The Times, They are a Changin'

by Mel Stone, reporter/photog KVLY-TV

The lines are getting blurrier and even though I’m a photographer, I couldn’t be happier.

The line I’m talking about is the one between still photography and video.

I just finished what is a first for me and is quite unusual, if not a first, for TV news: I shot pictures and video for a TV news story entirely with a digital still camera.

Let me digress. The day I finished editing this piece, I was listening to an old “Creative Cow” podcast on a new MP3 player (a present for my 63rd birthday.) The host dropped a piece of trivia: the first movie ever shot entirely on a digital SLR was “Corpse Bride.”

It’s a “stop motion” movie shot on a Canon EOS 1D Mark II and edited on Final Cut Pro. Here’s a link.

Mentioning my age above was a way to brag about an old dog trying a new trick.

I came about my project somewhat indirectly. A junior hi kid was asking for some help with a video project he had to make for school. He said he wanted to do a video on cars.. “Too, general,” I said. “Narrow it down.”

Actually I think he didn’t really want advice, he simply wanted access to my TRV900 miniDV camera. I wasn’t about to let him use it, but I knew he had access to digital still camera—a still camera that would also shoot short videos.

“What kind of music do you like,” I asked. “Rap.” “Take your favorite song, shoot some stills and some video with this still camera and edit it together.” Of course, I also told him to record some sound… interviews and the like.

A few days later, I bought my digital still camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ30.

I’d looked at still cameras for months and 3 major things sold me on this camera:

  • 8 Megapixels;
  • you can actually move the autofocus area to any of 9 spots… including the “golden thirds;”
  • the zoom lens covers 35 to 420mm (35mmn equivalent).

Incidentally, I learned it would also recorded video in Quicktime, with audio.

Remembering what I’d told the junior high kid, I decided I’d do a TV news story recording pictures entirely with this camera. I thought of several possibilities but quickly locked-on to a story about our relatively new skateboard park. In keeping with my advice to the jr hi kid, I narrowed my focus to “how the kids learn and get better.”

Winter is fast approaching, but I found a beautiful fall afternoon to hit the park with my Lumix, a 2GB SD card and G4 Powerbook.

Although I often shoot in TIFF mode, for this shoot I used the lowest quality jpeg. This allowed me to shoot in “infinite burst” mode. I couldn’t always tell when or where some action would happen so I framed-up and pressed the shutter. After capturing a pile of stills, I shot in movie mode for a while.

Then came time to download. With 2GB and a USB connection downloading took nearly 30 minutes. I’d bought a Type II card adaptor for the PC slot in my G4, but the adaptor was malfunctioning… it’s been returned.

I then dragged the file to trash, but didn’t empty the trash. I wanted to save it as a backup. When, I went back to shoot, my camera gave me a “card full” message.

Perplexed, I shot some jpegs on a 32MB card. Then, downloaded it, and ran into the same problem.

Out of panic, I decided to see what happened if I emptied the trash (with the camera attached.) I don’t know why, but that did the trick.

So, I continued the shoot. The only concession I made to “professional” video gear was to use the TRV900 to record audio while I conducted interviews shooting with the Lumix still camera.

Because the Lumix uses Quicktime in movie mode, bringing the video into Final Cut (actually FCE) was very easy. But it did require rendering.

Here are some stats:

Frame Size
Data Rate
Video Rate
29.97 fps

Actually, the “Data Rate” of the Lumix Quicktime seems a little variable… for this story, it ranged from 1018.4Khz to 1.3 MBHz

In editing, I’d bring in the Lumix video and audio, put the TRV900 audio on a separate track, synch-up the TRV900 audio to the Lumix video and delete the Lumix audio.

With some good rock and roll music to edit by, my pictures and a story structure, I went at it.

I haven’t had so much fun editing a package in months, the video quality obviously doesn’t match what I can get out of my TRV900, but it’s sort of nicely funky.

I can’t wait to do another story this way,
Mel Stone

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