Meet Andre Zalbertus

centertv3.jpg

He was also the Moscow correspondent for German television….

Andre Zalbertus is someone you should get to know.

First, he is co-author with me of Videojournalismus, the definitive guide to the VJ Revolution. Unfortunately, it is only available in German.

Andre first and foremost was a television journalist. The he got into producing. He was the first person in Germany to really understand the VJ Revolution and its ramifications, and in so doing, he has built a media empire around it.

The International Herald Tribune recently ran an article about Zalbertus and his success in Germany.

When I first met him in 1999, he owned a small television production company in Koln, Germany, and he was producing a few small shows for German television. Zalbertus and I ran the first VJ bootcamp in Germany in 2000, and soon he had introduced the VJ production paradigm to German television.

His ability to deliver high quality at low cost led to an output deal with RTL, the largest commercial channel in Germany, turning his small production company into one of the biggest producers of non-fiction in Germany.

In 2003 Zalbertus bought a small ailing local television station, CenterTV and converted it to a mix of the VJ model and ‘citizen journalism’. He has turned it into a massive success. So much so that he is now reproducing the model across Germany and beginning to license it around the world.

There has been much discussion about the ‘value’ and the viability of the ‘VJ’ approach both for local news and for producing longer form television programs. Lately, the model has met with very stiff resistance in the United States, for what I think are a number of reasons.

Some of them have to do with the different histories of the the way in which US and European broadcasting got started.

There is a different DNA when it comes to adapting new technologies.

In 1989 I paid a visit to Moscow for business.

Moscow in those days was still part of the Soviet Union, but it was close to the end. Gorbachev had just introduced Glasnost, and people were beginning, very slowly to open up.

This had never happened before. Up until now it had been strictly forbidden for westerners to make any kind of social contact with Soviet citizens. It is perhaps hard today for us to realize just how repressive these societies were.

In any event, I made the acquaintance of a woman who ran an art gallery, one of the first, in Moscow.

Now, Moscow 1989 was more like a city that had been frozen in 1932. For those unfamiliar with Soviet Technology, the phones were massive bakelite affairs that rarely worked. Television sets routinely exploded and caught fire. Light switches looked like the execution switch on the electric chair at Sing Sing. In short, it was a weird place.

In any event, this very nice woman offered me a drink, and we sat in her gallery, and with a great deal of bravery, really, she began to talk politics – something that had been completely forbidden only a few months earlier.

“Well”, she said, pouring herself another drink, “we know we have some problems.. but after all, we are still the technologically advanced country in the world…”

I looked around the room, which looked like a museum on the old GE “Carousel of Progress”- circa 1932.”Well….not exactly” was the best I could manage.

Now we come to Germany and Herr Zalbertus.

The Europeans embrace this new technology and make it work…

While we…..

We are frozen around 1972…..

Even if we are the most technologically advanced country in the world…..

34 responses to “Meet Andre Zalbertus

  1. Well, there ya go – those entrenched in the old way of doing things perpetrating their own demise.

    But of course there are those who will say something to the effect that this isn’t Germany, blah blah blah…

    That’s the kind of mentality that usually begins the process of the end of things the way we know it.

    I’m glad to see that once again, the detractors have less footing for their position. They can rant all they want about lowered production values, no business plan, yada yada yada.

    Bottom line is, there are those who ARE making it work and the ripple effect will reach here in the States as well.

    It’s only a matter of time.

  2. you must be a Keith Jarrett fan – no-one else outside Germany ever references Cologne as Koln

  3. Cliff, let’s have a little discussion. Let’s start with what exactly its your interpretation of the old way and the new way.

  4. Michael, I’m sure you read my posts (copy below) on B-roll.

    I spent the last two days working for the BBC, actually the Brits are becoming very good clients. Most shoots are done with the Sony F900 Cinealta and they spare no expenses.

    I always ask the same question, “why not using VJs” as apparently they a re becoming very popular in Europe. The producer laughed and again he told me the same thing that I’ve been hearing from at least a dozen of British producers for the last 3 years.

