Wednesday, December 31, 2008
One Man Brand: The Naked Cowboy (Mediastorm)
The Girl in the Window (St. Petersburg Press)
The Fire Within (Los Angeles Times)
India's Fast Lane to the Future (National Geographic)
Odetta: The Last Word (New York Times)
Railfans at Fullerton Train Station (Los Angeles Times)
Stonehenge Photosynth (National Geographic)
Bolivia's Women Wrestlers (National Geographic)
Seeds of Peace: Catherine's Secret (Washington Post)
Break Dancing Phnom Penh Style (New York Times)
Air Car (Discovery)
Scream Bloody Murder (CNN)
Hard Times (Washington Post)
Empowering Women in Afghanistan (New York Times)
Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers? (Detroit Free Press)
The Bottom Line (Dallas Morning News)
Boomtown: The Sin City Story (Las Vegas Sun)
The Apollo Legend (Mediastorm)
Gertrude Baines, 114, Votes (Los Angeles Times)
Acid Attacks (New York Times)
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Be sure to tune in:
Friday, December 26, 2008
Appropriately the Times created an instructive video animation of the interview (2:42). It shows what Folman tells: "You can't Google 'animated documentary' and find a manual of how to do it at home, so we had to invent everything from scratch."
It's an inventive demonstration, and as we previously wondered in our blog entry on Animated Documentaries, how soon will videojournalists start adding animation techniques to their toolkits?
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Walter Williams wrote in The Journalist’s Creed that “The supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.” There’s no mention of 25% profit margins as a metric for success. If you want to make a pile of money, this is not the right profession for you. Frankly, Journalism needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for a quick buck. Journalists lead a rich life, but rarely get rich. We are inherently purpose driven, not profit driven. Simply put, we, the practitioners of this craft, need to take journalism back....
It is one of the most exciting times in history to be a young journalist. You have an almost limitless palette of storytelling tools, an audience unbound by physical borders and the most powerful communications technology ever developed at your disposal.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
But what does this mean for all those previously uploaded 4:3 videos? YouTube assures they "will play just fine in this new player," but users are reporting problems, ranging from pixelation to sputtering.
At minimum, current videos (like ours) will have annoying vertical black bars on both sides, since few will have the patience or inclination to reformat and re-upload their work.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Those "excellent" videos are especially difficult to locate -- and that's why we created the KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism!
News video has been around for six or seven years on some newspaper Web sites, but in the past 12 to 18 months it has grown from a significant trend into a near stampede. Call up Web sites at random and you'll find a very large, very mixed selection, much of it disappointing, some so awful it makes you cringe, and some reasonably well executed but trivial... The bulk of online news video occupies a broad, gray middle ground in terms of quality, as the industry stumbles toward a goal it cannot yet quite perceive or articulate... But a small proportion is excellent by any standard...
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Does being a good photojournalist make you more likely to be a good videojournalist? Why or why not?
As newspaper photographers transition to online video, these questions are being asked more frequently. We have our own observations, thoughts and perceptions. But first we want to hear yours. Please comment below.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Forgive our cynicism, but yet another big media outlet is cashing in on this disturbing "citizen journalism" craze. The Oakland Press has annnounced the formation of The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism, and is inviting readers to attend free classes. There's not even any admission requirements.
We will be offering anyone who is interested — from high school students to retirees — instruction in news writing, videography, basics of reporting for news and sports, and still photography.
In our digital age, reports can be prepared and shared with the public in mere minutes. The original keystroke in typing the story suffices for print and online purposes. Photos and even videos can be e-mailed from the scene. Plus, phones can serve as cameras — even for video — and the airwaves and cyberspace are full of these endeavors produced by everyday citizens.
We are trying to tap into this movement as a means of improving our bread-and-butter franchise of local news and sports coverage. There are ways for readers to help tell stories better, quicker and more completely. This applies to high schools academics and sports, to local city councils and school boards, education, health care, business and financial, entertainment and human-interest stories.
For those who complete the instruction, we offer the opportunity to get your work published online or in the print edition. This experience would be especially helpful for high school and college students viewing careers in the communications field. In addition, others can work toward becoming members of our freelance stable of journalists.
Today he posted five of the “Best Photography Tricks of All Time,” excerpted from his upcoming book on digital cameras.
