Tuesday, June 30, 2009

100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students

A blog devoted to online education, with the unlikely name of Learn-gasm, today issued a useful list of the "100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students."

Today’s journalism students are entering an industry that’s facing a crossroads. These days, newspapers and media in general are adapting and growing at a rapid pace, and it’s essential that students keep up, or they’ll be left in the dust. By reading these blogs, you can keep an ear to the ground on the latest developments that matter the most to journalism students.
We found quite a few blogs here that we frequent ourselves, and even more that we look forward to exploring. We encourage all aspiring and professional journalists to check it out because, after all, we're all eternally students. In this business, we can't afford not to be!

Monday, June 29, 2009

YouTube Reporters' Center Offers Free Journalism Training From Top Pros

YouTube has launched yet another initiative to encourage this bizarre phenomenon known as "citizen journalism." Apparently in response to criticism, such as ours, that journalism should be the purview of professionals, and average Joes who contribute cellphone video clips of airline disasters are properly called "eyewitnesses," YouTube has now taken it upon itself to provide free journalism training to the masses. Naturally, it takes the form of short instructional video segments, housed in its brand new Reporters' Center.

The upside to all this is that the teachers are not just any J-school profs, but CBS's Katie Couric ("How to Conduct a Good Interview"), Washington Post's Bob Woodward ("Investigative Journalism"), New York Times's Nicholas Kristof ("Covering a Global Crisis"), NPR's Scott Simon ("How to Tell a Story"), PBS's Tavis Smiley ("How to Get More From Your Subject"), Arianna Huffington ("Citizen Journalism"), and a few dozen more top pros.

Ever captured a natural disaster or a crime on your cell-phone camera? Filmed a political rally or protest, and then interviewed the participants afterward? Produced a story about a local issue in your community? If you've done any of these things or aspire to, then you're part of the enormous community of citizen reporters on YouTube, and this channel is for you.

The YouTube Reporters' Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation's top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.
In its true spirit of Web democracy, YouTube even enables everybody -- yes, even YOU -- to join the ranks of Couric, Woodward, et al in teaching journalism: "If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page."

There's no denying the entertainment value of hearing someone as brilliant and accomplished as Nick Kristof (a favorite contributor to KobreGuide's New York Times channel) discourse about covering global crises. He strikes a tone that's alternatively serious and tongue-in-cheek, addressing topics ranging from safety tips ("The first rule is to make sure you get back alive. Never argue with people with large guns. There's no point in getting a great interview with a warlord if afterwards he kills you and takes your video.") to basic storytelling pointers ("Personalize the story. Americans don't care about thousands of people starving, but they can be made to care about one individual, and, through that person, about the larger problem.")

Steve Myers at Poynter Online provides thoughtful coverage and commentary... and the most generous interpretation of YouTube's goals:

The project is part of a larger effort to make YouTube a destination for video news and to cement it as the meeting place for people who witness important events and the organizations that need their accounts.

Meanwhile, below is an overview -- and a few sample "lessons" -- to help you draw your own conclusions about the project's merits. If nothing else, there's definitely an abundance of journalism wisdom in these tutorials. News purveyors and consumers alike stand to be enlightened by the collective lessons contained therein.

But, as always, we can't help but wonder if folks would be as motivated to devour video tutorials from leading cardiologists in how to perform your own heart bypass surgery.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Online Journalism Awards Deadline: June 30

Hurry, this Tuesday (June 30) is the deadline for entering the Online Journalism Awards, administered by the Online News Association and its academic partner, the University of Miami's School of Communication.

There's a special category for Online Video Journalism:

This category honors excellence in online-originated video journalism crafted specifically for a Web audience. Emphasis will be placed on compelling narrative, originality and creative use of the medium. Entries may consist of a single story or up to three examples from a series related to a single topic and may be integrated with other multimedia tools. Slideshows in a video format are not eligible.

Two awards:
Small: 0-999,999 monthly uniques
Large: Over 1 million monthly uniques
Winners will be announced at the 2009 Online News Association Annual Conference and Awards Banquet, Oct. 3, at the Hilton San Francisco.

You can see past winners in this category on the Online Journalism Awards channel on KobreGuide.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Happened to LATimes.com Video?

What happened to LATimes.com video stories? They've disappeared! There used to be a video player right there on their homepage -- but it's vanished!

For a while, the newspaper was on a roll with five fulltime videojournalists generating noteworthy original feature video stories, which we proudly showcased on KobreGuide's Los Angeles Times channel. But they all seem to have evaporated. A victim of budget slashing and cutbacks?

Video director Scott Anger is on an extended leave of absence, reportedly working on his own projects, so we talked to deputy managing editor for visuals, Colin Crawford, who graciously filled us in on the situation.

We were relieved to hear that LA Times videos are on a short hiatus while the paper's tech team is building a new whiz-bang proprietary video player from scratch -- a task that's turned out to be more difficult and time-consuming than originally imagined.

