WASHINGTON, DC, 24 November 2013 — This is the poster prepared by a former student of mine announcing my visit to, and Video Journalism Workshop in, Uruguay in December. The trip is designed to support Valentina Quagliotti, who founded Ikusi, a non-profit based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ikusi is dedicated to furthering the objectives of other, socially conscious non-profits.
In addition to the workshops, I’ll be giving a number of presentations to an array of audiences.
As do so many others today, Valentina understands that the methodology we refer to as “backpack video journalism,” or “video journalism” is an effective tool to connect with people and to affect change. Video is the new literature. Video is the way people gather and share information. Video is the new language. And it is video that Ikusi uses as its primary tool for connecting and for changing.
In fact, Ikusi’s slogan is, “We see. We tell. We change.” That’s what I’ll be trying to do in Uruguay next month. “Change.”
WASHINGTON, DC, 6 October 2013 –One of the most frequently asked questions I got from the men and women participating in my recent Backpack Video Journalism Workshop in Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, is: “What kind of camera should I use?” (See http://www.trust.org/item/20131003112356-8kley/?source=hpblogs)
And my answer in Tbilisi, or anywhere, is always the same: “Which ever camera best fits your specific needs and your budget.”
Earlier this year I took on an assignment for American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS). My task was to document the work of one researcher engaged in the Center’s project on religion and violence in the region. The researcher is Robert Brenneman, author of the highly acclaimed book, “Homies + Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America.” An Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, Brenneman returned to Guatemala in January 2013 to conduct a follow-up to his book-related research.
Sadly, Guatemala now is one of the most violent countries in the world. It’s a violence fed by staggering inequities that breed homicide, extortion and drug trafficking. It’s not the kind of place where you want to flaunt expensive camera equipment – especially at night when, by the nature of my work, I knew I would have to work.
So I took two cameras, a main and a secondary.
The main camera is the Panasonic AG-HMC150. (See http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/575992-REG/Panasonic_AG_HMC150PJU_AG_HMC150_AVCCAM_Camcorder.html)
This is a high-quality, hand-held camera with everything you need to generate professional, documentary-style films. With two XLR inputs for directional as well as wireless microphones, the HMC150 is versatile and easy to use. And unlike the Sony EX-1 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/758895-REG/Sony_PMW_EX1R_2_PMW_EX1R_XDCAM_EX_Full.html) it is easy to handle. And it costs about half the price of the Sony camera.
My secondary camera was the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 DSLR with a variable focal length lens. (See http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/817858-REG/Sony_SLT_A77V_SLT_A77_Digital_Camera_Body.html).
This camera was perfect for night-time shooting when sound was not a critical factor and when safety was an important factor.
I have two main issues with any HDSLR camera. The first is that they don’t have the sound-acquiring functionality that regular video cameras do. I know you can rig up special sound gear and two XLR imputs to these cameras, but I think this somewhat defeats the purpose of carrying around a compact camera in the first place. Having said that, with a small directional microphone mounted on top of the camera and some understanding of how to use the microphone to acquire decent sound, the camera worked just fine for me.
Check out the latter parts of these two films I shot on that Guatemala assignment. Titled, “The Gangs,” the first film includes a sequence at the very end showing a slum in Guatemala City that I shot with the Sony Alpha SLT-A77. I didn’t want to be running around a slum, where people are so poor and their needs are so great, with a full-blown video camera. The little Sony worked fine. You can see the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu2gRjMyacc
Same thing with the second film, titled “The Researcher.” Brenneman and I had to visit a church in a pretty sketchy part of town and I didn’t want to lug around a big video camera, especially at night. See the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3wnOfHQemY
The second issue that I have with the HDSLRs is that I find it difficult to get a smooth zoom out of them. Not that I zoom a lot, but when I do I want the zoom to look smooth.
Getting back to the original point, pick your cameras for how best they fit your specific needs and your budget. And never be in a big rush to buy equipment, because in six months it might be out of date. If you have to buy, make sure you have an assignment to cover it.
Good luck and stay safe.
6 October 2013
TBILISI, Georgia, 27 September 2013 — Participants in my Backpack Video Journalism Workshop pose for a closing shot after a successful, five-day marathon in the craft of documentary film making. Founded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the workshop included participants not only from Georgia, but also from Armenia, Romania and Azerbaijan. What a great group!
