Most times, when embroiled in a shoot in a far flung location, one of the only connections to the goings on of the outside world arrives in the form of BBC World News. There’s a certain sense of calm continuity in the presentation that makes a welcome change from the dramatic histrionics of the American news networks.
In recent years, the advent of more portable cameras employing direct satellite upload links from the field has spawned an increase in the amount of jittery, out-of-sync footage that makes it onto our screens. Carefully handled, the immediacy and spontaneity of the delivery outweighs any perceived lack of technical prowess. On the ever growing flat screens in the hotel room though, this lower resolution of these uplinks is magnified and becomes a little jarring before too long.
Most recently, I have noticed several networks pursuing what is obviously the cheapest (and likely most convenient) solution to the expert opinion interview. That is, the use of Skype as a means of direct contact with the subject, without the production hassle of getting them into a studio with actual camera, lights and backgrounds (not to mention stylists). Again, when handled well at both ends, the immediacy of the contact outweighs the technical polish.
When badly handled however, the results can be unsettling.
Mid-CNN broadcast on the large plasma TV, and halfway into yet another Hainan Chicken Rice, I literally recoiled in terror as the screen image flicked from the studio presenter to the field interviewee. In my room, on this huge screen, this guy’s head was almost three feet across!
Rather than this blimp blip becoming the occasional hiccup in any news bulletin, it is if anything, becoming the normal state of things. As screen sizes get larger our attention to detail seems to get correspondingly smaller. Cultivating the ability to discern good composition and good lighting are all but gone as networks rush to embrace the cost saving virtues of new technology.
Surely someone in the production crew cares about the demise of their craft? Though considering this next example, apparently not.
Picture this bursting into your lounge room on a 50+ inch screen.
So as to not be wholly negative, here’s a few possible solutions for the networks to send out with their Skype number.
1. Raise the camera by putting the laptop on some books. Or just lower the desk chair.
2. Turn on some room lights so you’re being lit by more than just the deathly blue light of the screen.
3. Push the laptop away from you.
4. No, further.
5. Think about a career in radio.