Posted on August 17, 2007
How Gannett trains video shooters
With all the talk about Gannett’s so-called Information Centers, there’s been a lot of curiosity about what kind of training is provided to help the Gannett newsrooms change over. Yesterday I got to see one day of Gannett’s video training for reporters. I enjoyed it a lot — especially their classy gear! Take a look at the list:
Gannett Video Equipment List
- Video camera: Sony HDV-A1U
- Camera light kit: Lowel To Go 95 Kit
- On-camera light: Sony HVL-20DMA
- Camera batteries (pack of 2) : Sony 2NPQM91D/B
- Tripod: Sony VCT870RM
- Tripod adapter: HC1-SHIM-MOD
- Battery charger: Sony ACSQ950B
- Firestore drive: Firestore 40 GB
- Camera bag: Porta Brace DVO-1U
- DVcam tapes: Costco, Best Buy
- Wireless microphone kit: Sony UWPC1/6668 or UWPC1/6264
- Lav microphone kit: Sony ECM 66B
- Stick mic: Electro Voice 635N/D-B
- Headphones: Any
- 6-foot mic cable: Marker Tek
- 25-foot mic cable: Marker Tek
- 6-pin-to-4-pin Firewire cable: Wal-Mart or Radio Shack
- Mic stand (table stand): Radio Shack
- Editing software: Avid Xpress Pro V. 5.7
- Digital [editing] deck: Sony HVRM25U
- AA batteries: Any
- Firestore drive (60 GB): Firestore ASYF116201LF
Including the edit deck (which runs about $3,000, street), the full kit costs Gannett about $8,000. They’re getting some volume discounts, of course. This comes from Anne Saul, Gannett News Systems Editor, who is part of the three-person training team.
Update (Oct. 13): Anne just took a second look at this blog post and realized there is a flaw in the list above. Here is what she wrote to me:
Early on, we were recommending the 40 gb drive, but found that they didn’t work with Avid, so we switched to the 60 gb version. Guess I just forgot to remove the 40 gb model from the list. Not every shooter gets one; in fact, we are holding off purchasing any more until we look at the new models. Plus they aren’t needed for everyone — primarily the folks who are shooting breaking news and need to get it edited and on the Web quickly (no ingesting time). Also the tape deck is not for each journalist. There’s usually one per newspaper. Larger newsrooms might have a couple.
Tom Costello told us that a while ago, Gannett his newspaper estimated that it costs $15,000 to equip each photojournalist, including software and a laptop computer. So when they totaled up $8,000 for video, it didn’t look so outrageous.
Tom’s the chief photographer at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey. He and Glenn Hartong, multimedia producer at The Cincinnati Enquirer, ran the hands-on portion of the training yesterday at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. The usual pair of trainers (two TV journalists from Gannett) were on vacation, but Tom and Glenn seemed like they’d been doing this all their lives.
The Diversity Institute participants received a somewhat abbreviated version of the Gannett training — two days instead of the normal three and a half. (This was because their workshop runs only five days.) Anne said that in the normal training, the two hands-on coaches train 32 journalists, divided into teams of four. This group of 21 was divided into teams of three, and I would say that probably works better. I’ll post some photos in a day or two, and I think you’ll see how three people can really get a chance to try everything.
I got to witness a full day of gear training and shooting. Today the participants will get their Avid editing training, but I’ll miss all that.
I’ve handled and even used several kinds of video cameras, but the additional gear that Gannett lays out was mostly new to me — and it was really cool! The audio module on top of the camera was awesome, allowing complete control over two separate audio inputs simultaneously. The remote control on the tripod allows one-touch zooming. And the light kit! I’ve never worked with a light kit, and this nifty portable unit really was sweet, with a compact umbrella and an ultra-lightweight stand. Used properly, it made an amazing difference in the participants’ interviews inside the building. People looked so natural, it was as if they were there in the room with us when we viewed the raw footage at the end of the day.
As a final observation: When I walked in yesterday morning and saw this mountain of gear laid out on the participants’ desks in the morning, I thought: “No way! They can’t teach reporters to use all this stuff in one day!”
But they did. And even though the participants were getting a bit glassy-eyed by noon, when they got to go out and shoot, they did great. They shot one little “fake” story for about 45 minutes. Then they came back, popped in a fresh tape, and went out to shoot a real story. The hope is that these will be posted online within a week. I hope so — when I saw their raw takes yesterday at 5 p.m., I was really impressed.