I've been teaching photography for three decades, and even I learned something new! The first four tips are among those I hand out myself all the time to students. It's the fifth that grabbed my attention. Even grizzled pros will marvel at its sheer ingenuity. He's addressing compact camera owners, but the basic concepts apply to all cameras. When you use that fifth tip, though (and you will!), just don't use a long lens with a 35mm SLR. Otherwise, very clever!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
It smartly points out the essential differences between videos produced by the respective media.
Some excerpts, which cite examples found on KobreGuide.com:
Talk about respect. That’s what the Detroit Free Press got when it won the News and Documentary Emmy for “40 Years of ‘Respect,’” its video news feature on the history of Aretha Franklin’s iconic song and what it means to the people of Detroit.
The piece beat entries from PBS’ “Frontline” and Web sites for The New York Times and The Washington Post in the category of arts, lifestyle and culture.
The win was emblematic of newspapers’ recent emergence as awards contenders, competing on the same prestigious playing field where traditional broadcast news organizations have been competing for decades. Yet most newspapers have been using video on their Web sites for just the past few years.
“We start with the premise that we’re storytellers, with strong visuals and a compelling story to begin with,” said Nancy Andrews, managing editor for digital media at the Free Press . “We had to learn new skills, but we were also students of the craft.”
Like the Free Press, the Washington Post’s Web site is an awards heavyweight, garnering a multitude of national and local Emmy, Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Award wins and nominations in the past few years. But unlike the Detroit newspaper, whose multimedia team is integrated into the newsroom and varies according to editorial needs, the Post’s video output is generated by an online division separate and distinct from the traditional print newsroom.
“We really wanted to create a narrative voice for our video that was different than that on the broadcast nightly news,” said Tom Kennedy, the managing editor for multimedia at WashingtonPost.com , who previously was the photo director of National Geographic .
The site prides itself on pieces that have more in common with independent filmmaking and documentaries than with traditional, reporter-driven broadcast journalism, pieces like its award-winning coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a look at the causes of childhood obesity, and “Being a Black Man,” a Peabody Award-winning series of videos produced by Ben de la Cruz in 2006.
“We aim for subject-driven narrative, with interactions and dialogue that propel the arc of the narrative and create the throughline of story, and have it told in a natural, fly-on-the-wall way,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Imagine a dozen actors, running, jumping, twirling, even throwing paint, each repeating their activities in a loop while the camera revolves around the scene 360 degrees. With each pass of the camera, they form a more intricately choreographed ensemble. Two guys fall forward on their hands and pop back up again; a woman in the center twirls around; the guys bounce up and down, over and over; the woman twists back and forth. Others walk into the shot, bouncing balls, waving a flag, then those actions, too, start repeating in a continuous loop. Someone throws a bucket of purple paint in an arc; a guy darts underneath it.
But no text description (or still image) can do justice -- you must see this four-dimensional extravaganza for yourself. (You can also see the final result on Toshiba's Website. )
And then when you're wondering, "How did they DO that?" -- look over here to see the behind-the-scenes video.
As the Times explains:
Instead of using still cameras, as they did in “The Matrix,” the filmmakers used 200 of Toshiba’s Gigashot HD camcorders, mounted on a circular rig. This technique of looping and layering, dreamed up four years ago by Mitch Stratten, who directed the ad and calls the approach “timesculpture,” has never been used before. Each character was filmed separately, after careful rehearsals — the man ducking under the paint did so without actually seeing the paint. Each sequence was edited separately and then composited into one shot. ...It took about 10 technicians working 24 hours a day for two and a half weeks to download and process the 20,000 gigabytes of data.
So you can rest assured that newspapers won't be requiring their videojournalists to be entering the fourth dimension any time soon. However, as we're always discovering, cutting-edge video technology is never more than five minutes away from being accessible to mainstream professionals and consumers. And when it comes to "non-fiction" video that's being used to portray "reality," all kinds of ethical considerations come into play.
Right now it may seem ridiculous to be concerned about this whirling anti-gravitational circus being confused with real life, but consider that, on the most basic level, we've seen videojournalism incorporate familiar time-altering techniques, which we've come to unquestioningly accept:
- Fast-forwarding for either comic effect or to show rapid passage of time (e.g. time-lapse photography of a flower blooming)
- Slow-motion to emphasize a specific activity or give it a dreamy feeling (or sometimes, pragmatically, just to synch B-roll to VO audio by making the person walk a little faster or slower)
- Rewinding to signal going back in time, or to cue the viewer that we're going to see the same sequence again
It's tempting to recoil at the increasingly "unreal" aspect of a medium that we are trying to use to depict reality, but maybe we're looking at it the wrong way. It calls to mind an anecdote about Picasso, who was confronted by a critic who complained that the great artist's cubist paintings were unrealistic. "Show me realistic art," he countered, whereupon the critic produced from his wallet a photograph of his wife. Picasso held it in his hand, examined it, and remarked: "Your wife -- she is so small."
