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Using new technology to better cover the news

By DOUG THOMPSON - Capitol Hill Blue
April 5, 2013

Several inches of unpredicted and surprise snow fell in Southwestern Virginia Thursday, catching many of us by surprise and adding another day of weather-induced insult to a winter of discontent.

The catchall phrase used by the talking heads on TV calls such storms “winter events” and they often include snow, freezing rain and sleet.  Thursday’s snow offered all three and frustrated residents of the Southeastern United States who have endured far too many of these so-called “events” not only through winter but also now weeks into what is supposed to be Spring.

I slogged home on what is normally a 45 minute drive from physical therapy to home in a snow-filled trip that took more than two hours in what the tea party types ignorantly call a “non-existent” climate change.

The slow but steady drive home did give me chance to have a little fun:  Creating a video shot not with the video equipment that I often use for shoots but with my iPhone 4s propped on the top of the dashboard of my Jeep Wrangler.  Where I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a Wrangler is a sports car.

After the long drive home, I uploaded the video from the iPhone to my Mac and used Final Cut Pro X to edit a short film about the surprise storm.  Just for fun, I added a “Star Wars” style title effect and some special effects in the closing credits.

The exercise spotlights how easy it is nowadays to create such visuals.  I can shoot and cover an event nowadays with a small video camera, edit the video on a laptop and send the footage to a TV station over a Wi-Fi connection at a nearby coffee shop.

Complicated video shoots now involve not a big camera rig  that costs tens of thousands of dollars but a two camera setup using a Canon 5D MKIII and MKII and the same lenses I use for still shooting.

Filmmakers are using the same equipment to create feature length product for movie theaters.  The film, Act of Valor, and others productions were shot with Canon 5D Mark IIs and another Canon, the 7D, was used to shoot a film that won at Sundance last year.

A different world?  Yes. Damon Winter, a  New York Times photographer, last year won a national news photo award for an essay on soldiers in Afghanistan.  He used an iPhone 4s to shoot the photos.

As journalist who covers local news for media here in Southwestern Virginia, I often use a digital single lens reflex camera to shoot both stills and video for use by newspapers and TV stations.  Sometimes, I mix photographs — both old and new and old 16mm film footage to create a film like the one below to focus on racism.

New technology can allow even old farts like me to perform more effectively in the profession that I love.  It is probably only a matter of time before a cell phone camera captures a photo that wins a Pulitzer Prize for news.

___

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

 

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7 Responses to Using new technology to better cover the news

  1. Bill Cravener

    April 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Yes indeed, the amazing video/camera phone. The new age of voyeurism is here! :)

    Most are not aware that digital photographs contain information that is not visible by simply looking at the image. This information is called Exchangeable Image File format or Exif for short.

    The amount of info embedded in the image file varies depending on the camera. Camera phones with GPS capabilities enabled record and automatically include the GPS coordinates of the camera in the image when a photograph is taken.

    The GPS coordinates enable anyone to locate where the picture was taken simply by looking at a picture’s Exif data.

  2. griff6r

    April 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Wow! I know plenty of Independents and even some Democrats that know AGW is a farce, and we come to that conclusion based on history and independent scientific data. There are plenty of unconnected (read: not funded by those interested in using the AGW scare to tax and control carbon dioxide).

    But again, that doesn’t quite fit into your obvious obsession with the rabid right-wing and their supposed causes.

    Isn’t this the kind of “journalism” you claim to be above? A piece about the weather and you find a way to make AGW a partisan issue.

    How about a piece on the mindless group-think that is the hallmark of the left? I haven’t seen a piece like that in some time here, if ever.

    • Doug Thompson

      April 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      A couple of ironies here. One is that the paragraph you bitch about was no longer part of the column because one of our editors suggested it was not relevant to topic and I agreed. But you were in such a rush that you overlooked that fact.

      You also ignore the fact that I have frequently been critical of the left.

      This is an opinion column, not a straight news story.

      • Doug Thompson

        April 6, 2013 at 5:36 am

        My apologies to readers for losing my temper with a poster here but the constant partisan bickering gets to me from time to time and I’m even more sensitive to it nowadays because most of the time it comes from those who hide behind anonymous handles and/or have a history — as in this case —
        of ignoring facts in order to make an invalid and incorrect point.

        A far more courteous reader emailed me earlier to suggest the paragraph about global warming did not fit within the thrust of the column. He was right and I referred the email to an editor who took a look at the piece and agreed. We removed it even before Michael delivered one of his patented partisan drive-bys and that pissed me off.

        I changed the focus of the column after I started writing it and should have removed that paragraph not because it was incorrect but because it no longer fit the thrust of the piece.

        But Michael’s typical harangue ignored the fact that I have been just as critical of the left on many occasions on this web site and that his claim was an outright lie — something I find ironic in a post from someone who hands out self-indulgent and inappropriate “critique” of journalism while hiding behind an anonymous handle.

        But readers like him are welcome to their opinions, even misinformed ones. But he and others need to understand that the passing on of misinformation will not go unchallenged or uncorrected.

  3. Jon

    April 7, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I was going to make a crack about an “Episode V – The Summer Strikes Back” where the rebels have fled to an oppressively hot planet and Publisher Thompson gets imprisoned and nearly eaten by a kangaroo. :-)

    Aaaanyhow…

    Where’d the music come from? I missed that in the credits.

    J.

    And PS – Much of the Russian meteorite footage came from GoPro (or equivalent) dash cameras. The cheap’n’cheerful hobbycams are getting good enough to go straight to broadcast. Welcome to the Panopticon. J.

    PPS – That’s one heckuva soundwall beside that freeway. I guess someone in that neighborhood knew someone who knew someone in the highway department. J.

    • Doug Thompson

      April 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

      The music is a stock piece created with software and with no title. The soundwall actually protects a cemetery and car dealership, not homes. Go figure.

      I use a GoPro for specialized footage as well. The new Hero3 Black edition shoots incredible footage.

  4. Gregg Sealy

    April 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of savvy when it comes to cameras. But, I have fairly new Olympus OM-D E-M5 with a 12:50 lens that takes very nice stills and videos. While its not a cheap camera…it’s not in the dollar range of some of the cameras that Doug talks about.

    I’ve just started a photography class and if I progress in a way that I hope I will, then I might consider getting a more complex camera.

    It has a lot of features of which I don’t yet have the experience or talent to utilize.

    I live in the Texas Hill Country, which is a beautiful place to shoot various types of terrain. There are a few rivers, which all have their own unique characteristics. At any rate, I’m having a bit of fun learning.