Name: Dean and Nina Cornett.
Cameras: Canon VIXIA HF S10, Sony HDR-SR10.
Computer: HP Pavilion desktop 64-bit quad processor with 5GB RAM and 750GB mass storage (2).
Edition Platform: Adobe Premiere Elements 10.
Support Gear: Green screen, dolly, Rocketfish RF-TRP65c tripods (2), SM-58 microphone plus one other tripod and a few other mics.
My husband Dean and I fell into video producing by way of theft. Someone stole more than 100 standing hardwoods from his family land. When we reported the theft, the prosecutor advised us to make a video of the stumps and damage, because video is more effective in court than words. That was eight years ago, and we didn’t even own a camera. If we needed to photograph something, we bought a disposable, took our 26 exposures, and forgot about cameras until the next disposable.
We took the prosecutor’s advice and bought a video camera. Learning how to use it fell to my husband, and he applied himself with determination. Pretty soon he was not just pointing and shooting, but was talking about factors like white balance and depth of field, concepts we had never entertained in our previous life.
Luckily, we live on a beautiful salmon river in Alaska, and have wonderful scenery and wildlife to photograph. We started taking the camera along whenever we went out. Our very first camera-toting outing was a morning’s fishing. We had no sooner arrived on the river than a mother moose and calf appeared on the opposite bank. We immediately started to unfold the tripod and attach the camera. We were all thumbs, because the moose and calf put pressure on us by down-sloping off the steep bank and wading across the river straight toward us. As we were desperately trying to get set up, she was coming closer and closer.
We knew we needed to retreat, pronto, and finally just abandoned the camera, unsure if it was properly set up, turned on, or aimed. Once she’d gone and we came out of hiding, we discovered that the camera was running and aimed correctly, and captured perfect footage. You could even hear the stomping and sploshing as mother and calf passed. That helped to cement our interest in outdoor photography. When we had visitors, we began memorializing their visits with a gift video to take home.
The next step came about three years ago, when a neighbor showed us a wedding video and told us he was using Adobe Premiere Elements to edit his video. We fooled around with his copy and learned that a software editor is a lot more effective than on-camera editing. So we invested in a copy.
Another step came shortly afterward when a friend in Kentucky received one of our memorial videos, and decided we had skill enough to make a promotional documentary of a Kentucky state park with a sizable population of black bears. He was very pleased with the video, and took it to the Kentucky PBS director. It didn’t make the cut, but we were encouraged.
Our next effort was a 30-minute documentary on the disappearance of the American chestnut. It’s a dramatic story of blight, desperate efforts to control it, failure, and loss of a valuable species. We offered that to our PBS director, and were delighted to learn it had been accepted. It has run roughly once every two months on Kentucky PBS channels for about two years, and we hope it will run longer. It has also aired in New England.
We were very lucky to have only our second documentary picked up by PBS affiliates. We have since submitted two more, and neither made the cut. Videomaker emphasizes that the most important factor for a successful video is the story, and we agree. What made American Chestnut: Appalachian Apocalypse a success, we are convinced, is the research and the story. We are hoping to find another good story like that one. Meanwhile, we are accumulating wonderful video of wildlife, and plan to keep on with that.
Nina and Dean Cornett – Accidental Video Producers