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

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, 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

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

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, 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 (

Enjoy! And save room for dessert.


* 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." 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 .

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 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…


8 Billion Lives

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

KobreGuide Welcomes VJ Movement

KobreGuide welcomes a new channel: The Video Journalism Movement.

Unlike most of our channels, this one is not a newspaper or major media outlet.

Rather it's an entrepreneurial endeavour designed to collect a disparate assortment of visual journalists from around the globe under one cyber-roof.

Its motto: "Exploring the world one truth at a time."

Its "Grid" represents 256 videos from 118 journalists from 67 different countries -- and all those numbers are constantly growing.

Strangely, VJ Movement also hosts editorial cartoonists, which seems like an odd mix, but also underscores that its video themes and tones embrace advocacy journalism. Stories may be one-sided, but then the site strives to provide multiple perspectives of the same story -- from other sources.

We all know that a completely objective perspective is simply not possible, so we've based our news model on the idea that impartiality is only possible through multiple viewpoints.

Therefore, our approach is to actively encourage contributors to provide different perspectives, and we ask all of our VJs to publish a background profile so that you can understand their perspective and potential biases.

By encouraging our contributors to provide these different perspectives, we are creating the possibility for you to better understand the world around you. It's not about agreeing with what you see, but understanding where it comes from.
Videos are solicited from professionals only -- "We do not publish citizen journalism" -- though it is not clear how one distinguishes these days, considering the absence of a media affiliation for most individual practitioners.

So how does it all work?

Through this online space, professional video journalists from every corner of the world can show their truths about issues affecting the lives of real people. The stories we produce are suggested and selected by our members, together with our contributors, and all of our content is professionally produced exclusively for us.

We place no editorial constraints on our worldwide network of professional journalists, and our shareholders have no control over content. In short, providing they abide by our code of ethics, our members are free to say whatever they like.

All of our story ideas are suggested and voted on by our members and contributors in the online newsroom. The elected story ideas are then produced by one of our VJs.
By registering (for free), you can get participate in the selection process, by commenting on and voting for story ideas -- which range from "Costa Rican Pineapple Boom" to "Sudanese Trouser Woman."

We had a hard time picking the best from so many worthy candidates, and finally settled on "Booming Surrogacy Trade in India" as the first entry in the VJ Movement channel on

The VJ Movement founders are Thomas Loudon and Arend Jan van den Beld, from the Netherlands.

Loudon came up with the idea for the VJ Movement while covering conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. While talking with colleagues after long days of reporting in these war zones, Loudon realized two things: that many journalists could not do stories they wanted to do because editorial directors in far-off newsrooms believed other events were more important, and that when multiple journalists covered the same topic, they all ended up with entirely different stories. This is the basis of our concept, “There is more than one truth.”
Arend Jan van den Beld is former manager of Philips International, Consumer Electronics, and chairman of a parliamentary party in the city council of Haarlem in the Netherlands.

University flatmates and lifelong friends, Thomas and Arend share a common interest in social issues, politics and the importance of being involved with the world around them. After returning from 7 years of journalism in the Middle East, Thomas contacted Arend to share a new concept of journalism, a concept that he was sure would change how international news is reported. Arend Jan became inspired by Thomas’ experiences and was instrumental in transferring that concept into the internet platform that you see today.
The pair bootstrapped the site launch, and has subsequently sought funding from government programs and foundations.

You can apply to join their global network of videojournalists:

The VJ Movement is seeking freelancers. We select journalists based on a demonstration of their abilities to report stories according to the profession's highest standards; their writing, production and editing skills; and their access to broadcast-quality equipment. Contributors should have at least three years of full-time experience as reporters or field producers, be excellent story-tellers, and have a proven ability to not only report but analyze issues.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Help Save

Sadly, publisher Dirck Halstead has announced that, after 12 years of monthly issues, the December issue of The Digital Journalist may be the last. Its chief sponsor, Canon, has had to withdraw financial backing, and now he is undertaking fundraising efforts -- including a Paypal donation button on TDJ's homepage that so far has raised about $2,000 toward keeping the online publication alive.

