Trial and error. And video.

After trying to shoot some video, I realized how many components I need to keep track of while recording. All of the things we talked about in class came into play, and I was completely overwhelmed. I felt clumsy and inexperienced toting my equipment through throngs of circus-goers at the opening party for the Citizen Jane Film Festival. I’ll describe some of the mistakes I made and problems I encountered, so that other wannabe journalists can learn from my experiences.

1. The tripod. Going into this project, I didn’t expect the tripod to cause problems for me. Compared to the video camera and microphone, the tripod seemed to be the least of my worries. I even practiced using it before I left for the event because the various knobs and screws were intimidating. When I got to the event, I was confident in my knowledge of the tripod, but no amount of tripod expertise can prevent the awkwardness of using a tripod in a crowded room. I tried extending the tripod legs and got in the way of a lot of people. I would suggest attaching the plate to the camera before going to the event, so you can just pop it onto the tripod when you’re ready to shoot. Find a spot with some space where you can extend the tripod legs, then fold up the legs and carry it to the place you want to shoot from. Try not to smack anyone with the tripod; it’s heavy.

2. The lighting. I was filming in a ballroom that was only lit by pink lights. Even after setting the custom white balance, there was still a pinkish tint on all of my footage. It was also pretty dark in the ballroom. I don’t have any advice for this one, because I still don’t know what to do in this situation. I couldn’t use the video light because the majority of my footage was shot from a far distance.

3. Shot composition. Paying attention to the composition of shots in video is much more difficult than in still photography. In still photography, you can capture a moment in less than a second. In video, it was recommended that you hold a shot for at least 10 seconds. However, I ran into a few situations in which random passerby ruined my shots. I would set up a shot, hold it for a couple of seconds, and then someone would stand in front of my camera and obstruct my view. It seems that nothing can really be done about this; it’s just something you have to watch out for. I tried moving to different spots to continue recording from a different angle, but it was often difficult to get the tripod through the crowd.

4. Focus. The tiny screen on the video camera can be deceiving. I took a few tight shots that looked like they were in focus on the screen. When I imported the clips on my computer, I saw that they were actually out of focus. Pay close attention to the screen while you’re recording, and definitely use the manual focus.

5. Sound. I recorded a video interview, and when I imported it, there was no sound. A few hours later, I realized the microphone was turned off. Classic rookie mistake. The first mistake I made was failing to test the sound before recording the full interview. I didn’t play back the video until I was back at my apartment. Test the sound, always!

Now that I’ve made all these mistakes, I hope that tonight’s recording will go more smoothly. Someday, I hope I will have the skills to produce something like Stephanie Sinclair’s film, Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides. It’s a combination of audio, video and stills, and it shares the tragic stories of women who are forced into early marriages.


Advertising Ethics

I would definitely agree with Burnett’s statement that dishonesty in advertising can hurt a business. If a company lies in an advertisement, people will find out, and they will complain. They will try to obtain some kind of compensation or revenge for being lied to.

However, I think there are much subtler forms of dishonesty that businesses get away with. There is a lot of exaggeration in advertising. There are also many unrealistic portrayals of “what your life will be like” if you purchase a certain product.

The advertisements aren’t lying, but they’re still not being completely honest. This brand of dishonesty is understandable, though, because advertisements are geared to make the product desirable. Businesses can also assume that consumers will know when an advertisement is not to be taken literally.

Adults know when advertisements are exaggerating or using an unrealistic scenario, but children might not be able to make that distinction. Advertising directed towards children needs to be done carefully. Commercials for toys and candy are too manipulative. I consider it unethical to take advantage of the naïveté of a consumer through advertising.


Walter Astrada

What struck me about Walter Astrada’s presentation was his practicality and composure. Although the topic of his acclaimed multimedia project is complex and emotional, Astrada spoke about burn victims and narrowly escaping gunfire as if he were reading off a weather report.

The understated manner in which he explained his project made it seem even more impressive. He didn’t need to dress it up with dramatic accounts of his emotional reactions to what he saw while photographing oppressed women; his pictures told the stories.

After seeing the first few photos of women gazing with tortured eyes, widows-turned-beggars and victims of femicide, I wondered how Astrada could have taken on such a heavy crusade. He is tackling a historically controversial and deeply-rooted issue with nothing but a camera.

Astrada revealed something about his work that, to me, was very surprising. Going into the presentation, I assumed Astrada must have run into a lot of resistance from men while trying to photograph women, especially in India. However, Astrada insisted both women and men helped him with his project. He said there were a lot of men who realized violence against women is wrong, and they supported Astrada’s mission to expose the wrongdoing to the rest of the world.

Aside from his disturbing photos and his account of how he was nearly shot in Africa, Astrada also gave some good journalistic advice and explained some hard journalistic truths. He said journalists need to know history. Astrada also said he does not tend to pay attention to the composition of his photos when he is working. His main goal is to provide information through his photos. Astrada admitted that he paid a price to work on this project. He rarely spends time with his family and friends, but he has no regrets about the choice he made to undertake this project.

Astrada will now continue his project in Norway. I look forward to seeing the results. He will be exposing the oppression of women in one of the most peaceful, “civilized” nations in the world. It will be very different from where he worked in the past, and it is a necessary step to take in revealing the widespread nature of female oppression.

Let’s get metaphysical (blogging about blogging)

Having a blog scares me.

