Breaking In To Broadcast Video
I'm a self-educated amateur videographer who has been running a rapidly growing event video business for a couple years now. (So much so it's now a full-time gig) I'm running Canon XH-G1's and editing with Final Cut on the latest Mac G5's.
I've been browsing the forums for some time, but have never posted prior to today for fear of asking the dreaded redundant or "stupid" question. The reason I've decided to break silence today is that more and more I find myself passing up broadcast video gigs that would be far more lucrative than my current day to day business of jockeying for position with snap-happy photographers at weddings and special events.
The typical call I've been answering from a broadcaster/producer goes something like this... "Hi, I'm so and so from such and such channel, an affiliate of XYZ TV. We're looking for a local videographer and/or crew in your area to tape a segment/show for us..." To which I generally reply "I'm sorry, we're just a small event video business and that would be beyond our capabilities at the current time." The last opportunity I passed on really stung because it was a 52 week assignment. This is why I've decided to forgo my aforementioned fears and take the proverbial plunge into writing my first post.
Right now I'm imagining the bulk of those still reading this are thinking to themselves "That's right Skippy, keep to the hamburger and leave the steak to the professionals!" The thing is, I'm in rapidly growing rural area with little or no competition (professional or otherwise). If I don't take the business the broadcaster/producer's only choice is to pay someone else an arm and a leg to travel in and do the work in my backyard.
My question to all of you is three fold:
1. How do/would you respond to these types of opportunities?
2. Should an amateur with little or no formal training even entertain such notions?
3. Are Canon XH's feasible equipment to use for taping on-location segments for broadcasters? If not, can't one rent high-end broadcast equipment?
Appreciate ANY input about the topic at hand. Cow veterans, please forgive me if I'm asking a "redundant" or "stupid question. I couldn't find much of anything about this topic using the forum's search engine.
If you're not confident of your own ability to do the job, maybe you shouldn't take it, no matter how tempting it is. But consider:
1 Adding a partner or "on-call" person who is already equipped with such skills and giving him a cut of the deals that come your way. Since these gigs are not every day, maybe you put him on a modest "retainer" so he's ready if you need him on short notice. The danger of course is, if he's ambitious and unethical, he can decide to cut you out and deal direct with all your contacts. One way to control that is for you to own the gear he needs to use. Another way is to become that guy yourself...
2 GETTING yourself "competent", thru specific training.
Make a list of all the things these inquiry calls are asking for, then go get trained in how those things are done. At some point you're going to then have to make a leap of faith and try to do one. With every one you do, you get better. After a while, the worst of the nerves wears off.
I would say based on your post and my past experience, the main thing a station or crewing service needs is a guy who understands how to quickly set up competent 3-point lighting, how to compose a decent interview shot, and how to properly mic a person for good sound as well as good looks. The next most asked for thing would be someone to shoot a news event like a press conference, with an eye for what a news editor needs to tell the story. Which is, getting good sound, establishing shots that orient the viewer as to time and place, and a variety of correctly-framed focal lengths of the person speaking, alternating tight, medium and wide shots to make editing easier. With that you need the sense not to zoom or pan or anything until the person wraps up a main thought, then you are quickly going to another shot before they get up to speed on the following paragraph or idea. The other "news" skill you need there is to be able to hand-hold the camera really steady on your widest lens opening, as close as you can be and keep focus, and interview people after the event, asking a few obvious questions. You need an eye for composition, to see what the background is adding or taking away from the story, what context you can add non-verbally by how you frame a shot. Like having fire trucks in the BG out of focus while interviewing a fire chief on scene, things like that. And enough b-roll and cut-away material to give an editor some choices.
You can go to training camps to learn such things. Sony used to teach a course, the workshops in Rockport are another venue. You want to look for something that stresses ENG and electronic journalism techniques. Other possibilities include courses at the local cable access station, community college or university, as well as doing scutwork and job-shadowing at the local Tv news station.
Then go get some real-world practice around town, go shoot some local town hall meeting or ribbon-cutting or some such thing. Make a ton of mistakes, they are more instructive than being perfect the first time. But the trick is to make the mistakes somewhere where there will be no consequences. Then when you get the next call, you can say: "yeah, I know how to do that!"
"Oh, you wanted to RECORD that?"
Thank you for your well thought out and insightfully written words. I really appreciate the time you took to put yourself in my shoes by reflecting on your own past experiences, nerves, etc. Although some of what you wrote was something I was already considering... like getting advanced training and looking into shadowing opportunities... hearing it from someone who has "been there, done that" helped affirm the common sense of the reasoning.