We here at KobreGuide have been researching all the various video players out there, and are putting together our own in-depth report on recommended attributes. Some players are far superior to others, but no single player seems to have all the bells and whistles you would hope for, so we know first-hand what a complicated business that can be. (If you'd like a free copy of our report, email us and we'll reserve one for you.)

Crawford predicts that LATimes.com video will be up and running again in about a month. Meanwhile, he pointed us to a series of wonderful audio slideshows his staff has been producing. By his own admission, they are well hidden on the Website. If you click on their "Photography" text link, buried on the left-side navigation bar on the homepage, you'll eventually get there. But these gems deserve more attention than that -- and that's what KobreGuide is here for!

Ironically, it was the LATimes.com audio slideshow "Marlboro Marine" that served as the impetus for KobreGuide in the first place. We couldn't believe that Luis Sinco's terrific project was so impossible to find. The running joke was that the staff's own photographers had to Google their own names to find their own work! How could the average person be expected to stumble upon it? KobreGuide to the rescue!

So this week, while we're waiting for LATimes.com video to return, we're featuring more of their terrific audio slideshows, hidden treasures buried on their own Website, including:

A Hendrix Experience in Hollywood

Diamond in the Rough

Getting Paid to Not Teach

More coming in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

'Obama Time Capsule' Puts You in the Picture

Photographer Rick Smolan, best known as the visionary co-creator of the mega-successful "Day in the Life" coffeetable-book series, has done it again.

He's put together a revolutionary new customized book project that serves twin purposes. It memorializes Pres. Obama's road to the White House through the eyes of the world's top photographers. And it enables you to personalize your copy so that it includes your name, photo, and thoughts woven throughout the book.

"The Obama Time Capsule" spans a two-year period, including Election Day, the inauguration, and his first 100 days in office. It features essays from TIME magazine’s Joe Klein, the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the president’s sister, Auma Obama.

But what makes the project especially noteworthy is that there are nine customizable elements in the book. After you order it, you can personalize it by going online and adding your name on the cover, your photo on the back cover, your own dedication page, your name to the inaugural invitation page, your name and photo to the celebrity supporter page, even your own kids' artwork to the "Kids for Obama" page. And then the one-of-a-kind book will be shipped to you.

Smolan's "Obama Time Capsule" represents a new chapter in custom publishing, incorporating an especially fitting topic and theme.

See the ABC News slideshow here.

This Is Cleveland

Slow news day? Or just what happens when you remove "journalism" from the Fox news equation? This clip gives new meaning to "re-creation." Edward R. Murrow weeps:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Detroit Free Press Completes 50-Video Tribute to Motown Records

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Motown Records, The Detroit Free Press (freep.com) undertook a massive videojournalism project: "Motown at 50." The staff set out to re-create and celebrate the label's colorful history and lore via a mosaic of 50 short videos, and publishing them online at the rate of 3 per week.

The Miracles, The Temptations, The Supremes.... Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson.... And of course label founder Berry Gordy.... The freep.com video staff brought dozens of great music makers to life, along with lots of behind-the-scenes players and observers.

KobreGuide.com proudly showcased the ambitious series when it started earlier this year, "Happy 50th, Motown!" Now that it's finally hit 50, freep.com has repackaged the entire extravaganza under one big umbrella, making it all easier to navigate and enjoy, and using the occasion to launch a brand new videoplayer. That happened this Sunday. Accordingly, we're bringing it back to our homepage this week -- it deserves a wide audience.

We asked executive producer Kathy Kieliszewski to share with KobreChannel.com at this juncture the project's challenges and triumphs. With 20-20 hindsight she generously provided this wrap-up report, a reflection of what a small but mighty staff can do when sufficiently motivated and energized:

This has been our most successful video project to date. We have had thousands of hits on the videos and photo gallery – just at the new launch (on a Sunday – our lowest traffic day) we had over 8,000, with several hundred watching all the videos. I have had emails from Europe and South America praising the work – not to mention Berry Gordy himself told us that we were doing an excellent job.

When these first started rolling out we did a media blitz to Motown fan sites and music blogs. We Twittered and posted on Facebook when we added new content to highlight -- an all out effort to keep the buzz going. The new video of the day consistently topped our video views every day, with other videos falling close behind – an indication people were watching many in a row.

Considering that this piece is nearly three hours of video, it was a relatively small group of people that pulled this together. The genesis of the project started back in February 2008 with pop music columnist Brian McCollum and entertainment editor Steve Byrne coming to me and Craig Porter about the possibility of doing 50 videos. Both had produced our "Motown at 40" section ten years ago and have an institutional knowledge of Motown – a huge bonus when trying to decide who to talk to and what stories to do. Brian worked for months to gain access and arrange some of the key interviews.

