Thursday, December 24, 2009

KobreGuide Showcases 400th Video Story

This week, KobreGuide.com, which launched in Fall 2008, features its 400th video story.

Yeah, we're pretty amazed ourselves. (It seems like only yesterday that we posted our 300th story!) And every day provides more amazement as we watch and assess the merits of the highest quality online videojournalism being produced today.

We see signs everywhere that, despite the shabby economic state of the journalism industry, the medium of video is becoming more central to its mission. As the audience appetite grows for well-told, well-reported visual stories, the savviest producers and publishers are responding in kind.

But that river flows both ways. It's incumbent upon industry leaders to create and present compelling video stories that will entice viewers and whet their appetite for more.

To be honest, most videojournalism storytelling we see -- and we see a heck of a lot of it -- falls short in at least one of three key areas. It's either poorly shot and edited video, or it's substandard journalism, or it lacks narrative storytelling qualities that hook and engage viewers.

It's no wonder when newspapers distribute cheap Flip cams to print reporters and, expecting miracles, wind up instead with a mess. And even though still photographers have a visual sensibility, and may therefore seem more suited to the task of shooting video, there's still a world of difference between taking pictures and weaving a story with scenes and sequences. Plus, most photographers' experience with interviewing subjects begins and ends with grabbing caption info -- not asking hard-hitting questions, or even knowing who to track down for a balancing perspective.

In short, print reporters, writers, editors and photographers all bring valuable skill sets to the table, but they need to be trained and mentored by (and ideally partnered with) talented and experienced video professionals who excel in that medium.

Not to harangue, but imagine our perpetual disappointment at video stories that are promising in many ways, but ultimately missing key ingredients. They're not quite KobreGuide quality, but would have been a slam dunk had there been a real pro aboard to push them to the next level.

And that's what we recommend and foresee for 2010 -- print publications redoubling their efforts in the online video arena. More people are watching moving images than at any time in history, and, YouTube anomalies aside, professional quality will win the day. Follow the eyeballs, and the money will come.

As another year winds down, and we head into the holiday season, we want to thank the media outlets whose videos are showcased on KobreGuide for their generous cooperation and commitment to the cause, and wish them continued success in 2010.

And we want to thank you for your support, encouragement and feedback. It's your eyeballs, after all, that we aim to please! So it's especially gratifying to watch our month-to-month traffic grow steadily. Come along for the ride as we enter a new decade; we promise it won't be boring.

Meanwhile, you can review the best of KobreGuide's first 400 stories by checking out our Top 10 selections. And be sure to visit our Hall of Fame, where all the best KobreGuide stories are archived. Let us know what you think.

Happy holidays!

Apple to Unveil Tablet on Jan. 26th?

Mark your calendars. The Web is rife with rumors that Jan. 26, 2010 is the big day that Apple will at long last unveil its Tablet, which we wrote about yesterday.

Tablet Tuesday, they're calling it.

No sooner had the New York Times' Bits blog expressed cynicism that real-world technology could ever match that seemingly pie-in-the-sky Sports Illustrated demo video (or the one below from Sweden's Bonnier Group), than somebody let the cat out of the bag -- Apple had scheduled a big media event in San Francisco. On January 26. Just Google that date with the word Apple and you'll get a sense of the pent-up excitement among Mac fans, and techies in general.

All signs seem to point to an official announcement that an oversized iPod Touch device is on its way, for a Spring debut.

How big is it?

Again, it's all speculation -- with some saying a 7" screen, others saying a 10" screen, and others saying both.

Would a 7" provide sufficiently more viewing pleasure than an iPod Touch to warrant upgrading? Would a 10" be too big to shlep around? Each size is notably a trifle larger than Amazon's corresponding 6" and 9.7" Kindle e-book reader.

Somebody who did better at high school geometry than we did performed some calculations and concluded that a 7-inch screen will provide a viewing area roughly four times the iPhone's; a 10-inch screen will provide a viewing area about eight times the iPhone's.

In conjunction with its Tablet announcement, Apple is expected to reveal plans to partner with major TV networks to launch a subscription service for TV shows distributed via iTunes for a recurring monthly fee (a la cable TV subscriptions).
CBS and Disney are said to be aboard, though Turner Broadcasting System and Viacom are reportedly standoffish. (Prediction, based on Apple's track record with the music industry: they'll come around. Ditto for book publishers.)

But it's obviously the implications for the newspaper and magazine world that fascinate us, especially considering that Time Inc. and Conde Nast have already developed prototypes of digital magazine issues. And then there's this slick new one from Sweden's Bonnier Group:



How much will the Apple Tablet cost? Good question. Estimates range from $600 to $1000 or more. So start saving your pennies. You know you want one. We do -- not to watch TV shows, but to see the revolutionary improvement it's going to bring to online videojournalism.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How the Mystery Mac Will Change Journalism

The journalism world eagerly awaits the now mythic Spring arrival of Apple's game-changing Tablet, or whatever they're going to call it. It's been a big hush-hush secret for so long, that sometimes it seems like maybe the whole notion was just a dream.

That hasn't stopped graphic artists -- with no inside knowledge of the tight-lipped Apple kingdom -- from imagining what this unwrapped dream toy might look like.

Ron Callari gathered no less than 20 possible designs on Inventor Spot, and frankly they all look pretty cool. We'll be happy to play with any of them -- just hurry up and get one on the market already!

Will it look like an oversized iPhone? A souped-up Kindle? A touchscreen MacBook? A Mac Pro with app-like navigation buttons? A lidless laptop? A big docked PDA with keyboard?

And what will it be called? iPad? iTab? iTablet? MacTab? MacPad? MacTablet? TouchPad? TouchTab? TouchTablet? TouchBook?

Bets, anyone?

To see what this mystery Mac might do to transform print journalism into a total multimedia experience, check out this video of a hypothetical issue of Sports Illustrated. It's like the magazine literally comes to life. Tell us you wouldn't spend a couple bucks for an app that sings and dances like this:



The smarter print publications (e.g. Conde Nast's Wired) are prepping for this day, since they know that a customer who won't spend a nickel for a print issue, or for Web content, will happily fork over a few bucks for iPhone apps -- and this will seem like an extension of that.

Steve Jobs is conditioning us the same way he got all the music freeloaders to pony up a buck a song via iTunes -- thus revolutionizing the music industry. True, the record companies and record stores still took a lethal hit, but he proved that there's a viable market for music; it was just a matter of upending the financial model by altering attitudes and behaviors. We suspect he'll do the same for journalism.

So news organizations would be wise to to learn from the mistakes of the entrenched music industry that bemoaned its fate (and hastened its demise) by cursing its customers. It fell into extinction while a savvy outsider came along and drank its milkshake. What can you do today to prepare yourself or your company for a multimedia future, so that there will be no more blood?

