Lessons in preparation

There is a cliche about proper preparation preventing poor performance, and it’s entirely true. I usually like to use this space to highlight things I’ve done well, but this time I’m going to share two video shoots that could have gone better.

The first was a simple high school softball game. Even when I’m just there to shoot highlights, I try to know about the teams and the key players in advance. If there’s a player we might do a feature on at some point, I try to focus on them. Or, if there is an interesting context to the game, knowing that can help frame the video as more of a story than just a recap of the game action.

After the game, I asked the reporter if the starting pitcher and relief pitcher were sisters. She told me yes, and that she had written about the younger sister’s struggle with bone cancer. It was pretty remarkable that she was playing varsity softball at all. She came in to relieve her sister for the win, but I had only one shot of her pitching. Had I known her story, I would have changed my approach. Fortunately, the teams are playing again in an annual cancer benefit game, so I have a chance to do the story the right way.

The week before, I was in Rhode Island to shoot fish stocking for a part of a longer story on the Pawcatuck River. I wanted to get an underwater view of the fish, so I brought a GoPro on a long pole. The problem was they were not stocking with nets, as I had seen in the past. Instead, they backed the truck down a boat launch and opened the tank, releasing 750 fish in less than a minute. I didn’t have a way to get close to where the fish were going in the water. I stuck the GoPro in the water from a dock nearby, and got lucky that a few fish swam past the lens. (20 seconds into the video below)

I should have asked how they were doing the stocking. Had I known, I could have come up with some waders and a way to sit the GoPro on the ramp underwater. I had planned to go back again, but it turns out they won’t be doing any more herring stocking this year.

In both cases, had I asked a few questions before the assignments, the videos would have turned out much better than they did.

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