modifiable if you want). Features include:

  • Ability to take an iPhone photo of model and attach that image to the release
  • Email copy of release to model
  • Date stamp applied to the release
  • Photographer and model signatures captured
  • Space for Witness info

I like this App. It works well. It’s always with you (well, always with me since I always carry my iPhone). The only shortcoming is that you have to take a couple of minutes to set up the basic info (ie., shoot info like date, location, model name & contact info, etc) by typing it in, and I type into my iPhone fairly slowly. It’s faster to haul out a paper model release and ask the model to fill all that stuff in. But this App is slick if you get over that hump. And like everything, if you take the time to organize the info digitally, your releases will be accessible and in a form to distribute quickly later on.

It Came From Above

Check out this article written by Shane Hurlbut, a seasoned cinematographer now working with DSLR video cameras. Hurlbut chronicles his work with a Erica Tremblay, a friend who was filming a documentary about a tornado that killed 160 people and destroyed much of Joplin, MO.

Hurlbut’s article features discussion of the tools used, the production schedule, and a trailer called “It Came From Above“.

Andrew Hida Interview

In an earlier post, I profiled “The Dividing Line” by Andrew Hida, a Seattle-based multimedia producer. I tracked Andrew down and asked him some questions about his origins, style and goals.

Q1. From your website it looks like you started off doing still photography, but have moved into multimedia (incorporating stills, audio and video). What’s prompting that move into audio and motion/video?

Hida: I began taking photographs about 4-5 years ago. For about a year I was shooting film as many people moved into digital. After a trip to Cuba in 2007, I met Tim Matsui, a photojournalist from Seattle, who quickly became a mentor. He forced into my hands an Edirol audio recorder and an omni microphone, and asked me why I was still shooting film. Reluctantly, I purchased a Canon 30D and forced myself to shoot digital. In the end, I made the jump into multimedia all in one plunge, incorporating digital photography and audio to create audio slideshows.

I began to realize the potential of multimedia storytelling. I was shooting a lot of sequential frames to create the illusion of video using crossfades. Paired with audio, the stories began to jump out of the screen. I had a screening of my first audio slideshow at the Center of Contemporary Art in Seattle. It left a tremendous impression on the audience. I realized that the viewers’ interaction with still photographs, complimented by audio, and incorporated into a video, produced a visceral experience for the viewer that I could not achieve through still photography. At that point that I looked to multimedia as a medium that has continued to grow in my favor.

I still struggle to capture moments and tell stories in a single frame. My eyes see the world in motion, and my brain understands the language of video much better than stills. Personally, I see more creative freedom in video than in stills. In the end, audio becomes the backbone of any great multimedia piece. Within that audio, you can bring in any captured element to create a complete experience for the viewer, whether it’s the water dripping from a coffee maker, or a quiet cry of reflection. The audio will transport them into the subject’s world creating an intense empathetic and emotional response unique from that elicited from a still image.

Q2. How has using audio and motion/video changed your work?

Hida: Audio has transformed my storytelling from, let’s say, a 2-dimensional plane to a 3-dimensional space. Audio almost creates an interactive experience for the viewer. I can construct an experiential story for the viewer and more effectively tap into a universal emotional response.

Through video and audio I can essentially tell two stories at the same time: one through the video, and another through the audio. The audio is the backbone of any compelling multimedia story. However, as taught to me by Bruce Strong, professor at Syracuse University, the audio can take you from point A to point B, similar to that of the path of a road. However, the visuals can take a meandering path as long as it leaves from point A and ends at point B, similar to that of a winding river. Maybe that sounds new age or too abstract, though this metaphor itself has helped me tremendously in multimedia production. Multiple mediums, controlled well, can tell a multi-layered, 3-dimensional story providing visual and aural cues to the viewer otherwise absent through a still image.

Q3. Coming from a still photography background, what multimedia capabilities have you found most interesting & powerful? And what has given you the most trouble?