Here's our recommendation. Invest heavily in the best videojournalism talent, training and equipment. Make sure you and your staff recognize the value of video that is professionally produced, and represents excellent journalism standards and storytelling qualities. Newspaper- and magazine-produced online video is coming of age, in fits and starts. Because publishers didn't experience an immediate return on their (minimal) financial investment, and those pre-roll ads didn't materialize as quickly as they had hoped, a lot of them got nervous and withdrew from that arena. Or, worse, they stayed in the game with orphaned third-rate product, which nobody watched, and so they buried it deep on their Websites so nobody could even find it, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that "nobody watches serious video."

But with the new Mac whatchamathing on the horizon, now is the time to re-think video strategies. Apple will succeed where nearly every journalism Website has failed. Why? Because it will successfully integrate words and moving images, in a new and exciting way that has mysteriously eluded print publishers and broadcasters. The device's portability and touch-screen capability will help catapult the online visual experience to the next level.

But ultimately, it's just a platform -- a fancy bucket waiting to be filled. iTunes is pure genius, but it would be worthless without talented composers, instrumentalists, singers, arrangers, producers. Similarly, for multimedia journalism to succeed, we'll need talented reporters, writers, shooters, editors and producers.

Trust us, video is where the future lies. At KobreGuide, we're betting the farm on it.

10 Journalism Trends for 2010 ?

Savvy UK journalist Adam Westbrook predicts 10 trends for the profession for 2010.

Excerpts:

1. Lots of new entrepreneurial startups
2. More journalists working with NGOs
3. Journalists moving into the field of training
4. Increased hyperlocal reporting
5. Paywalls in action

See the full list, and watch his expanded commentary, below. Nothing radically new here, but it's a launching pad for smart discussion. Or maybe it's just his Brit accent?



What are your predictions for journalism in 2010?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Download the World's Longest Documentary

How would you like to see what is probably the world's longest documentary ... for free!

Conventional wisdom dictates that most viewers' attention spans are about ten minutes, tops. What if we told you that more than a million people tuned in to see this film, which clocks in at 7 1/2 hours, giving new meaning to the phrase "feature length"? True, the viewers are all from Norway, where we can't vouch for sufficient alternate distractions. But consider the subject of the documentary: a train ride.

That's right. Last month, 1.2 million Norwegians watched at least parts of "Bergensbanen" (Bergen Railway) on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK: Norsk rikskringkasting). There's not much of a plot, or even characters. It's a continuous recording of every second aboard the passenger train (from the conductor's vantage point) from Bergen on the Norwegian west coast, crossing the scenic mountains to the capital of Oslo (about 300 miles).

The film became all the rage in Norway, lighting up Twitter with #bergensbanen tweets.

And now, with some caveats and regulations, NRK is making the whole thing available as a free download. If you've got the hard-drive space to accomodate 22 gigs.

The documentary had picture-in-picture clips with videos about Bergensbanen, a reporter interviewing people on the train, music and two cameras pointing to the sides of the train. Because of rights, we had to remove the music and many videoclips, so we decided to make a clean frontcamera version for this download. It’s recorded on a Sony 700 camera in XDCAM HD 1080 50i. The camera has a 30 seconds buffer, making it possible to switch disks when needed. So we have a continuous recording of 7 hours.

The original file was 165 GB, too much for most people to download. We coded a 720 50P, 1280×720 version, resulting in a 22 GB file.
Here’s a 10-minute excerpt. Look familiar? It's Finse, where the (shorter) scenes from Hoth in 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' were filmed. Bon voyage et bonne vue!



To download the entire 7-plus hours, read the rules and instructions here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

NPPA Launches Free iPhone App


The National Press Photographers Association's first iPhone and iPod Touch application is now available for free at Apple's iPhone App Store. It enables you to get the "best in visual journalism industry news," while putting photojournalism into a global spotlight beyond just the profession's insiders.

NPPA executive director Jim Straight says this app is just the first in a series -- future ones will adapt specific features of the NPPA Website.

The NPPA iPhone App allows users to view a live feed of news stories from NPPA's Web site as well as access many of NPPA's most popular member features and services, including NPPA's calendar of upcoming workshops, seminars, and educational events, and the organization's monthly and yearly contests and professional development opportunities.

App users can also reach NPPA features such as "Find A Photographer" and NPPA's online professional mentoring program for student photojournalists.
More info here. Get your free NPPA app here.

Introducing the J-Rod CUBE Solution

We've previously introduced you to KobreGuide sponsor Jeff Rhode, creator of the J-Rod videocamera mounting systems that will dramatically improve your shooting experience. Jeff just alerted us to a new product in his line that sounds worthy of your consideration, the J-Rod CUBE:

I have a brand new bracket called The J-Rod CUBE which will allow a microphone and a radio receiver to be mounted on your camera and leave a shoe open for a light, flash, hard disc, or extra receiver. I am really excited about this mount, and think it will be a great solution for a mounting problem that many people have. This is an awesome solution for HDSLR cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II, 1D MkIV, 7D, Rebel T1i, Rebel XSi, Nikon D300, D3S, or D90. Additionally if you have a video camera such as the Canon GL1, GL2, or the Sony FX1 or VX2100 that has a shoe mount, but no mic clamp, this is for you!
Check it out here ... and tell him Kobre sent ya!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Video Q&A with Documentarian Ken Burns

Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns ("Brooklyn Bridge," "The Civil War," "Baseball," "The West," "Jazz," "The War," "The National Parks") is the subject of a recent 43-minute video interview on a Website called Big Think, which has conducted talking-head Q&A's with "more than 600 experts, from hedge-fund managers to neuroscientists."

You can watch the interview in one uninterrupted chunk below, or in thematic segments:

* Ken Burns: The Art of the Interview 2:17
* Why Everyone is Not a Filmmaker 3:10
* Is American History Cyclical or Progressive? 3:35
* History as Good Storytelling 4:47
* How the Film Shapes the Filmmaker 3:58
* Ken Burns’s Greatest Themes 6:51
* In a Film About Land, Stories About People 5:41
* What Makes Ken Burns’s Films Unique? 6:03
* Selling Them “The Brooklyn Bridge” 5:45
* Ken Burns: Historian, Filmmaker, Both? 3:03



Burns proves himself to be an excellent interview subject when answering the question, "What's the best interview question you've ever asked for a film?"

There are entertaining lessons here for all documentary connoisseurs -- producers and viewers alike.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Win a Trip to Africa with Nicholas Kristof

For the fourth time, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof is inviting students to enter an essay contest to win a reporting trip with him -- this time, to Africa next spring, "to cover issues of global poverty -- and their solutions." (Watch his video here.)

It's a rare opportunity for an aspiring journalist to be mentored by one of the best in the business, at a time when good mentors are disappearing fast.

As his legions of fans are aware, Kristof is a world traveler extraordinaire, whose adventures have taken him through many of the planet's developing countries, and have been documented not only in his columns but also his excellent videojournalism reports (which can be sampled on KobreGuide's New York Times channel).

Kristof's penchant for Third World treks began early; in the photo above, he is traveling in Sudan while a grad student. In short, contest applicants should not expect five-star luxury accomodations.