I started a blog this summer. It didn’t have a cohesive theme, as was suggested in this week’s lecture. Instead, I wrote about random topics, and I wrote to entertain. I recounted some stories from my past, made fun of myself and gave advice. I vowed to update my blog often and to keep it going through the entire summer. It worked quite well until I stopped writing three weeks later.

My blog gave me 15 seconds of (almost) fame. People who I rarely talked to in high school were walking up to me at parties and saying, “I love your blog! When are you going to write another post?”

My reaction to this was an unfailing, “You read my blog? That’s weird.”

The knowledge that people might want to read what I write gave me some confidence, but it also put a lot of pressure on me to perform. I only started the blog because I wanted to have a place where I could unload all of my sarcasm; I never expected people to actually read it. I think that’s why I stopped writing. It wasn’t because I was too busy or because I ran out of ideas. I just felt like people were expecting a certain quality of writing and a certain level of humor, and if I couldn’t deliver, they would be disappointed.

Having a blog about a specific topic scares me even more.

I would love to start a blog that is more focused. It would be nice to have something for potential employers to look at.

But what happens if I start my blog, and then run out of things to say about the topic? What if no one reads my blog because there are already so many blogs out there about that topic? What then?

Employers want to see that a journalist has an online following. Would employers value an online following if it stems from a non-journalistic blog (like my summer blog)?

Where were you when…?

I was sitting in my fourth-grade class on Sept. 11, 2001, across from Dana, who liked to burrow her head in her shirt and “discreetly” pick her nose. The principal’s voice, emanating from the loudspeaker, suddenly interrupted my teacher. I heard something about airplanes and the World Trade Center. I wondered what the World Trade Center was. My teacher tried to explain what had happened, but I don’t think she even fully understood.

The images on the evening news of planes hitting skyscrapers finally helped me begin to understand the tragedy. I saw the planes hit again and again. I saw the smoke billow, and I saw buildings collapse. It was mesmerizing, confusing and impossible to fathom the extent of the destruction.

I was playing at Jennie’s house across the alley on Nov. 9, 1996. My dad came to the door. He was holding a plastic grocery bag that contained a carton of orange juice. He told me I had a new baby sister. I thought, “Another one? Seriously?”

Just kidding. I was definitely excited. My 2-year-old sister, Marina, was even more excited because she wasn’t the youngest anymore. I walked home with my sister and my dad, walked into my parents’ room, and saw my mom in the rocking chair holding Veronika. Mom gave Marina and me chocolate bars and congratulated us on being big sisters. I should’ve gotten chocolate for my mom and congratulated her on popping out a third baby. That’s hard work.

It amazes me that I remember these moments so clearly. Most of my childhood memories have been re-created from flipping through old photo albums, but these two memories are real and vivid.

It’s interesting that people can remember those defining moments in world history and in their own personal history. Some people remember where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon, or what they were doing when JFK was shot. Shock and other strong emotions must permanently imbed those moments in memories.


Here’s a thought I had while writing this post: How cool would it be to base some sort of multimedia project on these kinds of memories? Perhaps it could be an audio piece in which people describe their recollections of hearing about monumental events.

New Film Techniques

I’ll be honest. “1000 More” made me cry. Seen through my amateur eyes, the video was flawless and incredibly moving. But I’m going to put emotions aside because there is a technical aspect of the video that really caught my attention.

There were a few instances in the video in which the camera was stationary, and Phil eventually came into the frame. At the beginning, the camera is focused on Phil’s house, and Phil rolls into the shot. There is also a shot of a swimming pool, and Phil swims in and out of the frame.

This is a filming technique that I’ve never thought about before. When filming, my instinct is to focus the camera on the subject and follow the subject as he moves. Allowing the subject to move into a stationary shot is a great way to work some variety into filming techniques.

Allowing things to move in and out of the frame makes a video much more interesting because this technique generates some suspense. If the audience is left staring at an empty section of a pool, they will be curious about the purpose of the shot. The audience will attentively await the arrival of the subject. This technique can be used to help capture the audience’s attention.

I’m really looking forward to using this technique in my future multimedia projects. I expect it to increase the quality of my videos and make my videos look much more professional.

There’s Discomfort in Paradise

I wrote an article for The Maneater this week about a study done on “stayover relationships.” It was a story about MU students’ shacking habits. After interviewing the doctoral student who published the study, I set off to find a few more interview subjects. I walked around campus and searched for couples that might agree to an interview, but all I could think about was how awkward the situation was. I couldn’t imagine myself walking up to someone and asking her how often she sleeps over at her boyfriend’s place. It’s a pretty personal topic. Publishing relationship details in the newspaper seemed like a terrible idea.

I was immediately reminded of the audio slideshow we watched in J2150 that revealed the emotions and hardships in the life of a paralyzed mother. A discussion about access followed the slide show. The subject needs to be comfortable with exposing herself; she must provide access to the journalist. She must decide exactly how much access she will provide.

This was the concern I had while writing my article. I wanted my interview subjects to be comfortable with being quoted in the newspaper.

Multimedia techniques elevate this comfort issue to a new level. People often feel more uncomfortable with having their pictures taken or words recorded than they do being quoted in a written story. I used to think I would have the most trouble gaining access to high-profile criminals and top-secret government documents. Now, I realize gaining access to the intimacies of the daily lives of “ordinary” people will also be quite a challenge, but it is a necessity.

This slideshow tells a very personal story.

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