The Handwriting on the Wall

Watch this….

Mark Antonitis, President and GM for KRON4 in San Francisco and VJ Pioneer writes to me to tell me about the new Panasonic HDV camera:

I just took around the new Panasonic AVCHD camera for a tour of the
> station. It is literally smaller than a reporter’s notebook. It’s
> about the size of a can of 12 ounce soda. Works on one standard
> consumer memory chip. I love it!

That’s the camera, pictured above.

That’s my watch in the shot.

Just below it, a traditional broadcast quality Sony camera.

And also my watch.

See anything interesting here?

You are looking at more than just a cool, small camera that shoots in HD and costs around $2500 and weighs 1.1 pounds.

You are looking at the end of cameramen.

What must blacksmiths have felt when they stepped away from their forges, busy making horseshoes as the first automobiles chugged their way down the street. Did they see the end of their careers in those sputtering horseless carriages? Did they argue about the superior quality of horses to cars? Did they say that a car can’t nuzzle you when its cold, or eat an apple out of your hand? Probably.

Did it matter?


See the photos above?

The camera technology just keeps getting better and better.

When the cameras were like the one on the bottom, you had to pay someone to schlep the camera around on their shoulder all day.

When the cameras are like the one on the top, what possible rationale is there for keeping the camera carrier employed?

Old time sake?



Don’t bet your career on it.

Cameramen today have two options before them. They can either learn to create the content that stations and the web so desperately need, or they can try selling real estate.

Some blacksmiths got smart and opened Midas shops and made a fortune.

Others kept banging the same old anvil until the bank took the anvil away.

The choice… is yours.


37 responses to “The Handwriting on the Wall

  1. Pingback: The Handwriting on the Wall « c o n v e r g e d // m e d i a

  2. Give Katie one of these.

  3. the invention of the bic biro was also a technological breakthrough – amazingly light and small, just like that camera. But it didn’t sporn a generation of literary geniuses…..

    the tool is only as good as the operator.

    That’s why there will always be demand for the best operators…

  4. The biro which replaced the inkwell and earlier quill empowered many to write, but the job of scribe was pretty much over. The word processor killed the typing pool. There is a rich future for anyone who can pick up a biro and create a great novel. There is a rich opportunity for anyone who can pick up a camera and create a great story. Opportunity knocks.

  5. The BBC hires new VJ’s for around $65k per annum. It pays ‘technical operators’ carrying conventional cameras about $10k less.

    When it comes to paying for cameras, size doesn’t matter, it’s the person holding the camera….

  6. So the former cameraman becomes a vj, picks up another £5000. Works for me.

  7. it’s not as simple as that. You can’t just go to the beeb say “I’m a VJ” and get hired at $65K.

    You need a certificate from Michael proving you’ve completed the 2 day training.

  8. Actually, the training for VJs at the BBC was a 3-week off-site bootcamp.

  9. “The biro which replaced the inkwell and earlier quill empowered many to write, but the job of scribe was pretty much over. ”

    I guess you don’t spend much time in court rooms anymore Rosenblum.

    Lots of “scribes” still working there. Except they are called Court Reporters.

    Once again you over reach with your analogies and show how out of touch you are with the real world.

    Enjoy your HDV toys.

  10. Yes
    You are right
    I think Court Reporter is a good job for out of work cameramen.

  11. Pathetic Rosenblum.

    But not a surprise.

    It’s easy to teach when you don’t have to supply jobs to the students at the end of the class. unless they decide to join you as a teacher too.

    What is your success ratio? Students who get a job somewhere? Anywhere?

    For every one you can point to, there are hundreds of other “students” from you classes who remain where they started.

    Just a little poorer in the bank account.

  12. You see more and more stations going VJ.
    You see newspapers going to VJ for their video.
    The market is there for those who are good at it.
    For those who can’t or won’t make the shift… this it too bad, but an old story as industries shift.
    I can supply the skills – and in newspapers and magazines they are clamoring to learn – a far cry and another world from the TV guys who had to be dragged kicking and screaming.

    Look. I used to say this is going to happen. Now it is happening. Yet, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

  13. MR Keep doing what you’re doing because you keep “cameramen” like me employed and looking like a god to my clients.

  14. Rosenblum OOPS moments and the list keeps growing!

    No more cameramen! VJ will take off and cameramen will be out of work! OOPS! Didn’t happen.

    No more scribes! Well, except for the well paid court reporters across the country and around the world OOPS! More foot in mouth disease for Rosenblum!

    The printing press is dead! But Rosenblum time after time keeps posting right here on his own blog about how book after book has affected him so strongly he bases entire entries on them OOPS! Books keep having more real impact on him than any of his unemployed VJ students!

    Rosenblum claims by going to WKRN and KRON and teaching them his VJ ways that they will dominate in the news coverage running off team story coverage efforts of photographer and reporter at other stations in the same markets. OOPS! The GM and News Director of WKRN are shown the door because the VJ claims Rosenblum made and supported by these two managers failed to live up to their promises even to this day. WKRN quietly returns to using two person news teams on story of merit leaving the VJ’s their features. KRON continues to lose money in such great sums that the owners give up and put the station up for sale, but no one wants to buy such a poorly run operation. No buyer in sight and the ratings continue to languish and company stock remains at it’s historical lowest price.