It won’t be comfortable or glamorous. Maybe we’ll interview a president, but far more time will be spent squatting in thatch-roof huts, listening to villagers.... This contest reflects my conviction that the best way to open minds and hearts to the world’s challenges is to see them, hear them, smell them.... If you win, you won’t be practicing tourism, but journalism. You’ll blog and file videos for nytimes.com, and you’ll bring a powerful reporting credential that I can’t: fresh eyes.
Only one can win, but as Kristof points out, "any of you can put together your own journey."

Some past entrants, frustrated by my own poor judgment in failing to select them, have consoled themselves by buying an air ticket to Uganda / Thailand / Bolivia. ...If you don’t win my trip, go ahead and win your own.
LINKS:

Contest info.

Contest video.

Enter the contest here.

Upload video here.

84 Websites Where You Can Watch Videos

Here is an annotated list of 84 Websites where you can watch videos online, courtesy of Step to Tech.

Most of them don't qualify as (or even aspire to) videojournalism, and we can't even guarantee that all the videos are any good -- though there are plenty that merit your attention.

But with each passing day, we can't help but observe that -- despite all those dire predictions that nobody has the time or patience to watch video on their computer screen -- all signs point to the fact that, for whatever reason, millions of people are somehow finding the time and patience.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beet.TV Roundtable on Online Video News

The Beet.TV Roundtable on "The Influence of Online Video: A discussion of technique, technology and impact" included panelists from top media outlets such as NBC and the Economist. Among the questions pondered at the Wash. D.C. gathering: Could the "fast food" approach to news creation work for video? Conclusion: "We don't think so."

Creating quality, enduring online video news content doesn't need to be expensive, but it has to be done with skill and credibility. It is the skilled video producers who will emerge in this new ecosystem of online video news, those who bring strong journalistic skills, notably editing, to the effort... For video news creators, there are big opportunities for those who produce quality content, using basic reporting skills. They will rise to the top.
An observation remarkable not for its profundity but a sign of the times that it even needs to be stated at all.

Watch for yourself:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Momenta Workshops in India, New Orleans

Momenta Workshops is offering scholarships and discounts for students and professionals for its Project India photojournalism expedition, Jan. 17-30, 2010.

We will be working with small local nonprofits in rural India about 5 hours north of Dehli. We have an amazing line up of locations, including a leprosy clinic, a rural health care facility, a home for the elderly and much more.
More info here.

Project New Orleans is slated for April 7-11, 2010: "We will be arriving during the French Quarter Festival and working with that nonprofit and many others on this incredibly fun, incredibly gratifying workshop." Learn more here.

Other planned 2010 destinations: Burma, the Greek Islands, Paris and various U.S. cities.

Our workshops specialize in helping not only beginning storytellers but also professionals on an upward trajectory. We aim to keep connecting journalists and media experts from around the world to create a network with common interests. In a sense, we fill the void current media institutions cannot by getting photographers to go out into the field to hone their skills, perfect their craft and carry on the mission of journalistic integrity. At the same time, we are building a new media marketplace that will continue to pay dividends to the communications community for some time to come.
Check for updates at MomentaWorkshops.com .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Video WTF Answers: Zi8 Zoom? Cheap Wireless Mic? Best Mini-Docs?

A month ago, we told you about Video WTF, a free community-operated Website where you can ask any question pertaining to video -- cameras, accessories, editing, production, whatever.

We posed a couple questions and promised to share the answers, so here they are!

Question #1:

My new Kodak Zi8 pocket video camera is wonderful in many ways. BUT the zoom stops-and-starts, and produces a squeak that is picked up on the audio track. Has anybody else had this experience? (I haven't seen it referenced in reviews.) Is it just a glitch in my camera, or a flaw with the model? Other than return it, any recommended self-administered fixes? Thanks!
And the responses:

Aaron:

I have a Zi8. I never use the zoom but I just tested mine out and it does the stop starting jerky motion you mentioned. I wouldn't expect such a small camera and lens to have a smooth zoom so I reckon that's normal. I didn't pick up any problems with audio though.

If the squeal is high-pitched you could try running it through an audio filter in post depending on what you have for editing software. I use the Low Pass filter in Final Cut to eliminate high pitch buzz from VHS tapes.
Heath:
Make sure you have downloaded and installed the newest firmware for the zi8. If you go to the Kodak site under support you can find it. This will help with the audio and the zoom. I have used the zoom a few different times and it's fairly smooth with the new firmware.
(Caveat: We strongly caution against using digital zoom anyway, but at least it should work properly for those who want to.)

Question #2:

Has anybody had experience with Azden WMS-PRO Wireless Microphone System (pictured)? With the advent of inexpensive pocket video cameras, I envision that price of lavalier mic systems will decrease, but this $160 pricetag seems too good to be true. What's the catch? Static?...
B. Vaughan

Yes...someone who didn't know much at our office bought these for reporters to use for quick interviews. They are vhf, choice of 2 channels, which means you may pick up supurious interferance in the crowded vhf bands...they are not very: (1) sensitive (2) rejective of interference (3)quality mikes and, to be fair, not expensive if it's all you feel you can do. You will soon outgrow them.

OK, they work at short range, but this is the el cheapo end of the Azden line, and you gets what you pays for....have had excellent service from a number of Sennheiser G2 units, which have been replaced by the new G3 series. Of course, they are way more money, but imho the sweet spot in cost/effectiveness. (Hey, have you priced lectrosonic, you'll see what I mean). My two cents
Ryanne:

i used an azden boom mic for a couple years and it was terrible! i thought it was ok until i switched to a Rode boom ($250 but well worth every penny). i would seriously recommend making an investment in good mics. we use the Sennheiser wireless lavs and they have saved my career every time i've used them. worth every penny!
So there you have it. We continued to poke around the site, and found plenty of other intriguing questions and answers. Here's one that you might find personally useful:

I feel like solid short films, especially mini-docs, have a poor signal to noise ratio online. What are some of the best documentaries you've found that are under ten minutes long?
And some responses:

Like a Bird on a Wire - 3:18

Not technically a mini-doc, a segment from the helicopter documentary "Straight Up!", showing power line maintenance being performed on live wires by a man outside a helicopter, using a type of Faraday cage. I've never seen the whole film but this stands alone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3q9WdjD5wc

***

Parkour Documentary - 4:01

A film about a space and the art of motion. A very well assembled piece on a simple subject.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkHPQPozDRs

***

NDR Extra3 Bahnuebergang Groß Duengen - 3:16

Unfortunately not available in english, but the german words do not say anything that wouldn't be obvious by the image already:

It's about the man and the job on a hand-operated railroad-crossing on a road leading to one house, two families, three cars and four horses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZYvQNB5FXY

***

Anything by Les Blank

His films on video are a little harder to find. You might have luck at the library or local specialty video stores if you have any where you live. Run times vary from 5 min. to 2 hrs.

http://lesblank.com/main.html

***

Utopia 3 by Sam Green and Carrie Lozano

One of the best mini-docs I saw last year at the Ann Arbor Film Festival

http://www.pbs.org/pov/utopia/

Looks like POV has a collection of shorts that might interest you:

http://www.pbs.org/pov/shorts/

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

$10,000 Concentra Award Entries Due 1/22

The Concentra Award 2010, for global excellence in videojournalism, is now open for entries. The $10,000 prize is awarded annually "to a journalist who, in terms of both substance and production, produced an interesting news item which was broadcast or published on a news website."