Friday, December 12, 2008
While TV news relied on a small team (reporter, cameraperson, editor, writer) -- each professionally trained and skilled at their respective jobs -- newspapers had no tradition in moving images and, budget-strapped, simply piled on extra chores and demanded extra skills from their already overtaxed staffs.
Well now it's happening in TV news, too.
As the Washington Post reports, WUSA, Channel 9, will become the first station in Washington to replace its crews with one-person "multimedia journalists" who will shoot and edit news stories single-handedly. This story is worthy of your attention, because it underscores a dangerous mentality among media management types, who think this is a smart way to save a buck, and seem hellbent on convincing themselves that this will somehow improve quality.
The change will blur the distinctions between the station's reporters and its camera and production people. Reporters will soon be shooting and editing their own stories, and camera people will be doing the work of reporters, occasionally appearing on the air or on in video clips on Channel 9's Web site.
For decades, TV journalists have worked in teams, with the lines of responsibility regulated by union rules or simple tradition. Stories were covered by a crew consisting of a camera operator and a correspondent (and further back, by a sound or lighting technician); their work was overseen by a producer and their footage assembled into a finished story by an editor.
But technology -- handheld or tripod-mounted cameras, laptop editing programs and the Internet -- have made it possible for one person to handle all those assignments, station managers say.
The change is driven by increasing financial pressure on TV stations, as advertisers disappear from nightly newscasts and audiences scatter to the growing number of channels and Web sites. In fact, separate from its new union agreement, WUSA -- owned by media giant Gannett -- plans an across-the-board cut in reporters' salaries as it increases their responsibilities. Multimedia journalists will earn 30 to 50 percent less than what traditional reporters have been earning, with salaries topping out at around $90,000 annually, according to people at the station.
Channel 9 will switch to the new system early next year, becoming the first station in a major market to revamp its entire newsroom.
Leave it to management to put an absurdly positive spin on this:
"We believe strongly that [this change] will raise both the quality and quantity of the product we're putting out" on TV and on the internet, said Allan Horlick, the president and general manager of WUSA. "The concept of a multimedia journalist, having his own beat, with an area of expertise, and a limitless virtual news desk is something we can get very excited about."
However, the concept gets mixed reviews in other quarters.
Veteran TV journalists say their concern isn't the quantity of news that can be produced but the quality, because not all TV journalists are skilled enough to do a job formerly handled by specialists. "There are some people who will be very good at this, and some not as much," said Bill Lord, WJLA's news director. "If you're forcing everyone to do things against their skill levels and desire, your product suffers."
Lord says stations in Nashville and San Francisco have used multimedia journalists on an experimental basis in recent years but have backed away because of "falling quality" and declining ratings.
Another concern: safety. With complicated, fast-moving news stories such as traffic accidents or civil unrest, people on a news crew watch out for one another, said Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. "You need to be careful," she said.
The upcoming changes at WUSA have soured veteran reporter Gary Reels, who began working at the station in 1980. "It takes a lot of time to shoot and edit and write and prepare a story, and if you have one person doing all that, something has to give," he said .
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
When a plane crashed in a residential San Diego neighborhood recently, CNN's "iReporters" were all over it. iReporters? Those would be invididuals who happened to be in proximity of the tragedy and volunteered to capture the still and video images on their cellphones, and transmit them to CNN, with audio of their own perspectives: "Awful!"... "Horrible!" ... In short, vague disaster-related adjectives that even J-school undergrads know to pluck from their copy.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Washington Post reports that this Capraesque gesture — dubbed “The People’s Inauguration,” replete with two gala balls — is the gift of Earl Stafford, a 60-year-old Air Force retiree who made a fortune founding a military technology company.
Stafford is picking up the tab for three nights with meals at the hotel for scores of the normally uninvited and overlooked. He’s even promising gown, tuxedo and hair-dresser costs for those most in need.
And for those five decades, the New York Times reports, HM (as he was anonymously known to the world) "was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science. As a participant in hundreds of studies, he helped scientists understand the biology of learning, memory and physical dexterity, as well as the fragile nature of human identity." (UPDATE: Illuminating Los Angeles Times obit here.)
