Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Press Conference Jedis

You might think we TV news photogs doze off during press conferences. After all, what’s left to do after you lock down a shot and press ‘RECORD’? Well...plenty. Understand first that pressers make for lousy television. Despite the high-fives and machinations of the PR army, most news crews train their lens and attention on these protracted gatherings for background and detail only. Precious little recorded at these podium orgies will ever see the light of a newscast. This however, doesn’t stop each photog from working their side of the room like a one-man pit crew.

Just ask any speaker who’s heard the distinct sound of cameras being taken off tripods three minutes into their opening remarks. 'It’s nothing personal, Governor - but you and I both know nothing you say up there will make the evening news. Sure, we'll flesh out what ever you're talking about with pictures and such but if we use more than three seconds of this staged event my reporter's even lamer than I thought. So, try not to muck up while I wander around the edge of the room looking for wide shots, reflections and perhaps a danish or two.' At least that's what I want to say when I break away from the tripod cluster, but I never do. Instead, a buddy and I camera-joust around the room like a couple of hammy Jedis in one of those awful Star Wars sequels.

Why, exactly? Well, news photographers are hyper-competitive and dedicated to making even the most mundane occurence look interesting. That isn't always possible, but you're never going to differentiate yourself by stagnating near your sticks. Drag your camera to the doorway, put it on the floor and lean over it like you know what you're doing. You may not get much of a shot - but you'll drive the other photogs crazy. A lifer or two might roll their eyes, but most rookies will wait only about five minutes before replicating your exact move. That'll be fun to watch - plus it'll give you seomthing to bag on the new guy about the next time you two are babysitting a meth-lab takedown.

These days of course, there's a new breed running free. A friend of mine recently told me of observing a multimedia producer at an Obama rally who - after locking his baked-potato-cam on a wide shot of the candidate, slumped over his laptop and dictated the speech word for word - never once looking up to make sure his camera was centered, rolling or in need of some fresh toppings. I guess he was just there in case Barack got sucked into the belly of a passing space station, I dunno. Whatever his motive, the resulting footage couldn't me too much fun to watch - unless you're into depositions. Me, I'm still committed to ringing every vista dry of possible shots - even if it means knocking over a row of folding chairs with a particularly clumsy backflip. Now, loan me your wide-angle lens and we too will rule the universe as father and son! Or at least get lunch.


Daniel said...

Now that I'm doing camera coverage, too, I'm coming up against these issues. It's challenging and interesting -- at least at this point.

My question: What's your move if you happen to be shooting detail and suddenly somebody asks a surprising question and the talker gives an unexpected answer? Do you have that covered with a stationary mic for the audio? Or are you just out of luck?

turdpolisher said...

Daniel, if you're rolling, the podium mic you should have set up or the mult-box feed should provide you with the sound you need. I usually whip pan and get what I can of the end of the comment. If it turns out to be super importane, I can always cover the the front end until the shot steadies. And if it's part of a heated exchange, I let the thing run wild.

Oreo said...

That's where wireless mics come in really handy. If you're tethered, and had to unhook to get your shot, just hope the nat mic gets it.