I first met Rav Vadgama when we ran the VJ bootcamps for Channel One in London in 1994.
Like you, he also 'cut the carrots'. But he has gone on to make an extremely successful career out of being a VJ, in a professional world that at first did not accept him.
Read his story. It's an inspiration to everyone who ever dreamt of being a VJ and living a remrakable life driven by video.
In 23 years I’ve been at the forefront of the ‘digital revolution’, riding the wave of ‘convergence’ to where I am presently - watching the industry adapting again to the reality of modern life - gadgets, 4G, millennials and Netflix! I’ve adapted because I’m a Videojournalist, and you will too.
During these two decades, four things have become clear:
Technology will always disrupt the status quo
In the old days of news gathering you had the ridiculous scenario of four- or five-person crews going to stories. A slow and sluggish way of operating, and so very expensive. It was the norm because the kit was specialised, and everyone was highly trained to operate their own equipment.
The work-flow meant stories were covered in specific ways, costed to take into account salaries, travel and accommodation and large bulky gear. Of course, it was always taboo if a ‘journalist’ touched a camera.
And then along came smaller digital cameras with digital storage and smaller batteries with professional sound-inputs. Need to get a live report from South Africa? Sure, send one person (not five) with no check-in luggage (and no excess baggage) who will almost certainly just need one hotel room (and not five). In 1991, a three-sectioned heavy Ikegami M2 news camera cost upwards of $90k, four years later Sony’s Hi-8 handycam cost $6k. Today my trusty Canon XF105 HD camera is $2k on Amazon. When I travel now all of my TV gear (camera, tripod, lights, uplink, cables) fits in one plane overhead bag.
Technology evolves in cycles
Smaller cameras may have ruined the traditional five-person crew, but that disruption is nothing compared to what’s happening right now - the media earthquake called ‘IP broadcasting’.
In the last three years I’ve not used a satellite truck (an SNG truck) to broadcast from. Last November, my own show replaced three of its traditional big diesel SNG trucks and switched solely to IP broadcasting - a small shoebox-sized encoder. The technology allows you to use regular cellular networks to send back live video and audio. No cellular coverage then use Wi-Fi or LAN. No Wi-Fi then plug your shoebox into a flyaway data uplink dish that takes 10 minutes to assemble. No camera, then use the app - really!
Today you can go live from a mountain top in Nepal with a smartphone. And I’m not talking Facebook Live, I mean terrestrial TV broadcast live. Trust me, I’ve done it. The technology is far cheaper than the traditional satellite trucks, and it removes the potential ‘chain of failure’ between you and your newsroom, that’s the series of MCR engineers and line-switchers before a signal is routed to where it needs to go. A traditional SNG truck can cost you $100k a year to lease and operate. You can do the same with an IP box for $20k a year. Even the simplest of calculations shows you can do five live locations for the cost of one.
Yesterday, cameras. Today IP broadcasting. What’s coming tomorrow? You need to be able to answer that question.
If you take your eye off what the kids are doing, you’re doomed
This is two-fold:
Firstly, never underestimate the bright young and hungry newcomers to the profession; there are more media graduates every year in the UK then people currently employed in the industry. They’re not burdened by the baggage of how it used to be, they’re looking at how to do it better. They will never have to carry a heavy beta-cam around with a bag of tapes and batteries. They can whip out a smart-phone, shoot something, and have it to an audience of millions quicker than CNN. That’s a powerful asset for any media company!
Secondly, children, young people, tomorrow’s consumers… eat up media in a very different way. I have two daughters aged 9 and 11. They watch YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and ITV Hub. TV yes - on mobile devices. As a family, we do less ‘appointment to view’ these days, but we do all still consume a lot of media. I may watch my own show live or catch the highlights online via social media clips. TV isn’t automatically a 65-inch Samsung, so maybe think about formatting what you do to be seen on a 5-inch smartphone too. Small font size is a no-no.
Change is good, no matter what it is
It was Mike Rosenblum who thrust a Hi-8 at me 23 years ago. Over my career I’ve not solely worked as a VJ, but also as a producer, an executive producer, a presenter, a reporter, a news editor, a senior producer, an editor and a cameraman. I’ve worked at small production companies and large international broadcasters. I’ve worked in breaking news and in short-form docs. I’m the guy who has commissioned a series about hospital emergency-rooms, as well as spent 60 hours straight filming in them for someone else. I really believe my VJ multi-skilled grounding has allowed me to switch roles with ease as and when necessary.
I’ve always been of the mind that change is good, no matter whether I’m a part of it or not, but I appreciate it’s a daunting prospect for many. At GMB there are Videojournalists, multi-media and online journalists, correspondents who film, edit, and present their own live reports on equipment they’ve set-up themselves. From the outside it’s a studio show with live injects and a strong online presence, but it thrives on being flexible and ‘of the moment’. It really wouldn’t be possible to have that relationship with the audience with traditional crewing and work-flows.
My advice to newcomers to the industry has always been; don’t be afraid to pick up kit, because a producer not touching a camera is a like a writer not picking up a pencil. And as the media world constantly changes it’s even more important to be multi-skilled.
-Rav Vadgama is Senior Producer & Videojournalist for Good Morning Britain, the UK’s commercial morning show. Check out his work at www.rebelwithoutacrew.co.uk or pick his brains on Twitter @TVRav.