"By awarding this prize, 'Concentra Media' aims to promote healthy competition between the various makers of television news items. Concentra also wishes to stimulate journalists to film and edit their own pieces, so they master the entire production process themselves."
Last year's winner was Alexandra Garcia from the Washington Post for her story “The Healing Fields,” which is showcased on KobreGuide.com .

Deadline for Concentra entries is January 22, 2010. The award ceremony will take place on March 30, 2010 in Antwerp, Belgium.

LINKS:

About Concentra

Rules & Regulations

Entry Form (pdf)

MediaStorm's 'Crisis Guide' Wins Emmy

Congrats to MediaStorm for winning a 2009 Business & Financial Reporting Emmy Award for Crisis Guide: The Global Economy, co-produced with the Council on Foreign Relations -- another well deserved feather in the cap of videojournalism pioneer Brian Storm and his team.

As its name suggests, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences traditionally celebrates TV productions, but online multimedia projects such as this have been sneaking onto the turf once monopolized by the networks. This has led to the creation of such Emmy categories as New Approaches to Business & Financial Reporting, which was the case here.

Meanwhile, be sure to see MediaStorm's similarly themed Times of Crisis, co-produced with Reuters, and showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A New News Platform: Google's Living Stories

Those Google geniuses are at it again. Take a look at Living Stories, "a new, experimental way to consume news, developed by a partnership between Google, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. You can read the same reporting and analysis that you expect from the Times and the Post, delivered on a highly interactive platform."

One video is worth 10,000 words:



Happily, these Living Stories include visual elements, including slideshows and video.

Read the behind-the-scenes story on the creation of Living Stories, and let us know what you think. Once it's fleshed out to incorporate more topics, is this something you plan to use? Why or why not?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

J-Rod Mount: Clever Video Camera Accessory

KobreGuide warmly welcomes a new advertising sponsor – The J-Rod, developed and produced by accomplished and resourceful videojournalist Jeff Rhode.

Jeff is a former staff member of the award-winning photo & video department at The Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ. With over 20 years experience in photography and video, Jeff invented several professional video camera accessories aimed at helping visual journalists.

"The original J-Rod Twin Mount was designed to reduce handling noise on compact professional video cameras. The benefits of using The J-Rod mounts go way beyond that -- they provide you an extra mounting point to attach a radio receiver and a shotgun microphone in a rubber band mount, as well as enable you to move the microphone back to keep it out of wide shots.

"In its fourth year of production, The J-Rod has evolved, and several mounting solutions are now available. Visual journalists, event videographers, wildlife videographers, indie filmmakers, and entire television newsrooms in over 30 countries have benefited from The J-Rod mounts."
You’ll find a rave review at indieV.org , with favorable comments from satisfied customers, including Eric Seals of the Detroit Free Press :

“I bought the twin hot shoe mount for my Panasonic hvx200 and it is a great addition to the camera, freeing up the factory hotshoe mount for a light or other things.”
During his time at The Star-Ledger, Jeff was part the newsroom team that was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for the resignation of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. He held key roles in the development and launch of the video department and its many projects, including Ledger Live, the Star-Ledger daily newscast, and the 2005 Heart Gallery of NJ.

Jeff left the Ledger in 2008 and currently works at Ramapo College in the School of Contemporary Arts and maintains his avid passion for shooting & producing still photography & video. He is currently the Director of Production for The Heart Gallery of NJ, Do1Thing.org, and a member of Design for Social Good.

Please take a look at the variety of accessories Jeff has to offer at TheJ-Rod.com and see if there’s something that will improve your video shooting experience.

'Anvil!' & 'Salt' Win Top 2009 IDA Awards

The International Documentary Association awarded 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil' (pictured) the top prize in its Distinguished Feature category. The documentary about a struggling heavy metal band, directed by Sacha Gervasi, last week won the IDA's Music category as well.

'Salt,' directed by Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks, took home the prize for Distinguished Short film. It documents photographer Fredericks' annual solo pilgrimage to the heart of Lake Eyre in a remote corner of South Australia.

It is a piece on the personal journey of the artist, the creative process and the landscape itself. Alone on the most featureless landscape on earth, Murray’s personal video diary captures the beauty of this bleak, empty and desolate environment – and provides the catalyst for an unexpected personal transformation.
The awards ceremony was hosted by Ira Glass ('This American Life' host/producer). "Watching the documentaries being honored tonight, I was struck over and over with how rare it is to enter the lives of these strangers so intimately," he said. "The filmmakers spend so much time with these people, it's rare to get so far inside somebody else's experience."

Complete list of IDA nominees and winners here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Do You Correct Errors in Video Stories?

Craig Silverman is a Montreal-based journalist and author who specializes in mistakes.

Not his mistakes -- yours. And other journalists. More accurately (and we do want to be especially careful today), he writes a column, maintains a blog, and has even written an entire book about factual errors committed by reporters... and how to prevent them.

His book's eponymous Website, Regret The Error, "reports on media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press. I aim to provide a non-partisan resource to serve both the press and the public; my overall goal is to help make news reporting more accurate and transparent."

All admirable, to be sure, but it got us wondering. The most difficult thing about correcting an error in a text story is eating humble pie. Technically speaking, it's easy enough to issue a correction or even an entire new story -- whether for print or online. (Web protocol is to fix the mistake, and then add a note indicating what was altered or amended, and why.) Whether it's a misspelling, misleading quote, misidentification, or any of the other myriad ways in which humans can mess up relaying information, composing the correction (and apology) may be tricky, but keyboarding and copying/pasting text is not.

However, what happens when there's an error in an online video story? Not as simple to fix! Depending on the nature of the gaffe, you probably have to yank it offline, and then... what? Excise the offending footage? Add explanatory chyron titles? Re-shoot new scenes or interviews? No matter what, re-editing a video is a lot more time-consuming and labor-intensive than re-editing a text story. Or should you just add a text correction next to the video? (But then what if that video is "shared" on Facebook, or embedded on another Website? The text Band-Aid won't accompany the flawed video.)

Hypothetically anything your camera "saw" should be "true." But we all know that footage can be edited to skew or alter reality, especially by juxtaposing scenes (deliberately or inadvertently) in a way that could force a viewer to draw a false cause-and-effect conclusion.

Plus, the subjects you interview can make mistakes, which may not be called to your attention until after the video is posted. Then what? Go back and re-conduct the interview? Replace the old one with the new one? And, if so, let the viewer know this is a corrected version?

