Saturday, July 28, 2007


Been watching this The Reach of War.

Some things need little production to make them work. It's purely the story. As a former freelance radio correspondent and producer who's reported on conflict, this has all the emotion of heroism and "where mortals fear to tread" about it, so reportage like this is special.

But could we, without tampering with thre core of the story, give it a more visceral and gutteral sense? This is what radio does very well.

I had the benefit in my early career to work alongside some of the UK's best/award winning radio producers who produce for that bastion of radio, BBC Radio 4.

Radio as a medium, podcasts, and the montage here at the audio level can do some extraordinary things. It may sound strange but there is an iambic rhythm within the voice as an instrument that conveys all the elements of a symphony.

Micheal Kamber's voice reaches some of those. His narrative is compelling, because he's describing scenes in which he was present. But, perhaps, perhaps, the absence of a radio producer mitigates some of the stronger elements.

This is not a criticism of Michael. He is photograper and a damn fine one.

In making, perhaps what I might consider one of my best radio documentaries for BBC Radio 4, The Successor Generation, I made the point of "getting into my interviews head" when they were at their most relaxed. (* just noticed I need to reload SG - shummin wrong with it)

The pauses and um's become accentuated. You're like a tobogganist visually and mentally unravelling the course/story. Your voice begins to retell the stresses and reliefs. I'm not sure how "The Reach of War" was produced. The narrative and pictures match so the a half way house of matching pics to Michael's story perhaps was key. That said in video journalism, as in photojournalism ( obviously) the pics drive the narrative. So what could you do here?

The package - the name given to an assembled story - worked incredibly well with "actuality", where you could hear background atmos ( soldiers talking/ helicopters etc.) More of this would have stretched the photo docs narrative. On its own you could even make a doc work in the observational doc mode.

Yannis Kontos another amazaing photographer has given me his pics for a brave trip he made to mexico to cover people traficking. I have since advised Yannis to take a small mp3 recorder and leave it running when in the field.

Photo package and flash will get better but for the mean time one thing they do lack is the ability to mimic rostrum shooting with the zooms and pulls. Flash isn't there yet and unless you know the code, tweening between shots produces a stutter ( yuk) effect.

We'll always be drawn in by war pics. By dint of what they are they portray human kind, people at their rawest. In coming blogs, I'll talk about shooting video in the field as a video journalist - a dangerous pursuit, particulalrly if you're on your own.

But in developing training for those who want to shoot conflict, whether its firefighters at work, ambulances attending to a scene, hospital wards for gun shot victims, one of the key's is to shoot "dirty".

Black Hawk Down is a film I reccommend and the Bourne films. Here a combination of documentary compositional structuring and its visceral gene work incredibly well in taking you into the guts of the story

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