Planning video reporting at an event – or sometime not

There’s increasing interest among event organisers in using short video interviews to capture conversations in workshops, as well as featuring keynote speakers and panelists. Good news for social reporters, if like me you do that sort of thing.

But as the enthusiasm increases – and recording becomes simpler – things can get out of hand. I’ve had organisers suggest that the most democratic way to gather content is to shoot lots of video and then edit out the key points later. I certainly know that can be a nightmare … but I thought I would check my experience and share some ideas on the best approach with Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films when we met up the other day at the Third Sector Social Media Convention.

It was another example of the exhibitors having as much wisdom to share as the presenters … always a a good balance at an event.

Besides producing their own videos, Be Inspired provide training to commercial and nonprofit organisations.

As you’ll hear in the interview, Ravinol places great emphasis on planning. He says it’s a case of thinking what sort of content you want at the end, and working backwards towards questions that will give you something interesting – rather than end up with stacks of content that no-one will watch. I agree with that for a limited number of well-crafted pieces – although if the event is well-structured around specific topics and discussions it may be enough to record the summaries, and some conversation points, as I did for the Innovation Exchange Ideas Festivals here and here. In that case you may need to embed the content in a site that provides some context, as I did with a wiki.

That brings up another point – the difficulty of trying to shoot video within the tight structure of a conventional conference … where there may be few gaps between presentations and workshops. You end up trying to grab an interview with a speaker as they juggle a cup of coffee in a noisy break. You need to plan the video into the event.

As Ravinol reminded me, people will watch relative poor video if the audio is OK – but not the other way around.

With that in mind, I borrowed a decent mic from the Be Inspired stand to plug into my iPad 2 as we did the interview, and one of Ravinol’s colleagues held the Ipad. Except – I don’t think it worked. As I remarked here, the iPad earphone/mic socket doesn’t seem to operate in the same way as an iPhone, and I think we just ended up with audio from the inbuilt mic. Not bad, but not as good as it could be. I think a USB mic is needed, through an adaptor and the Apple-specific connector on the iPad. So far I haven’t found one, which is real disappointment. The camera is great, and editing with iMove a dream … but noisy spaces are out.

Afterthought A pretty obvious idea occurred to me after writing this: maybe it is fair enough for the style of reporting to mirror that of the event. At a formal event it’s best (certainly easiest) to focus on speaker interviews and some pre-set questions to other participants because that’s the way things are framed. There will, of course, be great conversations happening in the coffee breaks and over lunch, but there people will be keen to find their own space and may not welcome reporters.

It can feel like an intrusion, and is difficult to do without a good mic … which means you have to ask the person you are interviewing to hold it and wave it back and forward between them or you, or have someone else hold it. Doesn’t go with the grain.

On the other hand, if you are at an unconference, where participants set the agenda, and informal conversations are the norm, it is much easier. People expect others to introduce themselves for a chat, and it is easy enough to follow that with a request to capture some points on video or audio … or invite people to have a recorded conversation, or take the camera themselves.

Here’s a post with videos from UKgovcamp10, and here’s what happened when I offered the camera to Silver Surfers at their awards day.

Even so, talking heads can get a bit boring, however wise the head may be. It’s much better if there some fun and action, as Dr Dance provided at a Colalife party.  I’m just the one hiding behind the camera.

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