Hida: I find sequencing and non-linear editing as the most interesting elements of multimedia storytelling. Sequencing is a concept that I think many still photographers struggle with when they start to shoot video. As still photographers we are trained to look for single moments, and have a tendency to shoot video the same way. We have a tremendous advantage as photographers when composing, organizing, and exposing a frame for video. However, we have a tendency to hold that frame, and hold it, and keep holding it. It becomes visually boring. Photographers need to change their thought process when approaching video, and look for sequencing. Wes Pope pounded into my head the jingle, “Wide. Medium. Tight. Shoot. Move. Shoot. Move. Wide. Medium. Tight. Shoot. Move. Shoot. Move.” This is the single most important theory that every photographer should embrace, which by itself will make their video a thousand times better. If you can shoot sequences, you have the ability to push your viewer in and out of a three-dimensional space, providing visual variety, and a much more dynamic overall experience.

Related to sequencing is a style of editing, which I have come to enjoy and find tremendously powerful. I tend to shoot for and edit for matched action. For example, if the subject is smoking a cigarette, the sequence may start with a wide shot of him smoking in his house to establish the scene. Once he moves his hand from his mouth to the ashtray, the sequence will cut to a tight shot of his hand entering the frame and ashing his cigarette into the ashtray, and then resolve on a medium shot of his hand in the same position hovering over the ashtray. Matched action is challenging to shoot, but so rewarding to edit. If you are able to edit a sequence in such a way that the viewer doesn’t notice the cuts, then you have succeeded both behind the lens and in front of the monitor.

Some of the greatest challenges that I have overcome in the past year are the logistical difficulties of shooting video with these fancy-shmancy HDSLRs. The image produced by these cameras are hands-down, without question, BEAUTIFUL! The cameras are affordable, but the issues are daunting. Audio recording is a disaster. Recording time limits are frustrating. Ergonomics are painful. And interface can be a challenge. With that said, there are many solutions out there such as dual-audio recording and the plethora of support systems. So why do we go through the pain of shooting video with these cameras? I think it’s because we’re familiar with the format. It doesn’t intimidate us, and we already have the lenses. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re immune to the millions of bells and whistles necessary to make the car move.

Q4. It looks like you spent the better part of 2008 working on the “Slow Healing” project. What was the origin of that project and why did you devote so much time to it?

Hida: I took a documentary photography class at the Photographic Center Northwest; my first foray into documentary photography or photojournalism. As part of the class we were to execute a documentary project, which I decided would be an exploration of the visually impaired community in Seattle. I reached out to many organizations only to be shut down by most, except by the Visually Impaired Services Team at the Puget Sound VA Hospital. I connected with a woman, who will remain anonymous, who was so passionately involved with the care of her clients that she immediately introduced me to two OIF and OEF veterans who had both lost eyes as a result of the wars. I started first by taking portraits of the two soldiers and soon hit a wall. I lost my direction, and had no idea how to proceed. I was dealing with personal issues like access, compassion, and sensitivity to these soldiers’ lives, and had no idea how to overcome these obstacles. I let the project rest for a while, until it dawned upon me that the real story wasn’t the loss of their vision, but rather the impact of traumatic brain injuries on returning soldiers. As a result, I returned to the project, which evolved into Slow Healing.

The project took so long to develop most likely because I approached it with little guidance, which resulted in a lot of stumbling, fumbling, and mistakes in the field. But, how else do you learn? Coincidentally, at the same time I had applied to a number of grants–my first foray into grant writing–and to my surprised received a large grant from the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs to fund the production of this project. I then had one year to complete it in Washington, and travelled to Wisconsin and Hawaii to work with two other subjects. In the end, I realized that as a first project, I had set my sights too high. The responsibilities on my end were tremendous, beyond the scope of just shooting the stories. I was on the administrative, marketing, financial, and creative sides all at the same time. It was taxing, and as a result took much more than a year to complete.

Q5. In the Slow Healing project you managed to capture very intimate conversations with your subjects (e.g., Jason). How did you gain that access?