    Stay tuned for more embarrassing OOPS moments from the teacher who can’t do what he teaches.

  15. I think you should probably take a look at what all the Gannett stations are doing, as well as NBC. I think there will probably be a few cameramen left rolling around – just like there are a few court reporters hanging around. Heck, there are even a few blacksmith’s hanging around. I actually saw one in Mystic Village in Connecticut. Probably in a few years they’ll have a cameraman’s hut in Mystic Village. Look kids – this is how they used to make TV in the ancient past. Wow!!! Can we take a picture of you? (I’ve got a HDV camera here the size of a postage stamp. Cool!)

  16. Did Gannett hire you to do anything? No. They are hiring a few VJs but far from the all VJ shop of your failed dreams.

    Did NBC hire you to do anything? No. In fact they are not saying they are hiring all VJs either.

    Your all VJ shops have yet to achieve what you claimed so long ago would happen. Time rolls on and what other companies are doing does not include you. That doesn’t say much for what you know or claim to be able to do.

  17. Forgot to add, there is still a court reporter present in every courtroom around the world. Just like there has always been. More claims by you proven to be untrue again and again.

  18. $ – typical cookie cutter responses – Seems as though the more VJ’s start coming into the market, the higher the shrill of denial your responses seem to sound.

    That’s usually an indication that someone isn’t as secure in their position as they purport to be.

  19. So, yeah, I can just see the BBC making programmes like Planet Earth and Wild China using tiny little HDV cameras.

    Camera operators won’t die. Either things will stay the same, or they will just move to higher end stuff with more pay and much higher production values.

    Believe it or not Michael, people do still value stunning camerawork over something you might expect to find at a family BBQ gathering.

  20. The BBC still employs several hundred full time cameramen. They are used alongside VJ’s. They do different jobs.

  21. and to add to my previous comment, I overheard a conversation with a BBC Editor this week – it went something like “should we VJ this or do we want it in quality….”

    Meaning of course – do we want to hire a camera crew instead. He hired the crew.

    I know at least three freelance cameramen working in the South of England. They are all having to turn work down – so in demand are their skills. One of them – who doesn’t get out of bed for less than $1000 a day – believes there has never been a better time to invest in high end kit and lighting gear.

    Sure – there are VJ’s out there – there always will be – but they are a very different beast to the Cameramen and operate on a different level.

    Given the financial situation of TV news in the UK it’s an amazing situation.

  22. cnn/bbc and many of the networks in the US have been using OMBs with small cameras for close on 20 years.

    This trend is not going to reverse, to argue otherwise is foolishness.

    But IMHO the Rosenblum thesis “any idiot can do it” is more foolish still.

  23. Peter
    I think that ‘any idiot can do it’ is a bit simplistic.
    That being said, if you take a look at many local news pieces and dissect them visually, they are hardly complex. An exterior shot, police tape, down the street, a talking head, etc… So yes, almost anyone can be taught to do this. It is not hard. It is also not good, but it is not hard.

    The more interesting issue here is that as the gear becomes cheaper and simpler, any idiot is free to try, and I think we are going to discover a lot of talent that was hitherto hidden.

  24. Michael – I don’t think “any idiot can do it” is a bit simplistic. I think it’s flat silly and I encourage you to stop saying it.

    “The art of Leonardo was a complex technical business, requiring intricate knowledge of dyes and myriad other materials, taking many years of painstaking apprenticeship to aquire. The technical aspects of the art of Cezanne could be created with store-bought materials and knowledge passed along in cheap paperback books.”

    To infer from this that “any idiot” can revolutionize the art world is, well…..I’ll let you complete the sentence.

    In the past the barriers to entry were so high that anyone lucky enough to squeeze past the gatekeepers at MGM or the BBC was more or less guaranteed some measure of success, any idiot really could do it.

    As those barriers come down the Day of the Idiot comes to an end.

    All the best.

  25. While I agree with you that as the barriers come down, the Day of the Idiot comes to an end. Certainly a more competitive market will, I hope, result in a much better product.

    That having been said, “any idiot” can revolutionized the art world is…probably right. And by that I mean that what we today accept as groundbreaking in modern art (Robert Ryman or Joseph Beuys come to mind), were certainly considered ‘idiots’ when they started.

  26. So when you say “any idiot can be a VJ”, it’s kind of like a mantra?

    any idiot can be a VJ
    any idiot can be a well renowned artist
    any idiot can be a nobel-prize scientist
    any idiot can be a brain surgeon


    nice one!

  27. Dear Peter
    I don’t want to be the one to break this to you, but… there is a world of difference between being brain surgeon (or nobel prize winning scientist) and shooting video.

  28. The simple fact that you insist on describing the people who sign up for your courses as idiots doesn’t make it so.

    Check out Einstein (famous scientist).

    fun exchange – gotta run – catch u l8r

  29. well hardly….
    come back any time.

  30. While I agree with you that as the barriers come down, the Day of the Idiot comes to an end. Certainly a more competitive market will, I hope, result in a much better product.

