Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘video

VIDEO: Travel + Journalism in Burma

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This video is the story of the time I spent in Burma. I went there in February 2015. I went there to travel and to do journalism. I wanted to see if I could combine the experience of traveling with the challenge of trying to find stories. As a freelancer, trying to travel and hunt down stories while you do so is a fun challenge. This was my first experiment trying to do that.

The benefits of traveling in this way are many. One of these is that you travel in a different way, as you try to get beneath the surface and look deeper than you might normally do. You also meet people, from locals to intrepid expats. The other big benefit of course is financial, as stories you find and sell helps to offset the money you spent traveling.

The video was shot using a Canon S120 and edited in Windows Movie Maker.

Related:

The CNN article mentioned in the video is here.

The previous video I made is: A Year In The Life of a Freelance Journalist Abroad

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Six Dream Gifts For A Freelance Journalist

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These are six things a freelance journalist rarely can afford, and so she or he would love to receive them as gifts. This summer why not treat your friendly freelancer to one of these items, any of which would make him or her very happy.

The Sony A7 II (left) is a full-frame camera like the Nikon D800 which it is pictured next to. A big selling point is its small size compared to DSLRs.

Sony a7R II, £2,063 (body only)

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VIDEO: A year in the life of a freelance journalist abroad

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In early 2014, I decided to buy a new camera. With it I started to take short videos that captured how life unfolded. I would record at dinners, while I was commuting, when I’d travel and so on. It wasn’t every day, but over a year I’d collected enough footage to make a short film about my life as a freelance journalist.

The video shows what Beijing is like, my horribly cramped former living quarters, what I get up to on my off-hours, and includes footage from my North Korea reporting trip and other travels. I hope to make more videos for my YouTube channel this year, so please consider subscribing.

This blog is a guide on becoming a roving freelancer, as well as a chronicle of my journey. The above video, I hope, fills in some of the blanks: a visual record. A written round-up of 2014 can be found here: Freelancing in Beijing: One Year On.

The video was shot on a Canon S120 and edited in Windows Movie Maker. These are the tools I currently have, and I intend to make the most of them. For more on this, see these posts: 6 journalism resolutions for the new year, and getting into video storytelling: using a cheap compact camera.

Getting into Video Storytelling – using a cheap compact camera

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I’ve been pretty inspired recently. And have become obsessed with a YouTuber named Casey Neistat. He’s a 32-year-old filmmaker who advocates limited resources film making. I stumbled upon his videos, and more importantly the story behind his ascent, from this Guardian article: Ten tools for digital and citizen journalists on the go. Specifically this video:

Casey likes to use a digital compact camera to make his videos.

After making videos that went viral, using basic equipment, he was tapped by Nike to make a commercial.

“Nike asked me to make a movie about what it means to #makeitcount. Instead of making their movie I spent the entire budget traveling around the world with my friend Max. We’d keep going until the money ran out. It took 10 days.”

The ad-hoc video he made from that trip, entirely shot on a point-and-shoot camera (Canon S120), was accepted by Nike and the ‘commercial’ has now over 10 million hits on YouTube.

So I read everything I could about Casey Neistat (I often do this when I find someone I can potentially learn from), and realized three things:

1. The camera you use is not important, and actually using ‘crappy’ equipment might work to your advantage.

2. Having limitations can create awesome things and can cultivate a unique style.

3. It’s all about the story. Story telling. Telling stories. The STORY. 

People like to be engaged and a video with a strong hook will pull in audiences even if it’s shot on a crappy camera phone compared to expensive DSLR footage that’s only about scenery that admittedly looks incredible.

My seven-year-old compact digital camera which I have now replaced. It still works though - the three pictures below were all taken with this camera in the past two years.

My seven-year-old compact digital camera which I have now replaced. It still works though – the three pictures below were all taken with this camera over the past two years.

So I’m going to start doing that then. I bought a Canon S120 (for £270 ’cause my old compact camera is literally falling apart) and downloaded Windows Movie Maker. That’s right, the free-to-download most basic video editing software available. It might sound amusing, but hey at least I’ve started. I’ll keep you updated when my first video hits and where it may end up.

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From freelance to foreign correspondent – one person’s success story

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“I sold or gave away most of my stuff and headed east, pretty much on a whim”.

Those are the words of Kate Hodal, The Guardian’s south-east Asia correspondent. The story of how she got there is an inspiring antidote to these gloomy times. She also has some fantastic advice about multimedia journalism, especially video, for which she says there is tremendous demand. I had the fortune to interview Kate, via email, while I was based in China.

Here is the interview: http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/journalist-q-a-from-freelancer-to-se-asia-correspondent/s2/a553906/

5 Budget-y Gift Ideas for Journalists (Xmas Edition)

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1. Google Nexus 5, £300

This phone is powerful, versatile, robust and great value. If you’re like me and unable, or unwilling, to drop a wad of hard-earned freelance earnings on premium phones like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, then the Nexus 5 should appeal.

It has a large, high-res screen, a rugged form factor, and the latest Android OS. It’s also fast and incredibly smooth to use (I tried out a friend’s). The only negative is the camera which is not as good as the iPhone’s (which is still easily the class leader among phone cameras). But that phone is also £249 more expensive, and the screen of the iPhone is too small for the amount of reading I do.

2. Parker ballpoint pen, £4-£8

A nice pen. Although journalists tend to make do with biros, or whatever is available at hand, there’s something to be said about writing with a nice pen. The heavier weight, like you’re actually holding a tool fashioned for the craft of writing, the balance as it glides across the page. It does contribute to a better writing experience. But of course buying a decent pen for yourself feels somewhat self-regarding and vain. So it makes a perfect gift!

