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Doug Jensen -- Introduction


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Hello everyone, it is nice to see the new forum getting off to a great start.  My name is Doug Jensen, and I would describe myself as someone who “lives and breathes” television production and digital cinematography. As a cameraman, producer, director, editor, consultant, and founder of Vortex Media, I thoroughly enjoy being involved in all facets of video and television production. My professional roles have included: freelance ENG/EFP owner-operator; hand-held camera operator for live sporting events and concerts; television news photographer; director of photography for documentaries; and corporate video writer/director/producer specializing in training and promotional videos.

The thing I like best about this business is being able to wear so many different hats.  I can go out to shoot wildlife one day, edit and color grade the next, put the final touches on a corporate script for a client, and then travel to teach a workshop next week.  I love having that kind of variety in my work.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had a passion for photography.  I would shoot photos for the school newspaper, the yearbook, and anyone else who could use my services.  My brother and I even built a very nice black & white darkroom in the basement of our home.  My first experience shooting video didn’t happen until I was a college student in the early 1980’s.   The school I chose has a world-renowned film program with a full-service motion picture studio, sound stages, back-lots, etc.  In addition, the school operates a fully equipped PBS television station that produces documentaries, a nightly newscast, and dozens of hours of live sports programming each year for many of the major television and cable networks.

In those days at the university there wasn’t very much interaction between the “film” students and the “broadcasting” students.  Everyone was on one side of the fence or the other.  However, recognizing the benefits that both curriculums had to offer, I was the first person at the school to bridge the gap and go through both programs.  In my film classes I learned a lot about the theory of production, but there was very little hands-on experience.  Fortunately, the television classes were completely the opposite.   With virtually no instruction or supervision at all, I was routinely handed a camera, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and basically told to go out and shoot something.

I worked on every film or television production that I could.  I pretty much lived at the studios, and when I didn’t have to be in class, that’s where I was – watching and learning. By the end of my freshman year, I was hired by the television station to manage all student crews and coordinate multiple sports and news productions.  I will admit that having that responsibility at age 19 felt strange since I was basically in charge of seniors who were just about to graduate.

On weekends I would be assigned to shoot highlights of different sporting events around campus.  That meant that I had motor pool van and a high-end broadcast TV camera at my disposal to do whatever I wanted with.  I took advantage of that opportunity to shoot as much as I could, including other sports, wildlife, nature, and anything else that interested me.  That is where I learned my camera skills and honed my craft.  I could experiment and make mistakes because I was mostly shooting for myself.  Today, anyone can buy a camera and go shoot broadcast-quality video, but in the early 80's my situation was unheard of. 

You can’t become a good camera operator or cinematographer in a classroom. You have to get out and do it. Auhor Malcolm Gladwell postulates in his book “Outliers”, that it takes 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" to become proficient in any field, and I got a good chunk of that 10,000 hours under my belt during those years in college. With a little arm twisting of the faculty, I was able to graduate with a BA in just three years so I could get out of school and start working in the real world as a freelance shooter on documentaries and other types of productions.

People forget that there were practically zero non-broadcast video production opportunities prior to the early 1980’s because there was no outlet for distribution.  VHS and Betamax changed all that.  The mid-80’s was a boom-time for non-broadcast video production, and I took advantage of it. Just a couple of months out of school, I formed my own production company that focused primarily on training and promotional videos for businesses and various state and federal government agencies.  I was able to get an equipment loan and bought my first Sony camera (DXC-M3), some lighting gear, and ¾” U-matic editing equipment. 

What appealed to me most about corporate video, besides the income, was that I could be my own boss and exercise full creative control over all aspects of the production.  My production company experienced excellent growth, and before I knew it, I had several employees, a sound stage, multiple cameras, three edit bays, etc.   It was about then that I realized that I was spending too much time running a business, and not enough time do the fun stuff (shooting and editing) that attracted me to the video production business in the first place.  So, in 1998 I sold my production company in Utah, took some time off, and then moved to New England to start over fresh --  with no employees this time.

For about 8 years I worked as a freelance “Betacam” broadcast shooter who owned all my own gear.  I was shooting regularly for every broadcast network, the major cable channels, Fortune 500 corporations, the major news magazine shows, documentaries, and so forth.  It felt like I was on vacation because all I had to do was shoot – hand over the tapes at the end of the day – and move on to the next assignment.