In addition to providing an expert look at, and behind-the-scenes of, photojournalism, Halstead has been instrumental in helping still photographers make the leap to videojournalism, with his Platypus workshops that he's taught around the world. He invited KobreGuide to guest-edit the April 2009 issue of The Digital Journalist, which was devoted to videojournalism.

In short, for more than a decade, Halstead and TDJ have been on the cutting edge of visual journalism trends. They have had their eye on leading its practitioners through the stormy economy ahead:

Even before Canon's decision, we were planning to reorganize. We are aware of how badly our readers who make their living from photojournalism have been hit not only by the recession, but also by the failures and cutbacks of countless publications, magazines and newspapers, as well as TV and cable. Our goal in our reorganization is not only to be able to continue The Digital Journalist, but to actually provide funding to help photographers to go out into the world and do their work, documenting the important stories that shape our lives and history.
So now is not the time to allow the plug to be pulled. We encourage you to pledge whatever you can to keep the voice of visual journalism alive and thriving as a shining beacon to all of us.


Photo District News Pulse:
Canon Pulls Sponsorship of The Digital Journalist

NPPA News Photographer:
Dirck Halstead's May Shut Down Donations

KobreGuide's Special Videojournalism Issue of TDJ (04/09)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best Documentaries of the Past Decade?

Paste, the award-winning pop-culture magazine, has published a thoughtful list of the 25 best documentaries of the past decade.

Our first reaction was: "Wait! The decade's almost over?"

After that cold rush of reality set in, we devoured the list with glee, nodding in agreement at the selections we've personally savored, and adding those we haven't to our wildly out-of-control Netflix queue.

Upton Sinclair, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein may have set the standard for muckraking in the 20th century, but their heirs apparent are as likely to pick up a video camera as they are a pen when they fight the battles of the 21st. Technical advances have put professional tools into the hands of amateurs, but they explain only part of the reason that so much muckraking has moved from newspapers to video....

The 25 Best Documentaries of the Decade (2000-2009)

1. Man On Wire
Director: James Marsh

In 1974, high-wire walker Philippe Petit fulfilled a longstanding dream by sneaking into New York’s World Trade Center, stringing a cable between the tops of the two towers, and—with almost unfathomable guts—walking across it without a net. The man is clearly a nut, but he’s also a great storyteller with a heck of a story, and Man on Wire gives him a chance to tell it.

2. Iraq in Fragments (2007)
Director: James Longley

Applying the full spectrum of cinematic technique to a nonfiction film, Longley made one of the most striking movies this year, an immersive view of life in Iraq; a record of opinions and faces from across the country, all captured at close range.

3. Grizzly Man (2005)
Director: Werner Herzog

This profile of nature lover Timothy Treadwell, who unwisely tried to live among wild bears in Alaska until he was devoured, cuts a Herzogian swath across the hillside: A man attempts to find harmony with nature but instead finds, as Herzog puts it, “chaos, hostility and murder.”

4. The Fog of War (2003)
Director: Errol Morris

For those who lived through the ’60s, the name Robert McNamara provokes an entire range of emotions and experiences. But even those too young to remember the former U.S. Secretary of Defense will find Errol Morris’ amazing film an incredibly relevant portrait of a man who helped shape the 20th century.

5. Bowling For Columbine (2002)
Director: Michael Moore

Michael Moore can sometimes seem glib and shrill, driving even his supporters nuts. But with Columbine, arguably his most important film, he successfully tackles the insanity of America’s gun problem—a problem so insane that Marilyn Manson, in a candid interview, emerges as the voice of reason.

Check out the rest of the list here -- plenty of good viewing to last you through 2010!

Please share with us your favorite documentaries of the past decade that did not make this list.

