All over the world press photographers are looking at video as either an exciting new challenge, the saviour of their careers with news organisations or as the greatest threat to their beloved profession since, well, since threats were invented. It's hard to find anyone who doesn't have an opinion that isn't close to one of those views. I have swayed between excited and thankful for the last couple of years and barely done anything about it. When Canon announced the 5D MkII and I decided that this was the camera for me, it became logical to go with "excited".


Used wisely, video can add to our multimedia arsenal and I am already keen on packages like Soundslides. I spend more time "consuming" radio than I do either print media or television and so I know what an effect good audio can have in the storytelling process.

Three months after getting the first camera I bought a copy of Final Cut Express to go with the various other audio-visual software already loaded on to my Macs and launched it for the first time. That was one of two firsts, the other being the first time that I have looked at a software interface on a Mac and felt the need for training. Four separate windows, over two dozen icons and a whole load of unfamiliar menu options were enough to make me quit out of the programme and reach for a list of approved Apple training centres.

I went on a course with a company called Media Training in London a few years ago to learn about colour management and the whole world of pre-press. It was well taught, informative and my employer got their money's worth from the two two day courses (basic and intermediate). I spoke to the people at Media Training and we decided that I would be best suited with some one-to-one training on Final Cut Express with some audio stuff tagged on. After several attempts at booking the course (I kept getting busy and postponing) I finally had my first lesson at their Highbury base yesterday.

My trainer, Chris Eyre, is a professional editor whose background is at the BBC but who works with a huge range of technologies as a freelance editor. We spent a while making sure that we had the software set up to work with the 5D MkII video files, getting the CODEC right and generally exploring how well Final Cut Express will work with the kind of footage that I'm likely to produce.

I like to think of myself as a pretty quick learner and Chris was really good at comparing concepts in video to others that are more familiar to me. Keeping folders structures properly organised, dumping redundant files from the hard drive and starting to edit video using a professional approach were all tackled this way and we spent the day (with buckets of coffee and a very good lunch thrown in as part of the course fee) slowly moving through the basics of Final Cut.

It felt slightly weird to be the pupil and not the teacher but I guess that is life. Learning from someone with such deep knowledge of the genre made it a lot easier. Only now, a day later, can I honestly say that I learned a lot. Even the notes that I made are legible!

Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm going back soon for part two. In the meantime I can actually open the software on my Mac and know why it has so many windows and icons and not be freaked out by it. I have got a couple of ideas for short films to practice my camera, audio and editing techniques and I can honestly say that I am now firmly ensconced in the "excited" camp. To those of you who are either skeptical or resistant - don't be. All knowledge is useful and it's not until you have the knowledge that you fully realise the way in which it will be useful.

© Neil Turner March 2009


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