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Cox v. Final Cut Pro

Hour six of my marathon editing session. The Battle of Nathan vs. Final Cut Pro has almost concluded. There has been many casualties on both sides. I came close to surrendering, but I am going to conquer this program.” - Nathan Cox on December 7, 4 AM.

Okay, I admit it. I made a tactical error. A week ago, I had a chance to do my final interview over the weekend. However, the weather was bad, and I wanted to do it outside, so I chose to wait until this past weekend.

Big mistake. The interviewee ended up being sick all weekend.

And so it was that I did my final interview on Monday at 9 PM, with the assignment due within two days.

When I came to school on Tuesday, I was confident I could have my project finished by 8 PM.

Big mistake. I was serving as editor for our news show on that day, and due to a number of delays, the show was finished at 6, took 3 hours to render and then 2 to upload to vimeo. Of course, this consumed my disk drive, meaning I couldn’t use it for anything else.

And so it was that at 11 PM on December 6 I started editing an assignment due 15 hours later.

You could say I learned my lesson. I generally try to finish my assignments as early as I can so that I can spent a lot of time perfecting it. Not this time.

Anyway, my assignment is on the health effects allegedly caused by industrial wind turbines. I wish I had picked something a bit easier that I could have been really creative with. Due to the sensitive and controversial nature of the topic, I was very careful and tried to be as balanced as possible.

One of my interviews was with Dr. Robert McMurtry, a member of the Order of Canada, a former Dean of Medicine at UWO and a very respected individual. Of course, I somehow forgot my tripod for the interview, and made myself look like a complete idiot. I was able to rig up an impromptu tripod, but the experience was embarrassing.

I did learn from it: I remembered my tripod for my next interview with Gary Zavitz, co-founder of Friends of Wind. But I did forget my microphone.

Yep, I think I need to start carrying a checklist.

It didn’t turn out too bad though, because I did have a handheld microphone, which was able to pick up his voice and not much of the background.

The benefit of the project was that I got to film some really interesting B-roll and be creative with my shots. I got to include one of my all-time favourites: the driving shot, where I set up a camera on a tripod and put in the passenger seat in my car, then drive with it. I’ve previously had some great successes with that one.

Still, I think the end product turned out pretty well considering the problems I had.

Meeting Lloyd

Wow, I have been very lucky this year. I’ve been able to help interview a pair of Canadian figure skating champions, Sam Roberts, and now, Lloyd Robertson… And James Duthie… And Lisa LaFlamme.

Meeting Lisa wasn’t as big of a thrill as one would expect. Perhaps it’s because I don’t watch CTV News anymore. I do watch TSN, and was excited to meet James Duthie.

But he pales in comparison to the one and only Lloyd Robertson. I used to watch CTV News when Lloyd was on it, so it was quite nifty to meet this personailty that I’ve seen on TV countless times.

And Lloyd was as nice as one would expect. That’s the big difference between household names like Lloyd and the many other news anchors. He’s a genuinely nice guy.

Anyway, this was for a story that myself, Christine and Rachel were doing for the United Way. They were holding a fundraiser at which the career of Lisa LaFlamme was celebrated. We’re putting together a video package for the United Way website.

We also used a bit of our interviews for 519online news. The Tuesday newscast featured the interview with Lloyd and the Thursday newscast will (presumably) feature James Duthie and Lisa LaFlamme.

It terms of production, things went very smoothly. There were a few small problems, like finding the correct exposure, which was tricky given the low lighting. Our B-roll of the crowd didn’t turn out to well due to this lighting.

Still, our final product looks very good and the whole event was a great experience.

Figure Skating (sorry, I can’t think of a better title)

I’m a huge fan of the Olympics, and I generally keep track of the individual events year round. So yes, I follow figure skating. Some people snigger when I tell them this, but I don’t know why.

In journalism, it helps to think ahead. Whenever I cover a story, I try to remember it, in case I ever need to go back to it. Last year, as part of the broadcast journalism program, I got to write and read newscasts on 88.3 CJIQ News (Conestoga’s radio station).

One day last January, I was supposed to cover sports. One of the stories was about Dylan Moscovitch and Kirsten Moore-Towers, a duo of pairs figure skaters from Kitchener who had won the 2011 Canadian Championship. I took note of this, and thought I might do a fuller story at a later date.

And so it was that 9 months later, I saw their names on TSN’s website. I knew this would be a great opportunity to interview a pair of successful local residents. I was also intrigued by the possibility of filming them practicing their routines and the challenges it would involve.

So last week, Julie and I interviewed the duo and filmed their practice session. It was a lot of fun, both Dylan and Kirsten were very nice and had some interesting things to say. It was fun to see them banter back and forth.

The week before, I helped interview Sam Roberts. Okay, Dylan and Kirsten weren’t rock stars and I was only vaguely familiar with them, it was still a pleasure to meet and interview them

The footage also turned out great. The two biggest challenges were finding the right exposure (the entire rink was white-ish, which messed with the cameras) and keeping the duo in focus as they were moving all over the ice.

All in all, the story turned out great. People still snigger at me when I tell them I did a figure skating news story, but oh well.

A Generic Reflection Blog

People who know me know that I’m the easily flustered type and have a bit of a tember. Generally those qualities don’t make one a good leader.

So I was stunned when people told me they thought I did a good job as producer of our news cast on Tuesday. I was told I was pretty calm and collected and level-headed.

I don’t get called that too often… So yay!

To be honest, there really wasn’t much to get upset over. We’ve all gotten pretty good at our jobs, so it was smooth sailing. Had I been in charge the previous week when there were all kinds of technical difficulties, then I probably wouldn’t have handled things so well.

We also got our newscast done quicker than any previous week.

I think the biggest problem I faced as leader is that I’m a perfectionist. I spend a lot of time agonizing over minute details in my video, and I have been known to drive teachers crazy asking for their opinions of whether the slightly blue verson looks better than the slightly less blue version.

It’s that reason why I hate seeing my own work, because I always am able to quickly pick out the perfections.

But, in the real world, one doesn’t always have time to spend perfecting things. “You have to learn to grind shit out,” is some very good advice someone at Tillsonburg News gave me. For school assignments, we always have enough time to polish our work.

So it was tough for me, because I would notice things like slightly off colour, slightly off audio, not enough time between voice over clips and I’d want to fix them. But, I had to learn to prioritize.

Still, I think our newscast turned out very good. And I did enjoy being producer and I hope I get the position again next semester.

Owl Be Back!

The setting: The Long Point Bird Observatory, located on Long Point, Ontario.

When: Last October.

The scene: It’s the middle of the night, temperature just above freezing and it’s drizzling rain.

Someone sits on a porch and looks depressed. As he waits fruitlessly, he wonders, not for the first time, “why am I doing this?”

This person was learning that persistence is the key to a good story.

That person was me. I was waiting to film Northern Saw-whet Owl banding, and I had to visit the Observatory three nights over two weekends before finally (in the fourth night), there was a windfall of owls.

The result an be seen above.

And I was, and still am, very proud of it. But like everything I’ve done, I knew I could do better.

So I set a goal for myself: do another owl video, this time in HD, and make it completely different.

And except for the fact that I interviewed the same guy (couldn’t be helped), I achieved that.

I got lucky this year: I only had one night of no owls before getting lucky. Owl banding is based largely on luck. Weather figures heavily into it. You need a slightly windy and cool night with no rain. That’s when the owls are on the move.

It’s difficult to compare the two videos. The old one explains the process, the new one has more of a newsy spin to it. The HD video is definitely a boon.

Working in difficult conditions is definitely good experience (ie. the dead of night with little light). You have to adapt to the conditions, and in doing so, you learn a lot.

Will I ever do another owl banding video? Probably. Owl be back!

The Man on the Street

A common segment in Monty Python’s Flying Circus was to present random opinions from “the man in the street.” Often their comments were quite ludicrous and hilarious.

My favourite sequence:

Announcer: And now, let’s turn to the man in the street.

Woman: I’m not a man, you silly billy.

Man (sitting on a roof): I’m not in the street, you fairy.

Man (standing on road): Speaking as a man in the street… [gets hit by a car].

So with these great moments in mind, I was happy to take to the street.

Some background: I wanted to do a story on Research in Motion’s latest trouble with the Blackberry. My initial e-mail request for an interview with someone (anyone) was ignored. I’d tried the phone as well, with no luck.

So, I decided to see what the man in the street was saying about Blackberry’s offer of free apps to make up for their service failure.

It was good experience. A key detail when doing streeters is to know where to wait for people.

A parking lot? Probably not, since people are usually either rushing to class or eager to leave.

A Tim Hortons line-up or bus stop? Yep, because people are killing time anyway and would love to talk.

Two basic questions were asked: “Were you affected by the outage?” and “Are you satisfied with RIM’s peace offering?”

Answers varied. Surprisingly, none of the women we talked to were satisfied with the offering. Men were mostly satisfied. I think this is due to the type of apps being offered, several were related to games.

In the end, it was a good experience and we had a video that was just under two minutes that summed up the issue pretty well.

Perhaps I need to move to England, where the man on the street always has something funny to say.