For less than $100, you can create your own studio to provide, instant, 24/7 news media interviews.
How? Today's HD (high-definition) webcams offer near-broadcast quality audio and video.
TV networks frequently use webcam interviews, and local stations are quickly falling in line. But in many cases, video quality is crude with strange lighting, unbalanced color and poor sound quality.
When I worked in television news, we would never have aired video with such poor quality, unless it was an interview with Jimmy Hoffa, recorded last week in his secret hiding place. Years ago, a national association of radio and television news directors surveyed its members asking how they would define investigative reporting. One member memorably answered, "Grainy, out-of-focus film." What that member meant was if that's the only film we can get, we'll take it.
But times have changed, and so has technology. As more people learn how to use webcams, they will become the norm, replacing today's phone interviews.
Why? Webcam interviews are cheap. The TV station doesn't need $75,000 worth of equipment, a photographer and the time it takes for a camera crew to travel round-trip to interview the subject. With a webcam, reporters can sit comfortably at their desks during a blizzard and talk to their source to flesh out the story.
Get Ahead of the Curve
So you'd better get ahead of the curve. Webcams offer new technology and survival skills for EMS agencies and the people who work for them.
Another concept to consider is that the news media is always looking for experts who can flesh out today's story. Once you establish yourself as someone who has on-camera skills to talk about the things you know best, media representatives will keep coming back to you as an expert to analyze the events and predict where the story will go next.
That gives you and your agency priceless public exposure and advertising. We will always give more credibility to what you say in a news story than we would if you said the same thing in a commercial. You can become the expert on call, 24/7.
Here's how to do it, step-by-step.
Most webcams built into computers don't meet the new quality standards. If you have a built-in webcam, check it against specifications the best new webcams provide.
- Full high definition (HD) resolution: Look for 1080 horizontal lines of pixels (the tiny dots that make up the picture) which is the same resolution as HD television.
- Adjustability: Make sure you have the ability to tune the camera for focus (sharpness), brightness, contrast, color hue (so you don't look green or purple) and color saturation (intensity). The webcam can be tuned to get the best picture, just as you tune a TV set. This is usually done with software that comes with the webcam.
- Megapixel count: The megapixel count for still pictures is a good indication of the webcam's quality. The best webcams now shoot 10-megapixel still photos. Five years ago, most full-fledged digital cameras were not that sophisticated.
- Built-in microphone: Look for a webcam that features a built-in microphone designed to improve quality when the interviewee is not up close, while it muffles background noise.
Start shopping by searching online for "webcam reviews." You'll probably find reviewers for national computer magazines like the same two or three models. Shop online for the best deal. The best new HD models list for less than $100, and oftentimes they are on sale for nearly half that.
Installation is easy. Load the installation disk into your computer's CD drive, which automatically begins the process. Plug the webcam into a USB port when prompted by the program. Astounding! You'll suddenly be staring at yourself in your computer monitor. Test the sound the webcam microphone picks up and you're ready to go.
Placement of the webcam and lighting are critical if you want the shot to look professional. Place the camera at nose-level height. Most cameras clip to the top of a computer monitor so you may have to raise your chair or place some books under the monitor so the camera is at the right height.