The Digital Journalist
I Have Seen the Future and It's Very, Very Crowded
June 2007

by James Colburn

As sometimes happens the Europeans are showing the way forward in photojournalism.

It used to be that anyone wanting to get into shooting video had to budget $100,000 or so in order to get a camera and lens capable of producing broadcast-quality footage.

No longer.

With the introduction of DV and HDV cameras the entry point is now about the same for video as with stills. For around $5,000, give or take, you can equip yourself with a Sony Z1 or a Canon XL-something, a decent microphone and, perhaps, a good tripod. The quality they are capable of producing would knock the socks off of ENG cameras produced 10 or 15 years ago.

The new cameras are small, they are light, and they are breeding like rabbits.

During a recent three-month stay in France to film a documentary on the French election I was struck (knocked down and walked over) by the sheer number of videographers surrounding the candidates. There weren't a couple or a few; there were dozens at every stop. A lot of them were working for one of the many French cable stations, Web sites and networks but quite a few of them were just freelance photographers out to make a living by selling footage to who-knows-where. Some stations had two or three shooters per event. Why not when you can hire someone with decent gear at a rock-bottom price?

Add to this the large number of still shooters and the mass of boom-pole-equipped sound people and you had a tight flowing mass of bodies that became a huge organic "ooze" surrounding the candidate.

While this is not going to happen everywhere in the U.S. (the Secret Service would never allow such "intimacy" with one of their protectees) those of you in bigger markets better sharpen up your elbows and get ready to rumble.

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer