Engaging both elephants and art students

Before this assignment, I haven’t found myself transcoding video in the backseat of my car while driving a long distance since grad school. A lesson in how a light feature can quickly turn into ‘breaking news’…

I started shooting this story a few weeks ago by visiting a class at MassArt called “Toys for Elephants.” It’s a semester-long course in which this class of about 15 students research elephant behavior, get to know the two elephants at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, and then design, pitch and fabricate large toys for these two elephants. I visited them while they were working on their toys in the metalworking and woodworking studios at MassArt.

Fast forward to the morning of the hand-off day — the day at the end of the semester in which they bring the toys to the zoo, install them, and let the elephants have at them. The reporter and I arrive to find several other local news outlets also in attendance, unexpectedly. Of course, we had to sound the alarm to our editors and they decide that the story I thought I would have most of the next week to work on for a Sunday feature, was going to run the next day (so as to beat our competitors).

With about five interviews and a lot of footage, plus the delayed installation of the toys, time contraints of ingesting and transcoding the video, traffic, editing time, compressing and uploading, I realized that finishing this particular video story for the next day would be pretty much impossible.

I told them I would try my best not to stay up all night and still have it ready. I ended up processing the video as I drove to New York (which was previously planned weekend trip), slept when I got to New York, then woke up at 6am, edited until noon, compressed, uploaded and had it ready by 1pm for a centerpiece on BostonGlobe.com. Oh, the adventures of newspaper video!

I would say it was near-record time for producing this story. It has a couple of bumpy parts that I would have taken time to smooth out if I had more time, but I’m happy how it turned out considering the circumstances.