March 1, 2010

The JAMA Video Project


JAMA is smallpower's local non-profit media partner here in Kinshasa. The JAMA team works side-by-side with us to produce all of our shows like the popular narrative drama series Rien que la Vérité (Nothing but the Truth).

Ntoya setting up the camera in Kasa-Vubu

Altogether the JAMA team is comprised of some two dozen Congolese from around the country who work as videographers, producers and office administrators. JAMA is about to take a bold new step forward in the next several weeks as it launches out on its own as a stand-alone post-production and video services organization.

Starting this week, we will begin a new training program with JAMA to teach five multimedia producers on how to shoot video at international standards for news coverage, embassy events and concerts. Since JAMA's production team is already rather sophisticated in video production for non-news related content, this transition should not pose much of a challenge.

I have been shooting news for decades now and what I've learned in the process is that there's a very straightforward formula that needs to be followed. First and foremost, 80-90% of the content needs to be shot using a tripod. In many parts of the developing world, including here in the DRC, the overwhelming majority of news videographers resist using a tripod. It's not that they don't have one, instead it's just one of those things that is considered optional.

When you watch a news report of a press conference from CNN or the BBC, one of the first things you should notice is how stable each shot is without any of that "home video" shaky look. So once we establish the importance of clean, stable shots, then it comes down to a simple check list of shots:

  1. The wide establishing shot that opens the report
  2. The establishing shot of the event itself
  3. The medium shot of the people or subject at the center of the event
  4. Establishing shot of particular speaker
  5. Soundbite from that speaker
  6. A few shots of generic video known as b-roll
  7. A great closing shot

While this is a rather generic list, it's this kind of checklist that serves as the foundation for a considerable portion of mainstream international news coverage. The creativity comes in selecting the best shots while ensuring that both audio and video levels are correct.

After a few weeks of training, we will also launch a new marketing campaign to international organizations in Kinshasa that have a clear need for video production services. There are dozens of embassies and organizations like the World Bank, the UN and the International Monetary Fund that all have media events here but no way of either producing news coverage they can submit to television stations or create content for internal use to send back to their main offices in the West. Furthermore, we will build a rather unique pricing mechanism here for JAMA's services: simple, easy to understand fixed prices.

One of the distinctive characteristics about doing business here in the DRC is that the price on Monday is not necessarily the same price on Tuesday and so on. JAMA Video Productions will market itself in a very straightforward manner where the prices will be published so the client never has to fear a sudden, unexpected price change. We are confident that the combination of offering international standard production services at a low, fixed price is a unique proposition in Kinshasa where no such service currently exists for the international community.

Best of all, we are excited about the prospect of building JAMA's capacity to sustain itself independently through the revenue generated from this service. The JAMA production team is gearing up while the JAMA admin team is working on brochures, a new website and a comprehensive marketing plan to get the word out to the community.



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