Assessment – Radio Outtakes

Two minutes wasn’t a long time for a story which could have gone on for ten minutes.

That meant some things didn’t make it into the package. Here’s a selection of the best rejects.

The clips are pretty rough with no use of editorial wizardry, but you may find them interesting all the same:

 

 

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Assessment – The Equipment

Television

Panasonic P2

Panasonic P2

The Panasonic P2 was my camera of choice for the TV package assessment. Although when loaded down with a tripod, mic and various cables, it’s hideously bulky and weighs a tonne, I actually quite like it.

It’s really simple to use, produces decent enough pictures in HD, and it looks the part. (Come back to me for more in-depth technology reviews).

I shoot everything on manual and the Panasonic P2 makes this comfortable. It couldn’t be easier to white-balance shots – it requires no more than holding a piece of (white) paper up to the lens and pressing a button. The focus ring is really smooth, allowing you you get the kind of out-of-focus to in-focus arty shots you see on real-life documentaries with virtually no effort. And you have an option of manually zooming-in or using the zoom-in switch on the side of the camera body. Both are surprisingly smooth.

7/10

Radio

M-Audio Microtrack II

M-Audio

Eugh, where do I start? The M-Audio is really no friend to me. It’s clunky, looks like the kind of walkie-talkie a supermarket security person might have clipped to his belt loop, and has far too many cables and wires for such a small device.

Yes, it works, just about, but that’s all I can say in its favour. It’s temperamental to say the least: one minute it will be functioning perfectly, the next it won’t record, won’t switch on, won’t allow the headphones to work…you get the idea.

Sound-wise, it seems to pick up every bit of static, and (I think) even invents a little of its own for good measure. No audio comes away crisp and clean. Instead it hisses and spits out of the speakers.

To transfer audio clips from the M-Audio to your computer, you have to first switch the device off or it refuses to work – it makes no sense, I know.

As I’m writing this, I’ve just come out of a media law exam, so I know I can safely rest assured that what I’m saying is covered by fair comment, and I won’t be sued for defaming a reputable brand name.

3/10

Assessment – Radio Package Production and final thoughts

Here you go. Brace yourself:

What went well?camface happy

The interviews

Securing the interviews was a far easier task than I’d expected. Normally when I’ve asked to speak to politicians I’ve had to jump through hoops to get them to agree to see me. But not this time.

I arranged interviews with MEP Julie Girling (though she could only commit to a phono), Stephen Gilbert MP, Mairi Hayworth of UKIP, and Richard Snell from Tremough Innovation Centre. And all in one day.

Getting from one interview to another was no problem. I made sure I’d left myself enough time to switch from place to place, and I’d prepared all of my questions for the four interviewees the night before.

Each of them seemed happy to speak to me and they were all pretty open about their feelings on EU membership, which helped form solid arguments in my package. Even when I asked how they’d be voting should there be a referendum they didn’t mind telling me, removing the need for me to go all Paxo on them.

The only issue I’m having so far with my piece is where timing is concerned. Fitting four voices into a package little over two minutes long is a challenge, and I may have to consider dropping an interview.

The SFX

I’m fairly pleased with the few I managed to record. Because sound effects don’t really lend themselves to my piece, I decided to use a clip from PM David Cameron’s speech (watch it in full here) to lead the audience into the package. Then I recorded one of my links on location at Tremough Innovation Centre, just so it sounded a little more interesting. I recorded Stephen Gilbert’s assistant welcoming members of the public to a surgery at his St Austell office, and used Mairi Hayworth saying her name to introduce her.

What went wrongcamface sad

Timing

Well obviously it’s not wrong now, but during editing, figuring out how to cram four voices into a short piece was no mean feat. Seeing as each interview lasted about 15 minutes, I had an hour’s worth of audio to whittle down into two minutes.

My decision to keep all of my interviews meant I had to be ever so slightly brutal in choosing which clips to include. I eventually settled on dramatic, short and sweet ones, to add impact to my package, but without stealing too many seconds off it. Take for example, Mairi Hayworth’s. I changed her clip right at the end, because -with her introducing herself – she had almost twice as long as everyone else. Instead of having her pretty much repeat what Julie Girling had already said, I used her quote saying it’s about time we had a referendum.

The phono

I’m begrudgingly including my phono with Julie Girling in the ‘what went wrong’ section as nothing went wrong per se, it’s just the sound quality isn’t great. She was travelling in the car on her way to a meeting about guide dogs, so as you can imagine, her voice occasionally cuts out. But given her position as an MEP and my story topic, I felt it necessary to include her views in my package. And besides, the poor sound quality kind of adds another dimension to the piece!

I feel she starts the debate off quite nicely, saying something along the lines of ‘it’s bad news for Cornwall, but actually we’d have more money if we weren’t paying into the EU’. That gives the other interviewees a change to agree or disagree with what she’s laid down.

SOC

Don’t get me started on this one. It was part of the assessment criteria to add a SOC to my package.

I’m sure plenty of you will disagree, but I think it’s completely unnecessary to include one. As I was already struggling with timing, adding another couple of seconds onto my package with a pointless SOC was the last thing I wanted to do.