Even the reporter's own voiceover narration can accidentally incorporate a wrong date or statistic. Should it then be re-written and re-recorded to the exact length of the audio track it needs to replace?

In short, given the enormous number of ways in which errors can creep into a video story, frankly we're amazed that, even after viewing thousands of non-fiction videos, we've never encountered a "video correction." Is it because they're all so perfect? Or because it's too much work to fix relatively minor errors, so they're just left in? Or because it's too much work to fix errors, and so the wayward video is just removed from the Website altogether? Or because the videos are fixed, and it's just not formally called to anybody's attention?

Given the proliferation of professional videojournalism, we'd like to hear some real-world stories about how mistakes are corrected in that medium. Additionally, let us know if your department or organization has established guidelines or protocols for dealing with video errors when they do arise.

LINKS:

* Craig Silverman's Website

* Regret the Error Website

* Regret the Error book

* Regret the Error column (Columbia Journalism Review)

* Regret the Error 'Accuracy Checklist' (pdf)

* Poynter interview with Craig Silverman

Tip of the cyberhat to Advancing the Story!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

10 Tips for Adding Music to Video

Courtesy of MediaStorm's Eric Maierson, here are ten techniques that their team uses when adding music to their multimedia productions. We'll give you the essence, and then point you to their excellent blog for the details (and examples).

First and foremost, decide if you even want or need music -- and that's a completely subjective consideration. Many purists believe that, unless you're using music that was actually heard at the scene (i.e. natural sound), it's a violation of journalistic ethics to add it to your video, since your choice of music (and its tempo and mood) demonstrably affects how viewers process and interpret what they're seeing.

If a soundtrack is indeed desired, here are some "notes" to consider:

1. If the music you’ve chosen is not exceptional, don’t use it. ... If you do use music, don’t steal it. ...

2. Don’t needle-drop [i.e. play a song from beginning to end]. You’re going to need to cut up your music... Try to avoid using music for the full duration of your work. ...

3. Use music with a strong rhythm...

4. Use music with strong stings [i.e. final notes] to provide a definitive conclusion to a section of your production...

5. Turn off other audio tracks when editing music. ...

6. Keep levels consistent. ...

7. Strategically place imperfect music edits. For example, hide an imperfect edit by lowering its volume and placing a voice track over it. ...

8. Create an interplay between your narrative and music. ...

9. Fade music levels as interview bites begin. ...The fade between music and interview should be smooth enough to not draw attention to itself. ...

10. Learn an instrument. The more you understand music, the more skilled you will become at editing music...
For details and examples, read the article here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Study Video with Me in Perpignan, France

I'm going to be teaching videojournalism next summer for the Institute for Education in International Media's study-abroad program in Perpignan, France.

It’s a four-week multimedia program co-sponsored by San Francisco State University and ieiMedia. Students will study French language and culture, as well as reporting and multimedia storytelling, for the first week and then focus intensively on video shooting and editing in Final Cut Express for the last three weeks.

Students will each produce at least one short, documentary-style video as well as text stories about the community; together they will create an online video gallery about the city.
We've got room for about 20 beginning and advanced students, from all schools and disciplines (and from all over the world). The program is open to undergrads, recent grads, and grad students. Here's some basic info for those who might be interested.

When: June 24 - July 23, 2010.

Where: Perpignan is near the Spanish border, eight miles from the Mediterranean. (See map.)


View Larger Map

Tuition: $4,900 + airfare ($200 early-bird discount for those who apply by Jan. 15, 2010). Scholarships are available to SFSU journalism majors only, although financial aid is generally not available for summer study-abroad programs.

Credits: 3 transferable, upper-division journalism units from the SFSU College of Extended Learning. The course is called JOUR 677 Multimedia Study Abroad.

Faculty: I'll be teaching the video module. Jennifer Ward, assistant managing editor-interactive media for the Fresno Bee, will teach Multimedia Storytelling and serve as technology director. Laird Harrison, a former correspondent for TIME and People magazines who lived in France for a year, will teach Reporting. Rachele Kanigel, an associate professor of journalism at SFSU and a former news reporter, will direct the program.

Equipment: The program will provide digital video cameras and computers with video editing software for teams of students to share. Students are encouraged to bring their own equipment as well.

Language: Most classes (except 30 hours of French instruction) will be taught in English. In your reporting you will work with interpreters.

Apply: Students must fill out an application (PDF)and submit one letter of recommendation, along with a $500 deposit. Deposits will be refunded only if a student is not accepted into the program.

More info: PerpignanProject@gmail.com or ieiMedia's Website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'Waiting Topless' Tops KobreGuide Nov. List

Here are the top 10 most viewed video stories on KobreGuide.com for November 2009:

* Waiting Topless (pictured)
* Conjoined Twins
* Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?
* Bolivia's Women Wrestlers
* Being Aron Ralston
* Acid Attacks
* Burned in the War
* Being a Black Man
* The Sand Dancer
* Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr

As with all the videojournalism we showcase, these stories represent a wide array of topics from a variety of media organizations.

Int'l Documentary Ass'n Awards Announced

The 2009 International Documentary Association's Awards ceremony will take place on Friday, Dec. 4 in Los Angeles.

Winners were announced today in several major categories, including Limited Series (Sundance Channel’s Architecture School); Continuing Series (PBS' POV, in its 22nd season); and Music (Anvil! The Story Of Anvil).

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil also competes against Afghan Star, Diary Of A Times Square Thief, Food, Inc. and Mugabe And The White African for IDA's top feature prize, which will be revealed at the event.

More winners:

The IDA/Humanitas Award, a new prize established this year and recognizing a film that strives to unify the human family, goes to Mai Iskander’s Garbage Dreams, which follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village, on the outskirts of Cairo. Here, the Zaballeen, Arabic for ‘garbage people,’ are suddenly faced with the globalization of its trade.

The IDA/Pare Lorentz Award, in homage to the pioneering filmmaker’s legacy, goes to Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Oscar nominated short The Final Inch, about a vast army of health workers who go door-to-door in some of India’s poorest neighborhoods, ensuring every child is vaccinated for polio.

IDA continues to recognize the next generation of documentary filmmakers with its prestigious David L. Wolper Student Documentary Achievement Award. This year’s prize has been awarded to Stanford University’s Peter Jordan for his short documentary The First Kid To Learn English From Mexico, the story of 9-year-old Pedro's reluctant journey through elementary school in pursuit of the American Dream.
Errol Morris will receive a Career Achievement Award. This American Life host/producer Ira Glass (a former IDA Award recipient) returns as host.

More info at Documentary.org .

Monday, November 30, 2009

Which Digital SLR Should You Buy?

For those who are ready to make the budgetary leap from $100+ point-and-shoots to $1000+ digital SLRs, one of your first considerations is which brand and model to go with. That's a subjective decision, but New Orleans Times-Picayune photojournalist Andrew Boyd, who's been shooting professionally for three decades, took a shot at sorting out some points to think about.

