The early bird gets the best camera position

August 12, 2015 01:30

By Simon Perez, RTDNA Contributor
 
The TV equivalent to the maxim, “The early bird gets the worm,” is “The MMJ who shows up early gets the advantageous camera position.” A little more wordy, but no less true. Arriving ahead of time to cover a press conference confers many privileges the tardy folks just can’t enjoy.
 
Take a look at the photo below. This is about 15 minutes before the press conference is to begin.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
The three videographers who were on scene then have already set up their tripods, essentially reserving the spots where they want to place their cameras for the press conference. People who come later have to pick over the scraps that are left.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
So what exactly are those three early-arriving videographers looking for when determining where to place their tripods? Here are three benefits of being among the first to arrive:
 
Good Lighting
Because the press conference is outside, the person standing behind the lectern will be lit by the sun. The good videographer knows the best lighting comes with the subject looking into the sun.
 
The photo below shows the shadow being cast by the camera. Shadows falling to the right means the sun is to the left.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
In this case, the videographers want their subject looking toward the left for maximum sun exposure. Therefore, the tripod location farthest left will produce the best lighting because it exposes the subject’s face to the most sun.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
Here’s a closer look at how that played out. As the subject addresses the camera farthest to the left, the sun is on his face. Were he to look to the right, the sun would be behind him, leaving his face dark compared to the brightly lit background.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
Proximity to the mult box
Frequently, audio is distributed at press conferences via a "mult box," or multiple outlet box. It’s a console with many jacks for videographers to plug in their audio cables. In this case, the mult box and the audio operator are to the left of the lectern.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
Because MMJs try to carry as little equipment as possible, their audio cables aren’t going to be that long. To avoid worrying about whether there’s enough cable to get from the camera to the mult box, the position closest to it makes it more likely the cable will reach. Again, the position to the left gives the MMJ the advantage.
 
Interesting background
After making sure the subject is well lit and that there will be good audio, MMJs can think about what they want in the background, behind the interview subject. Again, take a look at the entire press conference scene:


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
A quick survey of the background behind the lectern gives the MMJ these three options:

  • to the left of the lectern the sun is in the background;
  • directly behind the lectern a massive, hulking gray building is in the background;
  • to the right of the lectern stand palm trees and smaller buildings in the background.
 Again, the camera position to the left affords the nicer background behind the interview subject, especially in a tight shot.


AT&T Park parking lot, San Francisco, May 2015 Photo by: Simon Perez
 
Granted, sometimes arriving late is unavoidable. But, MMJs who can arrive early have a lot more control over what their shots look and sound like.
 
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes TV news video look good,” or something like that.
 
Simon Perez is an assistant professor in the Broadcast and Digital Journalism Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Before teaching, he spent 25 years reporting for newspapers, magazines and TV stations across the United States and in Spain. In the summers of 2012, 2014 and 2015 he returned to his former job as reporter for KPIX TV in San Francisco. He has chronicled his newsroom experiences and the lessons he hopes to bring back to the classroom at http://www.simonperez.com/blog-1
 

 



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