Your connection to the Video Section of the NSS

August 1998  Vol. 4  No 3

From the Editor

I don’t know about anybody else, but I had a great time at the NSS Convention in Sewanee, Tennessee. One of the best aspects of this Convention was the weather. No rain, temperatures were bearable with reasonable humidity. I remember 9 years ago that the temperature and humidity were almost unbearable in Sewanee. It was so bad that we almost lived in the campground lake, and we went caving in Wet Cave just to get out of the heat.

This years’ convention saw quite a bit of activity for the Video Section. Besides the usual annual meeting on Tuesday, we also had an In-Cave video workshop, and then a demonstration and discussion on nonlinear editing using a Draco Casablanca digital editor.

Conventions are always a good event for signing up new members. This year we managed to recruit 3 or 4 new members. Of course, the whole reason for getting new members is to increase the likelihood of getting articles for the Cavideo newsletter!

All kidding aside, sit back, relax, and enjoy this issue of the Cavideo newsletter.

Dave Socky
Editor - Cavideo Newsletter

Dues are due

It is past time to pay dues to the Video Section for the 1998/99 year.

If your address label is highlighted in orange, then you owe dues for the Video Section. In order to pay up, please send a check to the following address. Make the check payable to "NSS Video Section" and send to:

NSS Video Section
c/o Dave Socky
6572 Woodbrook Dr SW
Roanoke, VA 24018-5402

1998 Treasurers Report

Below is the Annual Video Section Treasurers report (given at the NSS Convention), for everyone to consider. The report is for the period from the 1997 NSS Convention to the 1998 NSS Convention (6/24/97 to 8/3/98):

1998 Video Section TREASURER'S REPORT

6/24/97 Through 8/3/98

Balance as of 6/24 1997


Cave Video Back Issues sales $2.00
Dues $95.00
Interest Income $10.56
Cavideo Cost  
postage $30.70
Printing $18.45
Total Cavideo Cost $49.15
Net Gain $ 58.41
Balance as of 8/3/98 $375.12

As of the ’98 NSS Convention, the Video Section has a total of $375.12.

Notice that income from dues has more than supported the costs of publishing the Cavideo newsletter. I am an issue behind, but the cost per issue is turning out to be around $10 to $20, depending on the number of pages I have. Because of the missing issue, the NSS Video Section had an overall gain of $58.00 in 1998. Not bad for such a small organization.

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Convention Videography Workshop Results

At the 1998 NSS Convention in Wet Cave, Sewanee, Tennessee

This years’ NSS Convention was very active as far as video projects and activities go. The general business meeting included an excellent talk by Jim McConkey on lighting techniques and considerations in caves. This went along very well with the In-Cave Workshop held on Wednesday morning of the Convention in Wet Cave, TN. In spite of the early hour, we had a 12 cavers (a good turnout) for the video workshop.

The roster for the trip included the following cavers: Dave Socky, Mary Sue Socky, Nicholas Socky (7 years old), Jim McConkey, Jose Curras, David Larson, Marc Morrow, Karen Philips, Elizabeth Rousseau, Charlie (Weasel) Williams, Eleanor, and Eleanor's husband. I apologize for not getting everyone's name. I should have had a sign up list .. oh well.

We had two cameras, my Sony Hi8 and Dave Larson had a JVC digital camera. We spent the morning taking videos of intrepid cavers going through the lower levels of Wet Cave. Between the two cameras, we probably got about 35 to 40 minutes worth of raw video footage.

On Thursday morning, we had a demonstration of a non-linear video editor called Casablanca, from Draco Systems. My intention was to digitize the footage that we took on Wednesday, and demonstrate the capabilities of the Casablanca by editing the footage on Wet Cave. I learned very quickly that it would have taken most of the morning just to digitize the footage in a reasonable manner. Instead, we spent the morning just going over the operation and capabilities of the editor using a few scenes input from the footage in Wet Cave. I was also able to demonstrate titling and audio from a previous project that was still on the system.

All-in-all, I hope everyone enjoyed the video activities at the Convention as much as I did. I am definitely looking forward to next year.

Video Section
‘98 Annual Meeting Minutes

The business portion of the 1998 NSS Video Section Annual meeting was short and sweet. Paul Stevens presided as Vice Chair since Fred Baumann could not make it to the Convention this year. All officers were reelected unanimously and with no objections from the officers. So, for another year, Fred Baumann is Chairman, Paul Stevens is Vice Chair, Dave Socky is Secretary/Treasurer and editor.