On his Discerning Photographer blog, he recommends picking and sticking to one manufacturer:

Buying a camera is the beginning of a long-term commitment. You’ll most likely end up buying additional lenses, strobes, and other accessories for this camera, all by the same manufacturer. Eventually you’ll need another, better camera as well. You’ll want your lenses to fit on the new body. And on and on ... so choose carefully, and plan on staying committed to the choice you make.
OK, so which DSLR brand does he recommend? Canon or Nikon.

Dollar for dollar, day after day, year after year, these are the two camera manufacturers who have consistently led the technological charge and delivered high quality, innovative yet very sturdy, dependable products for the advanced amateur and professional photographer. There are other excellent cameras on the market, and you can buy into another system if you choose. But I will tell you unequivocally that Canon and Nikon are the two safest bets you can make.
Which is better? Well, for that you'll have to read his blog, where he makes some side-by-side comparisons of specific models -- including the (under $1000) Nikon D5000 vs. Canon T1i, and the (over $1000) Nikon D90 vs. Canon 50D.

A lot depends on your specific needs and preferences, and ultimately you should go to a shop and try them out for yourself, but Boyd gives you some important criteria to think about. Plus, as it's often been pointed out, quality photojournalism (and videojournalism) has more to do with what's behind your eyes than what you're holding in front of them.

(Image copyright 2009, Andrew Boyd)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Follow Reporters' Tweets on MuckRack.com

More newspapers and media organizations are having each of their reporters maintain individual Twitter accounts for professional use. By following these reporters -- ranging from network anchors and hotshot columnists to small-town weekly general assignment reporters -- readers can get a sense of developing news stories, with links to updates.

Now one site has corralled them under one big roof. At MuckRack.com, you can find an overwhelming but well organized array of journalists' tweets, representing news sources ranging from ABC and AP to Wired and the Wall Street Journal.

What if you could get tomorrow's newspaper today? Now you sorta can, by tracking the short messages on Twitter written by the journalists who do the muckraking for major media outlets. Muck Rack makes it easy to follow one line, real time reporting.
Muckracking? Frankly, we don't see much of that here -- or anywhere these days, for that matter. But on Muck Rack you can follow not just individual reporters and theiremployers, but also specific "beats," which include major cities and also topics (e.g. Politics, Arts, Sports, etc.).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's Animal Video Week on KobreGuide.com

In case you haven't already noticed, it's Animal Week here at KobreGuide.com .

We've showcased videos on sea turtles, hunting beagles, orphaned marsupials and, um, bull penises.

Normally on KobreGuide, we present a diversity of topics from a variety of sources each week.

We found ourselves with a few critter-related stories, and rather than space them out over a period of several weeks, we asked ourselves, "Why not just create a theme week?"

Now you know how those big important editorial decisions are made.

Serendipitously (or, by design, if you'll fall for that), what each story has in common is the relationship between animals and humans.

We see a divorced woman bonding with her hunting beagle; boys who once poached sea turtle eggs now rescuing them to protect the endangered species; a couple cheerfully raising hopping kangaroos and wallabys in their own living room; and a revered chef who faces the challenge of turning a seemingly unpallatable animal body part into a gourmet delicacy.

The locales range from Costa Rica to Taiwan to Australia.

Among other things, it's taught us that, as much as we look down our nose on all those amateurish piano-playing kitten YouTube videos, professionally produced animal-themed stories can indeed make for excellent videojournalism.

Indeed, KobreGuide.com has an entire Animal channel devoted to them, and video stories such as The Amazing Skidboot and Turtle Man consistently rank among our most popular offerings. Ditto for even serious-minded fare such as Gorilla Massacre and Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers.

What distinguishes them, of course, is that they are not "citizen journalism" (i.e. home movies), but rather good storytelling... and good journalism.

And, yes, we do realize it's Thanksgiving week, but you'll notice that, among our animal-themed video stories this week, there's not a turkey among them!

Oh, OK, if you insist. Here's a lively video snapshot of life on a free range turkey farm in Michigan, courtesy of Eric Seals at the Detroit Free Press (freep.com):



Enjoy! And save room for dessert.

LINKS:

* Bull Penis (National Geographic)
* For the Love of Dogs (Eddie Adams Workshop)
* Saving Sea Turtles, One Nest at at Time(N.Y. Times)
* Kangaroo Foster Parents (Time)
* KobreGuide Animal channel

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nielsen: Online Video Viewing Up 26% in Oct.

More good news, to corroborate the ComScore blog item below:

The Nielsen Company reported overall online video usage and top online brands ranked by video streams for October 2009. Year-over-year, unique viewers, total streams, streams per viewer and time per viewer were up, led by a 26 percent growth in total streams.
Click on the image below to see charts for "Overall Online Video Usage (U.S.)" and "Top Online Brands ranked by Video Streams for October 2009."


AdvancingTheStory.com notes: "Facebook is now the third most popular place to watch video online in the world! It seems to me that this is another area of opportunity for news organizations to disseminate content to expanded audiences."

ComScore: Online Video Viewing is Booming

Mashable: The Social Media Guide reports that Hulu and Facebook are shattering online video records, according to the Web analytics firm ComScore.

While YouTube draws 125 million viewers per month (one billion views per day!), Hulu and Facebook are closing in with double-digit percentage gains that shatter their previous video-viewing records.

There were 27.94 billion videos viewed in October, up 7% from September. Out of that, Google/YouTube is still on top with 10.52 billion videos viewed.

The big mover in October though was Hulu. In September, the News Corp/Disney/NBC joint venture delivered 583 million views. In October, that number shot up by 31.8% to a total of 855 million video views. This is by far a record for the TV video website....

The biggest winner seems to be Facebook. In September, it had 31.18 million unique viewers. In October, that number skyrocketed by nearly 25% to 41.15 million uniques. Once again, this is a record for the world’s largest social network, and one that speaks to how powerful Facebook is becoming in the video space...
We urge newspapers that are still not convinced about the future of video, and pulling back on resources instead of investing in its future, to look at these eye-popping statistics:

* 84.4% of U.S. Internet users watched at least one online video in October.

* The average person watched 10.8 hours of online video in October.

As Mashable notes: "Online video continues to grow and the end is nowhere in sight."

Tell us, how much video do you watch every day? How much for business? For pleasure? How much at work? At home?

We still hear folks whining about having to wade through a lot of video swampland to get to the good stuff. It's faster to scan a page of headlines, and a few sentences of text, to decide what to read -- but committing to watching a video is a bigger investment of time and attention. We realize that, and that's why we created KobreGuide -- to help you find that golden needle in the haystack every day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Will the Touch Tablet Save Journalism?

Multimedia pioneer Colin Mulvany, of Spokane's Spokesman-Review, paints a rosy picture on his Mastering Multimedia blog of how professional journalism can be rescued by... the imminent arrival of the touch tablet.

