Producer Ara Ayer reports from India with producer Mary Lockhart. Ara runs through what it’s like to be a high-tech, multitasking, multimedia journalist on the go.
A Worldfocus shooter-producer wears many hats in the field. I have to wear more than most since I’m bald –- yet that’s not the topic of this blog. I’d like to digress about workflow.
Gone are the days when an electronic journalist could spend a day reporting and shooting then hit the local watering hole for refreshment. Today’s multimedia journalist has to report, do lighting, sound, operate the camera and archive digital video clips in the field. It’s the new reality of media production: five jobs, one salary.
Not to boast, but I’m an analog guy. I shoot photographs on 35-mm film, listen to jazz through a McIntosh amp, and used to enjoy shooting video on tape. That is, until I started with Worldfocus and learned to joys and hardships of working in an all-digital news gathering format.
My trial by fire came on assignment in India and Singapore. Fellow producer Mary Lockhart and I ambitiously took on the task of producing seven stories in three weeks.
Neither of us were experts using the high-definition Panasonic P2 camera. Unlike cameras of old, a P2 doesn’t require tape. The P2 camera “captures” digital video on reusable — but limited — memory cards.
Mary and I had to often break our shoot schedule to download and erase cards. Fading computer batteries often sent us scrambling to find power to transfer clip files from the camera to portable hard drives. We started taking over wait stations in restaurants, hijacking offices for electrical plugs and, if need be, using the car’s cigarette lighter for power.
If the assignment gods were kind, this process would end at sundown. Yet after the shoot day was done, digital clip files on the portable drive and the remaining P2 cards all had to be backed up to two archival hard drives in real time.
So if I shot four hours of video during the day, I spend four hours archiving at night. Mary and I often took turns sharing the archival duties –- assuring at least one of us got more than fitful sleep before the next day’s assignment.
The great boon of digital technology is access to the media. I can screen and edit my work virtually anywhere on my laptop. I know it’s nothing revolutionary to the YouTube generation, but the ease of scrutinizing material before we decamp for the next assignment or home truly helps make me and my colleagues better storytellers and journalists. Plus, with all the late nights transferring files, our clips are archived and ready to edit when we touch down in New York.
– Ara Ayer