Jim McConkey gave a very good talk on lighting techniques and considerations in cave video. The next issue of the Cavideo will include portions of Jim’s talk.

There was some discussion on non linear video editing using the Miro 30+, the Digital Perception System, and the Casablanca editor. We also previewed videos by Dave Socky and Paul Stevens.

The meeting adjourned at noon, right on schedule.


Tips on Producing a Cave Video

By Dave Socky

I've produced a few videos here and there, but never anything large enough to require lots and lots of support. The closest I have come to doing pre-production work was the MTV style music video called "We’re Cavers and We’re Rescuers". However, I have picked up a few points and tips on how to plan a video, some of which are described below. It should be remembered that there is a ton of information in books, magazines, and even the web on how to produce a video. Most of this material is not caving related, but it is still applicable.

The first thing you need to do for your cave video is to decide on a story line, plot, or even just deciding what message you want to get across to your audience. For instance, is your program going to be a documentary on the discovery and exploration of a cave? Maybe a program on the trials and tribulations of the latest push trips appeal to you. Do you want to tell a story on how difficult and challenging it is to explore the cave? Or is the emphasis to be on conservation and safety? Another idea would be to produce a training video (the program Call for Help by Paul Stevens comes to mind). What are the technical difficulties? Is cave diving or vertical work involved? Does the story include scenes of passages that are very difficult to get to? I could go on and on, but you get idea. It is at this stage that you want to decide on how long the video will be. Once this information is decided on, we can go to the next step.

Once you have decided on the theme or story line, then you need to list the major portions of the video. If it is the history of exploration, you may want to break it down by the major push trips that have occurred. You can include shots of the passage that was discovered on each trip along with shots of the map as the length of the cave grew. If you want to do some caver interviews, then you can include who is to be interviewed and on what topic in the development of the major video segments.

Once you have broken the show down into major segments, you can break each segment down into descriptions of each individual shot (or just a description of the types of shots you would like for each segment).

Having done all of the above, you can now plan each shoot, determine how many cavers it will take and what equipment you'll need. You can also make a stab on how many trips it will take to get all the footage you need. Remember, the above plan is only preliminary. It is an iterative process, which means that as you do a sequence of scenes, you may need to alter the plan based on the footage you were able to get. Once modified, you can schedule more shots.

When you are actually filming the scenes, you will find that directing can be quite a challenge. One aspect of directing involves any dialogue that may need to occur between cavers. If you plan on having dialogue, then you need to make sure your cavers know how to 'act' (as in actors) and are not camera shy. Whether the dialogue is to be impromptu or fixed by the story line, the cavers need to appear natural. Stilted, or obviously memorized dialogue can ruin an otherwise good video. If it is not possible to find cavers who can speak naturally, then it is best not to include dialogue.

If you plan to do a set of scenes that are supposed to occur on the same trip, but are actually shot on separate days, then you need to make sure you use the same cavers and that they are wearing the same clothes. Make sure that the order of showing multiple cavers is the same. This is called continuity. An example of this can be demonstrated by one of my videos: "Beyond the Lost Waterfall". The program was about a group of cavers who discovered and explored a lot of cave passage all on one day. However, it took several years to get all the scenes I wanted, which resulted in Randy Michael growing a full beard while on a one day trip! This demonstrates a lack of continuity.

The longer the video, the more cavers you will need. In order to be productive, it would be best is you can delegate responsibility. One caver to handle the lights, another to assure continuity, another to do music and titling, etc. If you can, it is always helpful to have more than one camera shooting each scene. That way you can cut between two or more angles of selected scenes without having to get the actors to perform the same moves twice.

Another item to consider when planning a video is how you are going to edit the video? Do you have access to editing equipment that can perform transitions more sophisticated than straight cuts? Do you have a video mixer where you can fade from one scene to the next? Maybe a nonlinear computer based system will be used. Knowing what your editing capabilities are can have an impact on what kinds of scenes you will need to shoot.

Again, don’t hesitate about reading books and magazines on scripting, producing, and/or directing a video. These sources can supply a lot more info than I have included in this short article.

If anyone has other ideas, thoughts, even criticisms, please send them to your editor. I can always use more articles for the Cavideo newsletter.

