Working Out the Kinks

How I Grew to Become a Better Multimedia Reporter

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Everything in life is learned. Whether it was the first time learning how to properly throw a baseball or memorizing the state capitals back in school, everything takes time.

As I expected, this lesson wasn’t any different when it came to learning about multimedia in our Journalism 215 course at the University of Illinois. Things took time — and yes, there was a learning curve — and they took effort. But in the digital age we live in, multimedia is a necessary tool to learn when it comes to being a journalist in the modern world.

Learning the Basics

At first, I felt that I had a decent grasp on the editing process, having worked with Adobe Premiere Pro throughout high school. But the one thing I was still an extreme amateur at was how to handle the camera and get the shots needed for the editing process. My hands are shaky to begin with, but when I put a camera in them it seemed to get even worse — maybe I was just realizing how shaky they were now that I had video proof.

Our first project taught me how to hold my breath when I want to get a good shot and how to slowly pan when I want to move the camera in a certain direction, rather than rapidly turning to shoot the next subject. The final product wasn’t too exciting, but it began to teach me the fundamentals for what I needed to know.

Focussing on the Shot

After I learned the basics behind the camera, it was time to go out and shoot photos for a real project. When it came to deciding what I wanted to cover, I wanted to make sure I was applying what I learned to a place that was near and dear to my heart. The first thing I thought to do was to cover live music.

I went out to Error Records in Urbana, Ill., to cover a show going on one night. Here, I shot musicians performing live and learned a few things outside of the camera. Most importantly, I began to understand that I had to let go of humility when it came to shooting an event. When I worried about disrupting someone’s experience, that’s when I missed out on a good shot. When I focussed on the shot and nothing else going on around me, that’s when I got a good shot. Not all of my photos were great, but I was happy with how they turned out.

Surprises and Difficulties

I had thought our third project would be a breeze. Just add audio to the photos I already took? Easy. But what I didn’t think about was the decision making that comes with adding things to your project.

When I edited our second project, I didn’t think about preparing for the third project, when we had to add audio to the story. I edited freely and pieced it together as a piece that worked on its own, but when it came to adding the audio, some things didn’t match up.

Some of the bands performing didn’t have as many pictures featured in the project as others, and with only a minute or so to add in all the different audio, things got compressed and the audio began transitioning rapidly. In the end, the project worked but it may have been my least favorite editions of my work this semester. Then again, it was all part of the learning process.

Hitting My Stride

Right after that, I did my best work of the semester. I took what I learned from the first few projects and applied it to the filming of my fourth project, a profile of local musician Elias J. Tracy for his project Sad Man.

In this project, my abilities in the editing process were able to shine through, above my lack of filming experience. Here, I was able to successfully capture what Tracy’s project was all about through editing an interview with him into a song he played in his room. I was proud of how this project turned out and can even share this to be published on music websites.

Using What Works

For our next project, we were required to do a “how to” video. While others were making videos about how to make certain foods, I wanted to step outside the box and continue covering what I thought mattered. I returned to talk with Tracy and discover “how to” publish your own music.

While I had a strong idea, there were kinks I needed to work out, such as how to show a computer screen through video. This project didn’t turn out as well as the last one, but I still feel the idea was good and that next time I’d be able to properly execute what I was going for.

Extra Effort

Our sixth project was cancelled the day before it was due, but I had already completed the audio package, having covered an event the weekend before. While it was upsetting at first to learn that I went out to cover an event for no credit, I soon learned that it wasn’t all for nothing.

I brought my project to Professor Collins to get her feedback, that way i could still get something out of the project. Professor Collins pointed out that I needed to take more breaths and pause between lines to make the audio more conversational. Taking these lessons, I was able to grow in a field I was unfamiliar with, in the world of audio journalism.

The Payoff

Our final project required us to work in groups. Usually, I’m not the best when it comes to working with others on projects. I get along with everyone, but I like to work on my own schedule, rather than having to adjust to meet other people’s needs as well. However, I again learned that my group members had capabilities I did not have.

The project we worked on dealt with the recent editorial published in The Daily Illini, which pointed out that racism is still very much alive at our university. At first, I was nervous about how to cover such a big subject that has so many things to talk about. But our group was able to evenly divide the work and tackle everything we felt was important to the story.

It was rewarding to work with a group in the end, as some members were able to add graphics to our story, and some were even able to go out and shoot the video — something I struggled with early on in the semester. And I was able to do an audio package that complemented the story well, having worked out the kinks from project six, which didn’t count for a grade but sure didn’t count for nothing.

I learned a lot throughout this semester. Most importantly, what I learned is actually applicable to the real world of journalism, not just a lesson I’ll forget after taking a final exam. In all, I feel that I’ve grown to not only become a better student, but a better professional as well.

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