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|| News Item: Posted 2006-10-05

Hell Freezes Over … Or How I Now Shoot Video (Sometimes)
By Chuck Liddy, The Raleigh News & Observer

Photo by

Video by Chuck Liddy
Hitler hit Satan in the back of the head with a snowball.

They're both going ice-skating later.

Yep ... Hell has frozen over, and it ain't all that bad.

After 32 years of capturing moments with still cameras a few weeks ago I was handed a Sony HDV video camera and set loose at select high school football games on Friday nights.

Yeah, I know, I said it "Hell would freeze over before I'll ever shoot video" but I'm actually starting to have fun.

Okay, I'll be honest it wasn't all that much fun to be handed a video camera on a Friday at about 6 pm and told: "This is the button you push to record. Don't mess with any of the settings." It felt really weird to walk into the stadium with this pint-sized camera, I was really self conscious and felt like hiding. But several of the still photographers at the game were supportive --- or maybe they just felt sorry for the old guy with a camera he knew nothing about --- and made it seem like an adventure.

I promptly started shooting video as the one of the school's marching band made their grand entrance onto the field and that's all I was shooting, sound...ooops! Need to turn on the external microphone.

So now it's game time and I still think it totally sucks. But as still photographer's we have to contend with horrible light at most night football games (including college) but digital video cameras need less light and VIOLA! hey this ain't so bad after all, this stuff looks pretty good.

Following the action is a little tricky at first, I mean there is no moving the camera away from your face and tracking a play, then getting back on it. Nope you do that and you're likely to have video of the sky, ground, grandstands or your arm (don't ask).

Another problem is making comments while the tape is rolling. Like messing up while zooming and saying "S*@t, what the f@$k are you doing you idiot?" Ah, nope it comes out REALLY loud on the tape, since that microphone is now turned ON.

So I make it through the first half without getting run over by a testosterone jacked teenager weighing over 200 pounds, smacked in the head by a flying cheerleader or impaled by one of the flag corps spinning flag thingies.

Okay, I'll break here for a moment and give some background details. I actually started my career shooting high school football in the fall of 1974 at Orange Park High School in Florida. There was no noble cause in shooting the games. I had graduated from OPHS that spring and was still in town. A lot of my best friends, including my brother still played football and I wanted to get into the games free. The first Friday of the season I grabbed my dad's Yashica Lynx-14 Rangefinder, walked into the stadium and acted like I knew what I was doing. I had less than remedial skills, but a hell of a lot of confidence, errr, make that over-confidence. I got two or three photos that night. The weekly newspaper reporter came up to me at the game and wanted to know if my photos were any good and I told him, "Of course they are what the hell do you think I'm doing out here?"

A career is born.

Fast-forward 32 years.

The News & Observer wants to shake things up. We're already doing lots of online stuff. Scott Sharpe has been doing an online slide/sound program for years entitled "Postcards from the Road". In recent months everyone has been jumping on the slideshow programs with Joe Weiss' Soundslides program making it easy enough for, well, even me to do it.

The video was the logical next step. I had tried some video with a little point & shoot Canon S2 while on assignment in Afghanistan in May of 2005. It was mostly stuff shot as we rode along in the back of the open Humvee showing the countryside and such.

I struggled on my own while covering Duke basketball early this year to do a project with sound, stills and video of the famed Cameron Crazies which was edited in iMovie and got mixed reviews. May of this year while working on a coastal development project I spent seven hours with a commercial crabber and took the S2 with me and was very pleased with the results. That led to video interviews of principals involved in the coastal series. Which in turn led to "Chuck, we want you to be part of a new team to run with this video."

Scott Sharpe now has a new title. I think it's like "the tall, handsome, muscular multimedia head guru " (he made me write that...honest). To be truthful it hasn't been smooth. We jumped into this not just to be ahead of the curve, we wanted to beat the pitch itself (baseball analogy). Little did we know the computers we had didn't have the juice to edit video at a speed, which often times seemed to be going backwards. Computers were crashing more than a gaggle of cars at a demolition derby.

But the videos got online. And we're getting better. It went from taking five hours of post - production work the first week to now a more manageable two hours and getting better as we go along. We now post about 10-12 clips from the first half of two games a week. And they're online by midnight Friday. So the kids (or parents) can get home and see the clips BEFORE they go to bed or the paper comes out.

And it is fun.

Keep in mind, video is not stills. But we do bring a new vision to the table. Some of that stuff that everyone who has shot stills sees. "Boy that sucked as a still but wow it would make great video." Well, now it's a brave new world out there. No I haven't lost my mind, well not completely, but this is a new tool and offers some new opportunities. I'm not even close to dropping my Nikon's and going gaga over video but there are some enticing things that video has to offer.

After only three weeks of shooting video I have found my ability to follow pass plays in the college ball I cover has improved dramatically. I mean I'm no Bob Leverone, Bob Rosato, or Bob Seale (The BOB's) but I have seen improvement in that aspect of my still game.

And I'm having some fun. Isn't that what it's all about anyway?

For a look at the prep football videos on the News & Observer website:

(Chuck Liddy is a staff photojournalist at the News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He is the president of the North Carolina Press Photographers Association and is currently working on his acceptance speech for the Emmy Awards. You can check out his still work at his member page:

Related Links:
Chuck's member page

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