“Let’s go to the videotape!”
Back when I was a kid in the 1970s, that was the trademark phrase Warner Wolf used when he was the sportscaster for WABC-TV, showing highlights of games. Now, it seems a bit quaint. Perhaps that is because we are surrounded by video in a society bursting with images.
One of my surprising discoveries during this digital revolution has been how much I enjoy shooting video and producing video sports reports for our websites. I told a colleague once, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I almost enjoy shooting video as much as writing.”
What the two skills have in common is creativity. The creative part is what I like best. A writer and a videographer are limited only by their imagination.
I don’t have any formal training in producing video. Really, I’ve just gone out and worked on instinct. I’ve learned some things along the way, though, during my on-the-job training.
What is striking to me is how comfortable young people are with video and the concept of a camera running while they are being interviewed. For old codgers like myself, it might take some getting used to, but young athletes really seem to like it.
With video, I essentially face two challenges, and they both relate to the same thing: time. As in time to shoot video while also taking notes during a game, say (I only have one set of hands and one set of eyes; two sets of both would come in handy). And then there is squeezing in the time it takes to put together a video report as part of my other responsibilities.
What really surprised me when I first started doing video was how much time is involved. Not counting the actual time shooting the video, a four-minute video report can take a couple of hours to put together.
A big chunk of that time involves editing the video, culling what you want. Then there is the voiceover, which can be tricky. You may have only several seconds to say something during a particular segment and your enunciation must be clear. (I often have to do several “takes” during a portion of a voiceover because I stumbled over a word or it just didn’t sound right).
Then again, another lesson I learned is to keep it relatively simple. Don’t try to say too much. A video is not a print story. Like a sports television broadcast, it’s important to let the video breathe and let the subjects of the interview tell much of the story.
When I first started doing video, I did so with a Flip video camera that I loved. This pocket-sized camera was easy to hold, easy to use and had a zoom function. I was crushed when I learned that Cisco Systems had shut down its Flip video camera division. With cellphones, the Flip, it seems, had become obsolete.
So, from there I turned to an iPhone4, but I was unhappy with the quality of video coming from that cellphone. I needed something else. Then, one day before a summer league basketball game a couple of months ago, one of our sports photographers, Daniel De Mato, showed me what the video looks like on his iPhone6. My eyes grew as big as golf balls as I watched the sharp, high-definition images on the screen.
I was sold. Within days, I had upgraded, and I’ve been happily shooting since with my new iPhone6.
I’ve found that some stories are ideally suited to video. An example was one I came across this past spring, when I noticed rugby players practicing at Mattituck High School (they were members of the North Fork Rugby Club). You just don’t see a lot of rugby around here, so that was cool.
With the start of preseason football practice last week, I had an ambitious plan: cover four practices involving four local teams over two days for a report on what training camp is like. And that’s what I did. Two-a-days aren’t just for football players and coaches. I visited the camps for Riverhead, Bishop McGann-Mercy, Shoreham-Wading River and Greenport/Southold/Mattituck, shot reams of video and conducted a dozen interviews. The result was a video report that supplements a 1,700-word feature story I wrote for the paper about training camps.
I had started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew when it took over three hours to download 1 hour 35 minutes 10 seconds of raw video onto my laptop computer. From there, it took another three hours to whittle that down to 10:12. By the time I was done, the final product came in at 9:55, on the long side for a video.
The payoff came when it was all done. It’s a sweet, fleeting feeling of achievement, similar to the one I get after writing a print story. No sooner is it published than you’re thinking about what’s next.
Bob Liepa is the sports editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at [email protected].