The 1998 Video Salon
Background, Critiques, and Judges

Video has been a part of NSS Conventions since 1988. We have had a salon competition for video productions since 1989, and the medium has taken firm root as a vehicle for caving expression. The NSS Video Salon, like the other salons, has a twofold purpose: to encourage the sharing of such works with the Society (in this case, donation of videos to the Audio-Visual Library) and to recognize and reward the creators of that work.

But the Salons should do more. A competition of this sort encourages videographers to improve and refine their work. The entrants, of course, want feedback on how they can improve their productions, but we have had only marginal success in providing this.

Our methods of judging and critiquing videos until 1995 amounted to a peer review. I chose to select judges and review entries during a minor caving event, where I had a large pool of potential judges from which to select. I attempted to balance the judging by selecting one judge with a video background, one with artistic ability (slide photographer or artist), and one general purpose caver. I tried to summarize the judges comments, and entries were critiqued by the Video Section during its meetings, but these efforts fell short of providing the feedback producers desired.

Many entrants said that both a win and constructive feedback would be more meaningful if judged by a panel of professionals in video production. The truth of that logic is inescapable, and we therefore instituted professional judging and written critiques in 1995. It was clearly successful, and has been adopted as standard operating procedure. For the benefit of a broader audience of potential entrants, the Video Section publication, Cavideo, has asked to publish the judges’ critiques (with the entrants' permission).

The judging is done by mail; copies of all entries are sent to each judge on VHS cassette. After reviewing the tape and discussing the merits of each entry among themselves, the judges render a decision on which productions will be recognized as an Honorable Mention (Green Ribbon) or a Merit Award (Blue Ribbon) in each of two divisions, Amateur and Professional. Then, from among all entries, a Medal Award and/or Best of Show is selected. (More on these awards separately.)

Based on the judges' decisions, the Video Committee prepares a montage of the entries to be shown at the NSS Salons during the annual convention. Typically, a 3- to 5-minute segment of each entry is shown, along with the Best of Show in its entirety (time permitting), with awards announced simultaneously. The following day, all entries are screened in their entirety for all who wish to view them. The productions are then placed in the AV Library, available for checkout by the membership.

Following the Salon, the Video Committee sends a letter to each entrant, congratulating each on his/her success and including a copy of the judges' comments. Salon awards are also announced in the convention issue of the NSS News and in the Video Section newsletter, Cavideo. With the entrants' permission, the Cavideo newsletter also publishes the judges' critiques.

Results of the
1998 NSS Video Salon

By Dave Socky

Except for the technical difficulties, the videos shown at the NSS Photo Salon were excellent this year. Below is the list of videos that received Honorable Mention, Merit Award, and the Best of Show.

Best Of Show

THE JEWELS OF THE DARK – ©Axell Comm., 1993

Merit Awards



BURNS CAVE #2 ©Hodag Video, 1997.


Honorable Mentions


DEPTHS OF WONDER- ©Env. Rec. Group, 1997.



CATHEDRAL CAVE –©Small/Padgett, 1997.


These videos may be rented from the NSS AV Library by contacting the NSS office.

Judges Critiques

Below is the first of the judges’ critiques for the videos entered in the NSS Video salon this year. We have permission to publish all the critiques (except one, which we are still working on). This issue of Cavideo contains the critiques on my videos. The next issue will include the critiques on Phillippe Axell’s Best of Show ‘Jewels of the Dark’ and Merit award winner "Han: Mystery of The Lesse". An article by Phillippe about the filming of his two videos will also be included.

Burns Cave #2
by Dave Socky

Award: Merit Award
(Blue Ribbon)

Judge Tim Kilby

Technical Merit: 17/20
Artistic Merit: 14/20
Caver Appeal: 19/20
Total: 50/60

Dave, you once again produced a really wonderful cavers' video. It's a great record of a cave, a time, and some cavers, very much representative of VAR caving.

I tried both the HI-Fl channel and the mono audio channel, but the music in the beginning was muddled. The mixing of music and narration is well balanced, just not of the highest standards, though this does not distract from the video's appeal, in my opinion.

The digital effects are too EFX for me. I'm somewhat old fashioned in that I think transitions should be rather transparent and quite smooth. I did like the one B&W shot at the beginning, an artistic effect that could be used more. While I'm being picky, I guess I don't care for the 3-D lettering either.

I was very comfortable with the length. No sections dragged and no sections seemed too short. Good editing and good scriptwriting.

It appears that all shooting was done on a single trip. If true, then getting quantities of usable shots and conserving lighting power, as well as sherpa power, meant a very long day and great preparation in advance. It would take me four or five trips minimum. Amazing!

