Saturday, August 31, 2013

Off the Record - Part 1

One of the big changes Video Editor Jeff Barron has introduced to is a weekly talk show about campus issues.

When he started formulating the idea last spring, Jeff was thinking about putting student panelists in comfy furniture on a set that would be built in The Orion's studio. He opted, instead, for a four-way split screen online presentation with his panelists in different locations. The video tool he's using allows the producer to switch the view to fill the screen with the person who's talking.

Like all trial runs, the first time through Off the Record had some successes and some things that could be fine-tuned. Here's my feedback:

• Jeff has a great voice and camera presence, so the show had a professional feel right from the start. His space is well-lit, and his audio was studio-quality. The panelists -- Allison Weeks, Quinn Western and Ethan Snee -- appear to be using webcams, and the lighting, framing and audio from their feeds are a little rough. While improving the audio will be a challenge, situating the speakers mid-frame and finding locations with better light are both easy fixes.

• The topics addressed on the show have been in the news and were provocative enough to generate interesting debate. Jeff did a good job of pulling his panelists into the conversation, but that shouldn't be necessary. Quinn, Allison and Ethan know they're supposed to offer their opinions and should be jumping in with their comments instead of waiting to be asked. They should be getting the list of issues to be discussed a day ahead of time so they can do some research and be prepared with talking points.

• At a little over 22 minutes, the webcast was long, at least for me. While it's difficult to edit a free-flowing show like this one, I think it's both possible and necessary to move things along a a brisker pace.

• Jeff's introductions to the topics after the initial discussion about the Sacramento River alcohol ban became his take on the topic and turned the panelists into his audience. A better strategy would be for him to pose a question to one of the panelists, who would provide context for the issue (as Allison did on the float topic), then prompt another of the panelists ("Ethan, what do you think about prohibition on the river?") to get the discussion rolling.

• As I listened to the segment about the alcohol ban, I thought how great it would be to see some b-roll of last year's float while Allison provided the background. A little video clip for each topic would be a good way to help introduce its context.

I liked what saw and heard on this first attempt. I'm looking forward to seeing the show improve technically and move along at a better pace.

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