What will the 2010 - 2019 list look like? According to Paste, given the industry's economics, it might be a short list indeed:

Given the troubled state of theatrical distribution, many documentaries are more likely to be seen at home than the mall. But who will finance them? Even with so many outlets -- from traditional theaters and aging broadcast television to new and unproven avenues like SnagFilms, YouTube, and Netflix Instant -- most documentarians are unlikely to earn enough to keep working. It’s a gap that’s yet to be bridged: the distance between the obvious value of hard-nosed reporting and the cost of getting the results in front of an audience.
P.S. One response to Paste's list can be found on In One Eye, Out the Other, a blog by a 26-year-old U.K. documentary filmmaker named Charlotte, who offers a list twice as long. ("I tried to limit to 25 but it’s just impossible.") Here are her top 10:

1. The Fog of War (Morris, 2003)
2. The Staircase (de Lestrade, 2004)
3. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Lee,2006)
4. Journeys with George (Pelosi, 2002)
5. Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (Stone, 2004)
6. Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story (Forbes, 2008)
7. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)
8. Dark Days (Singer, 2000)
9. Power of Nightmares (Curtis, 2004)
10. Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
For Charlotte's full list (with links to trailers), go here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can Online Video Ads Rescue Newspapers?

This report is music to our years, the good news we've all been waiting for.

According to the New York Times, Online Ads Are Booming, if They’re Attached to a Video


News Web sites are starting to look a lot less like newspapers and a lot more like television. and are featuring video much more prominently on their home pages, often prompting visitors to press play before they begin to read. Even The Wall Street Journal has moved its video player front and center with a twice-a-day live newscast on Video is currently the strongest ad format for

A major reason is commercial. At a time when other categories of advertising dollars are shrinking, video ads are booming. News sites are adding more video inventory to keep pace with the demands of advertisers, and benefiting from the higher cost-per-thousands, or C.P.M.’s, that ads on those videos command.

The attention to video mirrors changes in how consumers are experiencing news. Major events — be it the presidential election or the death of Michael Jackson — bring a surge in video stream viewings by new users, and each time some of them stick around.

Augmenting the increase in video spending is the growing acceptance of pre-roll — the once-derided ads that appear before a video plays.
Some facts and figures:

* Among Web sites operated by newspapers, The New York Times, Gannett and Tribune each reach more than a million viewers a month with video streams.

* Video is now the fastest-growing segment of the Internet advertising market. Digital video amounted to $477 million in revenue in the first half of 2009, up 38 percent from the same time period in 2008.

* Analysts predict video ads will be the “main channel” for major advertisers seeking to increase their online spending.

* News sites account for only a small portion of the 25 billion video streams counted by comScore on an average month. The firm reported almost 500 million video streams in its news and information category in September — still a substantial figure.

* Researchers project 35 to 45 percent growth for news video advertising for each of the next five years, topping out at $5.2 billion in 2014.

As one exec notes: “The Web is fulfilling this promise of being a medium where you can enjoy video as much as you can see it on TV. The difference online is, if you want to do something with it — share it, stick it on a blog, post it on a Facebook page, or mark it and save it — you can do all that. And that was never possible before.”

Clear message for journalism Websites. You want more ad revenue? Produce and publish more video!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Truth With A Camera Workshop in Ecuador

We want to pass along some info from Josh Meltzer, an outstanding photographer and multimedia producer, about his upcoming Truth With A Camera international workshop in Quito, Ecuador, from January 9-17, 2010. I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about photojournalism from one of the profession's most accomplished teachers. Register now, as these week-long workshops typically fill up fast.

Imagine 6-year-old children, running in and out of traffic in the street, trying to sell gum, wash windshields or juggle oranges to earn some change. These children lack education, suffer from malnutrition and are surrounded by a world of danger and loneliness. Now, imagine that your work can tell the whole world who these children are. Your photographs can breathe life into an existence that few people know.

With a population of 2 million, the capital of Ecuador is one of the most modern cities in the country, although the presence of social inequality and the urban poor remain powerful reminders that thousands of people live below the line of extreme poverty.

Our mission is to educate photojournalists, not only in current technologies, but in understanding cultural differences and similarities and to contribute to truth, ethics, and social justice.

Our goal is to reflect honesty, sensitivity, and intelligence in photojournalism, and to use these as tools to inspire, educate, and promote change in the world around us.

Through the workshops, photojournalists will experience international location coverage and develop an understanding of their social responsibility to provide a voice to all members of society while stressing truth and ethics in an effort to bring about social change.

