Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Puppies at the Guide Dog Campus

When I was attending the University of Miami, I was studying to be an architect.
In that 5 year track, you were supposed to pick a minor (12 credits) by your junior year. I wanted my minor to be in Motion Pictures. I took one film class and made one epic, 10 minute Super 8 student film. The only reason that I wound up taking Photojournalism as a minor instead was because I was not allowed to minor in film.

So what does that story have to do with anything? I think that if I had been allowed to minor in film, my career path might have been dramatically different...
USA today hired me to do a combo assignment last week. The story was about "puppy hugging" that happens 5 days a week at the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus in Palmetto, Fl. The public is invited in to socialize with the puppies. This training is essential in the development of the dogs. Not all the puppies will become guide dogs, but they all will have their strengths identified and utilized. 

Of course, the initial problem was that I did not own a DSLR that was video capable. I currently own a Nikon D3 and a Nikon D700. Both are great 12 megapixel cameras that are FX (full frame). I really want to wait for the Nikon DSLR that can shoot 1080p video at 24 FPS. Right now, the best Nikon DSLR video is 720p. 

One possible solution was to buy a Canon 5D Mark 2 DSLR which is currently the BEST DSLR video camera made. In addition to being a 21 megapixel full frame camera, it shoots stunning 1080p video. This year's season finale of the Fox Tv show "House" was filmed entirely with this camera. My issue is that I do not own any Canon lenses anymore. I do not want to switch back and forth every time Canon and Nikon leapfrog each other with better technology. 

I settled on using a Nikon D300s for the video assignment. Although it is a DX (1.5 crop) sensor and 720p video, I had used a D300s for my video of the mixed martial arts fighter I did earlier in the year, so I was familiar with it. I bought a Sennheiser MKE shot gun microphone and was ready for the shoot...
It requires a different point of view and mindset to shoot video. With still photography, you really need to think about moments and isolate them. Simple interactions that can show the heart and emotion form the event. With video, that is much harder to do. You need to shoot multiple angles so the editor has a lot of footage to work with. You shoot tight, loose and everything in between. You also need to be thinking about the audio the entire time since it is a vital storytelling component. I was so wrapped up in the video shooting that I almost forgot to shoot still photos! The main difficulty with this shoot was the room. It was a long with tile floor and no a/c. The loud oscillating fan was running continually so the ambient noise was really bad. I do not think there was a way to improve the sound unless the fan was shut off. It was a room full of puppies and people, so that wasn't going to happen! I did shoot the interviews in the main office so we could control the audio and capture some good soundbites. 

After I shot all the images and video files, I shipped them up to USA Today where they did the final editing. It is interesting to see how others view your work and put it together. I had it structured in my mind a little different, but I loved the final product. I want to thank USA Today for hiring a video novice to shoot a professional video! I hope to do many more!

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