Shooting began in the fall of 2008, and initially we assigned Romain Blanquart to the project. However, the amount of work and some scheduling conflicts prompted us to bring in Marcin Szczepanski to help. (Brian Kaufman and Eric Seals both produced a video each – again because of scheduling conflicts.) We started publishing three days a week on January 11, 2009 until we hit 50. In short, the main players consisted of Brian McCollum, Romain Blanquart, Marcin Szczepanski, myself, Steve Byrne, artist Rick Nease and web designers Brian Todd and James Thomas – 8 people. It should be noted that none of these folks worked on this full-time for the last 8 months – we had a lot of news between Chrysler, GM, inauguration, the Red Wings Stanley Cup run... and we launched a morning news program with our local CBS affiliate.

The videos first published in our standard video player. Our web designers were tied up on other projects, so we agreed that when we hit 50 we’d publish it in a more polished form – which happened this Sunday. This date doesn’t actually reflect when we hit 50 per se, but we have a big event scheduled with some key Motown people and we wanted the two to be in sync. Yes, I am glad we put it together as a more cohesive package. I think the video thumbnails, chatter and interactivity is more intuitive. We also had some export issues on the initial video.

The project was incredibly ambitious – almost to the point of insane. I think I would have pushed harder to limit the number of videos we published per week. The goal was to publish one a day Monday through Friday and then we paired back to three a week – we were scrambling a lot on deadline, and I think we could have done one a week and made more of an effort to highlight it online. If it was any other topic but Motown, I don’t think we would have gone this wild with it, but if we had to do it all over again, we would.
So go check it out yourself -- along with the 50 videos, there's an abundance of text articles, photo galleries, interactive features, even downloadable wallpaper! While other video staffs are pulling back, the Detroit Free Press provides a shining example of what a motivated and energized staff can accomplish -- even with limited resources that force us all to work with one eye tied behind our back.

And while you're at it, treat yourself to other topnotch video stories on the Detroit Free Press channel on KobreGuide -- and other goodies in our "Top 10" section.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mama, They Took Our Kodachrome Away!

Kodachrome, the world's first commercially successful color film, is the latest victim of the digital age. Representing less than one percent of Kodak's sales, the company pulled the plug on it today, ending its 74-year run. Remarkably, there is only one photo lab in the world that still processes it -- in Kansas!

Like its famous ad campaign, Kodachrome will itself become the stuff of memories.

Kodak offers a slideshow tribute to the fabled film, from three photogs whose work helped popularize it: Steve McCurry, Eric Meola, and Peter Guttman.

McCurry shot the memorable 1985 National Geographic cover image, "Afghan Girl" (above), using Kodachrome.

"The early part of my career was dominated by Kodachrome, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images," he says. "While Kodachrome was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the 'Afghan Girl' 17 years later, I used Kodak's E100VS film to create that image."

Kodak's "1000 Words" blog offers more reflections on Kodachrome from McCurry, Meola and Guttman -- and this celebratory slideshow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Not Abandon Expensive Film for Affordable Video?

Colin Mulvany, pioneering multimedia producer at Spokane's Spokesman-Review, recently participated in a panel discussion with local documentary filmmakers, and felt like a fish out of water. Why? Because he's a video guy, and his fellow panelists were devoted to 16mm film.

More to the point, they were devoted to spending years writing grants to raise money to pay for film stock, processing, and post-production costs. Mulvany, on the other hand, has to knock out videos on time-crunched newspaper deadlines -- for a tiny fraction of the expense.

As he reports on his "Mastering Multimedia" blog:

I had to wonder why so many filmmakers stick to using film when high-def video is available for next to nothing. When I asked: “Why not chuck expensive film stock and just go video?” the response was almost universally: “It's the look we like, it's the tradition.”

Funny, that’s the same thing I heard when still photographers were transitioning to digital. I can honestly say now that my images look way better than anything I shot in my early years shooting Tri-X black-and-white film or, God forbid, Kodak high-speed 400 iso negative film.

High-definition video is opening up new opportunities for documentary filmmakers that would otherwise be missed if someone were waiting years to get grant funding to produce it on film. I understand there are still costs, but wow, what one person with decent video camera skills, a laptop and Final Cut Pro can do now. When I look at all the credits on a documentary film, I have to wonder if three-fourths of the names are really needed.

One must wonder if a new wave of documentary filmmakers, freed from the legacy of film and film schools, will focus their small video cameras on stories deemed too risky financially for traditional documentary producers to bother with. I think the film festival circuit is about to get a fresh shot of creativity from a growing legion of former newspaper videojournalists.
Mulvany's full commentary here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If Journalists Were Replaced by Poets...

Imagine if the New York Times replaced its staff reporters with accomplished novelists and poets -- if even for just one day. How would the selection of stories, and the way they are told, differ from what is normally reported?

Israel's oldest newspaper, Haaretz, arguably that country's equivalent of the New York Times, did exactly that. For one day last week, they sent their staff home and recruited 31 of the nation's leading fiction writers to tell the truth.

