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|| News Item: Posted 2001-02-26

Brave New World
By Jon McNally, Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times
The notion of still photographers shooting video for web sites has been around for a while. I think the reality is that not many people have done it.

This will change. And soon.

For the recent AT&T Pro-Am in Pebble Beach, Alan Greth, Executive Photo Editor of the Contra Costa Times, asked me to provide video for the web site for the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News. My first reaction was, "You want me to do what? Where? "

It was a little intimidating. This would mark the first time we had done video from a remote site during a "live" event. But, then I figured a few days in Monterey, on the golf course, hanging with The Count and his cohorts could be very cool. So it was off to the beach.

A little history first. This would not be our first experience with video. Last year Jim Ketsdever of the Valley Times and I made some "new media" at the NBA Jam Session during All Star week in Oakland and for the opening of Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. Jim shot video and I produced 360-degree panoramas. These efforts were carried on our web sites and turned out to be well received. So this wouldn't be a totally new experience.

The first thing I did was check with the event media coordinator to see if video would even be permitted since the tournament was broadcast on CBS.

No problem. A photo credential is all I needed.

The only restriction was from the PGA. Any web accounts, including video, could not be used live. The pictures and stories had to be delayed at least 30 minutes. (The only other restriction was that I had to promise John Mabanglo from AFP that, unlike most TV video guys, I wouldn't walk up at the last minute and stand in front of him or any other still shooters.)

I wasn't ready to edit on site from a laptop yet, so I hauled a G4, monitor and digital player/recorder to the peninsula. The first laugh of the weekend came when I discovered the room I had in Carmel was so charming and quaint it had no desk or table. So I cleared off a shelf, put the computer on it and edited standing up.

Photo by
In order not to duplicate the photo production of staffers Bob Larson and Dan Honda, which would also be on the site, I shot feature stuff except for the final round. The last day's news was the winner.

It was kind of strange walking around with just the one camera and a small fanny pack with extra tapes and battery. After the first day, though, I had to add a tripod to haul around since all motion is exaggerated and there was no way I could hold the camera steady enough.

As far as hardware went I used a G4, a Sony VX1000 digital camera, a 19" monitor and a Sony digital recorder for playback. The recorder was Firewire equipped and faster for playback and searching than the camera. It also saves wear and tear on the camera's drive. For software I used iMovie2. We have Final Cut Pro, but I used it only once during the tournament to tweak some sound. The final edits were exported as QuickTime movies. Our site required these to be converted to RealMedia files using RealProducer.

The videos were shot, edited and transmitted daily to our ftp site through Earthlink using regular hotel phone lines. The final day's piece was done and sent in time to beat the evening news, which I thought was most excellent.

Shooting video, in general, requires thinking in terms of a complete story for every piece and making sure each part of the story has enough editable stuff on tape. My ratio ended up being about 15-20 minutes of raw to 1 minute of finished video. Internet video, in particular, has some real limitations compared to broadcast. Limited motion scenes, like a player teeing off, will reproduce much better than panning and a lot of movement in the scene. And as always tight is right, since the movie on the screen will be small. The file size is also an issue. A finished minute, compressed, with sound, can be about 3 MB, which is pretty hefty to transmit and to download.

Overall I think the project was pretty successful. Of course, hindsight has me wanting a few changes. One was sound. All I had was the on-camera microphone, which picks up lots of ambient sound. Good for some things, but not so good near a crowd and away from the action. Some type of directional mike might have helped. I would also rather have a manual zoom on the camera. The automatic zoom seemed to be too slow. And, of course, next time I will get my boss to hire someone to carry around the tripod and humidor.

My impression is that this experience will lead to more video for us. And, more importantly, more planning for video and ways to use it on our site. There is a constant need for web site content and with the spread of cable modems and DSL, video will fill a lot of that need.

It's coming so you might as well get ready. To me is a great place to start. There's lots of examples and information about video for the web. This page, also has tons of stuff about digital video.

Dive in. As The Count sez, "You could be the next Cecil B."

(Jon McNally is a staff photographer for the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, CA. He can be reached at:

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