Friday, February 26, 2010

Finals week will seem like nothing after this.

After many consecutive late nights in the editing lab I finally finished my multimedia piece. As it turns out, I need to make a lot of changes to it, but I think it was the best-organized and most consistent solo video project I've done so far.

I only slept about three hours last night and then got back to campus to do add some final touches. I was there from 10am until past 1am.

In class today our instructor informed us about what days we're doing our finals (six minute newscasts). I'm going Tuesday, which is the first day. Our script rough drafts are due tomorrow, and I haven't even started mine yet. Before I can get to that I need to finish a paper for History of the Motion picture.

Despite having virtually no life outside of school, I always feel like I'm behind. No matter how far in advance I start on a project, I always seem to end up pulling an all-nighter (or a few) to get it done. I don't know if I'm exceptionally slow or if I just need that pressure in order to make final decisions. Maybe I just make too much work for myself. I think I tend to get over-ambitious, especially when I'm shooting. I always seem to shoot way more b-roll than I need and it takes me a really long time to capture and sort through it all and then I struggle to keep it organized. I hope it will get easier.

I came home to try to get some rest for a few hours before I get up to do more homework, but I'm not sleepy on account of too much coffee and stress. I don't have time to sleep for long and I'm so exhausted, I wonder if it's even worth taking a nap.

If I can just get through the next five days, the worst will be over. I just have to finish this paper, write my script, put together all the video I need for my newscast, write two more papers, and do my newscast, and then all I have to worry about is final exams for History of the Motion Picture and Latin American Cinema, which by comparison to what I'm going through now, don't sound too bad!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird

I'm really glad I chose a topic (parks) for my multimedia project that enabled me to spend a lot of time shooting outside!

Here's a cool little guy I saw at Golden Gardens who may or may not make it into the final cut of my project.

I Live at the J School

I feel like I have no life outside of the J school these days. No time for a social life, and often skip other classes to work on Electronic Media projects. Would never get them done otherwise!

This weekend I took one of the J408 workshops. This one, taught by Andre Sirois,who also taught Video Production last term, was on sound recording and editing.

We went over equipment, such as different types of mics (some of this I remembered from previous classes, but the review is always good), cords, headphones and digital recorders.

We also watched some videos about how sound works and went over different ways it can be used.

We took digital recorders and mics on our lunch break and experimented with recording different types of sounds, then returned and uploaded the files. Andre showed us how to do all kinds of stuff in Soundtrack Pro and then gave us some time to experiment with it.

He later emailed us a packet he put together with lots of helpful info, which I'm glad to have, as I was way too tired to retain all the details at 8am Saturday morning after a long, busy week with many late nights.

I fell asleep before 9 (unheard of) Saturday night and slept for more than 13 hours! I felt really rested for the first time in weeks. It seems I'm at the J school past midnight at least three nights a week.

I spent most of Sunday and Monday shooting b-roll at parks for my multimedia package. I've done a lot of editing, but have a long way to go. It seems like I always have a hard time figuring out how to organize my sound bites until the last minute when the pressure's really on. I'm kind of overwhelmed at the moment. I really hope it all comes together. If nothing else, at least I should be able to make my audio sound good this time!

Yesterday I registered for Spring classes. It will be my last term if everything goes according to plan! I'm really excited for Documentary Production with Jon Palfreman. I'm really looking forward to working on a more in-depth project. I also really admire Palfreman's work, and feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him. I hope that there will be more creative freedom in this class than there is in Reporting for Electronic Media.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More News

I turned in my second news package today. I think it turned out a lot better than the first, though I still struggled to get it down to two minutes.

From a technical standpoint, I think it turned out pretty well. The biggest issue I'm having is getting the audio levels for all the different clips properly adjusted. the variation seems to be much more exaggerated when played on a TV than on a computer.

In terms of content, I think my story was pretty well focused and organized. I was really happy with the sound bites I got from my interviews, and I felt like I had a better sense of how to "write to" the bites this time. I still couldn't fit everything in that I wanted to, though.

I did my first stand up for this assignment. I really dislike being on camera, and I think I come across as kind of stiff and awkward. I hope it will get easier if I have to do more of these in the future.

I'm thinking about re-editing the piece and making it into something more to my taste.

I'm now starting on my last project for this class, which is a three minute multimedia piece using video and still images. I think I will feel more comfortable with this format, but it may require more planning.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Struggling with Broadcast Reporting

A week and a half ago I completed my first news package for J432. It was possibly the hardest project I've ever done.

I had a number of technical problems (mostly with mics not working properly), which made the footage from two of my six interviews unusable. I always record audio on two channels, using both the on-camera mic and another one directed at the subject (usually a lav), so that I will have some ambient sound in addition to the voice, but also as a back-up, so that if the some of the audio from one is unusable I will still have something. Maybe I had the levels too low on the on-camera mic, or maybe there was too much ambient noise, but I had no usable sound. Will have to be more diligent about using headphones for sound checks, and not just relying on the camera's audio meters.

Working alone, I'm finding is very difficult. I enjoy writing questions and conducting interviews by myself, but lugging all the equipment is a serious physical challenge, and the amount of time it takes to set up is substantially longer than it was when I worked with a group or even a partner. I sometimes feel overwhelmed trying to make small talk with interviewees (not one of my strengths) while I'm setting up and trying to make sure I'm not forgetting anything (white balancing, checking audio levels, etc).

I also struggled with focus. There turned out to be a lot more to the story than I initially realized, and I couldn't fit everything into my two-minute piece. I had to leave out a lot of information that I thought was important, and really struggled with writing a voice over that filled in the information I couldn't pack in with sound bites.

I also found writing in TV news style really challenging. I hadn't done formal news writing in a while prior to this class, and writing for broadcast is a truly daunting task for me.

I almost never watch television news, partly because I don't own a functional television, but also because I usually don't like television news. Trying to emulate something that I generally find to be formulaic and insincere is pretty frustrating.

I do really like some radio news,particularly what I hear on public radio, but I don't think much of it adheres to the style my instructor expects me to use for these assignments.

Radio Lab host Jad Abumrad, for example, probably doesn't sound "authoritative" enough, and sometimes speaks in a manner that some TV news viewers might find offensive.

Personally, I think he and co-host Robert Krulwich do a fantastic job and I really value their work. I love to listen to them and trust them because they seem sincere and unpretentious, and to be genuinely interested in the information they present.

They cover topics that I know very little about (but am often curious about), but make them accessible and interesting for a general audience without making me feel like they think I'm not smart enough to understand. I also like that the show is creatively produced,using music and sound bites to aurally illustrate ideas in way traditional news shows would never dare.

I can't think of any daily news shows on radio or television that I have this sort of appreciation for. Maybe that's the curse of daily news. When something has to be done immediately, I suppose there isn't much room for creativity or really trying to draw your audience in in a sustained manner. Of course the short format of daily news is also extremely limiting.

I find short format really unappealing. I really enjoy doing a lot of research on a topic, and producing things that are visually interesting is really important to me.

I suppose it's good for me to get experience with this kind of work, but I'm really looking forward to next term when I'll finally be in Documentary TV Production.