Improving technology is changing the world of TV News, for better or worse

We call this LiveU backpack "piglet" because it is so small.

We call this LiveU backpack “piglet” because it is so small.

I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, technology has begun to fascinate me more and more. My husband and I went into Best Buy the other day and I just felt like my mind was blown looking at the new inventions available. It makes me wonder how my grandparents generation has felt going from the Great Depression era to the science fiction-like technology that is around these days.

At work, I feel the same way when it comes to the live capabilities available to us. Gone are the days where it takes a live truck to give you the ability to appear live on television screens from the field, now all it takes is the touch of a button. I recently had my work cell phone upgraded to a iPhone 6 (woohoo!), the new phone has the capability for the LiveU app.

The LiveU app enables you to send live video back to the station. I’ve found it comes in handy when I am covering government meetings and the producers want to do a “live look” to tease to a full wrap in a later show. All I have to do is balance the phone on my camera lens and lean it against the boom mic to hold it steady, then I hit the green button that says “Live” and voila, I’m live. Now I don’t think cell phones are good for actual reporter fronted live shots, unless you are in a pinch. Example: “Live Pad”. I did a reporter fronted cell phone live shot once and my face was blurry the entire time, which was a little bit embarrassing, it looked like I was in the witness protection program. But I do think the “live looks” are the perfect use of that app.

Now LiveU backpacks on the other hand, typically deliver a good product. My station has had a couple of backpacks since I got here and between the sports department and the photographers, they are used pretty frequently. We are lucky here in the Ark-La-Tex because we still have photographers on the payroll to shoot all live shots. One station in our market has eliminated them completely in favor of complete one man bands, the downside is their live shots aren’t interactive and the reporter can’t show anything on camera, and is not to mention beyond stressed.

My first solo live shot.

My first solo live shot.

So let me emphasize, I believe photographers are absolutely necessary in TV News and I’m not trying to threaten anybody’s job security by talking about how simple it is to go live with a LiveU. However, when we found ourselves in a staffing kerfuffle yesterday and nobody was available to man my live shot, I had the perfect solution. One of the managers was about to call a photographer off of vacation to do it, that’s when I piped up and volunteered to do it myself. I would have felt horrible if someone was called off vacation, just to hit one button on backpack. I had some brief training and I was off to shoot my own live shot. I was nervous, but confident that having experience with the LiveU backpack would enable me to be a well rounded MMJ. We have two versions of the backpack, one is very small and not heavy at all, we call that one the “piglet” and the other is a much larger version of it, it feels like a backpack with all of our text books in it. Luckily, I was able to take the “piglet”. I drove 1.5 hours to get to my location, plugged one cord into the camera, turned on the LiveU and then hit one button, and boom, I was live. I definitely had a moment where I was fascinated by the technology.

Live bug covered my face.

Live bug covered my face.

Now the actual live shot itself wasn’t perfect, the LIVE bug was covering my face and I had set up the lighting too bright. I also wanted the report to be interactive even though I was by myself, so I walked around to the other side of the camera during the shot and tried to pan the camera, but while I was doing so, I became distracted and felt like what I was trying to say wasn’t coming across very well, I even sounded distracted. So the solo situation wasn’t ideal, it would have been a much better live shot with the help of a photographer, but I made it work. I’m glad I now have that experience, so if we ever find ourselves in a pinch again, I know I can deliver and be the ultimate one man band.

Here is the not so perfect live shot:

 

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