    From B-roll: “I occasionally freelance for the BBC and for many other British broadcasters and production companies. According to all of them VJ are there to alleviate the workload of experienced crews, they are basically bottom feeders, their main purpose is to create inexpensive segments of no main significance in order to free-up regular crews for better and more profitable productions. In fact go to Rosenblum web site http://www.rosenblumtv.com/video.shtml and the only representation of VJ work that you’ll find there consists of eleven clips, all made in England and mostly by the same individual. None of them are connected to any broadcast, just stand alone demo clips.”

    I haven’t been in Europe and witness all this myself, but after a dozen of producers have been telling me the same thing I might just believe them.

  5. Nino
    I don’t know whom you are speaking with at the BBC. They have 24,000 employees. It is a very big organization. As you can see from the International Herald Tribune piece this is all quite real.

    In so far as the clips on my website are concerned, they are in fact all from the BBC and all done by different people. They also were all connected to different broadcasts. If you want to publish things, please try to make your research as accurate as I am sure your lighting is.

  6. To make a direct comparison between German television news and American, it might be good to know and understand the quality of German TV before your VJ model was implemented.

    In otherwords, local TV news here – and network news – might have been different than in Germany. What was the basic quality of German TV before the VJ model was introduced.

    While we do complain a lot about U.S. TV news…perhaps, just perhaps, it is and has been – delivering the goods – quality wise.

    Perhaps the VJ model here in the U.S. would be a step backward? I am not saying it is, or would be. I am simply pointing out that in order to make a direct comparison…all the details need to be known.

    What was German TV news like before?

  7. I could be wrong…but I was in Moscow in September 1991 and it sure seemed as if communism was crumbling at that point. Armenia held elections while we were there and the people of Estonia were celebrating their separation from the Soviet Union. In fact, the USSR officially dissolved on December 26, 1991.
    Regarding VJs over here vs. over there – Americans are like middle aged men. They really honestly don’t like change that much.

  8. Michael, I already said it; these are all producers from the BBC or from other British companies that produce programming for British television. Put yourself in my shoes, the only source that for years have been saying about the success of VJ’s role in Europe is you, and you have a vested interest in inflating their success. I read every US video trade magazine once a month plus one from Italy and one from Spain and I have yet to read anything significant about the VJ revolution in Europe, I think if it was the success as you make it believe it is the industry press would be all over. Then I hear from a dozen and more producers from Britain telling me what’s happening in Europe with VJs, who would you believe, one of you or a dozen of them. VJs clearly have achieved a better success in Europe when compared to the US, at least producers know about them, here in the US you ask any broadcast producer about VJs and they have no idea of what you’re talking about it. The only reason I know of VJs is because of B-roll.

    About those clips on your web site. Research, as you suggested, can be only as accurate as the available information. On both my sites whenever possible I try to get the clips right off the TV or in the illustration I have well know personalities so there’s no question that they were not just staged or self-assignments like your VJs do. I was hired and paid well to do those and the proof is right in front of you.

    You mentioned about my lighting site, even there on EFPlighting.com I have detailed illustrations about setting up the shot plus when possible you can see the before and after result by seeing the actual clip off the air, how much more credibility do you want. On the other hand on your VJ clips if you want credibility you should at least had the maker’s name, his/hers affiliation and where and when the clip was broadcasted. If you really want to make a case for VJs then you should show the pieces on the air as they were used by the BBC or other broadcasters. I believe however unless you can show me otherwise that those clips were self-assignment and never made it on he air or you would had showed it.

    You can talk a lot, write books on the subject and give it all the adjective and catchy phrases to make the VJ sound good, but the ultimate goal in this business is not talking but to get your work on the air and get paid well to do it, not just once but day after day. The only catchy sound that I want to hear is my phone ringing and out of all the reading that I enjoying doing the only one that tells me that I’m successful is reading those checks that I find in my mailbox.