This will not be a vacation. During this intensive week, you will work with Ecuadorian students from some of the best universities from across the country. At the end of each day, you will edit your images with some of the leaders in the field of documentary photography from the U.S. and Ecuador. Your work will be shared with our partnering NGOs, which gives you the opportunity for your work to stand as a witness and defense of the lives of your subjects. It is an opportunity to strengthen your skills while donating your work to an NGO at the same time.
Josh received a Pictures of the Year International (POYI) documentary award this year, and a NPPA Photojournalist of the Year award in 2006.

(Pictured: A photo by one of the Mexican students in Truth With A Camera's first international workshop in Guadalajara, May 2009.)


* Truth With a Camera Website
* Truth Workshop Blog
* Josh Meltzer's Website

P.S. While with the Roanoke Times, Josh Meltzer provided the video for the award-winning "Age of Uncertainty" series, which tackled issues affecting the rapidly growing elderly population ... and those who will care for them. The ambitious project has been showcased on .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Notes From an Advanced Video Workshop

(Editor's Note: KobreGuide reporter Kathy Strauss spent a long weekend at the Northwest Video Advanced Workshop in Yakima, WA, and couldn't stop talking about what an amazing experience it was. So we told her to shut up and write about it already.)

Part 1: Class Notes on the Making of My Video

By Kathy Strauss

What is my story about? Who is my central character? These questions are buzzing in my brain as I record ballroom dancers at the Yakima senior center. The dance will end in 30 minutes and I’m fumbling with manual focus, manual exposure and a shotgun mic, while trying to identify one of these smiling, graceful seniors as a character to drive my story. The final song is “God Bless America.” As the 50 or so dancers link hands and form a large circle, I jump in and find a spot on the floor. Each time the group sings the chorus they move forward raising their hands above their heads, surrounding me in a tight circle – these are lovely images and I’m in heaven!

I’m on assignment during the 3-day intensive Northwest Video Advanced Workshop in Yakima, WA, and feeling the pressure to make a good story. Top notch coaches are here from throughout the northwest to help train others like me on how to improve our video storytelling.

The workshop is happening for the second time thanks to T.J. Mullinax, news producer at the Yakima Herald-Republic and Assoc. Director of the National Press Photographers Association's Region 11 chapter, along with a host of other generous volunteers. Intended to provide opportunities for journalists to adapt to a rapidly changing industry, the workshop is a multimedia “bootcamp” that offers trainings in interviewing techniques, field equipment handling, ethics, editing and video production workflow.

The 2007 workshop was a 2-day intro to video class with about 30 participants. This year a 3-day advanced class was added for journalists with prior video experience along with the 2-day intro class. The workshop was held at the Yakima H-R office and was sponsored by the NPPA, Canon, ThinkTank, Apple and Society of Professional Journalists. Best of all, the workshop was given at the remarkably affordable price of just $100.

I was struck by the diversity of students who attended this workshop. As the demand increases for newsroom staff to learn video skills it’s not just photographers attending these classes. Writers, editors and students came too. Clearly more collaboration among journalists is in our future and we need to learn to work together – staffs of newspapers, television and radio stations -- to make sure news stories are still covered fairly and accurately.

Friday Morning

Advanced class begins – just 8 of us in the class! Wow, what an incredible student-to-teacher ratio. Feel so lucky I am pinching myself.

The day starts off with a lively hours-long presentation on video storytelling by TV videographer greats: Kurt Austin of KGW in Portland, OR and Adam Tischler of King 5 in Seattle. Before the multimedia explosion and demand for news videos for the web, photojournalists almost uniformly scoffed at so-called “TV cameramen,” and their use of reporter stand-ups to tell the news. But now we are running to these experts to teach us the craft. There’s still plenty of crap on TV news, but we have much to learn from great television photographers like these two.

Tips from Kurt and Adam:

1. Sequencing – shoot everything wide, medium, tight and super tight. Remember tight shots of faces. Viewers like to look at faces, and tight shots are critical in editing.
2. Whenever you record “action” remember to also record the “reaction.”
3. While shooting, be looking for your opening and closing shots.
4. Surprise your viewers if you can - don’t reveal everything about the story at once.
5. Audio is Key: Learn proper use of microphones. (Wireless mics are a must.)
6. Make sure your interview audio is strong. Car interiors make good sound studios when out in the field.
7. Listen for natural sound “pops” or “exclamation points” to punctuate your piece. These can be a giggle, a quick “yep” or “uh oh.”
8. Think about texturing sound.