If you don't read Hebrew, you can read more about the charming and whimsical results here and here.

The day's economic news was put in the hands of a children's book author:

“Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points ... The guy from the shakshuka [a popular Middle-Eastern egg and tomato dish] shop raised his prices again ...”
The weather report was a "Summer Sonnet."

But it wasn't all fun and games. As the Jewish Forward reported:

David Grossman, one of Israel’s most famed novelists, spent a night at a children’s drug rehabilitation center in Jerusalem and wrote a cover page story about the tender exchanges between the patients, ending the article in the style of a celebrated author who’s treated like a prophet: “I lay in bed and thought wondrously how, amid the alienation and indifference of the harsh Israeli reality, such islands — stubborn little bubbles of care, tenderness and humanity — still exist.”

Novelist Yoram Kaniuk, 79, went into the field to write about couples in the hospital cancer ward. The thing is, he’s a cancer patient, too. “A woman walking with a cane brings her partner a cup of coffee with a trembling hand. The looks they exchange are sexier than any performance by Madonna and cost a good deal less,” Kaniuk wrote. “I think about what would happen if I were to get better…how I would live without the human delicacy to which I am witness?”
Five staff reporters stood by in the event of big breaking news, but apparently there was none. At least, not in the traditional sense. Those who absorbed this radical experiment, however, may have felt otherwise.

Now it's got us wondering: What would happen if we handed videocameras to top Hollywood filmmakers and asked them to come back with an edited non-fiction video story by the end of the day?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Columbia J-School Digital Media Boot Camp

The Columbia University Journalism School's Continuing Education unit will be holding a Digital Media Boot Camp, July 20-24.

Sixteen participants will have the chance to learn the basics of video production, post-production with Final Cut Pro and Photoshop from New Media Coordinator and Assistant Professor Duy Linh Tu (class of ‘99).

Cost is $895 for Columbia Journalism alumni; $995 for all others. Financial aid is not available. More info here. Register here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MediaStorm Methodology Workshop, July 27-31

MediaStorm will be conducting its first workshop devoted to multimedia "methodology" at its Brooklyn headquarters this summer. Participants will learn not how to shoot and edit individual videojournalism pieces, but rather how to devise an overall newsroom (or organizational) multimedia strategy.

Over this five-day course, attendees will participate in a collaborative, fast-paced, hands-on overview of what it takes to produce successful multimedia projects. They will work closely with MediaStorm producers and interactive designers to learn the essential elements of multimedia post-production, project organization and storytelling concepts.

There will be intensive business-oriented discussions as well, critiquing aspects of developing business models that support multimedia and interactive storytelling. Attendees will leave the workshop with an understanding of all the areas they need to create a comprehensive multimedia plan and to educate others on the approach.
For more info, and to apply, go here. Hurry, only 3 slots left.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Michael Moore: 'Save Our CEOs' Teaser

Controversial documentarian Michael Moore may have come up with the first interactive movie trailer.

At big-city theaters this week, the teaser for his new as-yet-untitled film (below), about the U.S. economic meltdown, satirically invited the audience to donate money for victims of the economic crisis -- "needy banks and corporations."

Whereupon ushers marched down the aisles wearing t-shirts and carrying collection cans marked "Save Our CEOs."

Details here, here, and here.


Hi, I’m Michael Moore. Instead of using this time to tell you about my new movie, I’d like to take a moment and ask you to join me in helping our fellow Americans. The downturn in the economy has hurt many people -- people who have had no choice but to go on government assistance. Yet our welfare agencies can only do so much. That’s why I’m asking you to reach into your pockets right now and lend a hand.

Ushers will be coming down the aisles to collect your donations for Citibank, Bank of America, AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and a host of other needy banks and corporations. Won’t you please give generously? Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I already gave at the bailout.” And I know you did. But even if you’ve given in the past, give some more. It’ll make you feel... good.

This is a guy who knows a thing or two about marketing. Videojournalists, take note!

Can't wait to see the movie... in October.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Travis Fox's Journey Along the Mexican Border

Washington Post videojournalist Travis Fox previously documented "Mexico at War: On the Front Lines," a series of five short videos that investigated the drug trade's spiraling violence and its numerous human implications.

Tomorrow Fox returns to the scene with a travelogue, "Journey Along the Border," visually chronicling the "militarized hot zone, where tens of thousands of Mexican soldiers are fighting a vicious drug war against well-armed, rich and powerful drug traffickers, who smuggle across these desert highways 90 percent of the cocaine so voraciously consumed in the United States. On the U.S. side, the federal government is pouring taxpayer money into the border, promising to stem the flow of cash and guns heading south, while the border patrol continues its ceaseless cat-and-mouse search for Mexican migrants sneaking north."

