The Boxcar (view this story)

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Rep: 1
Arnold MIller Dec. 2, 2012, 4:22 p.m. permalink

Hi Pat. Incredibly moving subject, and a well told story.

I wish your interview with Helen matched your b-roll of the box car. You have some great, beautifully framed and exposed shots of the box car, but the two interviews are flat and lifeless. I'm guessing that you shot the interviews on the you'll need to fix that in post in the future. If you're editing on FCP here's a link to some references.
I thought the ending too abrupt. The last words are her escort saying that this is a big step up...then she sobs and walks away. I really wanted to hear more from her while she was there in that moment. If she didn't say anything else, you could have used something from the interview to extend that moment.
Overall, well done.

Rep: 444
Eric Seals Dec. 3, 2012, 5:38 p.m. permalink

Hi Pat,

While I did like the length of the video and some of the b-roll of the box car especially at the end I think a different edit would have helped make this sing and have more impact especially for a topic as emotional as this can be.

For that good viewer impact instead of starting off with talking head/face time of Helen, go for what's GOLD! That nice footage of Helen in the box car crying. That would of set the tone and mood immediately and it would of made us feel for her from the get go. No words, just the natural sound of her in the moment.  That was good!

Wonder if there was more b-roll from that moment of her in the box car. Her hands touching or feeling the wood with a close up detail of her of hands on it, etc. Tight stuff of her face showing the emotion.

After the scene of her in the box car you could of gone right to the historic black and white pictures of a lone box car from Auschwitz as she talks about her experience or the horrors of the box car. Above that audio you'd have that black and white scene (or the still at the :57 sec mark) of the box car play out into a nice transitional cross fade to the current color of a box car now (even shot at the same angle to match well.)

I agree with Arnold about the interviews. 

The framing of them both didn't seem like video portraiture that I've seen from you in the past.  My belief is if you are going to have lots of face time in a piece made that portraiture pop with either dramatic lighting, framing, two camera shoots (wide and tight views)

Helen seemed to be in the wrong position and was looking way off camera. Was she looking at a reporter perhaps much farther away? 
Would there have been any way to interview her inside the box car or would you not be able to control the noise or people around? Would she not been able to handle that?

With Steve Tepper I didn't mind the framing so much but just the little details like that silver cabinet door handle behind him.

Not sure what kind of lighting you were using on Helen but it wasn't color balance it seems as she gave off a bluish hue to her.

With her old and crackly voice and so much to say I felt the back and forth between her and Steve was too much.  I know it's important to have Steve in here for the history of the car and details like that but was there a way to edit and sequence this differently? 
When I would hear her talk it was at short sound bite bursts then Steve then her again.  I wanted to get to know her more by listening to her story.

Hope this helps.


Rep: 48
Pat Shannahan Dec. 24, 2012, 7:52 a.m. permalink

Sorry for the late reply. When this was reviewed I was on vacation with my wife and have been in and out of town for work since I got back. Thanks for taking the time to check it out. 

I shot this a while ago. Arnold nailed it. It was the first one I did trying to use the Canon XA10. I had trouble figuring out the white balance on the camera. I thought it might be a better option for sound than the DSLR. I've since gone back to the DSLR. 

Helen helped get this boxcar to Arizona to be part of a museum. We went with her the first time she saw it in person. I interviewed her ahead of time and she was very talkative and an open book. We rode with her to the boxcar. The mood changed as we pulled up to where it was being stored. She got really quiet and you see what happened. My shooting time at the box car for video and stills with Helen was maybe 5 minutes, although that seems long. She was in the boxcar, reacted and left. I think she was surprised by how effected she was with seeing it in person. I was lucky to have time to make any stills. I actually like the ending. I like that it is a little abrupt. I disagree with showing the reaction shots at the start.

Our sister station turned it in to a pretty cool package. They ran my story and then did a live interview at the boxcar with an officer who was there when they liberated one of the concentration camps. 

Thanks again for checking it out. Hope you have a good holidays.


Rep: 444
Eric Seals Dec. 24, 2012, 9:14 a.m. permalink

I'm not familiar with the Canon XA10 but I hear you about the sound option on it or other "traditional" video cameras versus the sound off a HDSLR. Sometimes I still get nervous shooting some pieces with my 5D Mark 3's and dealing with the audio even though I can monitor the sound through the camera.

You know all about starting off strong, having the first 10 to 15 second being powerful or compelling visuals...If you don't like the idea of starting this piece off really strong visually versus the talking head of Helen how else could you grab or hook us at the beginning to keep us engaged??

I only mention Helen in the boxcar at the start because not only is it really, really strong visually mixed with the audio of her cries but more importantly having it at the beginning plays with viewers curiosity about her. If people are curious they want to know more. Depending how you'd cut or sequenced this it would force us to ask ourselves "What is going on with her? Where is she? Why is she so emotion? 

All those question lead to answers which you'd reveal to us meaning viewers would keep watching to see how it all unfolds and find out the answers to the questions they were asking themselves at the beginning of your piece.

That's the greatest thing! Not just a good story to tell but also leaving little visual and story bread crumbs for us to follow.

Have a great Christmas and New Years.


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