KCRA 1st Day of School — GoPro

Published On August 13, 2017 | By Mike Carroll | GoPro, KCRA-TV, Mike's TV News Stories, Shooting News

As I’ve stated many times–what I love so much about my job as a TV news cameraman at KCRA-3 TV News is that when I walk into the newsroom I have no idea where the day will take me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017, I walked in the newsroom at 9:30 A.M. and, as I always do, walk by the assignment desk to check in and let them know that I made it in. As I went my the assignment editor Mitch Hanner said he had a VO-SOT for me to shoot.

The dynamism of GoPro. Cosumnes Firefighter Julie Rider with 4-year-old Maverick Martinez.
Frame grab form GoPro footage. I simultaneously shot this just holding the GoPro down as I was filming with my full-size Sony HD XDCAM–but the GoPro angle was just so incredibly cool that I used this instead. $299 camera Vs $50,000 camera!

GoPro frame grab after I had started the GoPro recording and was lovering it down to record the same moment with both cameras. Just held the GoPro in a general way. It always makes the picture look cool!!!

In Elk Grove at 11 A.M. firetrucks from the Cosumnes Fire Department were going to drive 4-year-old Maverick Martinez to his first day of school. As it seems, the fire department has been to the Martinez’s house dozens of times over the past two years on emergency visits involving Maverick’s mother Theresa, who has been battling Leukemia. She was in the hospital that morning and could not be there for her youngest son’s all-important first day of school, so the fire department, who they have all gotten to know on first-name basis, stepped up to take Maverick for her. Dad Jeff Martinez had e-mailed KCRA the story and invited us to join them.

Theresa Martinez watching everything from her hospital bed.

NOTE: Theresa (apologies if her name is spelled Teresa) has a half-match in place. Her brother is donating bone marrow to help get his sister through this. I pray, and ask all of you to join me, that this will be the success the Martinez family heeds.

Amazingly, Theresa did join everyone through FaceTime on Jeff’s iPhone!

The shoot went like clockwork. I got to the Martinez house early and introduced myself. I was the only newsperson there — no one else from another station or newspaper. Everybody–the Martinez family, the firefighters, the school–was terrific. I had my camera on all the action on cue when it happened.

I couldn’t ride along inside the firetruck with the Martinez because the was not enough room. But also–The fire crew could be called to anything at a moment’s notice. I would be away from my news car and all my other gear. So I went on ahead to the school and met them when they arrived. But–

Firefighter Julie Rider, Cosumnes Fire Department

Firefighter Julie Rider was nice enough to take my GoPro Silver Hero 3+, with a great external microphone attached, along and recorded the ride for me. I preset the camera to Wide so that no matter where she was pointing the camera The would be a shot of the family. As it turned out, Julie has her own GoPro so she knew exactly what to do.

It was all in the bag!

This Is Running When????

The Cosumnes Fire Truck was arriving to the Martinez’ house around 11 A.M.
I had the story shot before Noon.
Driving back to the station I told them I could turn this into a package.
“Great!” was the response from the assignment desk.
Since my stories always run in the 6 o’clock show, I had plenty of time. So I dropped by my house on the way back, grilled a sandwich and drove back to the station.
Arriving at the station around 12:30 I was then informed that the story would be running in the 6 newscast—but that first it was in the 4 o’clock news.
I now had just over three hours to log the footage & interviews–always the most tedious & time-consuming process, write, and edit story, get it fed in, and write in the “fonts”–the superimposed captions with locations and the names of the people being interviewed on-camera.

Maverick Martinez stepping off of the Cosumnes Fire Department fire truck for his 1st day of school.
Frame grab from GoPro that Julie Rider was hansling for me.
Yes, that’s me filming in the background. Notice the size of my 25-lbs. news camera compared to a GoPro at a few ounces.

Then I got back to the station. Reviewing my footage, I found that some of the footage–such as of the firetrucks first pulling up to the Martinez house–wasn’t there! I had crazy wildcam shots in-between, but not of the arriving and the firefighters getting out.

Dad Jeff Martinez. His family has been going through a lot and he is handling it all with great strength and grace. An amazing man.

Sudden Realization–I messed up!

I’ve had this happen a few times.  It’s my own error. I get so wrapped up and excited in shooting the event that I’ve hit the Record button and start following the action. Except–the camera did not start recording! The red Record light had not come on. I was watching the action in the viewfinder and following and zooming and focusing and listening to the audio coming out of the camera—but I wasn’t recording!!!!!

You Have To Go With What You Got

So now I was not only under the gun on time & deadline—I didn’t have the key footage had planned the sotry around!!!
But—okay—no time crying over spilt milk.
Take a deep breath…
And just do it.
In news, the overriding rule of the day—-Règle du jour—-is that it has to get on-air—-AND—-on time!

Firefighter Julie Rider, Cosumnes Fire Department

Saved by Firefighter Julie Rider & GoPro!

Thank Goodness for Julie Rider taking my GoPro in the firetruck with her. The angle she held the camera at and the sound quality was so amazingly good inside that loud cab of the truck was so good and clean—That this became the centerpiece of the story. The icing on the cake! (Cudo’s & Thanks again to Julie Rider, firefighter with the Cosumnes Fire Department!!)

This shot could have gone on the front page of any newspaper in the country.
Frame grab from GoPro footage shot inside the firetruck taking Maverick to school, by firefighter Julie Rider.

Cutting To The Chase—Out Of Necessity 

Since I didn’t have the typical shot of the firetrucks with sirens blazing coming up the street to Maverick’s house and him jumping up and down with excitement–the types of shots we always see in these stories–

Out of sheer necessity I had to start with Maverick slapping hands with the firefighters after they’d arrived.

What I was not aware of at that time was that Jeff had out his iPhone and was sharing everything with his wife Theresa in her hospital bed at the hospital.

Theresa Martinez was going with her son to school in the fire truck along with them!

This became the new peg–the golden key–that I would wrap the story around.

And what a wonderful, wonderful moment to capture and convey. How wireless cellular video phone technology has made important family moments like this possible!

And Julie Rider had this one amazing GoPro moment in the firetruck where Jeff Martinez held his iPhone with Theresa in her hospital bed up to the GoPro—perfectly composed!

Getting Maverick On The Air

Having these elements, good interviews with everyone involved, and wonderful natural sound recorded in-the-moment. Everything came together quickly.

Technical Innovation–White Frame Dissolves

During the in-the-firetruck GoPro footage I didn’t have many angles to cut to, so I strung together the best moments and separated them with Dip-to-White Dissolves of 12 frames. We see these types of transitions so much on news and news types of shows like NBC’s Dateline, but I am new to them.

And I really like them!

Anything to keep the story rocketing forward. I’m all about breaking the old technical rules of shooting and editing.

My new shooting rule is capture the moment, make it pretty with a dissolve or some other transition later. To me, this is less like traditional television news photography and much closer to the photojournalism I learned early on in my Lindbergh High School photography class, taught by Don Love. An experience that changed me forever. And taught me a career.


This story aired and for the rest of that Thursday and into Friday the compliments were flowing in–and from people who I’d barely ever spoken to!

This is not said to blow my own horn. But to serve as a testament to the rule of news, as in life–Just Do It.

Tremendous Thanks to the Martinez family, the Cosumnes Fire Department, and Marion Mix Elementary School for allowing KCRA and me to be a part of this special day.

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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