Fox's daily diary approach is similar to the methodology of his cross-country video trek last fall, "Hard Times," which explored how the economic downturn might influence Americans' votes in the upcoming presidential election. (See "Hard Times" and the previous installment of "Mexico at War" showcased on KobreGuide.com.)
"We're going to tell the stories of overwhelmed small town sheriffs, of drug smugglers and drug czars, of the Mexicans who struggle to survive in dusty villages and the Americans who fear that the drug war is getting way too close for comfort. We're going to talk to cops and mayors, some scientists and singers, and lots of regular folks, too. We've got a map, an ice chest, a video camera, and the laptops. "
We'll be watching. Look for the project on KobreGuide's Washington Post channel.

Friday, June 12, 2009

NYT Photog Takes Chance With Video

What's remarkable about today's KobreGuide pick is the amount of feedback it has generated, not only for the story it tells, but for how the story is told -- aesthetically and journalistically.

Chang W. Lee (right), an award-winning New York Times senior photojournalist, reluctantly leveraged his talents for his first foray into videojournalism, a six-part series called "Second Chance," about triumphant life transformations.

His initial installment, "The Jazz Singer," showcased today on KobreGuide's New York Times channel, is drawing mostly effusive praise. But the nitpicks and quibbles are notable because they connote an increasingly more discerning audience.

As the Times itself noted on its Lens blog, Lee made the leap from stills to video only because the transition was eased by the much hyped "hybrid" Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a new SLR digital camera that also shoots HD video. His first video effort, signficantly, represents a "second chance" of sorts for Lee himself.

So how did he do?

On the positive side, viewers justifiably complimented Lee for the way his story's theme and subject -- a single mom fulfilling a lifelong artistic dream -- touched their hearts and inspired them. His images were inarguably "masterful" and "evocative." Many appreciated the way his frozen stills would seem to "come to life" and become moving images.

However, many took Lee to task because they felt his initial effort fell short of TV or feature-documentary quality -- and couldn't understand why the short video should have taken four months to research, edit and shoot. They wondered if the story wouldn't have better been served with simply still shots, or perhaps an audio slideshow, mediums that played to his established strengths. What purpose, they asked, did video serve?

Many noticed that the audio quality was uneven, a trait especially distracting in footage of a performing musician. Others thought the story's sequencing and shot progression was amateurish, and that the narrative itself was flat -- we don't see the main character experience inner growth or catharsis.

Some gave Lee low scores on basic journalism principles, feeling that the story lacked essential details (e.g. her musical background; her finances), and that there was an absence of sources and perspectives. For instance, we never hear from the nightclub owner, the singer's fans, her son. And where are the kid's dad and grandparents?

Some appreciated Lee's cleverly edited laundromat sequence; others felt it was extraneous and detracted from the main story.

In sum, the point here is not to pick on a particular photographer, who has spent decades shooting stunning images around the world, but rather to underscore the chasmic leap that even the best still photographers must make to conquer the world of videojournalism. While photographers have some advantages, as one critic aptly noted, a lifetime of experience capturing stills does not prepare you for shooting moving images: "It takes time and practice. It involves changing the way you see, think and work."

The harshest naysayers, accomplished videographers in their own right, compared Lee's video to a student project. While intended as an insult, that may in fact be the highest compliment. After all, the best videojournalists are learning as we're doing. It comes with the territory. Every assignment is another lesson. The mere fact that an established pro like Lee is willing to stir himself from his comfort zone and attempt to master new technologies and techniques -- and that he and the New York Times are bold enough to publicly display his fledgling efforts -- is a feat to be applauded.

We look forward to seeing the next five weekly installments of Chang Lee's "Second Chance" series.

J-School Grads Are Getting Jobs .... Yours!

AOL's Daily Finance reports that, despite the miserable financial state of the media, enrollment in journalism schools is on the rise and, perhaps not unrelatedly, j-grads are actually finding jobs -- in journalism!

Columbia University and CUNY's graduate schools of journalism report that more than 60 percent of their recent alum have found employment related to their degrees -- many at those same institutions that are vigorously laying off veteran staffers.

And therein may lie the explanation:

My guess is at least some of it is a direct result of the massive staff cutbacks just about every media organization has enacted in the past couple years. It's a corporate cliche to lay people off and euphemize it as "restructuring," but you can be sure that some of the companies that are letting go well-paid editors and writers in their 40s and 50s are quietly stocking up on fresh j-school grads whose lack of real-word experience is at least partly made up for by their effortless fluency in the ways of the web -- and their willingness to work for $35,000 a year.

Inspiration for Videojournalists

Digital Journalist
Interactive Narratives
Mastering Multimedia
Multimedia Muse
Multimedia Shooter
News Videographer

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Moving Movie Posters, Living Mag Covers, Frame Grabs, and the Big Red One

The Red One digital cinema camera, which costs as much as a car, enables you to grab crisp high-resolution still frames from video, blurring the distinction between moments and motion. Its 24-frames-per-second 9.4-megapixel capability eclipses even the fastest motor drives.

