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Old September 26th, 2007, 12:58 PM   #1
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Site for independent videojournalism

Is there a site, like this, with message boards pertaining to independent video journalism?

What I'm after is some guidance regarding basic VJ kit, beyond "get a camera and plenty of media." What are people carrying when working fast and light by themselves? What do you carry in terms of audio and how do you implement it when working solo?

I don't see many VJs lugging around mixers and booms, so I'm guessing there must be some basic set up that can be applied to a variety of situations.

What's the essential gear?

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Old September 26th, 2007, 02:06 PM   #2
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I'm curious as to your definition of the term "Video Journalist" and how that differs from "Documentary Filmmaker" or "Videographer" or "Preditor" or "Cameraman".

I've only heard the term VJ or VeeJay applied to video 'deejay's'... the talking heads one would see on VH1, introducing the music videos and interviewing the stars.

As to gear, your workflow would seem to dictate your needs. If, as you say, your working alone and don't have time for crew or 'set up'... grabbing stuff 'run and gun' style... then the simples answer would be the best camera and shotgun you can afford, and a good set of can's to monitor with. ON camera lighting might come in handy too in low light situations.

The more time you have to 'set up' an interview, the more gear you can bring into play. Got a chance to sit someone down, put a lav on them and double up with the shotgun? Great, add a lav to your kit. Maybe a basic reflector to get a little fill outside... maybe a light weight stand to hold it up... maybe a stand and some cable for the boom that holds the shotgun... and of course a tripod to get that rock solid shot.

You see how quickly the gear list can grow... and your still just one guy.

I shot my documentary "American Jouster" as a one-man-band. (I swear I'll never do that again) My idea of 'light and fast' filled a mini-van.
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Old September 26th, 2007, 06:17 PM   #3
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My understanding of video-journalism or vee-jays (VJs)- is that it's all about the reporter or correspondent as cameraman and director.

Now that can means one of two things:
One - it's cynical exploitation of young enthusiastic journalists who want to break into broadcasting and in a lot of cases 'multi-skilling' becomes de-skilling.
Two - it's an opportunity for a journalist to get more involved with the subject matter, devote more time and build trust - and thus get a much greater insight into a story than you would with a traditional reporter/camerman/sound operator etc. set-up.

As I understand it, it really took off at the NY cable news channel NY1 in the early 90s - and a guy called Michael Rosenblum was the great VJ guru.

I know a bit about it as I was news editor at Channel One, a cable news channel in London, launched in 1994 as a virtual carbon-copy of NY1. For those who know the broadcast scene in London, it was based in Charlotte St in the old Channel Four studios.

It was financed by Associated Newspapers, the owners of the Daily Mail newspaper. I say financed, because they used to say 'we (the newspaper) earn the money - and you guys blow it away.'

The station was a combination of an attempt to create 'new journalism' as detailed above - and a fairly ruthless attempt to run a TV station on a shoe-string.

By and large it was fuelled by ambitious youngsters, adrenalin and a few more seasoned pros who understood how to put TV together.

I shot some material there - and the best example I can think of in terms of breaking down the barriers with interviewees and building trust was when I was filming with a stalking victim.

We were filming an interview on a sofa - I was hand-held - and she said:'...and if this guy shows up again he'll have this to deal with...' and proceeded to reach down into her handbag.

I followed with the camera - and was stunned to witness through the eyepiece that she pulled out what looked like a Magnum - ala Clint Eastwood...a real shock as guns in the UK were virtually unheard of outside the heavy-weight criminal world back then.

My point is I don't think I would have been able to capture that heart-stopping moment if I had been carrying out the interview with a traditional two or three person crew.

So sometimes VJing works really well - a lot of the time it was about running enthusiastic youngsters (and as news editor I had up to a staggering 24 cameras on the road around London each day plus a live satellite truck) into the ground.

Apologies for rambling on a bit....the one thing I've learnt is that, however you shoot/edit/produce your material - well/badly, professional/amateur - the really important thing is getting great content. Without that, you're lost.
Sean Walsh PPro, Z1, EX3 - Currently in Beijing at CCTV-News

Last edited by Sean Walsh; September 26th, 2007 at 06:23 PM. Reason: missed out a word!
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Old September 26th, 2007, 08:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bob Kerner View Post
Is there a site, like this, with message boards pertaining to independent video journalism?
Yes. *This* one. Remember, DV Info Net is what you make it. So look no further than right here.

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Old September 27th, 2007, 07:23 PM   #5
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Richard: VJ isn't a term that I coined. I've heard it before in this context: someone who produces his/her own story, analogous to a photojournalist. So maybe the term preditor is suitable to what I had in mind. I don't see myself making documentaries, just shorts about local events, mostly hoping that the footage may make its way into something bigger.

Sean: I'm familiar with what you're writing about, having taken one of his workshops. And that's what prompted my "what gear" question and where can one go to learn more about this style of journalism.

Content is key. But even compelling images won't carry the day if the audio is awful and that's what I'm trying to learn more about: what is a simple kit for a one man operation.

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Old September 27th, 2007, 10:27 PM   #6
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Bob, you might try asking in our audio forum about a good audio kit for one-man operations. The whole "videojournalism" thing just skews the answers.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
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Old September 28th, 2007, 09:38 AM   #7
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Bob, get yourself a senn G2 omni lavalier, it"s a wireless system (500$), and a shotgun, mine is the Rode NTG2 wich I also used as a hand held mike with a wireless plug (sold with the G2 for $100 more). This is a really versatile and affordable combination that works well for the VJ and almost any news, doc or magazine situation.
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Old September 28th, 2007, 09:56 AM   #8
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Yeah, I'm probably showing my age, by remembering the BIRTH of 'VeeJays' as part of the first VH1 experience. I remember the hubub around the creation and use of that word. Obviously, it's morphed over time. PREDITOR (producer-editor) is a catchy new word, put it has some negative connotations. I don't see it being used that much. But when I DO see it used, it's usually in the context of a one-man-band producing short content.

I hang out occasionally at which is a group for Documentary filmmakers. Discussion there is less 'tech oriented' and more about aesthetics, legal, issue and distribution topics though. And to become a member you actually have to have produced a doc. You can lurk there though.

To get really specific answers to technical questions, you're more likely to ask in the subject oriented sub-forums. What's the best on camera light? What do you think about this shotgun as opposed to that one? Where can I get a set of headphones for under $100... that sort of thing.
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