Joe Little is an MMJ by choice and loves working alone. He shoots, edits, and does his own live shots from the field for KGTV in San Diego, California. He even produces his own graphics. “There is nothing a traditional crew can cover that I can’t cover,” he says.
Why does he enjoy working by himself so much? “I like to be in control of every aspect of what I do. I work faster by myself. I know my b-roll. I don’t overshoot. I make little notes here and there but I don’t need to log.”
If Little comes up with a great line he plans to use in his story, he gets the shot he needs to go with it. If he sees a great shot, he can track a line to go with it right into the camera.
He admits that sometimes the laws of physics are a challenge. “I can only do one thing at a time.” That means asking him to go live on four newscasts back-to-back is asking too much. But he can turn more than one package a day because of the time he saves in logging and writing.
“My biggest challenge is work load, not work flow,” especially the demands of social media and the web. “Can you do Facebook live while you’re out there and make sure you tweet and write web text and get still pictures for the web? It’s getting nuts.”
Solo stand-ups and live shots are much easier now, thanks to the flip screen on his camera and his backpack gear. Backpacks are cheaper, mobile and increasingly reliable, Little says. “They have changed the game for everybody. Live trucks are going to be dinosaurs.”
Going live by yourself comes with additional responsibilities for staying safe. “When you get to a scene, look around. Is there anyone pacing, or watching you too long? See the dangers,” Little advises. If you think you’re in harm’s way, tell the news desk you’re leaving. “Safety comes first.”
Crews is the field are often subject to interruptions—sometimes including profane language–from bystanders who want to be on camera or hate the news media. Little suggests a simple trick that he says has eliminated these disturbances: Use a lav mic, not a stick mic. “A stick mic is a magnet to people who want to interrupt things.”
Little has been waging war on stick mics for years. “We don’t show the viewer our camera, or tripod, or live trucks. Why are we showing them our audio equipment? It should be heard, not seen.”
Stick mics are ugly and impersonal, Little says. “When I’m having a one-on-one conversation there’s nothing between us. I don’t want this thing sticking in someone’s face.”
Little has no patience for news managers who want to see stick mics with logo flags whenever possible. “We need the branding? Really? Your bug is in the corner the entire newscast. Viewers know what channel they’re watching.”
As for arguments that stick mics produce better sound than lavs, Little calls BS with a video demonstration.
Finally, he says, there’s no basis for the claim that using a stick mic takes a lot less time. “It takes three extra seconds to put a wire on someone’s shirt,” Little says. “Leave the lav on them and you get unbelievable nat sound. Ask them a question in a long shot, you get better video, better sound. They forget they’re wearing it, it’s so small.”