His scenario may not be far-fetched, but first we have to share another funny scene he depicts that pretty much sums up today's precarious state of affairs, and the new demographically dictated digital divide in general. His former newspaper editor was the keynote speaker at one of those ubiquitous conferences dedicated to developing "real-world plans for new media organizations to fill the journalism gaps left by shrinking news staffs at legacy media organizations.”

As [he] was speaking about the need to save “professional” journalism, back in the corner of the room were a bunch of self-proclaimed snarky bloggers and citizen journalists who took offense to the notion professional journalism should be saved. Of course they twittered their opinions in real time.
Now on to Colin's touch-tablet vision, which starts out like this:

A new breed of touch tablet readers hits the market in 2010-2011. Newspaper publishers at first shun the devices. Then one gutsy newspaper chain embraces them. They form a partnership with the tablet maker to subsidize the cost for the consumer. The more publications a consumer subscribes to, the less they have to pay for the reader. Others soon follow…
Go to Colin's blog to follow the next logical steps. He's a content-oriented guy, and never loses sight of what ultimately matters:

Our journalism is what’s most important and will no doubt have to be upgraded. Words and multimedia will need to work better together. The strength in the touch tablet is in its multimedia capabilities. Visuals like photo galleries, graphics, and hi-def video, will add value. Like your current Web site, the front page of the digital newspaper will change as stories are updated throughout the day. The page design will slowly change to integrate new content features.

Once this happens, the true digital media revolution will begin to take place.
Personally, we're enamoured of our iPhone apps that provide virtual newsstands for dozens of publications and broadcast organizations. News Feed, News Fuse, News Addict, News Junkie -- we've deposited our 99 cents and downloaded them all. It's arguable whether we feel more plugged in by scanning dozens of essentially headline services that more or less echo each other. While waiting for a friend to meet us at a restaurant, we're more likely to tune in to an NPR podcast than try to read a lengthy NY Times article on an eye-straining 2x3 screen.

Amazon's Kindle 2 and Barnes & Noble's new Nook e-book readers offer e-newspapers and e-magazines, but unfortunately as text only, not multimedia. However we can readily see how a similarly sized touch tablet with smart-phone features, and standardized and optimized video platforms, would enable and exponentially improve a full-fledged multimedia journalism experience. The portable touch screen is what would differentiate it as a tactile experience from viewing a similar point-and-click Website on your desktop.

Agree? Disagree? We welcome your thoughts.

And be sure to check out Colin Mulvany's stellar videojournalism on the Spokesman Review channel of KobreGuide.com .

Monday, November 23, 2009

Will Kodak's Zi8 Change Videojournalism?

Adam Westbrook reviews the Kodak Zi8 pocket videocamera, and asks if it's "the tool to change videojournalism."

Now I think if used creatively, it’s possible to produce a high quality film with the Zi8. If so, the potential for citizen journalism, hyper-locals and other smaller news enterprises could be profound.


Video review: Kodak Zi8 MiniHD cam from Adam Westbrook.

Also, see our previous notes on the Zi8 here.

Have you used a Zi8 yet? Share your experiences with us. Show us what you've done.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Video Storytelling in 10 Easy Steps

Targeted for nonprofit organizations, this Digital Storytelling tutorial on TechSoup -- subtitled "Expert tips on creating a polished, professional digital video" -- is chockablock with good advice. It is designed to jumpstart beginners and remind intermediary-level practitioners of the basics.

Though some of the technology has been upgraded since it was originally published, the underlying principles are sound. It is written by Ourmedia executive director J.D. Lasica, who has an impressive editorial and Web tech background, and fleshes out these topics:

Step 1: Decide on the Story You Want to Tell
Step 2: Gather Your Materials
Step 3: Begin Writing Your Script
Step 4: Prep Your Equipment
Step 5: Create a Storyboard
Step 6: Digitize Your Media
Step 7: Record a Voice-Over
Step 8: Add Music
Step 9: Edit Your Story
Step 10: Share Your Story
Tip of the hat to Storytellin (sic).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

15 Documentaries Tapped for Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that, of the 89 films that had qualified in the Documentary Feature category, 15 have been selected to advance in the voting process for the 82nd Academy Awards®.

* “The Beaches of Agnes,” Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)
* “Burma VJ,” Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)
* “The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)
* “Every Little Step,” James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)
* “Facing Ali,” Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)
* “Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)
* “Garbage Dreams,” Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)
* “Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders,” Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)
* “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)
* “Mugabe and the White African,” Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)
* “Sergio,” Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)
* “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)
* “Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)
* “Valentino The Last Emperor,” Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)
* “Which Way Home,” Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

The Wrap noted the absence of Michael Moore's high-profile "Capitalism: A Love Story," and James Toback's well-received "Tyson," which covers the life of boxer Mike Tyson in his own words.

And the screening committee obviously doesn't like rock 'n' roll, because neither "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" nor Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim's "It Might Get Loud" made the cut.
Cinematical notes those absences, along with "The September Issue" (about Anna Wintour and Vogue magazine), and adds: "Last year's best-reviewed documentary, 'Man on Wire,' went on to win the Oscar; 'Anvil!' holds that title this year (98% at Rotten Tomatoes), but it's not even going to be nominated."

How many of these feature-length documentaries have you seen? Any of your favorites missing? Which of the selected films do you think will be nominated? Which one will win an Oscar?

Nominations will be announced on Feb. 2, 2010. The awards ceremony will take place March 7, 2010.

What Works For Online Videojournalism?

In the wake of the cheering New York Times report that online video ads are booming, Poynter's Regina McCombs offers a level-headed assessment of how well newspaper video is performing -- editorially and financially. Her conclusion? Don't Give Up on Online Video Yet.

It's a confusing time, because video has been heralded as the potential saviour of beleagured publishers -- with the sizzle of pre-roll advertising trumping the stodginess of conventional Web banner ads -- but once energized staffs have been running head-on into the harsh reality that video is more complex and expensive and labor intensive to produce than print stories. Consequently, faced with diminishing resources, some media outlets that were making inroads into this exciting new medium have now retreated and/or retrenched.

But all hope is not lost.

Combs asked industry practitioners: What's working and what's not working?

Predictably, the responses constituted a mixed bag.

While clearly there are video efforts that have failed or been abandoned, declaring it all a failure doesn't accurately reflect what's going on in the industry.

What does work: news shows. What doesn't work: news shows. What works: spot news. What doesn't work: spot news. What does work: feature pieces. What doesn't work -- you get the idea.

Of course, defining success is very slippery. A lot of traffic on one site may not be enough for another. Some places have very reliable numbers, others not so much. So for the purposes of this article, I'm not trying to define success, I'm letting each organization set their own definition of what makes video worthwhile.

All those who responded said, yes, absolutely, video works on their Web sites and is worth producing. The responses were passionate that it's much too soon to decide video's future -- that it deserves more time and effort. The responses were passionate that it's much too soon to decide video's future -- that it deserves more time and effort.