Listening to local and national radio stations, only rarely will you ever hear a SOC. It’s far more likely a presenter will say “that was our reporter Joe Bloggs there” at the back of a package.

After spending a good while thinking of a nice, thought-provoking out line which sums up the piece, it seems something of a shame to stick a clumsy SOC onto the end. It doesn’t fit well with my piece (or any, for that matter) and I don’t like it.

Final thoughtsDavidCameron

To be perfectly honest, I’m not overjoyed with the overall package, there’s nothing really wrong with the clips or my script, but I strongly feel the equipment I used has let me down (more on this later).

If I could have my time over again, I think I’d probably choose a different story – one with more of a distinct narrative – which would allow me to be more creative and show off my radio skills, particularly with sound effects. That said, I’d like to think my piece drives the debate forward, and displays some of those skills – after all, super-exciting SFX will not be suitable for every radio package, and it’s good to know how to deal with different types of stories for different audiences,

Anyway, on the bright side, I feel I’ve learnt lots from putting this together. For a political piece, I’d like to think it’s not too dry, and I had the opportunity to speak to the different politicians about their views on EU membership. As a short political package, I wasn’t able to cover as much ground as I’d have liked, I really feel this would have lent itself better to a 4-5 minute piece.

Assessment – Treatment of Radio Package

Unless you’ve been living in a biscuit barrel for the past week and a half, you’ll know that the Prime Minister’s long-awaited speech about EU membership has been dominating the headlines. What better story for me to cover for my assessment?

I plan to focus my story on Cornwall’s political views as to whether or not the UK should remain in Europe. So far, I’ve secured interviews with Mairi Hayworth from UKIP’s Falmouth and Truro branch, MEP for the South West (and Gibraltar), Julie Girling, Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay; and Richard Snell, manager of the Business and Innovation Centre at Tremough.

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You may find what I’m about to tell you very boring, but I’m especially proud that I’ve managed to fit all of these interviews into one day – something I actually found really useful and plan to do again as it enabled me to bounce what one person had said off the others, sparking debate. Here was my schedule for the day:

09:30 Phono with Julie Girling

10:30 Interview Richard Snell at the Innovation Centre in Penryn

11:00 Time for a quick law lecture

2:00 Interview Mairi Hayworth in Falmouth

5:30 Dash off to St Austell to meet Stephen Gilbert

 How have other news outlets covered the story?

Where do I start? Other news organisations have pretty much covered every angle imaginable, from what leaving the EU would mean for the UK, to why it’s crucial we should leave.

Producing the story

So as you can see, there’s no shortage of reading material exploring every aspect of Mr Cameron’s speech, or what implications leaving (or staying in) the EU will have on the UK, but I need to move my story forward in a way that’s interesting, informative and appeals to my target audience. Here’s how I plan to do this:

  • I’ll ask how local politicians feel about the possiblity that the British public will have their first referendum on EU membership in 40 years? Are they for or against? And what would it mean for Cornwall?
  • I’ll look into what help Cornwall gets from the EU (in the form of Convergence funding, money from the European Social Fund, etc), and ask those in favour of leaving what the county would do without this cash.
  • This will be a political piece, so (due to time restrictions) I won’t be recording Vox Pops or interviewing members of the public, but it’d like to hear what a local who’s directly benefited from EU funding has to say about the subject.

Assessment – Editing the TV Package and the finished product

So here it is, ta da!

What went well?

The filming

I’m fairly happy with the result of my filming – nothing’s under or over-exposed, and I tried to be creative with the types of shots I got. I made the decision early on to avoid doing anything too fancy with the camera-work (zooms and pans and the like), instead I decided to concentrate on getting good, steady, in-focus shots that would illustrate the story well.

My script tells the tale of how Polly came to get stuck in the under-carriage of a high-speed train and luckily made it out alive. I made sure I paid attention to detail when filming and got pictures of the right type of train on the platform she was found, the exact same sandwich she was fed…that kind of thing.

I’m especially pleased with the close-up of the vet’s face and the wide shot of the cat and the vet, which I’ve cut between pictures of the cat being fussed. I think that’s worked really well. I’m also happy with the footage of Emily the train manager, where I asked her to pretend she was looking for the cat under the train.

I made two round trips to Penzance, which actually turned out to be less of a faff than I’d expected. I made sure I’d planned the route before leaving the house, then simply hopped onto a train, into a taxi and to the vet’s clinic.

The graphic

I decided to have a go at a graphic myself using my (limited) Photoshop skills to show just how far Polly had travelled. Ideally I’d have liked to have had the trail moving in time with the voice-over, but for a first attempt, I think it looks pretty good and it’s certainly better than simply listing the places she visited.

The edit

I used Avid to edit my piece, and up until the export (more on this later) it did little in the way of jeopardising my piece and behaved itself without mangling up any of my clips or losing any of the sound.

The finished product

Overall I’m pleased with the way my video package looks. It told the story in the way I wanted it to, and it’d fit in nicely as an ‘and finally’ story on The World Tonight.

What went wrong?sound_waves

Sound quality (not all of it!)