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, 2 August 2013 — On the second day of work sessions at the 4th meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential commission (BPC) Sub-Group on Mass Media, our Russian hosts took us to visit the Hermitage Museum, on of the finest in the world.
(Photos by Bill Gentile.)
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, 1 August 2013 â€“ This is the opening session of the 4th meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) Sub-Group on Mass Media, which took place in St. Petersburg, Russia. During two days of meetings, we discussed citizen journalism, journalism education and training, and media coverage/perceptions of Russia and the United States. Past U.S. delegates have hailed from prominent media organizations, academia, and journalism non-governmental organizations.
U.S. delegates this year were:
Elizabeth Ballantine has been a director of the McClatchy Company since March 1998.Â Ms. Ballantine was a director of Cowles Media Company, a position she had held since 1993. Since 1999, Ms. Ballantine has been president of EBA Associates, a consulting firm, and an Adjunct Professor of Russian history at The George Washington University.Â From 1993 to 1999, she was an attorney in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin and Oshinsky LLP. From 1990 until 1993, she worked as a private consultant advising clients on international business investments. Ms. Ballentine sits on the Board of Directors of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).
Joyce Barnathan is the President of the International Center for Journalists, a non-profit organization that advances quality journalism in the digital era.Â She is also on the Steering Committee of the Global Forum for Media Development, a network of 500 media assistance organizations that support the development of independent media. Previously, Barnathan served as the executive editor, Global Franchise, for BusinessWeek.
Charles Bierbauer has been dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University ofÂ South Carolina, since it was created in 2002.Â From 1981-2001, Bierbauer was a correspondent for CNN in Washington, and during the years of 1977 through 1981, he was an overseas correspondent for ABC News, first as Moscow Bureau Chief and later as the Bonn Bureau chief. Bierbauer worked in Vienna, Bonn, London and Philadelphia for Westinghouse Broadcasting, and was a free-lance reporter in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1968-69 while on an Edward R. Murrow Fellowship.
Scott Brauer is a photojournalist whose clients and publications include The New York Times, Fader magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Time Asia, Thatâ€™s Shanghai, Epsilon (Greece), Vision magazine (China), Lufthansa, Bosch, Amity Foundation, Pfrang Association, Colorlines, World Magazine, Map Magazine (China), AM New York, and XAOC magazine. Brauer was a participant in the ICFJâ€™s U.S.-Russia Journalist Exchange Program in 2012, during which time he worked at the ITAR-TASS Photo Agency. He worked for daily newspapers in suburban Chicago, and Flint, Michigan and moved to China in 2007. He graduated with honors from the University of Washington in 2005 with dual degrees in philosophy and Russian literature and language.
Barbara Cochran is the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism with the Missouri School of Journalism.Â Cochran is based in the Schoolâ€™s bureau in Washington, D.C., where she engages in programs of research, consulting and training aimed at improving the practice of journalism, working with the Committee of Concerned Journalists, also located in Washington, and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Her career as a news executive includes top jobs in the broadcast, print and non-profit worlds.Â Cochran served for 12 years as president of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the worldâ€™s largest organization serving the electronic news profession.
John Cochran joined ABC News in January 1994 as chief Capitol Hill correspondent, where he reported on the historic change of leadership as Republicans took control of the House and Senate for the first time in four decades. Cochran joined ABC News from NBC, where he spent 21 years as a correspondent in Washington and overseas. For five of those years (1988-1993) he was NBC’s chief correspondent at the White House.Â Before covering the White House, he was chief diplomatic correspondent, reporting on Middle East peace negotiations and efforts to end the nuclear arms race between Moscow and Washington. Previously, he was based in London as senior correspondent, reporting from five continents.
Bill Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker teaching at American University in Washington, DC. His career spans three decades, five continents and nearly every facet of journalism and mass communication, most especially visual communication, or visual storytelling. He is a pioneer of â€œbackpack journalismâ€ and today he is one of the craftâ€™s most noted practitioners. He is the founder and director of American University’s Backpack Journalism Project
Gary Kebbel has left his post as dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to work with faculty and students to create a multi-campus Center for Mobile Media. Kebbel served as dean at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for two years. Before coming to UNL he was the journalism program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, Florida
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, 31 July 2013 â€“ On our first night in St. Petersburg, our Russian hosts took us to dinner at the Vodka Museum. Aside from an explanation of vodka’s history in their country, the Russians invited us to sample a variety of vodkas they had prepared for us — an offer we couldn’t refuse.
