Monday, October 19, 2009

Homework: Starring Frosty and Thunder

Last week I had my first interview for my broadcasting class. The fact that broadcasting is not a class I take seriously combined with my total lack of confidence with the extremely complex j-cams lead me to take the path of least resistance on this assignment. I chose to do my interview on over-the-phone customer service, in which my friend Leah just happens to work for Scotiabank.

When I approached Leah about assisting me with this project, I was very near groveling. I promised that no one would see it but my professor, we could do it whenever and wherever it was convenient for her, etc, etc. Lucky for me, Leah has never seen me with a video camera and so she shrugged it off and said it sounded like fun. Then, seeing as our mutual friend Colleen was having a gathering on Thursday night, it was proposed we do my homework at her house beforehand. 

Thursday night rolled around, and I rented my monster camera from the library. In this modern digital age we broadcasters use highly advanced cameras that can do a number of fancy things like let you adjust everything to get the picture perfect or let you monumentally mess it up if you assume you can just hit record. They also come in these giant bags that, if standing on their end would come up to my mid-thigh and weigh the same as a ton of bricks. These nice bags also have a single shoulder strap and much to our chagrin, can not be pulled down the hallways like a roll-aboard. They also come with a lovely tripod that is quite hefty as well.

What with my back and neck problems, I never carry these cameras. My classmates, and at times, my sister, are kind enough to assist me by acting as sherpas. My old-womanhood also means that all my camera angles must be shot with the tripod and never by carrying the camera on my shoulder.

I prepared for my interview with all this mind, and as I ran over my professors cheat sheet that said helpful things like, "Select the appropriate filter," and "tighten the clawball," my feelings toward this interview turned from nervous to total dread. 

I arrived at Colleen's  fifteen minutes before Leah was supposed to arrive, my sister Janine operating as my cameraman for the night. She would have preferred the role of gaffer, as holding "the long stick with the mike on it" sounded much more fun, but that is one thing I do not have to haul on broadcasting projects, so she settled for pressing the record button and wearing headphones to monitor the audio.

Colleen ushered us into her house, where she was busy laying out bowls of munchies and getting ready to make virgin drinks. I set up in the kitchen, as it had the best light. Janine set down the monster camera bag and offered to help Colleen, as they both were still assuming I knew what I was doing. Colleen also has two new kittens, named Frosty and Thunder. They are adorable, but very curious and prone to mischief. Every time I pick Colleen up she has to shuffle out the door so Frosty and Thunder don't make a break for it out the front door.

I began the first task of my project; setting up the tripod. Last time I did this it was in my class with four of my classmates hovering around, and it took all five of our brains to figure out how to adjust it correctly. Now my only help was Frosty, who decided to make my task interesting my camping out under the legs and making me sweat bullets should it suddenly collapse. Thunder soon joined in the fun by attempting to use the still-being-adjusted camera leg as a jungle gym.

Next I pulled out the camera and set it up on the tripod. Frosty and Thunder instantly discovered what a wonderful place to play my camera bag was. I hope the media desk doesn't mind one of their camera bags being filled with cat hair.

It was here that my apprehensions about my incompetencies as a videographer peaked. With my camera now secure on it's tripod and my fears of having to replace a dropped camera - as my professor had subtly hinted at when he casually mentioned their price in class - gone for the moment, I turned to the next difficult task on my to do list; turning on said camera.

I'd been over it a dozen times in class when we would put our five brains together. Now that I was alone, I forgot where the button was, but I was confident it would be simple. This button would be clearly labelled "Power" or "On/Off." I found said button and flicked it on.

Nothing happened.

I flicked it again, just to see if it was playing a trick on me. This camera has no sense of humour, it's just mean.

I checked the battery, it was fully charged. I flicked the button again, but to no avail. Now I was panicking. I had to hand in my interview the next day and my camera would not turn on. Not to mention Frosty has grown tired of hanging in the camera bag and had decided to try out the tripod jungle gym. If it tipped I would have to replace both my school's camera and my friend's cat, and I was positive I could afford neither.

Janine and Colleen were enjoying a pleasant conversation until I said in what I hope was a semi-controlled voice;

"Guys, I can't do this! I can't turn it on and I have no idea what I'm doing."

Calmly and rationally they approached the monster camera, not being experienced enough yet to fear its many shiny buttons and switches. Janine leaned down, surveyed the camera and found the button labelled "Power." She flicked it, and the camera came to life. Apparently I'd been using the power button for the hot shoe, a light you can attach to the top should you be shooting in a dark room.

Right. So I am the one who's been in the class for a month and half and she was the one who had never seen the camera before and yet she was the one who knew how to turn it on. My career is looking up.

Needless to say, I was still white balancing when Leah arrived. To make sure she had absolute confidence in me, Colleen related the story of the power button, and Leah sat down for her interview with the journalism student. I then discovered that I'd set the tripod too high. A word to the wise, when you are setting up a tripod for an interview, do not use your 6-foot tall sister as a stand in for your significantly shorter interviewee. I was getting fed up,  so I made Leah sit on a phone book.

Then came the mikes. Leah got to wear the lapel mike on her shirt while I used the handheld to record my questions. Nothing went amiss technically with this portion of the project, but as soon as I pulled out the mike chords and starting connecting them to the camera, Frosty and Thunder went wild with excitement. Apparently expensive mike chords make great chew toys. I began to ponder again what would be cheaper to replace; the kitten or the camera. I think it would be easier to win the forgiveness of my school, but I scooped up Thunder and kept him in my arms until I was set up. Leah wisely chose to do the same with Frosty, and thankfully also was wise enough to keep him away from her mike.

At last the interview began. Everything was set up in working order, and I'd even had the foresight to remove the bottles of daiquiri mix from the background. I sat and asked questions like the professional I have been trained to be, and Leah gave long, insightful answers.

Thunder was jealous of all the attention he was being deprived of. Seeing the chord to Leah's mike lying innocently on the ground, he decided it would make a great game and decided to bat it around.

This time I could not simply scoop him up, I was supposed to be staying out of the frame. Colleen, who had already picked up Frosty before he could make mischief, didn't dare enter the frame to rescue Thunder. The best I could do was subtly lean to the side and try to gently tug the chord away from him. Unfortunately he just thought this was another game, and became even more animated. Leah had to try very hard not to laugh.

In the end, it was not so terrible. Frosty and Thunder had a grand time jumping up after the chords as I wound them up, and were even nice enough to get out of the bag so I could put the camera back. I handed in my tape completely raw, or unedited as my professor wanted. Though if he watches it and wonders why Leah keeps looking down and giggling, he should know that that is a reference to one of my projects starring characters; a kitten named Thunder.


Janine said...

So... when do I get to use the microphone on a stick?

Eileen Young said...

Wow, you had me so interested I could hardly wait for the outcome - but it sounded quite tame. Hope you did a satisfactory job.

Kylie Groft said...

You are my favourite Elena!