A Fun Ham Radio Antenna Party to Repair the Field Day Antennas

I’m a member of the local Montrose Amateur Radio Club. Last Saturday we held an antenna party to repair the 20-meter Yagi monobander and the 15-meter Yagi monobander antennas. I thought I’d try a documentary approach to the video, so I interviewed most of the participants plus grabbed a bunch of B-roll (extra shots to superimpose on the videos). Here’s the result:

A few lessons learned:

  • You can’t ever get too much B-roll! I used 90% of what I grabbed, and wished for much more! (The B-roll shots are those of people actually working on the antenna.) At least I always tried to record each clip to be ten seconds long—a good choice. In the future: get B-roll of every possible angle of the work going on. And then get some more!
  • Audio, audio, audio! I used a lavaliere microphone clipped to the interviewee’s chest. That part worked well. But I recorded straight into the camera rather than use a separate recorder. The camera’s AGC caused the background noise to come up between the interviewee’s words. If I’d used my separate audio recorder, I could have set the level manually, which would have kept the background noise down substantially. Note: I tried a bunch of different techniques to process the audio, but nothing worked, so the audio in the video is straight.
  • Headphones! Every time I shoot something like this, I wish I had my headphones with me to see what kind of audio I’m actually capturing. I didn’t—if I had, I wouldn’t have lost one of the interviews due to no sound.
  • Tape the stupid on-off button on the lavaliere microphone to keep it on! I lost one of the interviews because when the interviewee slipped the little battery box into his pocket, the button got pushed off. I could have noticed this had I looked at the audio level indicator on the camera’s screen, but…argh!…I didn’t!
  • One thing that did work well was for me to stand behind the camera and look over it right into the interviewee’s eyes. That way the interviewee thought he was talking to me rather than the camera, and the eye angles were very good.
  • Another thing that worked well was that I asked each interviewee a different question. Examples: Why do you like Field Day? Why is the antenna so big? How does a Yagi work? What work did you do today? Why did the antennas need so much work? That way each interviewee talked about different things, which gave nice coverage for the entire event.
  • One more thing that worked well, even though it meant more background noise, was to interview people close to where the action was. That way they maintained their psychological connection with what the others were doing. I think if I’d interviewed them in another room, they’d have been less enthusiastic.
  • I went for the documentary style rather than a narrated style; I think it worked out great! You don’t hear my voice until at the very, very end, where I ask Royce what the point of the whole exercise was. He stopped clowning around and gave a superb interview, which I used much earlier in the video. But it sure was fun to include his clowning after the credits rolled!
  • Each interview was one take. I cut them up so I could thread them together into something of a story. CyberLink PowerDirector 12 made this pretty easy. I just dropped the entire interview into the timeline and chopped out everything except what I wanted for that clip.
  • I kept each interview short. In most cases I asked a single question—they answered and then I thanked them and went to the next person. In a couple cases I asked follow-up questions, but not many. I wanted each interviewee to feel they were important, but not being interrogated or put on the spot. This worked well. No one turned me down for an interview, and toward the end each seemed particularly eager to be interviewed.

Overall it was a remarkably positive experience. The antenna party was a success. These people are delighted to be radio hams!

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