My credits and clients include Olympic Broadcasting (OBS), Eco-Challenge Fiji, TMZ, SpaceX, NASA, Space Force, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, PBS, BBC, NHK, EBU, TNT, A&E, E!, ESPN, HGTV, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Travel Channel, History Channel, Sundance Channel, Warner Bros., Weather Channel, Golf Channel, NASCAR Images, MLB Productions, NBA Entertainment, Holland America, USDA Forest Service, Microsoft, Hasbro, Disney, Textron, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer, Bayer, Amgen, Pampered Chef, Wendy's, UPS, Ocean Spray, AARP, Volvo, Lockheed, and many others.

However, eventually my entrepreneurial roots took over again and I found myself transitioning back into “production company” mode. So,  I founded Vortex Media and got back into writing, shooting, and editing instructional videos for corporate clients. 

Around 2006, I purchased my first tapeless HD television camera (Sony PDFW-F350) and found it was quite different than my old Betcam.  It took some time, but eventually I learned the camera and the tapeless workflow inside and out.  Many of my colleagues were mystified by the new cameras, or simply didn’t want to invest the time required to learn a whole new type of equipment.  So, one day I had an epiphany . . . why not produce a training video that will help other people learn to operating their new camera proficiently? For nearly three decades I had been doing essentially that same thing for clients’ medical devices, software, electronics, and other products.  So, here was the opportunity to combine what I am passionate about (cameras) with the teaching skills I had honed over the years producing training videos for clients.

The idea took off and within a couple of years, I had mostly given up freelancing and was spending most of my time producing instructional videos for professional television cameras and consumer DSLRs.  Today, teaching, in one form or another, is what I spend most of my time doing.  I teach classes at Maine Media Workshops each summer and I conduct custom on-site production-training classes for corporate clients, government, military, and broadcasters.

In the last decade I’ve produced a couple dozen Master Class training videos and field guide books for Sony camcorders: 

My in-depth knowledge of Sony cameras eventually developed into a close working relationship with Sony.  A relationship that I value very much.  For about 15 years I’ve worked for Sony at NAB and helped with other special projects.  I currently own the following Sony cameras:  FX6, A1, F55 w/R7 RAW recorder, FS7 w/R5 RAW recorder, Z750, Z280, and a6300.   And just for the record, I bought those cameras from B&H.  Sony does not provide me with cameras!

When I’m not working for clients or training colleagues, there’s nothing I enjoy more than taking one my cameras out and shooting stock footage.  It is fun, relaxing, and best of all, there’s no client looking over my shoulder.  I feel so lucky to be able to make a living doing exactly what I’d be doing as a weekend hobby if I had a real job!

If you have questions about Sony cameras, lenses, workflows, lighting, grading, etc., please fire away and I’ll do my best to help you.


Stock Footage portfolio

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Doug, you've seen so many changes and been around for it all in the front seat as an entrepreneur. It's great to have you on here to share your wisdom! I started out during the transition to tapeless HD. What I want to know is, what the heck do I do with all these miniDV tapes I have in a box somewhere? Still waiting for a good use to pop up...

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Doug, you've seen so many changes and been around for it all in the front seat as an entrepreneur. It's great to have you on here to share your wisdom! I started out during the transition to tapeless HD. What I want to know is, what the heck do I do with all these miniDV tapes I have in a box somewhere? Still waiting for a good use to pop up...

Thanks, Oakley. It is nice to meet you too, and have you on the forum.  Reading your introduction inspired me to write my story down.

What to do with old tapes? Good question.  Probably throw them out unless they have any historical or archival value.

My old production company in Utah told me a few years ago they were doing spring cleaning and wanted to know what I wanted them to do with my 5000+ Betacam tapes that were in storage. I told them to throw them out . . . and I've had no regrets.  Four years ago, when moving to Florida, I went through all my old HDV and DV tapes and transferred a few of them to hard drives.  And then I threw all them away, too. In my case, anything that isn't HD or 4K is never going to be needed for anything.

I know some photographers and video shooters who believe in saving every image, every clip, and every file forever.  I am not in that camp.  Whatever I don't think I'll ever need something again, I throw it away.  In fact when I get back from a shoot, normally I don't even ingest all the contents of my cards.  I go through the footage with Catalyst Browse and only ingest the clips and/or certain segments of clips onto my drives that I know are worthy of saving.  Hey, that gives me an idea, I think I'll start a new thread and share that workflow in the next day or two. It cuts the amount of footage I have to ingest, back-up, duplicate, archive, manage, etc. by at least 50%.  That adds up.

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