When Henry Molaison died last week at 82, we were reminded of a KobreGuide.com subject whose brain functions on the opposite end of that spectrum: Brad Williams has an unfathomable capacity to remember everything, which scientists have labeled hyperthymesia. His fascinating story is here.
Special for members: Register by December 19, 2008 and receive a 5% discount off the Workshop price. Non-members: Your registration fee now includes a complimentary membership to the NPPA.
Visual Journalists: If you shoot video for a TV station, newspaper or other web entity, production company, freelance, church, the military, this is the place for you.
Whether you are a veteran handling video, new to the art, or primarily take stills and want to put some new skills on your resumé, the Workshop offers you a chance to learn video’s cutting edge from the best in the business. It's a week-long, intense immersion into the world of moving pictures and sound.
You will spend 12 – 16 hours each day learning from a faculty of more than 20 nationally- and internationally-recognized, award-winning journalists, including Bob Brandon, Bob Dotson, and Darrell Barton. These three alone have 11 Emmy Nominations, 5 Emmy Wins, 4 Photographer of the Year Awards and 1 Sprague Award among them.
The topics covered at the 2008 NewsVideo Workshop include: Storytelling, Lighting, Composition, Audio Editing, The Reporter's Perspective, Live Shots, Sports, News Management, New Technology.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
In response to changes in newsrooms, where more and more print reporters are being asked to shoot video, the NCTJ says it's encouraging all its course providers to deliver videojournalism training.
To that end, they've just posted a "short training film [8:38] offering advice and guidance to students, trainees and journalists on shooting news videos for websites."
It covers some important basic principles. You can see it here.
Friday, December 5, 2008
His film is both an essay and an exposé, a meditation on the philosophical implications of dust — which exists, according to one of his interview subjects, in a liminal state between matter and nonmatter — and an analysis of its place in the physical world.
Which is, of course, everywhere. Scenes of professional cleaners in offices and laboratories, and of ordinary people tidying up their homes, only emphasize the futility of trying to control or eradicate dust. And visits to abandoned industrial sites and demolished buildings show that, left to its own devices, dust will take over the world...
Comprehensive though it is, “Dust” feels like a preliminary investigation, a pilot for a multi-episode, hundred-hour series that would track dust all around the world.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
"The writing process is very collaborative, and there's no such thing as good writing, just good rewriting. We probably cut a piece four or five times before we think it's ready to see. We'll write the perfect script on the first draft, go into the edit booth, cut the thing, and it's awful. We do another pass, it's still bad but some things are beginning to work. Third, fourth pass, it's starting to look like a 60 Minutes piece, but it's 18 minutes long, has to be 12. Another pass, it's 12:30, looking like a piece ready to show to (the executive editor and executive producer). Sometimes they eviscerate it."
In partnership with the Pulitzer Center, YouTube has launched Project: Report, a videojournalism contest "intended for non-professional, aspiring journalists to tell stories that might not otherwise be told."
Produce a piece that empowers an underrepresented community to tell its own story to the world. First, choose a group of people that are rarely covered by the traditional media. Then let them use the camera to document their own lives, and to tell their own story. It's up to each individual reporter to collect the footage captured by the members of this group, and to weave that material into your own reporting to create a compelling and unique story. The video must be 5 minutes or less.The notion of a collaborative videoproject that enables its subjects to shoot each other is intriguing, and indeed a worthy effort is role-modeled on Project: Report.
Photojournalist Andre Lambertson conducted a weeklong video training session with seven former child soldiers in Liberia, and guided them as they produced video interviews of themselves. It's a compelling way to tell their story, about their evolution from warriors to peace-builders, from the inside. These young men call themselves "Future Guardians of Peace." In an accompanying video, Lambertson gives insights on how to approach this type of project. Both the video, and the video about the video, can be found on KobreGuide.
They should inspire professional videojournalists to think about other uses for this novel approach to collaborative videojournalism.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
And now the mini-bio series focuses on singer Odetta, who died this week at 77. She was a cornerstone of 1950s folk music, and her voice helped form the soundtrack of the 1960s civil rights movement. And that's what makes her Last Word tribute special -- we not only get to hear from her, but we also get to hear her, both in archival footage of concert performances, and improvisationally singing a capella for the interviewer. Her voice, and her memories, are strong.
His name is Dan Goldman.
He works for Adobe.
We're rewriting the ethics chapter of our videojournalism textbook as we speak.