Dear backers and friends:

We celebrated New Year’s around here by collecting your pledges to our successful funding campaign. Again: Many thanks. Your generosity has made the BIG QUESTIONS pilot possible, and it’ll be coming your way a little later this year. Before that can happen, though, a few other things have to happen:

SWAG TIME! 
Those of you who selected premiums to go along with your pledges will be hearing from me shortly. The custom Pezzes may take a bit of time, as they’re created individually and to order by an actual Starving Artist. The other premiums will take a bit less time. I hope to have all the premiums out and in your hands by the end of January.

GEAR UP. 
I have my eye on a good basic package of A/V equipment, including the following:

CANON VIXIA HF S100 HD VIDEO CAMERA: A high-end consumer camcorder. The quality of the consumer-grade cams is so good these days that the incremental expense required to buy a low-end pro model doesn’t seem to me to be worth it at this stage. The Canon produces gorgeous video at a very reasonable price. 
RODE STEREO VIDEOMIC: A solid external mic that can be used onboard or on a boom. 
LAV MIC (WIRED): Still looking at possibilities here. The wireless models are sweet, but pricey. 
A BASIC LIGHT KIT. 
POOR MAN’S STEADICAM: An intriguing gadget built and sold by this guy. Properly used, it gives you thousands of dollars worth of picture quality for about forty bucks. 
FINAL CUT: Apple’s very good editing software. 
DROBO: A sort of RAID, for you gearheads. For you non-gearheads, a device that backs up and protects the enormous quantity of data produced when you shoot high-quality video.

That’s the kit, more or less. (Those of you who have experience in this area, feel free to weigh in with suggestions or alternate ideas.) It should enable me to produce a great-looking product at a modest price, provided I…

STUDY UP. 
I’ll need to invest a little time in learning how the camera works, teaching myself the rudiments of lighting and audio, and getting proficient with Final Cut. The Poor Man’s Steadicam also has a bit of a learning curve, apparently. The time invested here will allow me to put out the best-looking pilot possible.

REPORT IT. 
This, frankly, will take the least amount of time, as it’s the thing I’ve done in some fashion for my whole career. There will be fits and starts in the transition from print reporting to video, but on the whole this part of the process should go fairly smoothly and efficiently.

PRODUCE IT. 
This part is a bit of a question mark. New gear, new software, new practices… It may go fast, or it may go slow. The stuff I learn along the way, however, will make the production of subsequent episodes go all the more quickly. (He said brightly.)

SHOW IT AROUND. 
…for comment and criticism.

POLISH THAT BABY. 
A last lick or two.

PUBLISH IT. 
Woo-hoo.

Optimistically, all this may take a couple of months. Realistically, maybe a little more. I’ll keep you backers informed as I go along, though, and your suggestions will always be more than welcome. In fact, why not start now? Which of the Big Questions posed in the pitch video — or, for that matter, what other Big Question — would you like to see me tackle in the pilot? Think big. That’s the whole point, after all.

That’s a quick sketch of where we go from here. None of it would be possible without your generous backing. So again, many thanks, and Happy New Year.

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