My question about what kinds of videos work best received fascinating -- and absolutely contradictory -- answers. Clearly, what works for one site does not necessarily work for others. But it's also clear there are many newspaper Web sites out there pleased with their video efforts and results.
Breaking news and sports seem to be the biggest traffic draws.

Features, however, take longer to produce -- which disincentivizes publishers from pursuing them, despite the fact that they have a longer shelf life.

Feature and documentary stories seem to be the problem children in videoland. Many complained that some of their most polished pieces consistently draw little traffic, to the huge disappointment of all involved.
And it's impossible to predict which features will lure eyeballs, adding to editors' frustration and growing resistance to allocating big resources to what might result in small rewards.

Long-planned and produced stories "almost always fail to resonate with a broad audience," complained one editor, who had no explanation.

But sometimes features actually do better, because they are more likely to be "shared" via social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook).

Part of the problem, we suspect, can be the lack of presentation and organization of the videos themselves, making it impossible for audiences to find them -- and unenticing for them to explore them when they do. (That's why KobreGuide.com was created!)

Often the video stories are separate from the text stories they accompany, without a link from one to the other. Further, newspapers often do little to promote their best video efforts, erroneously believing that audiences will somehow discover them on their own.

Another significant trend: In an increasing number of markets, newspapers are teaming with similarly suffering local TV news broadcasters to co-produce packages that can be configured for both on-air and online consumption.

Though newspapers have a smaller news hole to fill, TV newscasters still have to fill the same number of minutes, and so the infusion of print reporters into their operations is a godsend for them. In exchange, newspapers enjoy the benefits of seasoned pros who are more comfortable in front of, and behind, a camera.

So it comes down to this: There is no magic formula to make video successful. It's as much about knowing your audience and responding to them as anything else. There is no one boyfriend who is perfect for everyone. Still, the folks I talked to had a number of suggestions about how to make a relationship with video work, which I'll write about in an upcoming article.
We look forward to reading that!

*****
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald's Chuck Fadely responded with his own perceptions on his Newspaper Video blog:

After spending a lot of time delving into our stats, I'm extremely optimistic about online video. Emphatically, our video is on a steady growth curve upwards.
Hard news and sports are the two big draws.

Event coverage of sports as well as studio shows about pro sports get good traffic. Some high school football game videos and some football studio shows will get 4,000-7,000 plays.
And now the bad news:

What doesn't work: 'soft' features of the sort that newspapers have covered for decades. It's depressing, but 'good news' - anything involving kids doing well, charity, overcoming adversity, or similar - gets almost no traffic.
Some other observations:

A relatively small percentage of our video traffic is generated from our front-page video player or from our video pages. Most of our video traffic comes from major news events on story page embedded players, by a margin of ten-to-one over other videos...

As far as what format the video takes, it seems to make no difference. The only thing that matters is the topic.

Shorter is usually better for completion, but some of our top videos with the highest completion rates have been eight minutes long.

We run high school football games shot by a scouting service that are filmed from a distant overhead position without audio and they get a lot of traffic. Some of our sports studio shows, all shot to broadcast standards, get a lot of traffic, while others don't.

One last thing: volume is important. Our total video traffic is impressive - the last two months we've had in the neighborhood of a half-million plays each month, which makes for a lot of time on site. A lot of that traffic comes from just a few videos, but the 'long tail' of having many, many videos on site accounts for the rest.
Bottom line: Journalists and journalism institutions should not be abandoning videojournalism, but rather running toward it with open embracing arms. While there are challenges and obstacles to be navigated, it is undeniably the future of our profession.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

8 Billion Lives: 'Everyone Has a Story'

The concept behind 8 Billion Lives is simple:

"Everyone has a story. Watch a day in the life of people from all over the world."

Of the 16 videos posted so far on this recently launched video Website, most of the subjects seem to be either some form of activists or performing artists. And nearly all are Americans.

But the vision is to offer more eclectic and international fare.

To celebrate our diversity – we want to share stories of people from all walks of life, with the mission of fostering global citizenship.

To satisfy our curiosity – you can use our site as an educational tool to take a closer look at the daily habits, lifestyles, and dreams of others.

To recognize our interconnectedness – our world is becoming more global, but we don’t always understand how others live. We believe that video is a great tool to connect people who might not otherwise interact.
We were curious about both the editorial mechanics and the financial aspects of such an ambitious undertaking -- who commissions and selects the content, and who pays for all this video? So we emailed some questions to the founders, and received this response from Wing-Yee Wu:

What is your business model?

We are exploring a number of different models, including but not limited to licensing / sponsorship of certain content. Right now, we're focused on building a strong and growing library of high-quality content, and getting the word out about our site.

Do videojournalists get paid , or have to pay, for inclusion in 8BL?

For the first batch of films, the filmmakers were paid a small amount, mostly to cover costs. Contributors to the site will not have to pay. Going forward, we hope that filmmakers like the concept of the site and the ability to reach a wide audience with their work, and we don't anticipate monetary compensation being the driving force behind their participation.

Will there be advertising or sponsorship?

We are still discussing these as possibilities.

Are videos ever commissioned (based on a concept), or do you consider only finished videos?

We're happy to directly receive videos, finished or work-in-progress, or to receive suggestions for subjects. We do 'commission' in the sense that we receive pitches / ideas from people that we are happy to facilitate to the extent possible. For example, we received a suggestion that a chef would be an interesting subject, and helped to connect a filmmaker with Chef David Burke.

If a submission needs work, will you offer guidance, or edit it yourself?

We don't edit ourselves but definitively offer guidance. Our Head of Film is an experienced filmmaker herself and has worked with quite a few of the filmmakers as a sounding board or editing supervisor. Having said that, we try to be respectful of individual filmmakers' ideas, styles, and approaches as well as respectful to our subjects.

How are stories selected, and who ultimately decides what appears on the site?

For selecting subjects, often the filmmakers will be inspired by someone and select on their own. The film selection is run by our internal team.

Will you accept previously published video stories, or only originals?

We accept previously published films, subject to our judgment as to whether they fit in with our site. We do ask for exclusive online screening rights for a certain period of time.

As you add stories, how will they be organized on the site?

Currently, stories are organized in two ways. On the Our World tab, they are clustered geographically on a world map for viewers that want to browse by location. Second, there is a search function where people can search by keyword. As the library grows, we will come up with new ways of organizing the films based on the type of content that we receive. Any ideas are welcome -- we are excited to see how the site grows organically and will respond accordingly.

*****

For those who want to contribute, here are the criteria:

Your film should…

* Be a documentary portraying a single individual, i.e. not a group
* Be between 4-7 min long
* Cover the subject’s morning, afternoon and evening (if you’d like, you can spread out the shooting over multiple days)
* Include at least 4 out of our 6 ‘Building Blocks’ :

Building Blocks:
We’d like to see the subject:

* Engaging in a recreational activity
* Engaging in a professional activity
* Eating or preparing a meal
* Engaging in a transaction of some kind
* Meaningfully interacting with another person
* Discussing long-term goals, dreams, etc…

LINK:

8 Billion Lives