Should cinematic techniques be included in news coverage? The guardian.co.uk has Dan Chung in Japan covering the earthquake and tsunami and he's using the Canon HDSLRs (I think he has a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with him but I don't have confirmation). Dan posted one of their news videos on vimeo and it has raised some questions about cinematic techniques in news reporting – in a similar way to the questions raised about a video made last year after the Haitian earthquake. Before we get into the debate, please watch the video. Note there are two versions which enhance the debate.
UPDATE: April 1 – The conversation we had with Dan about this video is now online – please take the time to give it a watch! You might change your mind if you disliked the video.
The news video:
Images from what remains of the town of Shintona in Miyagi prefecture, one of the areas worst affected by the Tsunami.
Please read the accompanying article by reporter Jonathan Watts – guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/13/japan-earthquake-tsunami-miyagi-destruction.
For more see guardian.co.uk/world/japan-earthquake-and-tsunami for more info
There are two questions being raised in the comments in the video (and similar questions were raised with this video after the Haiti earthquake)
- is the music appropriate? should there be any music at all?
- is it appropriate to use equipment like the slider to give the video more impact?
Before getting into the conversation, with those questions in mind, watch this version of the video is online on the guardian.co.uk that has voice-overs from some locals with translation – which gives a different interpretation and certainly has a different impact on the viewer.
I've been watching the discussion off and on in the last 5 hours (over on vimeo) since Dan posted the story and I can see both sides of the discussion. Here are a couple of samples from the vimeo thread:
Interesting piece Dan but lose the music. This is still a rolling news story of which is sure to become Japans darkest hour.
For me, it is unacceptable to produce something like this so early on. Keep it for the one year anniversary.
As for the slider images, again… they will be invaluable in the future but not a good choice of filming style for now”
Appalling use of music. Hopelessly overused glidetrack. You're videoing a catastrophe not an advert.
On the one hand, there is something that really tugs at your heart with the music and that can be good – as some have commented, maybe it will urge people to donate to relief efforts.”
Heartbreaking, Dan. I disagree with some of my former commenters. This is respectful coverage. Using a slider doesn't make it disrespectful.
Shooting in disaster zones is always a moral ambiguity that a news shooter has to resolve for himself – it's will always feel weird to turn up with a camera at places where there is clearly something else needed. But this work is important, it is essential – people around the world need to know what's going on, they need to see it with their own eyes. Otherwise there won't be help, because nobody will know about it. Stuff like this makes people open their pockets and actually donate something, or even go there and help the people. ”
My take is this: it is not unusual to see material like this on the major networks (tho the slider shots may not be common) – there's certainly precedent for this type of video – Dan and the guardian are not alone – I just watched a small bit on CNN where they set some stills and video to music – and I bet you that all of the major TV networks have done similar pieces. It may be a bit surprising standing on its own like on vimeo, but if you were watching a TV report that concluded with a piece like this, I don't think you'd even really notice.
With two versions, it is very interesting to see exactly how audio influences the clip – having both one version with music and another with voice-overs really accentuates the impact audio has on a video topic.
What do you think? Too soon after the tragedy to have video and sentimental audio? Do the slider shots romanticize the video too much? Sound off in the comments!
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)