Remembering My Hat

24th June 2010

An amateur doing the job of a professional

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:27
Tags: , , , ,

Here‘s a little video clip of me talking about the CABS book series. (Sorry, haven’t worked out yet how to paste it straight in here)

We’re using home made videos like this for some of the media assets for K319 as well. I have some hestitations about this strategy, although I also can see that it has great benefits for course teams (cheapness! Speed of production, meaning course testing can include AV material, rather than having to go ahead without. Ability to seize the serendipitous moment. Also, it’s quite fun and creative to do).

I worry that the shaky camera work, dodgy sound quality, relatively straightforward camera angles (no offence to colleague who shot it!) and evident self-consciousness of the interviewee read as amateurish and unprofessional. And that this amateurish-ness is distracting from the content of whatever we’re producing.

In the clip, I’m alluding, somewhat cryptically, to the way that research that involves ‘ordinary’ people – usually service users in health and social care research – has gone from being seen as something that is possibly a bit suspect to something that is a taken-for-granted good. Back in 1999 when the first CABS book on the topic was written, it was possible to frame the issue as ‘an amateur doing the job of a professional’. Nowadays, we just call it ‘participatory research’ and it’s hard to argue against it (although I think there is a case against it, but that’s for another post. Maybe. If I’m feeling brave).

Some of that change is due to an upskilling of ‘ordinary’ people. Service users have been trained in research methods, to the extent that some service user groups, like the Carlisle People First Research group, now function as independent research consultants. Maybe in 10 years time OU academics will be upskilled at filming.

Some of the change in relation to participatory research is due to political demands about perceived authenticity of voices and redressing power imbalances. I think it’s harder to make the case that professional film-makers are exploiting the people they film with their demands for nice camera work and good sound quality. But I wondered whether, in these days of YouTube, people increasingly read amateurish camera work as not only normal and to be expected but also as especially authentic and persuasive. Does it have more rhetorical power if it’s a bit naff?  I don’t think it does, yet, at least, but it’s an interesting idea.

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4 Comments »

  1. I worry that the shaky camera work, dodgy sound quality, relatively straightforward camera angles (no offence to colleague who shot it!) and evident self-consciousness of the interviewee read as amateurish and unprofessional.

    Not entirely i.m.o. Not that I’m exactly a professional in this field – I’ve done a lot of audio editing but only a little bit of video – but I did read a book one time on how to make amateur vids look professional 🙂

    Straightforward camera angles are GOOD (there’s a reason they get used enough to be called straightforward!).

    Sound quality is perfectly adequate i.m.o., by which I mean that it’s not hard to hear what you’re saying. But the audio track has come adrift from the picture track (i.e. mouths don’t match words), which makes it harder to watch; I agree that detracts. I’m guessing either the camera is up the spout or there was a mistake in the editing which accidentally separated the tracks. (If it’s similar to the editing software I’ve used, audio & video start off “pinned together” when first imported but can be unpinned.) Or maybe the audio was recorded separately, was it? and whoever was putting them together simply didn’t manage to quite get them aligned? At any rate it’s something which editing software can fix.

    The wobble is the other big flashing sign of “Not a professional”, and also i.m.o. quite distracting to the viewer – but it’s simple to overcome. Get a tripod, or if the camera’s got no tripod attachment point, jury-rig something for it to sit on at the right height (typically around the same height as the speaker’s head, I think). Then frame the person’s face nicely like you would in an ordinary photo, leaving enough space for them to stay comfortably in frame if they tend to sway or fidget while speaking. Then leave it alone! If you want to show things like those brochures, that can be a separate shot done afterwards, then edited in over your voice at the appropriate point.

    It’s also traditional in professional one-camera work for the bits where the interviewer asks the questions to be filmed again later with the camera on them, and edited in (i.e. they “artificially” repeat their questions just to get a pic of them asking them). That didn’t arise in this one as there weren’t any supplementary questions, but I think it would be an acceptable compromise for simplicity under the circs to keep the camera on the interviewee.

    And, not a videoing issue, but i.m.o. you don’t seem any more self-conscious than lots of people are on camera. It’s probably one of those things that feels much more strange to the person doing it than it comes over to the observer 🙂

    my 2p, hope that was helpful.

    Does it have more rhetorical power if it’s a bit naff?

    Hmm. I think it might if you were out and about as a roving reporter and the camera moving was because you were moving. That might be read as verifying “Look how unplanned and spontaneous this is”. But in the context of interviews like that, it obviously isn’t unplanned and spontaneous 🙂 In that context, I’d suspect essentially you want the camera work to be as unnoticeable as possible, meaning “follow all conventions and do exactly what the viewer’s used to seeing on TV”. It’s the conversation that’s important.

    (although I think there is a case against it, but that’s for another post. Maybe. If I’m feeling brave).

    Oooh, how tantalising ::haha::

    Comment by Jennifer — 25th June 2010 @ 20:46 | Reply

    • Thanks, that’s extremely useful.

      And reassuring about the one recording I have made myself, where I used a completely static camera angle, on a tripod. The sound seems to have come adrift from the picture on that one too, although they were recorded on different machines of the same type (Flip). I haven’t edited the one I recorded at all yet, so I wonder if it’s a fault with Flip recorders (they are very cheap), although that seems somewhat unlikely. Reassuring that it should be fixable though.

      Comment by rememberingmyhat — 26th June 2010 @ 21:32 | Reply

  2. um, brochures is completely the wrong word isn’t it! sorry, was concentrating on the videoing aspect, no insult intended to your book series 🙂

    Comment by Jennifer — 25th June 2010 @ 20:48 | Reply

    • ‘S Fine!

      Comment by rememberingmyhat — 26th June 2010 @ 21:32 | Reply


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