Stills AND Video, Stills OR Video, (and what about the Audio?)

Hindu goddess Durga is well equipped to handle the demands of multi-media journalism. Photo courtesy
Hindu goddess Durga is well equipped to handle the demands of multi-media journalism. Artwork by

One thing that is really throwing me about trying to become a multimedia journalist is the fact that I’ve only got two eyes, two hands, and one slightly-damaged, but still functioning brain.  However, it seems to me that the Hindu goddess Durga in the above illustration, is much better equipped for multimedia journalism. I’m realizing that you need more like 6 hands, 4 eyes, and multiple brains to do multimedia…

Let me explain. I’m a travel guy, and many of the things I witness that would make cool audio slide shows are events—festivals, dances, rituals. Or situations, as in my recent visit to the Lipizzaner Stud Farm in Slovenia, where you have a very limited (in this case, 2 hours) time to do your work. This was brought home to me a couple of days ago here in Buenos Aires, where I attempted to cover the Feria de Mataderos for an audio slide show treatment.

As any experienced shooter knows, it’s hard enough to capture peak moments with your still camera when you’re covering a one hour dance festival, or a horse race, or any event with a start and a finish. But what is throwing me is this:

How do I know when to shoot video, when to do audio, and when to just take some “pitchers?”

Now, ideally, you want to do all three simultaneously. I thought I had the audio thing figured out by using binaural mics that fit into your ears like iPod earbuds. You get great sound with these mics plugged into your digital sound recorder, it leaves your hands free, but it records every click of your camera and every sneeze, sniffle, and any other sound that you may emit (!).

Still it’s a good way to pick up a lot of ambient sound, hands free. Not getting your camera straps all tangled up with the earbud wires is a major challenge.

Having video-capable DSLRs like the Nikon D90 or D300s also makes it a bit easier. But to really shoot video with these rigs, you need something like the Hoodman Hoodloupe 3.0 strapped on to the body so you can see what you’re shooting (especially if it’s sunny outside), and a mic like the Sennheiser MKE 400 in your hotshoe (but then, what if you need some quick fill flash for a still?!)

This is the big reason I haven’t been shooting more video than I have. And I think it’s the reason why we have “video crews” and not “video persons.”  It may be that doing multimedia well is not a one-person job at all…unless, of course, you are a multi-armed Hindu deity!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Bob,

    Great points. I just got back from Thailand and one of the stories I worked on was “Ladyboys” at a cabaret. It would have made great multimedia but there was simply no time to get the audio I needed AND still do a good job on stills. So I focused on the stills. Maybe when I go back I can spend a couple of days at the cabaret and get some audio but in one visit it wasn’t possible.

    For newspaper shooters, this is something I don’t think a lot of editors (who tend to live within the confines of their cubicles) don’t understand. Doing multimedia right takes a lot more time than doing just stills or just audio.


    1. Thanks Jack. When and where will we see your Thailand stuff? I’m coming home from BsAs tomorrow. I’m just beat! BK

  2. Most of my Thailand stuff, including Ladyboys and a special unit of the Thai army that’s women only battling Muslim insurgents in south Thailand, is on my website. It was a great trip, exhausting but very productive. Now I just have to get some of it published.


    1. Jack: Your podcasts are looking really good. The one about the monks morning procession is very well done. Congrats! Bob

  3. Hahaha, so true!

  4. Couldn’t agree more Bob, the scary thing is many clients may expect it of us in the future but will they be willing to pay extra for it? I’ve been blogging about travel writers being forced to take photos whether they want to or not, and sometimes not being paid extra to do it.

  5. hi Bob,
    you’re right on the money. Durga is a perfect example for what we need to become in order to create multimedia projects. when i can, i enlist the help of a bystander (as during festivals) and ask him/her to hold my audio recorder…(no, i haven’t lost one yet), or just ask my fixer/guide to hold it for me while i’m shooting at a distance. in both instances, i turn the recorder on and keep it running until i return. obviously this only works for ambient sound.

    btw, i met Brenda Tharp in Bhutan and came across her a few times during festivals etc.


  6. Bob I am not so sure about the whole convergence thing. Having been involved with a few client projects that were video, I know it really is more than something one person can do alone. The photographers that seem to be pushing things in this direction all seem to have fairly substantial crews to help with sound and video. I do however think that the audio slide shows will be more widespread as things move forward now we just have to add sound engineer to the list of things we need to do well to stay in work. I don’t envy you the ‘dance of hands’ and hope it all goes well.

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