  9. Nice catch Cyndy,
    should be 1989. Small case of dyslexia, I think.

  10. Dear Nino,
    If my site does not give the provenence of the clips, then you can write , “Rosenblum fails to source his clips”. But you don’t write “the only representation of VJ work that you’ll find there consists of eleven clips, all made in England and mostly by the same individual. None of them are connected to any broadcast, just stand alone demo clips.” unless you know that for a fact.

  11. Eric,
    When it comes to German TV vs, US, I have to say it is a bit like German cars vs. US cars.
    They tend to do things pretty efficiently and extremely well.
    My point about American provincialism is well made by a comparison to Detroit. For the life of me, every time I drive a GM car (from Avis), I am forced to wonder if anyone in Detroit has ever driven a Mercedes, or a Porsche or a BMW….

    Naah, the Germans are pretty good. so is their TV.

  12. “Dear Nino,
    If my site does not give the provenence of the clips, then you can write , “Rosenblum fails to source his clips”. But you don’t write “the only representation of VJ work that you’ll find there consists of eleven clips, all made in England and mostly by the same individual. None of them are connected to any broadcast, just stand alone demo clips.” unless you know that for a fact.”

    Oh boy, my writing must be getting more and more difficult to understand. Isn’t this what I wrote?

    “In fact go to Rosenblum web site http://www.rosenblumtv.com/video.shtml and the only representation of VJ work that you’ll find there consists of eleven clips, all made in England and mostly by the same individual. None of them are connected to any broadcast, just stand alone demo clips.”

    Have I been asking you for the last few years? Tell me where I can see actual VJ work being broadcasted, please don’t make me fly to London.

    Speaking of Germany, unquestionably they make the best cars and have top engineers. But when we are talking television we we are talking art and creativity and German global contributions after WWII in these area are insignificant at its best.

    BTW, in your little picture, that’s not the correct way to hold an Hasselblad.

  13. My writing must be difficult to understand.

    You wrote that ‘all the clips are by the same person’. That IS what you wrote.
    But you wrote that on the basis of no information to that effect, right?
    You kind of made that one up.
    You also wrote that the clips were not connected to a broadcast. That is also based on no information. So you kind of made that one up also. Right?
    The only facts you had were that I did not give the source of the clips. that might be a valid criticism. Making up the other stuff is not a valid criticism.
    see the difference?
    As for German contributions to art, I think that Gerhard Richter, among others, would not agree with you. Their television is as good as their cars. But you have to be able to speak German to understand it. You can, however, take a look at ARD or ZDF online to see the accuracy with which it is shot. You would doubtless approve. When I ran the bootcamps in Germany, they were meticulous about shooting, lighting, framing for the VJs. (as they are meticulous in all things).

  14. mr. rosenblum, why bother with nino’s blather?

    correct e if !’m wrong, but wasn’t he the guy at rtnda who also demanded an apology after making an ass of himself?

  15. Only few persons of the persons you educated in Köln still work for AZ Media. There is a lot of ex-AZ-Media-workers in Köln who dont like Mr. Zalbertus. (“dont like” is a euphemismus.) The AZ Media-office for Köln is now in Ossendorf where all the cheap TV is produced. Mr. Zalbertus treats people like crap. He doesnt make TV better!

  16. Michael, your writing is not difficult to understand, your have no writing to understand. The VJ work you displayed on your web site is clearly not your work; when you display someone else work it is customary and a common courtesy in this business to always give credit where credit is due. Those clips should have had the name of the creator and a small writing about what’s it was for. That’s credibility and I’m sure that the maker would like his own work properly credited. You should be the one helping your VJs not me. You went out of your way to show a comparison of standard broadcasting work right off the air including the anchorman leading into a story and then showed a similar piece produced by a VJ (I won’t even comment on that) but you never bother to do the same with the other clips, leading to the assumption that they never made it on the air, you can’t have it both ways.
    All those pieces are cookie cutter style and also some have the same leading music and the same digital effect, in the absence of any other information the similarities and absence of proper credit can only lead to the conclusion that they are from the same person. We are in the communication and information business, let’s communicate and inform.

