I’m not sure I have enough hands for digital reporting

One of the most enjoyable parts of this new digital era the Campbell River Mirror now finds itself fully immersed in is the abundance of video.

It probably seems ironic that a person who makes his living composing written words finds so much satisfaction from a visual medium. But it’s actually not anything new for me. My first desires to be a filmmaker go back to my early-to-mid-teens when I lived in some pretty isolated communities on the doorstep of wilderness.

I have always been interested in documentary filmmaking, particularly nature films. I had dreams of being a wildlife filmmaker. And lived near an abundance of wild settings.

Those dreams faded or morphed into other things and receded into the background but they never died. I see the profession I’m currently in as a somewhat natural progression. I studied communications, particularly the media, but not journalism per se. After graduating with a B.A. in communication and political science, I was kind of left wondering what to do with this piece of paper. Circumstances opened up the opportunity to get into journalism and I said, yeah, I could do that. A lifelong interest in news, current affairs and sports were a natural fit with journalism. Coincidentally, at the end of my journalism training, I had the opportunity to take a cinematography course, reinvigorating my nascent dream of being a filmmaker.

Life took over and the journalism career path took me down the road I’m on now. But then the digital “revolution” broke out and my writing (and photography) job merged with an increasing demand for video. Then this year, our company jumped into the digital pool with both feet and video has become an important component of the work we do here. You’ll notice our website has much more space dedicated to video.

Added to that has been the importance of video to social media. Consumers of news and information – that’s you and I – like visual formats. So now my colleagues and I are expected to generate video content along with all the written word and still imagery. Which is fine with me (although, as is typical in the newspaper field, these other skills and tasks have been added to what we already do). I love doing video.

But it is a pain.

Video is a much more labour intensive medium. First of all, there’s the equipment. On the surface we don’t look like we’re carrying much more gear but that’s because our cameras have evolved to have high-quality video capability. DSLRs can produce as good a video quality as camcorders and even high end video cameras.

But

the medium does encourage the collection of sundry gear. The audio on DSLRs is crappy. So, you buy a microphone or you get a recording device to record audio. I first bought a Zoom H1 digital recorder. Ooooh. Entry level, but top quality. But it’s still a separate device and the recording has to be merged with the video in “post” (using the video editing program – more on that later) .

So I then bought a Rode Micro microphone which I can pop onto my DSLR – and my iPhone – and boost the audio quality by just having an attachment to my camera. Sweet.

Then there’s the whole handheld thing. There’s nothing more amateur looking than handheld video. Unless, you know, you’re making a war film and you want to create that street fighting scene look. Then it looks cool.

But to provide stable video, you have to buy a tripod. And if you want to move your camera around, you start to investigate steadicams – bulky handles that stabilize your camera while your hand and body bounce up and down and around. So, gotta get a steadicam.

If you really want to splurge, you can get a gimbal. What’s a gimbal? Oh, I’m glad you asked. A gimbal is a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object (in this case, a camera or cell phone used as a camera) about a single axis, to quote Wikipedia. They’re electronically controlled and really expensive.

A steadicam is a mechanical device while a gimbal is electronic. The steadicam is a little more reasonable in price.

But they both make your videos look smooth. I haven’t sprung for either one yet but I’m certainly eyeing them up.

So, the days of scrambling from the office to a news story with a pencil and a notebook in hand have passed.

Now, you have to gather up your DSLR, your cell phone (because you’ll want to post live from the scene on social media) , your recording device, a tripod (or a monopod) and maybe a steadicam.

Welcome to the digital age of reporting.