Recently, while on assignment with my fellow intern Harmonie, I attended a special event organized by journalism students at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouen (Rouen Art Museum, pictured right). It was an event big enough to attract the attention of other news organizations, only these journalists worked for television.
We observed them interviewing guests with cameras mounted on tripods, whereas all we had were portable audio recorders. This made me think about the various differences when it comes to the two different news mediums.
Back at Sheridan College, I was taught how to shoot with Sony XD cameras and edit using Final Cut Pro. There is a reason the teachers there are professionals who also work for the CBC. Setting up cameras is very technical and requires in-depth understanding of the equipment you are using.
When you go somewhere for an interview, you have to make sure you have everything you need before leaving. This includes the camera, a tripod, extra batteries, microphones (either handheld or lavalier, which you attach on your interview subject), and perhaps a lighting kit. Imagine having to transport all of that and not having a car.
When you arrive at your interview site, you have to set up your equipment. You have to set up the tripod, install the camera on the tripod, install the batteries, perform a sound check with the microphones, adjust the camera focus, do a white balance for the colours, and pick the right camera filter. Of course if you are shooting outside and suddenly clouds obscure your subject, you have to switch to a different filter.
As I said, for radio all we need is an audio recorder. However, with one microphone you have to worry about background noise and wind that can interfere with the recording. Then of course you have to worry about the sounds you are making. With radio you need to use your best possible voice, speak clearly, and know exactly what you are going to say.
This is sometimes difficult, since often my supervisor gives me less than a few hours notice before sending me to interview someone. That does not give me a lot of time to prepare questions in order to have a bare minimum of two minutes of airtime. It helps greatly to know your subject matter. During one assignment, Harmonie and I had to interview organizers at a conference on bio-fuels. I am no scientist, but I had read about the subject matter before in magazine articles. When I interviewed the conference speaker, I used what I knew and managed to get four and a half minutes of airtime.
What the two media have in common is the importance of editing. When people watch a two-minute news segment on television, they often don’t realize the work that went into editing that piece. The editor had to choose the best b-roll footage to match the voice-over, make sure the sound is right, and try to balance emotion, rhythm, and pace in the storytelling. There is of course less editing required with radio, since you only work with audio, but you still have to “clean up” the conversation. It sounds like a seamless conversation by the time it airs on the radio, but an unedited conversation is full of pauses and those sounds we make when we hesitate or are searching for a word. By now I have edited so many interviews I know what the sound “uh” looks like when editing on Garage Band.
Whether I eventually end up working in television, radio, or print, I am glad I have gained practical experience both in college and during internships. Learning from books is one thing, but actually going in the field helps you prepare for when you will be sent to a major news event as an industry professional.