    The challenge I have with all these shoulder mount naysayers is the fact that they seem to equate that a bigger camera somehow stipulates ones capabilities as a shooter.

    Granted I will concede that right now they do have an advantage – but that gap is closing rapidly and they should be looking over the very shoulder that they use to heft all that damn gear around with. Smaller gear doesn’t equate to a lack of experience – that’s a pretty broad blanket statement to make. The detractors continue to extol the virtues of mainstream news vj’s and dismissing those who foresee the future and are willing to take up the solovj paradigm.

    Challenge for them is that these so called wannabe’s are getting better and are adapting and it’s making them look over paid and obsolete.

    It’s the same old diatribe – solo vj supporters continue to move forward, while the detractors voice their cynicism at the movement.

    I view the solovj detractors with continued skepticism after sharing space with shooters from the mainstream media covering the Obama rally that was held here last week. Observing what shots they got (and the lack of what they didn’t), lugging around all that gear, shooting the same boring static shots that have become the trademark of broadcast news shooters and the associated hair and teeth talent only confirms the position I have taken that the traditional mainstream shooters really are on their way out.

    It’s not a matter of if – but when.

  31. Speaking of “when” Cliff. Have you found a job yet where they pay you to shoot and edit full time?

  32. The internet killed the printing press. Now anyone can afford to be a newspaper publisher. That doesn’t mean they can get any attention (much less make money) at it unless they are really good.

    The price point for the cool little cameras is still fairly high, just not what the big old cameras cost. So that means anyone with $2K can be a videographer (or whatever name you wish to apply (since they use a camera, wouldn’t that make them still a cameraman, woman, child?)). But as flickr and dad’s old slides will attest, being able to afford a camera doesn’t make your pictures less boring.

    The internet and tech advances lower the bar for entrance to what used to be rarified fields. That is all they do. Being able to afford a camera or having the expertise (low as it is) to set up a blog doesn’t make someone good enough for anyone to care.

    Maybe all this will bring in new talent to content generation fields. That’s great. But if the content isn’t compelling, then it doesn’t really matter wether it is some schmo with a little camera or a professional with a big one. What the internet has done, perhaps more than anything, is open the door for compelling content to get attention no matter who makes it.

    I’m not sure that is the same type of pronouncement as the era of the cameraman is over.

  33. Didn’t think so.

    Maybe some day Cliff. Just not now.

  34. Please explain to me how the size of the camera matters? I have carried a 25lb camera around for the past 10 years and at any time the powers that be could have said, “Happy, we need you to now do everything yourself!” At that point I could either do it or not. The size of my camera is absolutely irrelevant. I have done many a story with a big camera just as I ha e with a small camera. Why does the size make a difference?
    What you are really saying is that now 1 person will be doing 2 jobs. They could have said that 8 years ago and the result would be the same. If fact, 1 person has been doing 2 jobs in small markets for years. This is merely a cost cutting measure that will ultimately fail when the bean counters realize that they can have 1 person do 2 jobs but half the time it will take twice as long and the other half the journalism will be so piss poor that people will stop watching. I take that back….it will not fail, it will succeed in lowering salaries of highly paid reporters because stations will use it as an excuse to not renew contracts and lay off camera people who have worked their way up to a decent salary. After they thin the herd, it will be back to the old way because by then everything will be in HD and shooting HD with a tiny camera is just a mess.
    So please explain the size issue Michael. Just because cameras are small, doesnt mean that suddenly the average will suddenly be able to report accurately and tell a story.

  35. It is a combination of the small size of the camera, the simplicity of operation and the relatively low cost of the gear.

    The small size means that any reporter can now take the camera along with them without a great deal of bother or inconvenience. The small size also means that smaller women, who simply could not carry big gear all day are now in play.

    The simplicity of operation means that basic video can now be acquired by pretty much anyone. Dissect a sample local TV news piece some time and take a real cold hard look at the ‘quality’ of the video. The shots are simple and msot of them are just b-roll covering VO. Sometimes the same shots are even repeated in the same piece. The bar over all is pretty low at the moment.

    The low cost of the gear means that every reporter can be equipped with a camera – so there is now no longer any waiting for the crew or a story that could not be shot because there was not crew available, or the need of a crew to break off in the middle of one story to get another one.

    Much the same thing happened in radio as radio recording and broadcasting gear got lighter, cheaper and easier to use. In the early days of radio, technicians went along with radio reporters to assist them in covering a story.

    Today, the idea of a radio technician going along to record a radio story would be unthinkable. Same now is happening to video. This is no one’s fault, but it is inevitable.

  36. While some arm wrestle over whether big bertha cams or baby cams will save TV, hundreds of newspaper reporters and photojournalists are learning the craft of video production. They are starting small, using consumer cameras and editing programs like iMovie. As time passes, many are moving up and editing their videos in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere and Avid.

    Skills improve with experience as the minions of newspaper journalists quietly attend video workshops, or train themselves from the wealth of information on the net. One day, this argument of camera size and quality will not exist. Instead it will be just a bunch of newspaper journalists beating TV news at its own game.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s