By Matthew Allard
The recent trend in TV news has been that of quick turnaround of materials, often at the expense of image quality. But if your pictures are poor, you might as well just listen to radio news. While there will always be a demand for speed, it is good to see that some people are still concerned about quality images. This year, Al Jazeera has taken a major step forward in the promotion and use of high quality images. A new show called “Frames” has debuted and will run 2-minute character-driven short pieces at the end of long format documentaries. They are shown not just online but to a global audience on TV and are mostly shot on DSLR cameras.
Al Jazeera has been among the pioneers using DSLR cameras to shoot news stories and programmes. The first news story solely shot with this technology aired on the station back in September 2009. Since then there have been many more and the flagship programme “Fault Lines” – a 30-minute show covering the United States and South America, which airs twice a month – is now shot almost entirely on DSLR.
Slowly, other international news networks are catching up and beginning to introduce the technology. Mark Phillips from CNN saw some of my works and went out and bought a Canon 7D after examining mine. When he shot an episode of CNN’s “Heroes,” the impressed Atlanta head office responded fast and got more people shooting this show on DSLR. Sky News and the BBC have also started shooting on these cameras in small amounts.
Hopefully, more and more organisations will take note of the creativity made possible by DSLR and try to encourage quality images. With so many changes in technology and the rapid improvements of small cameras capable of capturing amazing visions, there’s reason to be optimistic this trend will continue.
In the meantime, here’s more about Frames in Al Jazeera’s own words:
“Al Jazeera is constantly evaluating the way that our audience digests our news and programmes. As such, the internet has become a powerful broadcasting medium for us. But not just for us. Thousands of talented filmmakers, armed with now-affordable filmmaking equipment, have been given a platform to host quality, short-form content and show it to the world. The idea of Al Jazeera Frames was to tap into this pool; to give outstanding storytellers a greater platform; to grant them a higher level of exposure than they would otherwise get from rival broadcasters and video-sharing sites alone. We’re breaking down the traditional model of acquiring and commissioning films, and showing-off new, gifted filmmakers at every opportunity. The key is the short-form. Frames pushes short-form content to the forefront of documentary broadcasting. In an online video age, where shorter-form stories are now the most watched and most engaged-with forms of content anywhere, people have less time for traditional longer-form documentaries. Al Jazeera’s Frames capitalises on this phenomenon, bringing quality, socially-minded DSLR shorts and animations to our audience. Frames was the brainchild of Omar Khalifa, a DSLR filmmaker in Al Jazeera’s documentaries department.”
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has covered news events in more than 30 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras as well as new Canon DSLR’s.