The Good Cameras Behind Goodwill
Canon 7D in 1080 60p
Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 lens
JVC GY-HD100U camcorder in 720 HDV
Adobe Premier CS5
FINDING THE STORY:
A few months ago I was in a fairly upwardly-mobile community of Sacramento covering a blood drive that KCRA, the TV station I work at, was sponsoring, when I noticed a Goodwill Industries store just a few doors down. Goodwill is a nationwide organization of thrift stores that has been around since the Thirties and benefits people with handicaps and other special needs. I love going through their book sections for old paperbacks from the Sixties that I collect.
What surprised me is that Goodwill stores are typically found in lower income areas and are frequently somewhat rundown and dingy. This Goodwill, on the other hand, was bright, clean, well-organized and — most astoundingly — in a popular, modern shopping center.
Then the following week I was driving through East Sacramento (“East Sac”) a historically upper-crust area with multi-million dollar homes and noticed a big sign saying “Goodwill Express.”
A Goodwill here? Something is going on.
I put in a call to the main office of the Sacramento Goodwill Industries and found out there was a lot going on — a complete facelift transforming the old dingy thrift stores into clean, well-organized, well-lit secondhand retail stores to better compete for the consumer dollar in today’s weak economy.
“It’s not your grandma’s Goodwill anymore,” Mark Klingler, the Retail Director for the Sacramento Goodwill Industries, describes it.
All too often “photographer” pieces are looked upon as feature stories with lots of pretty pictures that run at the end of a newscast.
I don’t like to be buried. I want my stories to run high up in the newscast rundown. The economy is the big story of our times and is something that effects everybody. Money. How to make it. How to save it. How to keep afloat. To that end, almost every story that I pitch is about the economy in one way or another. As a result, the stories I pitch get on air in a meaty part of the news.
My five-day-a-week working camera is a Sony XDCAM, 25+ pounds of gear provided by KCRA, the TV station that I’ve called “home” for over twenty years now. (And, hopefully, several more to come.)
They’ve also recently added a couple small JVC GY-HM100U camcorders that shoot in 720 HDV and 1080 HD.
For some time now I’ve been looking for a story to shoot with the JVC GY-HM100U camcorder that I could also incorporate my own personal camera, the Canon 7D and Tokina 11-17mm f2.8 super-wide lens and Rode Videomic. This, I decided would be it.
This was also edited entirely using Adobe Premier CS5 on a $500 Dell Latitude E5410 PC laptop.
I wasn’t aware until recently that Adobe Premier CS5 could natively import footage shot with the Canon 7D without needing to be converted using MPEG Streamclip, as I do when working on my MacBook in Final Cut Pro.
Once I was enlightened this I immediately shot a test with the 7D, loaded it into the Dell, which was effortless — and whammo! — the wheels in my head were turning.
WHY SHOOT ONE STORY WITH TWO DIFFERENT CAMERAS:
I wanted to do something different. Every day I shoot news with a 25+ pound Sony XDCAM news camera. This story I wanted to shoot with the JVC GY-HM100U camcorder in 720 60i HDV and my Canon 7D.
The interviews were all shot with the JVC GY-HM100U with a Lektronix wireless mic receiver velcroed to the top handgrip of the camera, with the people being interviewed either wearing a wireless lavalier mic transmitter or being interviewed by me holding a stick mic with a wireless cube transmitter.
Everything else — the “B-roll” — was shot with the Canon 7D in 1080 60i HD.
THE DYNAMIC TOKINA 11-16MM LENS & CANON 7D
The big reason I used the Canon 7D is that I wanted the story to look different. I wanted it to have some eye-popping dynamism, which I knew that the super-wide Tokina 11-16mm lens would give.
The 7D was shot totally handheld without a rig, steady device, eye piece finder or monitor. Just my hands and the 7D’s rear LCD screen. The Tokina 11-16mm lens is wide enough that most motion is absorbed, plus I has the camera in almost constant panning and sweeping motion, further masking any handheld jiggle.
In fact, much of the time I wasn’t even able to see the LCD screen as well because I was holding the camera down low or sweeping it up over my head, so I had to “zone compose” as well by guessing the angle of pitch that I had the 7D in my hands. Again, the ultra-wide aspect of the Tokina easily compensated and, amazingly, every single shot came out looking great.
The Tokina lens was also great because its super-wide aspect puts almost everything in focus. Since I’m slightly nearsighted and shot this very quickly I relied heavily on the “zone focusing” method of presetting the lens to an average focus and then just hit record. For the most part that worked fine.
GETTING THE STORY FINISHED:
While driving back to the station I pulled the SD and CF cards from the cameras and loaded them into files on a Western Digital 360 Gb USB 2.0 external hard drive to edit from.
Almost all TV news stories are shot and aired on the same day and with this one I fully expecting to get back in the early afternoon and put it together for the 6 o’clock news.
I shot with both cameras because I was concerned making the deadline.
Shooting interviews with the 7D and recording the sound separately using my Zoom H4 and synching them up would have been too much to try on a “same day turn” of a story where I’d have less than four hours to log the interviews, write the script, track my reporter audio, edit the piece, export it out of Adobe and load it into AVID in time for it to “make air.”
Just too dicey.
As it turned out, soon as I was finished shooting the Goodwill story I was reassigned to some breaking news and sent to help out with a live shot. In between operating my regular Sony XDCAM camera on live cut-ins I worked out a framework for the Goodwill story and wrote down about three-quarters of the script.
When anything comes to me I write it down — whether it’s a news story, a film script or a blog for this website. The sooner I get it on paper, the less likely I am to forget it.
In fact, for the next few weeks our station coverage was dominated by two huge breaking news stories — one about the shooting of a principal at an elementary school and the another about a child abduction, which ended in tragedy. These would keep me and pretty much everyone else in the newsroom preoccupied for the next few weeks.
News Note: When big stories break you drop whatever you’re doing and go.
I was not able to return to the Goodwill story for almost two weeks. Over that period, whenever I had some downtime I would keep a Dell laptop with me and try to log what I could when I could.
An edited down version of the story ran on KCRA Channel 3 Reports at 6 O’Clock on Friday, February 18, 2011.
The final 4:15 Goodwill story ran as the lead story on KCRA’S Common Ground on Sunday, February 20, 2011.