Posts about vlogs

A tale of three tapes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the infrastructure, effort, and expense of big TV v. small. Lately, I took along my video camera as I did a few things with ABC 20/20, Frontline, and and, as a demonstration, whipped together this little video. I tried to show the effort that goes into a simple interview in network news: four pros who spent hours setting up and taking down a shoot and who put great effort into getting it just right (and they were all nice enough to put up with me taping them). I wanted to make fun of the TV convention of B-roll, in which they get allegedly casual footage of you being yourself so they can use it in editing (and then I made two seconds of my own). And I was fascinated by’s smaller TV for the internet. My video quality is crap (something to do with getting video off my old camcorder, since replaced) and my editing is amateurish — but then, that’s the point.

Go here to get shareable links.

: LATER: A commenter thought I was being snarky about the guys having to wait between shoots. Not at all. Want to make that clear. As I say in the video, these guys are real pros and they do their jobs extremely well and they were also terribly nice explaining some of what they do to me. Ditto the Frontline people. It’s not their fault that the form has come to expect B-roll. What fascinates me is the contrast between the time-honored way to shoot TV and the new possibilities. That’s my point.

How to make a newspaper talk

At Online News, Chet Rhodes of gives an inspirational talk about how he is turning the paper into video, training print reporters to take video (it takes 55 minutes, he says) and how it is working. Why do this? he asks. Because you have to. When we looked at video from a number of news sites in my CUNY class, the students liked’s video best because it was still somewhat raw, not overproduced. And that makes it easier for print people to learn how to shoot good video, I say, as the definition of good shifts away from the priests of the tools.

: Pankaj Paul of DelawareOnline tells about utterly reorganizing his paper’s newsroom to be platform agnostic. He said that a few years ago, only four people could post on the web but now 50 can and the number of web updates skyrocketed. They are a small paper and so they are not throwing staff at this; they are throwing simplicity at it: They are using iMovie and GarageBand to produce multimedia. He said that they have had four people leave because multimedia is not for them. I see that as a very good thing. Welcome to the future, newsroom. Says Paul: “There is no online department. It has ceased to exist. We are the online department. The newsroom is the online department.”

Say it to Katie

At the VON conference, I told about recording a CBS Evening News free-speech segment and Steve Garfield lamented that CBS was inviting selected people to record these pieces rather than asking for submissions from the public. I suggested he didn’t need to wait until CBS called. Start your own site: Say it Katie. And that’s just what he did. Go to Blip.TV, submit your video, and tag it SayItToKatie. Jonny Goldstein has the first one up, a video about such videos. I suggest you now make videos about any topic in the news, especially topics that are getting bad or insufficient coverage. Maybe we can convince CBS to start airing the stuff we make. did.

: Speaking of the segment, Fred Graver — who knows whereof he produces — scolded me and Steve Safran for chiding ABC for overproducing the segment: “I call it “produced.” Steve, did you WANT to look at Jeff’s talking head for a whole three minutes? Didn’t you appreciate the eyecandy?”

A tale of three tapes

Here’s a good example of how TV is changing.

I got an email from the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric asking me to tape one of those “free speech” segments they’ve been airing. I wrote a script and went back and forth on it a bit. I mentioned Dan Rather. That made someone nervous. Then they said it was OK. And so I included him in my final script — after another clearance. And I recorded it. I’m not sure, given the Rather reference, whether it will ever air. I’ll let you know.

From a media perspective, what hit me was the experience of taping the segment. I’ve done many things like this before, but this time, I counted how many people were involved in getting me on tape: seven producers, camera people, sound people, teleprompter people — plus God know how many more producers and editors who took it then.

At home, I took the exact same script and with some photos to illustrate my points and produced the segment alone, in my den, on two programs: iMovie and VideoCue, a Mac competitor to Visual Communicator, which gives you a teleprompter and the ability to drag-and-drop graphics, lower thirds, photos, audio, or video onto your script so the’re all recorded along with you (no need for editing). I’ve used these tools before and had to brush up on them anyway for my CUNY class. They make it incredibly easy to make TV. Will my segments look at good as CBS’? Well, that depends on your definition of good but probably not. Still, the thoughts and the talking head spewing them were exactly the same.

So compare: probably a dozen people involved in my little 1:30 at CBS; one person at Buzzmachine World Headquarters. Networks will collapse from their bloat.

Then this week, emailed asking me to do a 1:30 commentary about changing TV for them. They wanted me to come into the studio. No, I said, let’s not just talk about changing TV, let’s change it. I wanted to record the segment at Buzzmachine HQ. The producer was nervous and didn’t think he bosses would buy it, but they did. I recorded my script and FTPed the video to them. They then proceeded to produce the bejesus out of it with dancing graphics and flying Jarvises, to distract from my bad accoustics (and haircut), no doubt. Here‘s the final product.

And then last Friday, Amanda Congdon and crew came through Jersey to my HQ to tape a vlog for Amanda’s across-the-country video tour. She came to the door with here three friends bearing cameras trailing behind, Boswelling her every move. Then they set up in the den with lights, a decent mic, an HD camera set to focus on Amanda and me on the couch in front of the books that make me look smart, and with two of them roaming with two more video cameras and a third shooting stills. It was a three-camera shoot! Cable networks and sitcoms don’t use three-camera shoots anymore. On top of that, it was in HDTV. Amanda’s friend Mario said the whole set up cost something like $2 grand. Compare this, again, with the big networks. And compare the quality of their work, instead of mine, with the big guys. They shot 45 minutes of my blather on three tapes — poor Chuck Olsen had to edit it — and at the end, they brought in my kids, Jake and Julia, for their moment in the video spotlight. (My wife, for no earthly reason, doesn’t like cameras and Chuck edited out the family cat). It was a hoot. The first segment is here; I’m so long-winded, I get a second one here.

In the second segment, Amanda and I got into a tussle over TV. I said she — and Rocketboom and Ze Frank and Chuck Olsen and countless new colleagues — were making the new television. She said she didn’t want her stuff called TV; she said it’s something new, it’s a video blog. I argued, in turn, that the definition of TV is up for grabs and that she should grab it: Don’t let the big, old guys define and own TV. New tools, technology, and talent are opening TV up to a million new creators who are reinventing TV itself. And it’s about time.

Sunday morning all week long

The BBC’s Richard Sambrook (in his new, public blog) links us to a new internet opinion channel in Britain: 18 Doughty St. An interesting experiment. I don’t know that I’d hand out camcorders. Webcams would do the trick to gather the vox of the pop. Nonetheless, I like the idea. Here’s their trailer.

The Amandamobile

Amanda’s road show breezed through our house last night and it was fun. I’ll give you atmospherics when she posts the piece.


The Journal rounds up the stars of minimedia.

The medium is the massage

Rachel Sklar, videogenic editor of HuffingtonPost’s Eat the Press, starts a vlog, complete with oiled massages. A star is born.