Volunteering

Okay, so I didn’t fall off the edge of the world, even if it felt that way because the last two weeks have been so insanely busy.

To begin with, last Monday, I started my official Dutch lessons (kindly sponsored by Booking.com’s IT partner programme). This means that I have 4-hours of weekly lessons and tons of homework for the next 10 weeks – hooray! I am so excited to have a useful way to spend my time again.

Speaking of which, I am also volunteering at Broadcast Amsterdam, which is a community TV organisation that broadcasts on SALTO (on one of their TV stations). From what I gather, SALTO is a public service broadcaster like the SABC. 

I suspect they also have better leadership than the SABC, but until I am more fluent in Dutch, I’m unable to do more comprehensive research.

I am trying to start a news programme for Broadcast Amsterdam with another volunteer, Gosia, and we produced our pilot between Tuesday and Sunday last week. This proved to be a challenge – mainly due to time restrictions (thanks to my new course and 2nd job interview in Delft on Friday), along with the total lack of equipment.

After debating about the format and writing the script, I filmed our first attempt on Tom’s handycam (a gift from his previous company) without a microphone or headphones. As a radio producer, the inability to hear the sound being recorded was a nightmare. That was made worse by the fact that I could not hold a camera still for longer than 3 seconds.

As you can see, Gosia’s presenting is fine, but my recording is not. So many things are wrong with that shot.

Gosia is a Polish law student, who is also fluent in Dutch. She’s keen to work in journalism back in Poland, so this news broadcast is a chance for her to get some experience. For me, it’s a chance to play in the television space, even though I still think television news is seriously flawed:

After attempting to edit the shaky footage with terrible sound in Windows Movie Maker, which is seriously basic, I gave in and asked Tom if I could buy some equipment (a tripod and sound recorder).

I settled on the Tascam DR-05, which is well below the quality of equipment I usually use, but has the best reviews of equipment in its price range. Years of experience have shown me that good journalism can be produced using even the most basic equipment (the opposite is also true), provided you are prepared and find the right venue.

…which brought me to my next problem – a venue. At Rhodes, I was blessed with having recording studios and tons of equipment at my disposal, but here, I have nothing.

Options:

  • hire a studio for approximately 20 euros (R280) per hour – not realistic for an unemployed person
  • record at home – not useful since I live too far from Amsterdam for Gosia
  • find a public place

Gosia and I scouted various possible venues, including the Amsterdam Library and the Music Conservatory, which is where that first clip was taken. The main problem was trying to find a good sound location (the best places are usually tiny, well furnished rooms with low ceilings and no windows) that also had suitable lighting. When you can’t afford lighting, you have to go for natural light or windows. I could think of places that fulfilled one or the other requirement, but not both; so several takes later, we ended up trying to convert Gosia’s home into a studio.

I then downloaded the Adobe Creative Suite 2014 on a 30-day trial basis to edit. I enjoyed having the chance to edit video again, but my laptop is really old and can’t handle the software. This means I can’t edit in real-time – at no point in the process were her lips moving at the same speed as the sound. Editing essentially involved a lot of trial and error (the editing equivalent of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey).

Because of this, I spent my entire Sunday from 7.30 am to 5.30pm editing and processing the video, instead of going to Cambridge with Tom.

That, along with the stress from Friday’s interview made my week feel very, very long.

The result (I can’t show it until it airs) was mediocre. I was most disappointed by the sound, which wasn’t great, and I’m going to have to find ways to fix that for next week. But I love a challenge, so this should be fun…

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About Danika Marquis

Danika is an e-learning developer at TUDelft and former radio lecturer at Rhodes University.
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