There were a couple of general issues with sound, which couldn’t really be helped – I blame the vet’s room and the noisy train in the background. The room was particularly echoey and there wasn’t really anywhere else to do the interview. When I got to the edit suite I was actually surprised that the sound wasn’t worse affected that it was, because when I was filming it sounded terrible.

Exporting from Avid

The edit went smoothly, but less can be said about the export. After three attempts (and three separate trips back to the Avid suite), the piece is finally playing out the way it’s supposed to. I have no idea what Avid’s problem is, I did exactly the same thing each time, being careful to choose all the right settings. At least it works now.

Incurring an injury

As I’ve already said, I cut my finger on the killer-tripod I was using. Did I mention it really hurt? It’s still sore.

Assessment – Filming the Television Package

DAY 1 , PENZANCE:

They say never work with kids and animals…they’re wrong

What a delight little Polly is. After a pretty horrific ordeal travelling in (the undercarriage of) one of First Great Western’s trains and losing a leg, Polly remains an extraordinarily trusting and affectionate cat.

Even an experienced camera-person would probably have to admit that telling a cat how to position itself for the camera would be a first, but Polly seemed happy to be mauled about for the purposes of good TV. She’s a natural. But I suppose she’s had plenty of experience (see previous blog post).

Polly

DAY 2, PENZANCE:

After seven calls and three emails to First Great Western’s press office they finally agreed to let me speak to Emily Mahoney-Smith, who found Polly under the train. So off I went back to Penzance to meet her. I must say, staff at the station were incredibly helpful and Emily was a fantastic interviewee (she even agreed to kneel on the train platform and pretend to look for an imaginary cat in the train’s undercarriage!)

Overall, the filming went well and I got all the shots I wanted.

Filming – the problems

  • First off, after several attempts to meet Polly’s owners and film the reunion, I eventually had to accept it was a no-go. They were only willing to talk to ITV, which was disappointing…perhaps it’s their favourite channel? The couple are very elderly and said: “we just want our cat back,” so I had to respect that.
  • Two perennial bug-bears of mine: fluorescent lighting and echoey rooms. Now there’s obviously no getting away from either of them, you have to just work with them, much like having an incredibly annoying colleague who does everything in their way to scupper your attempts to get the perfect shot.

I haven’t yet looked back at my footage in the edit suite, but I have a nasty feeling the echoing will be an issue.

  • Once again, I’ve had to self-operate a camera at the same time as conducting interviews. I must say, I’m pretty comfortable doing this, and don’t feel worse off for the lack of another person there to hold my hand. My only gripe is where carrying stuff is concerned. Getting about on public transport with two bags large enough to cart bodies around in is no joke. And while filming and interviewing I ended up having to contort myself into the shape of a trumpeting elephant. I had to be extremely careful to frame the interviews properly and desperately tried to keep the boom mic out of vision.
  • OK, OK, so something else did go wrong… because of ‘elf-and-safety’ regulations, filming on a moving train is not permitted, so as I hurried to pack away my camera kit after filming on the train, I managed to trap my finger in the tripod. I’m really not good with blood, so just the sight of my (very) wounded finger almost made me pass out. I managed to haul myself back over to Emily who kindly gave me a plaster.
  • Note to self: when filming, always carry a first aid kit, or avoid trapping digits in tripod.

Assessment – Treatment of Television Package

A package on anything to do with Cornwall. That’s the task.

As you can probably imagine, there are lots of ways you can shoehorn a ‘Cornwall’ angle into any story.

I’ve decided to focus my efforts on a cat – currently at a vet’s surgery in Penzance – that got trapped on the under-carriage of a train. It travelled 1700 miles, and lived to tell the tale (no pun intended).

Polly the inter-city kitty

Polly the inter-city kitty

I’m going for a light, feel-good kind of story because I know I can get some lovely pictures, and it’s the kind of piece I like making and watching.

While my peers ridicule me for being the ‘Chief Miraculous Animal Recovery Correspondent’, I’m confident this is a story newsworthy enough for any broadcaster or print outlet.

Here’s how other news organisations have approached the story:

My take on Polly’s adventure

So far I’m pleased to report that my plan is half coming together. I’ve secured interviews with the vets responsible for treating Polly. I’m still waiting to hear back from First Great Western to see if they’ll let me interview the train manager who found her.

Here’s how I plan to make the story:

  • I want to get original footage, and challenge my camera skills by getting a range of different shots from different angles and levels – easier said than done when you’re working alone!
  • It’s essential that I speak to both the vet and the train manager – without them, the story just won’t stand up and I’ll be forced to look into doing something else.
  • I’m keen to film the reunion between Polly and her elderly owners. This would make for a real tear-jerking story. Obviously this will depend entirely on getting permission from them so I need to be prepared in case they don’t agree to it.

What can go wrong?

This brings me to one of the major problems I’m experiencing. As a trainee broadcast journalist, with no reputable corporation behind me, and no flashy press pass, it’s practically impossible to be taken seriously by those generally against any form of contact with the media (ahem…train companies). Student journalists simply lack the credibility and clout to get the stories we want from the people we need to speak to.