Alexx Henry created a series of living movie posters with one, and documented the process (below).
"I really believe this is the future and I’m super thrilled to be a part of the revolution. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s very cool if it’s done right. What begins as a still image suddenly comes alive when the characters move, perform an action, and then resolve back to the poster frame. If you thought the portraits and newspapers from Harry Potter were the future, then look no further."

... and here are the results of that shoot:

“Teacher’s Pet”


“Students Have No Class”

Though the Red One is (at least for now) too big, not to mention too expensive, for in-the-field videojournalists, Canon, Nikon and Panasonic have all developed hybrid cameras that enable you to shoot both high-quality stills and video. A camcorder's ability to produce high-res frame grabs are an important consideration, since it cuts in half the amount of equipment you need to shlep to bring back video and stills from an assignment. But it carries with it ethical, aesthetic and philosophical considerations.

Henri Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment" is no longer frozen in time, but now one of a series of points on a timeline. This may sound inconsequential, but in fact relates directly to the contrasting considerations of a video and a still shooter. At the most basic level, when you're shooting video, you're not trying to find just the right image, but rather the right sequence of movements, events, interactions. You want to follow your subject from point A, through B, to C. If you get lucky, one of those thousands of frames will distill the essence of your story -- but not necessarily!

We probably know better than most how infrequently even the best videos contain even a single still image that embodies the whole, since for every video story we post on KobreGuide, we actively search for one image that best represents it. And yet how elusive those single images are!

For "Turtle Man," to use but one small example, we wanted so badly to show you a still that encompassed both the subject's big toothless grin AND a closeup of a snapping turtle he's caught. The videographer did a terrific job by showing both -- but, except for long shots, never in the same frame! Ditto for other video stories we've showcased about dual subjects -- teachers and students, doctors and patients, and so on. A still photographer would have captured both in the same frame, but a videographer is more likely to pan or cut from one to the other, and is not looking for that one quintessential, balanced, harmonious microsecond.

For a single subject, however, there are instances when frame grabs do have an advantage.

That photo portrait of actress Megan Fox on the cover of this month's Esquire isn't a photo at all, but rather a video frame -- courtesy of shooter Greg Williams and a technique he's dubbed "Motos" (moving photos), again using that magical Red One.

According to the magazine:

"It allowed her to act," Williams says. "She could run scenes without being reminded by the sound of a shutter every four seconds that I was taking a picture. As in still photography, a lot of it is capturing unexpected moments. This takes that one step further." He then went back and pulled out the best images, which you can see in Esquire's June issue. Plus, there's a fantastic by-product: Even though we made the film to get the stills, we were left with ten bewitching minutes of footage of a beautiful woman. We edited it down to a mini movie, which is now available right here.
(Caveat: Be forewarned, this is not strictly videojournalism, but rather "loosely scripted footage with Fox — getting out of bed, rolling around on a pool chair, eating BBQ." You get the idea.)

On a more serious note, Harvard's Nieman Labs incisively analyzes the "frame-grabbing" trend, and offers these helpful considerations (with underlying explanations):

+ Frame grabbing works better on a camcorder with a “progressive” shooting option.

+ Frame grabbing works better at higher shutter speeds than would be used for shooting video.

+ Frame grabbing might require a video light rather than a strobe in low light

We've come a long way technologically since David Leeson (who recently left the Dallas Morning News) returned from Hurricane Katrina extolling the virtues of frame grabs from a HDV camera, but his subsequent observations were prescient:
Today, we still call them frame grabs. Tomorrow we will call them what they really are – photographs. The end result is that we do not have to sacrifice our legacy of still photojournalism simply because the medium has changed. We can move forward to a new era of storytelling where the demands of rich content in a digital age do not subjugate the decisive moments of life to obtain the "extended moments" waiting for us in motion and sound.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hagglers' Hell

Anyone who's ever had to negotiate their freelance fee with chintzy clients will laugh until they cry at the brutal truths re-enacted in this funny video, "The Vendor Client Relationship," produced by Scofield Editorial, an Indianapolis post-production house.

You'll hear every inane excuse in the book as to why customers can't or don't want to pay your established rate -- and appreciate how absurd it would be if they tried this pathetic approach at a restaurant, hair salon or retail store.

If only you had a nickel for every time you wish you would've reacted in stunned disbelief, after a publisher tries to wriggle out of paying for quality goods by claiming he can get the same thing cheaper down the street: "Sir, we're not the taco stand."

Webby Awards: Soul of Wit

Five-word acceptance speeches rock.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Class of '09: Welcome to a Dying Industry

Barbara Ehrenreich, bestselling author of "This Land is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation" and "Nickled and Dimed," delivered this year's commencement address to the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

An excerpt, as reprinted in the San Franciso Chronicle:
(Journalists) are not part of an elite. We are part of the working class, which is exactly how journalists have seen themselves through most of American history - as working stiffs. We can be underpaid, we can be jerked around, we can be laid off arbitrarily - just like any autoworker or mechanic or hotel housekeeper or flight attendant.