    About the Germans, I was talking post WWII, Gerhard Richter was born even before the Nazi party went to power. And if German VJs are so good why don’t you display some of their work on your VJ site and let the viewers decide of how good they really are.

    One of my teachers has a big sign permanently painted on his classroom walls that said:

    SHOW IT, DON’T SAY IT

  17. Cliff, let’s have a little discussion. Let’s start with what exactly its your interpretation of the old way and the new way.

    Nino, how many skills do you have outside of what you list on your efplighting website? If I were to make an observation based upon what information is available currently on your website, there are two skills – shooting video and lighting. Ok, that’s great. Now you have to hire an audio person, you hire an editor, a narrator, a web person… that is the old way of doing things. That is archaic and inefficient. That is the old way of dong things.

    IM6 (Integrated Multimedia 6 ways) is the new paradigm. It is being a Jack OF All Trades, Master Of Them All. IM6 states that one Shoots, Edits, Produces, Codes, Mixes and Publishes the content start to finish by one person. The Solo VJ paradigm is about using smaller hand held cameras and throwing traditional convention out the window in favor of taking risks within the technical boundaries of video.

    I’m sorry Nino if you or anyone else thinks I am naive. Quite the contrary. I make informed decisions and so far, I don’t see any credence to the archaic way of doing things as it relates to shooting as a Solo VJ. The continued banter about the lowering of quality doesn’t hold water. I have seen plenty of content produced that has been done the IM6 way and it is as well done as the old way of multiperson crews. My work is a trial and error process, just as it was for you or anyone else when they first started. Since I have worked as a visual content creator since the age of 15, I’m confident in where I can go with this new paradigm. Neither you nor any other detractor has the right nor obligation to make insinuations to the contrary about anyone who sees differently from the “b-roll” mentality. Along with my lurking, the private emails I have received from others who have lurked on the b-roll forums, where blatant denegration of those who are outside of the b-roll GOB club only confirms the elitist attitudes of those who are entrenched in the archaic way of producing video as it relates to News/Docs.

    And it’s apparent, to me at least, that continued posts by the detractors only reinforces the concept that there is fear in the old mindset thinkers who will do anything to try and stop Michael or anyone else who ascribes to the Solo VJ paradigm from moving forward. Why is that? I don’t think I have yet read an accurate response from any detractor as to why your way of thinking is the only way – yet, there they are, making defamatory statements about those who think differently because we made a conscious choice to do so.

    I look forward to hearing yours or anyone else’s response, but since I have on more than one occasion been defamed in public by the various detractors who seem to find some sense of gratification in doing so, I will read it with very little credence.

  18. My friend and colleague across the pond in the UK, David Dunkley Gyimah has stated it eloquently:

    Videojournalism is an advance on television news production – a shift away from the predictable approach television has stuck to doggedly since its inception.

    It is next generation television: story telling in which you are not be bound by the many constraints of traditional news production.

    As a movement the form merges a graphical and photojournalistic stanza; a poster cover depiction of the moving image, where each shot matters, each shot counts.

    If Capa lived to capture images on light weight, hi-tech cameras, he’d be the classic videojournalist and his dictum that if you’re not close enough you haven’t got the shot would still count.

  19. That is funny because David was in one of the very first VJ groups at Channel 1 in London in 1993.

  20. I tell you what Cliff, why don’t you just go to my personal web site at http://nino-g.com/ it needs updating but it’s not very important for me to get business, My son is working in rebuilding the entire site so soon (I hope) there will be a lot of new material. Take a look at my credentials and my training. Also take a look at my equipment package including my sound package and editing. My sound package alone cost twice as much as all your equipment combined. I have over $30,000 invested in audio equipment alone. And while you’re there look at some of my clips, that’s not even close to my best work, in tis business you don’t display your best work, you display the most marketable work, you have to show what clients need. Half of those clips I wrote, produced, shot and edited; I shy away from doing narration and if you hear me talking you’ll understand why. The points, as I’ve been saying in over and over, we all can do writing, directing, shooting and editing, and we can do it do it very well, but it’s not as profitable as being behind the camera because that’s where the big money is.

