To Kayak or Not to Kayak? Video projects covering the heat of D.C.

Yesterday, bootcampers were immersed in the heat of D.C. Our assignment: how the heat has impacted DC. As we shivered in the cold air of the computer labs, we prepared for our first experience in the field. Our medium: HD video cameras and standard mics. Our time frame: three hours class time. Our weather: upper 90s, intense humidity, not a cloud in the sky. We were released into the heat, and I felt what probably other journalists were feeling that day: sticky.

USA Today senior video editor Rob Roberts joined us at the beginning of class and provided useful tips for shooting video. A number of students had never shot video in their lives, so the tutorial came in handy for our first day.

Groups of reporters covered different topics, from how tourists are handling the heat to the scene at a local D.C. pool. Roberts gave us a few fundamentals on how to approach video.

1) It’s important to remember that “video isn’t that hard.” People are often more forgiving of bad video if it means an important element to the story. This was something that I struggle with at times simply because the technology can be intimidating. Once I get past my love/hate relationship with computer programs, it becomes easier to get the job done and think more creatively about the project.

2) Video is time consuming. For a one-minute package, it’s advised to gather about 20 minutes of video. You should also hold your shot for about 15 seconds to ensure the video isn’t shaky.

3) The same skills that go into good journalism go into good video. For instance, pay attention to detail, ask the right questions, use variety, and seek out what’s most significant and interesting for viewers.

4) Lastly, Roberts advises that you know your audience and know your medium. We spent the morning learning our medium and how to convey our stories through it. Our subject matters were perfect, because stories regarding heat yield well to video.

Professor Olmsted preps the class on HD cameras

Professor Olmsted preps the class on HD cameras

Our adventure started in Georgetown at Thompson Boat House. Besides the challenge of getting there, we faced a more important challenge: What is the story? We saw minimal activity in the water, a few trickled tourists walking along the Waterfront, and employees standing at ready. So my first thought was, “what do we shoot when there’s no one to shoot?”

That’s where attention to detail come in handy. When the weather is scortching, it appears fewer people want to go out on the river. Our video told us that the place was empty. However, the employees had a different take.

We interviewed the assistant manager and an employee who both said the boathouse stays crowded (mostly on weekends) despite the weather. We even found a couple that said the water made them feel cooler despite the heat and low currents. We also found a number of people who felt it was too dangerous to be out on the water due to dehydration and heat exhaustion. The story path wasn’t clear, but we got a good balance of active video, still shots, long and short shots, and a balance of opinions in the interviews. Because I was wiped out from the heat, I decided to leave our next challenge for Tuesday: what’s our story, and how will we edit our content?

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