But there is this difference: A laid-off autoworker doesn't go into his or her garage and assemble cars by hand. But we - journalists - we can't stop doing what we do.

As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won't stop us. A dying industry won't stop us. Even poverty won't stop us because we are all on a mission here. That's the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight.

Friday, June 5, 2009

40 Reasons to Still Study Journalism

Social marketing evangelist Alexandra Rampy, on her SocialButterfly blog, puts forth "40 Reasons to Still Study Journalism."

It's addressed to prospective college students and recent grads, but serves as an excellent reminder to all of us what the profession has done, and can do, for us as individual practitioners ... and why it is imperative for all of us to help the profession thrive and prosper.

Reading it will remind you why you got into this crazy business in the first place.

Guess How Much Online Video We Watch?

How many online videos do you watch every month? How much time do you spend watching them?

The average U.S. Internet user watched 111 videos, for a total of 6.4 hours, during the month of April, according to data released yesterday by ComScore Video Metrix service.

Nearly 152 million U.S. Web users collectively watched 16.8 billion online videos, an increase of 16 percent from the previous month.

What's especially remarkable is that Google's YouTube accounted for 6.8 billion of those viewed videos (or 40.7 percent of the online video market), with 107.8 million viewers -- a 15 percent increase over March.

Fox Interactive Media (MySpace) ranked a distant second with 513 million videos and 58.8 million viewers (3.1 percent), followed by Hulu with 397 million videos and 40.1 million viewers (2.4 percent) and Yahoo! with 355 million videos and 45.4 million viewers (2.1 percent). Also in the top ten: Viacom, Microsoft, Turner Network, CBS, Disney, AOL.

Other notable findings for April 2009:
  • 78.6 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The duration of the average online video was 3.5 minutes.
For the record, here at KobreGuide, we watch many hours of videojournalism every month to find the best story every weekday for you! If our average video is about 5 minutes, that would add up to nearly two hours of high-quality viewing we provide you every month. And, if you're an "average" consumer (as measured by ComScore), that would still leave you more than four hours a month for goofing around on YouTube!

So our advice: Enjoy your candy, but don't forget your veggies. They're good for you, and taste good, too!

Apply Now for Next Platypus Workshop

There are still a few open slots for The Digital Journalist's Platypus Workshop next month, headed by award-winning photojournalists Dirck Halstead and PF Bentley, July 26- Aug. 4 in Maine.

In nine days, we teach high-definition digital shooting and editing, with an emphasis on storytelling. We have taught over 200 photojournalists since our inception in 1999. Our graduates have gone on to do television documentaries and Web videos, especially for newspapers and even films. One of our graduates was a nominee for an Oscar in 2006.
Participants are supplied Canon cameras, Sennheiser mikes, and a MacBook Pro loaded with Final Cut Pro.

Tuition ranges from $750 to $1,995. To register, contact Kerry L. Curren: registration@theworkshops.com .

SalaamGarage Has a Slot for You

Amanda Koster's Salaam Garage has one more slot open for her upcoming 12-day journey to India, Sept. 18 - Oct. 1.

Photojournalists and videojournalists are paired with a non-government organization (NGO) to help document and tell their stories on the Web. Itinerary and application details here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to Make Money Creating Web Video

If you're trying to figure out how to make money creating Web video, you might start by checking out a couple of books by Scott Kirsner.

Kirsner has spent the past decade writing about innovation for prominent newspapers, magazines and, naturally, Websites. He runs two blogs (CinemaTech and Innovation Economy ), and is also a frequent speaker at conferences about innovation and leadership.

Kirsner's previous book, "The Future of Web Video: New Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers," is based on more than 100 interviews with executives and media-makers conducted between 2005 and 2007.

You'll find a detailed description and Table of Contents here... and over here is a preview of one of the book's helpful charts, "Getting Paid: Sites that Help Filmmakers and Video Producers Make Money."

You can buy the paperback or PDF e-book download of "The Future of Web Video" on Lulu.

Kirsner's new book, "Fans, Friends & Followers"

...deals with one of the central challenges that creative folks face in these digital times: how do you cultivate an audience and a business model that will support your work? I interviewed thirty filmmakers, musicians, visual artists, writers, and comedians who've been pioneers in this area, including documentary filmmakers Robert Greenwald and Sandi DuBowski... The book collects some of their most successful strategies for building a fan base and a creative career online.
You can purchase the paperback or PDF e-book download of "Fans, Friends & Followers" here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is There Life After Videojournalism?

Newspaper photographers who've made the leap to videojournalism with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success are now wondering if all that technical training was worth it, now that papers in their death throes are cutting back on video and laying off staffers.