    Also keep in mind that the training listed in my resume is only the ones I received the US. I also have a master degree in photographic sciences that I got in my native country.

    You’ve been bad mouthing people like me as long as I’ve seen your posting, you keep saying that you are better and can do more that we can, why don’t you just compare our work and our resumes to your, or better yet let a client do that and let’s see who will get the job. Also why don’t you show me any of your work that was published or broadcasted? After all you are supposed to be better that we are, right?

    The only reason that I have a lighting site is because that’s where people needed most help. Nearly 3 millions hits in six months prove that I knew what I was doing. The site will gradually expand in other areas of production, including sound.

    Talk is cheap, in this business the only thing that counts is your work, and what do you have to show Cliff.

    You can’t put food on the table with dreams or fill your gas tank by saying “it will happen” or pay for your check at a restaurant by quoting a British VJ. It takes money and you have to earn it.

  21. “Videojournalism is an advance on television news production – a shift away from the predictable approach television has stuck to doggedly since its inception.

    It is next generation television: story telling in which you are not be bound by the many constraints of traditional news production”.

    You guys are pathetic. Every VJ website is a carbon copy of each other. The same crap, “we are the future” ” compelling storytelling” “the next generation” “no more predictable television.”

    I’ve been hearing the same manure for years. If you are so damn good then why aren’t you on television, why are you wasting your valuable storytelling time telling each others how good you are, you should be all over the television, yet I can’t find you anywhere except on these sites.

    You are doing a great job convincing each other but a lousy job convincing television executives.

  22. I really have to laugh.
    Nino writes that no matter how hard he looks, he can’t find any VJ work. Yet over at TVSPY just now, there is a thread where people bewail the arrival of VJ at their stations. They don’t like the change… they can’t stand it in fact, but they certainly acknowledge that it has arrived.

    Here’s one:

    “You’re lucky that the assignment desk has the good sense to use VJs mostly for the purpose of covering these relatively insignificant stories. At my station, they’ve taken the place of most of the regular two person crews. The problem is, the only people who will take this type of job in a midsize market are fresh out of school–and it shows. The regular crews have experience under their belts while the VJs don’t. Yet they are used to turn crappy packages everyday. It’s a slap in the face to those of us who take pride in producing good quality work and who have paid our dues to get this far. These VJ kids are jumping at the chance to be in a midsize market when they don’t have the knowledge to succeed. So in my opinion, it is a disaster.”

    Well, I may not agree with this sentiment, but I think our friend Nino is in deep denial.

  23. Actually you would be much better off crying.

    What denial Michael, I’m a viewer too and I live in a 13 market, I have 150 channels on my TV and I can’t find any VJ work no matter how hard my remote works. The only place that I can find any VJ sample is on your or other web sites. Do I have to play TV detective to find some?

    You are the self proclaimed VJ messiah, there’s a lot about you and how good you are on your web site, why don’t you publish something constructive for a change, like an up to date directory of where and when VJs are making progress. don’t your think that would give you some credibility?

    You’ve been talking about these progresses for years, enough talk, SHOW IT DON”T SAY IT

    What’s a TVSPY?

  24. nino: a legend in his own van.

  25. The VJs have been used for years. One man bands. This isn’t because of any classes by Rosenblum. It’s economics at last place poorly run stations that have to save money to stay in business.

    Cliff. You need to buy a dictionary and look up the word “colleague”.

  26. I though I found gold for a moment and you were going to link me to a station that has VJs so I can see some at work, but, just another forum, not a very friendly one to you neither.

    But I must admit it was very clever of you.