Hida: My girlfriend recently told me that I’m a good reporter (she’s a magazine writer). I had no idea what she meant. I don’t know what reporters do. I never learned reporting skills. I don’t even know if I follow the ethical guidelines. I’m not saying I fabricate my reporting, or anything like that, but I do accept meals from my subjects, and I do nurture personal relationships with them. I remember an assignment for the Oregonian, where I was teamed up with a writer. She would refuse to eat even a cashew that was offered to her because it would compromise policy. Maybe it’s internal policy of her company, but I just remember thinking how odd that was. I usually gauge the rapport between my subject and I by an invitation to a meal. If they invite me to dinner, or ask me to put the camera down and sit down for lunch with them, then I know that we are developing the type of relationship that will allow me to capture very intimate moments that otherwise are inaccessible.

My girlfriend later explained to me what she meant by a good reporter. She said that I have the unique ability to make people relaxed and very comfortable with my presence. One of the first things I always do when I arrive at a subject’s house for the first time is ask for a cup of water, or ask to use the restroom. It’s a small act like this that helps to put the subject at ease. I think it communicates to them that ultimately I’m just as much human as they are. Working with subjects in sensitive settings requires a certain amount of trust building. I always make myself vulnerable to their questioning, and share equally intimate details of my life as I hope they will share with me. Breaking down those barriers and being myself opens doors that otherwise will never open. Half of this work is relationship building, from which I have developed great friendships over the years with subjects who to this day I still remain in contact with.

Q6. What gear do you use for your productions?

Hida: I shoot with a Canon 5D MKII for both stills and video.

I always record on a dual-audio system: recording externally on a Marantz PMD620 and feeding that audio track into my camera using a Sescom LN2MIC-PMD620 attenuation cable (it is very important to use an attenuation cable to feed any audio signals into the 5D MKII so you don’t fry the internal audio circuitry). I use a Rode VideoMicPro mounted in my hot shoe, fed into the right channel of a y-splitter cable that feeds into my audio recorder. I then feed in the audio signal of a Sennheiser ew100 G1 wireless lavalier microphone. I will then set the recording level of my Marantz to fall between -12 and -6 db, and set my internal recording level of the 5D MKII to mimic the exact same levels as my audio recorder. This results in very clean audio in the recorder, and a clean audio signal to the camera. However, bear in mind that the audio signal of the 5D MKII will inevitably have more hiss than that of your external recorder given the internal circuitry of the camera. In post production, when necessary (eg. for clean interview audio), I will sync the audio track from the recorder with the footage from the camera using PluralEyes. I also use a Rode NTG-2 microphone to collect ambient audio when necessary (using the same Marantz recorder), and to boom my interviews.

As far as rigging is concerned, I have bought a couple of solutions over the past year, including the Jag35 DSLR cage, and a Cavision shoulder rig (the cheapest shoulder rig I could find on the market). I would recommend playing around with a variety of rigging solutions in order to find something that works for you. It all depends on the style of your shooting, and in most cases one solution will not be the end-all-be-all solution. Luckily, all support systems are standard across the industry, which allows for interchangeability of parts between systems. In my case, I’ve disassembled both of those rigs to create my own low-profile rig that allows me to attach all of the equipment onto a single mount without a shoulder stock. I like to carry as little equipment with me as possible, and also prefer to shoot hand-held most of the time even though it yields less-than-steady results. However, I’ve come to embrace this style of shooting and found ways to brace myself and steady the camera. My workhorse lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, which has image stabilization that provides additional stabilization necessary without the shoulder rig. I also use a Glidetrack LCDVF viewfinder, which adds an additional point of contact and stabilization of the camera.

Finally, I use the 755 XB Manfrotto tripod with a 701 HDV head, which is probably the the best tripod ever made for video. The head is smooth as butter, but the greatest feature is the leveling head built into the tripod.

Q7. Have you developed your multimedia capabilities on your own – or have you tapped into any particularly good training resources?

Hida: I would love to say that I’ve developed my multimedia skills all by myself, but that would be a blatant lie. Tim Matsui introduced me to the audio tools and the digital realm. Video technique, sequencing, and editing was learned through a lot of practice in grad school at Syracuse University. Professor Bruce Strong is probably the most gifted teacher in visual journalism, and has been a tremendous influence and resource to help me build this skill set.