We've asserted all along that those who possess both solid visual storytelling and journalism skills should pursue assignments from non-profits and corporations who need their stories told online -- and can afford to pay for it.

And now the Photo District News backs us up with an excellent report by David Walker, "Multimedia Journalists Discover Life After Newspapers."

As layoffs continue to decimate newsrooms all over the country, a pressing question for staff photographers is, what is plan B when the pink slip comes? How do you translate your photojournalism skills into some other means of earning a living?

A handful of former newspaper photographers with strong multimedia skills and some entrepreneurial drive are reporting at least one promising lead: the growing demand for story-driven video production from non-profits and corporations trying to build brands and markets through the Web in particular.
Examples abound:

  • Former Virginian-Pilot staff photographer Chris Tyree has launched a multimedia production company called Weyo with Stephen Katz, who is still a staff photographer at the paper and won POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year honors in 2008. Clients include Physicians for Peace, Resolve.org, and the Samaritan's Purse Canada.

  • Geri Migielicz, who was the San Jose Mercury News's director of photography, left in February to start Story4, an independent multimedia production company serving primarily non-profit organizations. Former Mercury News videojournalist Richard Koci Hernandez and Dai Sugano (still with the paper) are Story4 contributors. Clients include Big Sur Land Trust and the Women's Foundation of California.
Some videojournalists are going it alone, including Pulitzer prizewinning photog David Leeson, who took a buyout from the Dallas Morning News last year, and has since gone on to produce videos for the engineering department of Southern Methodist University.

But what about established video production companies that corporations and PR companies usually hire for video? Don't they already have a lock on the big-bucks clients? Turns out that a videojournalist's storytelling skills can be a big plus in this market.

And how about the pay?

PDN reports that fees are all over the map -- but, generally speaking, corporate and even non-profit marketing budgets easily put newspaper budgets to shame. Fees range from $5,000 to $15,000 for a video -- and that effort might also entail providing stills and even an accompanying Website. Bigger projects can draw six-figure pricetags.

MediaStorm president Brian Storm acknowledges that the corporate work he does for clients such as Starbucks pays multiples of editorial gigs, but helps foot the bills for those do-good journalism projects that are closer to the heart.

So staff videojournalists who are looking to augment their dwindling and uncertain salaries, or to build an exit strategy, would do well to read PDN's report on how some videojournalism pioneers are putting their skills to profitable use.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Sand Dancer, Redux

We showcased this charming CBS video profile, The Sand Dancer, (on KobreGuide's KarmaTube channel), about a New Zealand fellow who creates magnificent (if necessarily short-lived) paintings, using sticks and rakes for his "brushes" and the beach itself for his "canvas."

Today we got word from New Zealand documentary filmmaker Valerie Reid of Force Five Films that CBS used without permission footage from her award-winning 2006 video profile of the Sand Dancer. In the spirit of fairness, and in support of independent filmmakers everywhere, we offer her original ten-minute version below, with our high recommendation:

KobreGuide's Greatest Hits (May '09)

Here are the most frequently viewed KobreGuide.com video stories during May 2009 (below).

Please note that you can visit all of our 250+ archived video stories by visiting our "Hall of Fame" section.

Interestingly, many on this list below were originally showcased in previous months, and have proven enduringly popular.
Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?

Conjoined Twins

Bolivia's Women Wrestlers

Hungry: Living with Prader-Willi Syndrome

One Man Brand: The Naked Cowboy

Class Dismissed

Driftless: Stories from Iowa

Race in the Race


Dirty Car Art

My Daughter the Terrorist

Little Rock Nine

Boy with the Incredible Brain

Trapped: Mental Illness in America's Prisons

85 and Still Kicking
Now's a good time to catch up on the ones you might have missed the first time around -- or enjoy an encore viewing!

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's Internet Week (and Webbys) in NYC

Internet Week kicks off today in New York, with a festival of events that -- like the Web itself -- is open to anybody (or company) who wants to participate.

It's hosted by
The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, whose 550-strong membership is still top-heavy with entertainment and tech wizards, but is starting to open the door to more journalism honchos, and even a few who represent the interests of the burgeoning videojournalism movement.

Full events schedule here.

The festival culminates in the 13th annual Webby Awards presentations. This year's special honorees range from entertainment industry celebs (Jimmy Fallon, Trent Reznor, Sarah Silverman, Seth McFarlane, Lisa Kudrow) to prominent techies (Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee).

We acknowledge that, by comparison, videojournalism is still an insufficiently sexy category to showcase. But it is making inroads through its growing representation in the organization's "online film and video" members, and by extension through the increasing number of videojournalism Webby contenders.

Those Webbys will be presented July 8 at a ceremony notorious for its clever 5-word acceptance speeches. (Last year the New York Times prophecized: "No longer a newspaper site.")

You can see this year's Webby nominees and winners on KobreGuide.com's Webby Awards channel.