  27. invitedmedia // Aug 15th 2007 at 7:42 pm

    nino: a legend in his own van.

    Don’t give up yet man, one day your brain will kick in and you’ll learn to say something intelligent.

  28. Colleague: a person who is a member of your class or profession

    Seems to me that David and I are in the same profession. That would make us colleagues.

    Another misinformed b-roll moment brought to you by $ (formerly known as min!-me).

    Nino – Although you have an extensive list of equipment, your type of work is different from mine – I have no desire or need to work with that much equipment or work with the types of clients you have. I didn’t when I worked in photojournalism and don’t need to working as a video journalist. But as I said, our styles of shooting are different – that doesn’t mean yours is any better than mine or vice versa – they are just different. But I would appreciate it if you and the rest of the detractors who find some sick sense of pleasure at mocking those who are making a concerted effort to become the best they can at this new profession to at least realize that we do not claim to want nor desire the level of clients you work with. I work with minimalist equipment out of choice. I believe in working with as little as possible and have done so for quite a long time. And I still make a decent wage for the area of the country I live in. I see the world differently and the clients I choose to work with have similar core values. Mine aren’t better or worse – just different.

    I’m of the belief that if someone needs to constantly point out how much equipment they have to prove they are better than someone else that they must be feeling inadequate in other parts of their lives.

  29. Cliff, once more you prove that you have no clue of what production is all about it. You love to talk and play victim, claiming that the establishment is against you because they are afraid of you because you know more that they know, what a bunch of crap. How do you call us, the detractors? Sound like some sort of anal surgical instrument.

    To start there’s no such thing as different types or styles of productions, that’s nothing more that an excuse for those who can only do one thing. There are different levels of skills. You are at the bottom then all you can do is the bottom jobs, when you’re on top you can do just about everything you want. People with skills can go down to your level but you can never go up to their levels, unless you start realizing that your work need help and start learning, but you never will when you think that you are already superior. The reason that I have a lot of equipment is so I can tackle everything that comes my way, successfully that is. Last year I did 19 resorts destination in 13 countries with a Z1 camera and a very selective light kit. Remember is not the equipment, is what you can do with it. I started doing these jobs 20 years ago with a crew of eleven people and 3 cameras. Over the years budgets have been shrinking and now it’s just me, the producer and a Z1.

    If you are satisfied to crawl on the bottom its all right with me but don’t go around saying that you’ll take over television and you are the future because in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about this business you sound like a real fool and people will address you as a fool. If you have read some of my post on B-roll in the past you would had noticed that I said that there’s a need for people to do lower level production as long as you know your place and stay there, you want to move up, learn. You can knock b-roll all you want and I can assure you that nobody there gives crap about you; although there’s a number of jerks just like you’ll find everywhere, that forum has the largest gathering of talents that you’ll find anywhere, ask one question and you’ll get dozens of most valuable answers, that’s how you learn, by keeping your mouth shut and your ears open. Nobody learn anything by talking, you only learn by listening and be humble. The first lesson in learning is realizing that you need to learn.

  30. Cliff, Let me know when you actually are a part of this “profession” and not still enjoying a hobby.

    I’m sure you have many others who are a part of the same class though. Always learning but never able to put what you learn into practice as a profession.

  31. $ (formerly known as min!-me), LOL

    Is that all you can muster in your adolescent rantings?

    Since my so called “hobby” pays me $xxx/hr (yes – that’s 3 figures per hour) to work for my clients (which I’m currently doing), you can call it whatever you want. I have the freedom to make my own hours, and write off part of my house among other benefits as a business expense because I have a home office (oh wait – a hobby can do such a thing?)

    And you make how much again working for Fox Noise???

    Another fine misinformed b-roll moment brought to all of us by $ (formerly known as min!-me)

  32. Cliff, you and I know you are not making a living by being a VJ.

    It’s a hobby at best for you. Your own web site proves it.

    That’s why you have so much free time to think, but never do.

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