This is an example of the perfect grotto meeting video.

Judge John Scheltens

Technical Merit: 13/20
Artistic Merit: 13/20
Caver Appeal: 17/20
Total: 43/60

Burns Cave #2 was overall well done. It had good caver appeal. The narration was good. Language between cavers was believable; seemed real, not staged. The film had a story line that flowed. I liked some of the high-tech dissolves and fades. A little high-tech adds class; too much and it becomes 'tinney - phoney'.

Judge Tom Zannes

Technical Merit: 16/20
Artistic Merit: 15/20
Caver Appeal: 18/20
Total: 49/60

The opening needs a better variety of cuts and better sequencing but is a good effort. Once we get into the cave shots, editing and sequencing are very good for a non-professional video. The cameraman obviously has good caving skills because the camera is 'right there' with the cavers. Shots are well composed and lit. This piece has a good timeline and story line once in the cave. His big room shots are better than one of the professional efforts. I think this guy is ready to take his work to the next level.

We’re Cavers and We’re Rescuers
by Dave Socky

Award: Merit Award
(Blue Ribbon)

Judge Tim Kilby

Technical Merit: 16/20
Artistic Merit: 14/20
Caver Appeal: 19/20
Total: 49/60

Oh, did you set me up with the title and the first shots. Yeah, it will give the diehards heart attacks, but so what. Hope everyone lightens up. (beach ball at convention comes to mind.)

I'll excuse the digital effects here, though I don't think they added to the humor or creativity. Well, maybe some were comical.

Outtakes, in general, are funny and appreciated. The whole ending takes up about a third of the total time. It would be just as funny and complete if you would edit down the ending sharply. Or better, make it a separate video, The Making Of..., that is on the same tape and follows the first.

Good work planning and scriptwriting.

Judge John Scheltens

Technical Merit: 15/20
Artistic Merit: 17/20
Caver Appeal: 19/20
Total: 51/60

I enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek humor. Overall I thought it was well edited and entertaining, although some of the cuts were a little quick in the beginning. However, as the show developed, the scenes, cuts, and dissolves became better. The music was fine and the credits at the end were clever and humorous.

Although the best audience would be cavers who have a sense of humor, I wouldn't be afraid to show it to non- cavers, but a lot of the film's subtleties would be lost on the uninformed.

Judge Tom Zannes

Technical Merit: 15/20
Artistic Merit: 15/20
Caver Appeal: 19/20
Total: 48/60

I am really afraid of these people so I gave them pretty good scores. I wouldn't show this to non-cavers.


The 1998 Video Salon Judges


NSS 28387RL/FE

Tim Kilby is a long-time Virginia caver, cave owner and speleo-politician. His video experience includes the production of "Let's Go Caving with Lois Atwood" and archive footage and visual inventorying of New River Cave (which he owns) in Virginia. Tim learned his video craft at Media General cable access Channel 10 in northern Virginia. He holds an MFA in photography, has taught college level photography courses, has shown work nationally and internationally, and has been a National Endowment for the Arts individual artist Fellow. Professionally, Tim creates and produces multimedia applications that include digital video for CD-ROM and the Internet.


NSS 10886_OS, CM, FE

John is a past president of the NSS and recipient of the Certificate of Merit and the Outstanding Service Award. Among his many accomplishments are chairing the 1988 NSS Convention, leading the first NSS delegation to the Soviet Union, leading the effort to enact the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act, and hosting the annual Black Hills Caver Classic. John produced and starred in Wind Cave, the NSS's first commercial video. He is currently serving as Chairman of the Television Video Committee, which is presently involved in the production of an IMAX film on caves. John is City Engineer for the city of Hot Springs, South Dakota.


NSS 33500RE

Tom Zannes is a freelance video producer/director/camera man whose first love is caves and caving. When you see footage pertaining to caves on the major networks, it's likely that Tom was the videographer. In 1991, when Emily Davis Mobley was injured in Lechuguilla Cave, it was Tom who got exclusive footage, supplying news feeds to the world throughout the weeklong rescue effort. Tom's most recent credit is Spirit of Exploration, a 58-minute video produced for the Carlsbad Caverns - Guadalupe Mountains Association which includes rarely seen portions of Carlsbad Caverns and other caves in the park, including the innermost recesses of the famed Lechuguilla Cave. Spirit of Exploration garnered the Best of Show' award in the 1994 NSS Video Salon.

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