The Russians proved to be terrific hosts during our four-day visit to their country. The organization, the accommodations, the food and the generosity of spirit were extraordinary.
I was in St. Petersburg for the 4th meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) Sub-Group on Mass Media. The meeting included discussions on citizen journalism, journalism education and training, and media coverage/perceptions of Russia and the United States.
On Friday, I delivered a presentation on â€œcitizen journalism,â€ a methodology Iâ€™ve been teaching and preaching for some time now, and a methodology made possible largely by the revolution in technology. It’s just one component of a broader methodology that we refer to as “backpack video journalism.” I screened a couple of pieces made by students of mine in Cuba. We discussed how young people in particular, equipped with hand-held digital tools, now communicate globally, instantly and in a language, the visual language, that everyone can understand.
During the presentation, I discussed how I think video is the new language, particularly of American youth. It is the new literature. I discussed the visual storytelling language, the same language that I teach in my classes at American University, and in my Video Journalism Workshops. See http://videojournalismworkshops.com
The U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) is the premier forum between the U.S. and Russia to strengthen relations with each respective government and society.Â President Obama and President Medvedev established the BPC in July 2009 to reset U.S.-Russia relations and engage the Russian government to pursue foreign policy goals of common interest for the American and Russian people.
Below, some of the artifacts stored in the Vodka Museum.
Below, a guide takes us through, and explains, the Vodka Museum.
(Photos by Bill Gentile.)
JFK AIRPORT, New York, 30 July 2013 â€“ Connecting here from Washington, DC, for a flight to Moscow and then St. Petersburg, Russia. Flight crews ready the Delta jet for our journey.
The U.S. Department of State invited me to participate in the 4th meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) Sub-Group on Mass Media, which takes place this week in St. Petersburg, Russia. The draft agenda for the two-and-a-half day meeting includes discussions on citizen journalism, journalism education and training, and media coverage/perceptions of Russia and the United States. Past U.S. delegates have hailed from prominent media organizations, academia, and journalism non-governmental organizations.
Iâ€™ve been tasked with presenting on â€œcitizen journalism,â€ a methodology Iâ€™ve been teaching and preaching for some time now, and a methodology made possible largely by the revolution in technology. I plan to show a couple of pieces made by students of mine in Cuba, and to discuss how young people in particular, equipped with hand-held digital tools, now communicate globally, instantly and in a language, the visual language, that everyone can understand.
Itâ€™s the same language that I teach in my classes at American University, and in my Video Journalism Workshops.
(Photo by Bill Gentile)
WASHINGTON, DC, 28 July 2013 — We’ve finished editing the three-part series on Guatemalan gangs. Above, a joint patrol of Guatemalan police and army scours the mean streets of Guatemala City in an effort to quell the gang violence that has plagued this Central American nation.
The three pieces will air in the next few days. I shot and produced the stories on a trip to Guatemala earlier this year. I was on assignment for the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University. Like so many other non-profits, the Center is turning more and more of its attention to video as a means to distribute its message. And most of them are looking at the model we refer to as backpack video journalism.
The three pieces are classic examples of backpack video journalism. I was on assignment with Robert Brenneman, author of “Homies + Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America.” Brenneman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. I spent 10 days with Brenneman as he conducted a follow-up round of research on gangs.
Follow us this week to view the pieces, titled, “The Gangs,” “The Researcher,” and “The Pastor.”
This is to announce that we’re conducting a LIVE Backpack Video Journalism Workshop in Washington, DC, on 15-18 August. Registration for the LIVE workshop ends at midnight on Wednesday 31 July. For more information, please see http://videojournalismworkshops.com/live.
I hope you can join us.
WASHINGTON, DC, 22 June 2013 — I’m delighted to introduce my new Online Video Journalism Workshop. Iâ€™ve molded one of my face-to-face workshops into 14 compelling and informative videos to help you harness the power of video and engage the world. With the 14 videos you get a free PDF copy of my new and acclaimed, “Essential Video Journalism Field Manual.” You also get free copies of, “How to Stand Out Online: Simple Techniques to be Found Online Using Social Media,” by J. Bruce Jones, independent video producer and social media consultant; plus, “10 Easy Tips to Get Your Videos Found on YouTube,” also by J. Bruce Jones.
For a limited time, it’s available at a special introductory price. See http://videojournalismworkshops.com