Visually, just watch TV, look at Vimeo, and learn from your peers and colleagues who are kicking butt. Learn to light by doing it. Learn to sequence, and edit by watching TV. There are definitely some set rules in traditional film making to follow (such as the 180 rule, and jump cuts) that can be learned from books. However, there is always a time and a place to break these rules.

I have been fortunate in grad school to be presented with a multitude of opportunities that have provided me with the chance to produce, produce, and produce. I easily become obsessive with my work, dedicating countless days, weeks, and months to shooting. But without this kind of determination and discipline, you will never push yourself to succeed. If you ever reach the point where you are satisfied with your work, you have reached a very dangerous tipping point in your career.

Q8. Where are you going from here?

Hida: Once I finish up my graduate work in December, I will be moving to New York City. My dream and goal for the past 4 years is to intern at Mediastorm. I have my sights set on this, though understand the competitive nature of this internship. Mediastorm, in my eyes, is defining multimedia storytelling in its practice, product, and viability as a business. However, if this does not work out, I will be looking to other positions both internships and jobs, where I can work for a smaller production house as a content gatherer and/or an editor. I hope to continue working on documentary work to tell compelling stories through–as best described by Mediastorm–cinematic narratives.

SAME Cafe – Project Notes

I’m starting a project to profile two owners of SAME Cafe in Denver, Colorado. SAME Cafe stands for “So All May Eat”, and offers high-quality, nutritious food on a “pay what you can” basis. Brad and Libby started SAME Cafe 5 years ago and are passionate about their restaurant and the community that they’ve built around that restaurant.

Jennifer at my day job lead me to the SAME Cafe when I enquired about interesting people working in the non-profit sector who might be interested in posing for a photographic portrait. Jennfier told me a little about SAME Cafe and suggested that I contact the owners. Brad and Libby were very accessible and willing to pose for a portrait; we had a great time one afternoon punching out a couple of versions where I could test some strobe lights.

I was intrigued enough with Brad and Libby’s restaurant to contact them again to see if they’d be up for a “video portrait”. I want to try out some editing techniques that Ed McNichol outlined in CreativeLIVE’s online workshop “Vincent Laforet: Introduction to HDDLSR Video.” Doing a quick profile of the SAME Cafe sounded like a good subject for that test. McNichol has developed a methodology to efficiently edit an interview video. I’ll describe the process in more detail in a later post, but basically it involves first building a “radio cut” of video sequences, focusing exclusively on the audio storyline, flow and pace, and then overlaying visuals on top of that audio foundation to build up the visual quality of the final production.

Step one was to record some interview segments. I scheduled an appointment with Brad and Libby to record audio and video interviews about the origins and motive behind setting up SAME Cafe. I used my Canon T2i to capture video (I was really only looking for an introductory head shot to introduce both Brad and Libby as narrators), and my Marantz PD661 with a lav mic to record separate audio. In this first session I recorded about 35 minutes total audio recording.

I’ve just submitted the transcription job out for bid on Elance. Although transcribing 30 minutes of recorded audio wouldn’t take too long, it would be just another thing to do. I also want to line up a transcriber who can help with future jobs and take that element off my plate.

Next up: Ed McNichol’s approach to building a “radio cut” as an audio foundation.

Pascal Garnier: Putting His Canon T2i Through Paces

How ‘Bout that Canon T2i? Last year Pascal Garnier shot his 45-minute documentary Hasta La Vista in Spain, France and Belgium on a Canon T2i. This film is in Dutch and French, without subtitles, but the footage is amazing. Remember: the Canon T2i runs less than $800.

Garnier could bring limited filmmaking gear for this project as he needed to travel between locations throughout Europe. He slapped a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 lens on the T2i for most “run & gun” shots. He used a 55mm 1.4 Mamiya-Sekor lens on the T2i for interviews, b-roll footage and close ups of people. He recorded sound with a Rode Video mic piped directly into the T2i; for interviews he used an Audio Technica lav mic piped into a Zoom H2 recorder.

Garnier reports that he rarely used his small tripod, mainly relying on his Manfrotto monopod or a small foldable shouldermount.