Tuesday, August 12, 2008

video journalism - Lost advocates, techniques and some.

Channel One TV was a 24 hour video journalism driven station. 30 VJs drove the station, 12 working on any one day making a host of programmes from cars, cookery, fashion, politics, travel and it was done rather well.

I found some archive and you'll be hard pressed to determine whether its crew-made or VJ- made.

On the news desk, 6 VJs per day, like Rachel Ellison ( now an MBE) filed stories, sometimes two/three times a day.

Each had a pool car, a beta 100, vinten tripod, senheiser, lapel, night spot lights (deedos), scrim and an assortment of gadgets in the back.

The beauty of the betas back then compared to the not so resolution-ready hi-8s is that you learnt everything you needed to know about bending light, back focus, blacks and whites, to get a good image off.

Bad thing, they weighed a ton.

Often the newsdesk rang in otherwise you had your own feature you'd convinced your editor you were working on.

The station ran a revolutionary video jukebox, which a producer had access to build a programme and news wheel.

Though as a viewer you thought you were watching a live show, presenter links were made minutes, sometime seconds, before the wheel's timing caught up with real time.

This gave the producer greater flexibility in creating a programme schedule. It also meant you'd never see a clanger (mother of all mistakes) on Channel One.

Because we were NOT scheduled to hit specific news hours, we introduced some novel, in fact innovatory ways of working.

How a news package was worked
Take a new item on hospital bugs at the time - a salmonella outbreak.

The news desk were looking for a news package - anything from 2-5 minutes.

  • I'd go to the hospital for an interview with the Chief Executive. This would be a Qand A with me IV (in-vision). Remember one of the basic element of a news package is the interview, but it's also the news package in itself, but will only visually sustain interest if the mis en scene changes ie cuts between you and your interviewee, with where appropriate drop-in shots.
  • e.g. this is an interview with blogger/ journalist Rachel North. There are 3 basic angle shots from here and six if you're a VJ you can work through. And there's a host of shots you could float in.
  • Rule 17 working network news, know when to float pictures over GVs to lift the package.
  • Given the plethora of news stations it was important to have you, the reporter, in shot. Effectively you were branding your item.
  • NB: if you're going out and out with VJism and you abandon this, you're cutting your nose off to spite your new media face. This technique works well and there's a contemporary way of doing this like "Bourne" in the edit to make it look really slick, particularly when you shoot loose.
  • I'd then do a "Track and Rushes". From the interview I knew my entry point using GVs/b-roll from my interviewee and had an outro as well, so I could put my voice over on tape. If you're writing to pictures, rather than the other way around, you'll get a stronger intro/package. The newsroom would then send a bike, or we'd go to a parked sat truck park or in the latter stages of C1 head for a designated T1 and ASDL ports. Today its the Net and a sat pack.
  • I'd continue with the package, finding an affected party, a pressure group and a department of health interviewee.
  • The newsdesk would put my initial Q and A on air. Today you'd be looking to prompt greater viewer comments than we did.
  • As I'm pulling elements of the package I'm gauging how much info it adds to the next cut i'm planning. If a government spokesman gave me an interview, that gets added to the Q and A. Sometimes I could ring into the show to break the pre-recorded news cycle. Today we'd use a any number of software to go live.
  • Because I had an idea of some of the packages my colleagues were doing, I could call one or two up working on the other side of London for them to work an answer for me. A package looks much better if there are a broad range of voices and locations.
  • I'd be back at the office for around 11 and within 40 mins to an hour and a half the package would be ready for air and I'd be getting ready to go out again.
  • Most often if it were a running story, I might still be looking to see how I can build on the morning package, whilst working on a new subject entirely.
In one year it was not uncommon to clock up 500 news packages.

Innovatory working practice
Why was this working practice innovatory?

Because a small team could keep the news ticking over and had developed a system that enabled them to build up a story during the day, whilst releasing elements as the day matured.

The year was 1994. The Internet had just arrived carrying data at the sonic speed of 28k/s

And whilst it was easy to hurumph stating well Satellite TV was doing that. Channel One TV operated below any margins any station could work on, with smaller staff.

Later today I'll be posting on viewmagazine.tv some of the working habits of the lost records of Channel One TV.

In today's broadband environment the blue print of Channel One would be unquestionable.

Here's a piece from 1994, which was worked through the day and then picked up at night. This final piece for the day is a feature, the day stuff which I have not ben able to locate was the Q and As package with different parties.

Health and Safety:

This is the night shoot. Though it's not mentioned much night shoots come with particular risks for VJs and as I recall I had a stand off with youths unconnected to this scheme wanting my gear on returning to my car.

Channel One swiftly abandoned night shoots ( 8 pm - 9 am) when it was deemed too much of a risk particularly for women video journalists.

p.s reason it's so dark in places, compression messes with your gammas

1 comment:

Gareth Bartlett said...

"I'll certainly give up crime for it..."