3. Leather satchel, £150+

Ok, so £150 plus for a bag might not seem very budget right? Well, a good bag can last you a lifetime. If it’s leather it’ll age and gain that look of having been everywhere (which might well be the case). It has to be leather. The material wears harder and has the benefit of at least some weather protection. I like the hard-bitten, man-of-the-world writer look, for which a good leather bag is the ideal accompaniment.

4. Canon EOS 600D (with 18-55mm lens), £400

This is the cheapest camera that also shoots high-quality video. For sure there are cheaper video cameras available but they will not compare to the Canon in terms of overall picture quality. It has a mic jack (essential to plug in an external mic) and although there is no video autofocus I wouldn’t recommend that feature on most cameras if you’re shooting interviews. The GoPro line of cameras is a popular alternative choice, but for sheer versatility the Canon is a good deal. For upgraders check out the Panasonic Lumic DMC-GH3.

5. Accurist watch, £35+

Robust, reliable and not too expensive – what a travelling watch should be. Something you won’t be afraid to scratch or dink when you’re out in the field, crawling along the rocks of a conflict zone, but also stylish enough for when you suit up to meet the commander general. Accurist is a British brand and I like their strong, simple designs. They feel well made despite their lower cost. They are quartz watches housed in watertight metal cases, so they should be pretty indestructible.

Wishlist: 4 gadgets I’d love to do journalism with

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1. iPhone 5S, £549 (32GB)

Why? Because it’s pretty much all you need to do journalism – it browses the internet, sends emails, makes calls, records audio, takes fantastic photos and records incredible video. It’s a media production machine. I’ve heard of at least one freelancer who wrote entire features for almost an entire year using just an iPhone (more on that in a future blog).

The best thing about it is the quality of the images it can make. More than that, it’s the ease and convenience of it that puts it head and shoulders above everything else.

iPhone photos have graced the likes of Time magazine (front cover!), New York Times and much else besides. Conflict photographer Ben Lowy uses it almost exclusively and he’s covered Afghanistan, Libya and the Arab Spring.

Videojournalism? Guardian reporter Adam Gabbatt uses an iPhone to make short video reports which you can see here and here. The Guardian’s SE Asia correspondent Kate Hodal interviewed Suboi, Vietnam’s first mainstream female rapper: “I interviewed her and she gave me an exclusive freestyle, which I caught on my iPhone and then uploaded to our editors in London”.

If you are going to make a video report however, do invest in an external mic – that is extremely important. You want decent video and audio. Some sort of tripod/monopod for it would be very handy too.

2. Surface RT, £279 (with touch cover £319)

The Microsoft Surface RT is a great productivity tool for journalists. It is much lighter than most laptops, coming in at 676 grams (the Macbook Air in contrast weighs 1.3kg), and has a battery life of 8 hours. Why get this tablet rather than an iPad? Two words: Microsoft Office. Apart from being cheaper than an iPad, the Surface RT unlike all other tablets has Microsoft Word. You’ll want the optional touch/type covers – which click in magnetically – to do any serious typing work.

Yes it doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of apps Apple and Android tablets have, but so what. They are distractions you don’t need. You have the internet, email and Word (plus a front-facing camera for Skype calls) – what more do you need as a journo? You have a smartphone anyway for those apps. Another benefit is that you can split the screen in half – so on one side you can browse the web, while the other is on Word for example.

There are two Surface machines. The RT, pictured above, is the cheaper, lighter and smaller version, and runs a custom RT operating system. The Surface Pro is much more powerful (on a par with high-end ultrabooks), much heavier and runs Windows 8, meaning you can install any/all programs you currently run on a normal laptop. Most gadget reviewers say get the Pro, but I prefer the simplicity of the RT and of course it’s a lot lighter and much less pricey.

UPDATE: The Surface 2, an update to the RT, is to be released later this month. It’ll feature an upgraded processor, screen, back and front cameras and a kickstand that is more adjustable. The Surface 2 will retail for £70 more than the RT, at £349 (for the 32GB version).

Panasonic GH3 – a much better choice than a Canon 5D Mk 3, especially for video.

3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3, £1299 (including 14-140mm lens)

This digital camera takes higher-quality videos than a Canon 5D Mk3. And it is well over £1000 cheaper. Here’s an excerpt from DPreview.com’s review of the camera: “The enthusiastic and largely unanticipated response to the GH2’s movie capabilities by working videographers (Google ‘GH2 video hack’ to get an idea for how keenly its capabilities are being exploited) has meant that Panasonic must now also consider that its camera is being integrated into professional video rigs”.

Needless to say it also produces great photos, and for video there is simply no equal. The sensor inside the camera will be much larger than most dedicated video cameras. And while it won’t quite be able to beat the Canon 5Ds for low-light capability, it does have better video features, frame-rate options and better detail at 1080p HD levels.

For the aspiring video journalist interested in producing films with professional-level picture quality, look no further.


4. Moleskine notebook, £9.41 (240 pages, 13x21cm)

Not exactly a gadget but for someone whose profession is the creation of words, the pleasure of putting pen on paper should still be paramount. I bought my first pocket-sized moleskine last year and I’ve loved the aesthetic, the pages are crisp and a joy to write in. The dimensions are perfect and the pocket in the back is great for storing business cards and cuttings. I recently purchased the larger moleskin (pictured) and I have to say I like it even more. A4-sized notebooks still have a place in my stationary, particularly for taking telephone and face-to-face interview notes, as well as for diagramming article structure plans. But for the simple pleasure of writing and jotting down ideas, the larger moleskin has perfect weight and dimensions.

As design critic and writer Stephen Bayley said in a 2012 article entitled ‘The joy of Moleskine notebooks’: “there aren’t many things you can buy for £10 that are the best of their kind. I buy them compulsively. It makes you think you are just about to write, for once, something brilliant.”