Friday, 1 p.m.

We pick our story assignments out of a hat. My assigned story isn’t actually happening until Saturday and I want to start shooting right away so, with T.J.’s approval, I find my own story. I discover the senior dance in the newspaper and rush over to record the colorful crowd. Their musical accompanist is 68-year-old accordion player Gary Malner.

I capture my video with the help of friendly, peppy Danny Gawlowski, video editor at the Seattle Times. He emphasizes how important it is to have a standard work flow. Thing is, editors have different workflow habits, so best to find one that works well for you and stick with it.

Friday, 6 p.m.

Final Cut Pro Workflow with Apple trainer Jan Shvalb

Saturday morning

Both intermediate and advanced groups together for an Ethics session led by the Olympian photographer and former NPPA president Tony Overman.

Tony says not much has changed from the world of still photography and we most importantly must tell the truth with our stories. Is the context truthful or are we changing the meaning of the story?

A core value in video is that we are compressing time and interpreting events for the viewer. Ask yourself, is it truthful? Is this what it was like at the event? Must have pictures to support your audio. Goal is to weave together a truthful representation (versus linear record) of what happened.

Saturday noon

Colin Mulvany (Spokesman-Review) asks me to define my story and describe it in one sentence. Is it about the senior dance or is it about this accordion player? He encourages me to think about telling the story with a strong character and helps me decide to catch up with Gary the accordion player again. I head out to a retail store where Gary is playing for a holiday open house. I know music is key to this story and want to record more of his playing.

It is crowded tight quarters at the shop Fiddlesticks but as he strolls around I am able to shoot video of this playful guy while he interacts with customers. People love his music and it shows. I keep asking myself how I would work these two different scenarios into once coherent video. I hadn’t known Gary would be the center of my video when I was at the senior center. What else do I need to ask him and what else do I need to show?

Saturday, 2 p.m.

Audio session with Anna King of NPR – I miss most of this because I was shooting my story but catch some tidbits at the end during open discussion.

1. In general, instructors agree it’s very difficult to tell a full story without some kind of narration or voiceover. Definitely prefer voiceovers to text boxes.
2. Colin Mulvany says you may hate your voice at first but it will improve with practice.
3. Always record your narration with a microphone, not with built-in mic on computer.
4. Write your narration the way you talk. Anna King says she has a technique that works well – read the text as if telling the story to a friend. This will make you sound more comfortable and natural. She has a photo of a friend taped on the wall so she can “talk” to her when recording audio.
5. Remember to smile when you are recording your voice – listeners hear the smile.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

I saw a very similar presentation by Colin at NPPA’s multimedia immersion class last year but now that I have a little more experience, it is much more meaningful. Wow, is he good! He’s been doing multimedia for longer than most and really knows the craft. Plus he is a master editor in Final Cut Pro.

Colin starts off with an interesting thought: Though fewer and fewer people are reading books, YouTube streams 1.2 billion videos each day. Learning to make videos is worth our time!

Tips from Colin:

1. Not every story needs a video to go with it. If a video has nothing to show, it’s not a video.
2. Define your story early and be able to describe it in one sentence.
3. Avoid tangents; they can destroy your story.
4. A roll + B roll = story. A roll is the narrative spine of your story and B roll is video of what the subject is talking about.
5. Get to the core of “why” – Why does this person do what they do?
6. Keep sequencing to a quick pace in B-roll
7. Remember to shoot action/reaction over and over
8. Listen for narrative sound pops. They are little breathers from narration or interview audio.
9. Use a wireless lavalier mic
10. Try to avoid panning and zooming.
11. Keep B-roll short – be ruthless with length.

Colin continues with a Final Cut story timeline walkthrough. He has tons of shortcuts and tips for editing with Final Cut. Highly recommends tutorials. Practice, practice, practice. He encourages me to first lay down the A-roll (that narrative spine) and then to add the B-roll.

Saturday evening

I take a dinner break and then work on reviewing my footage and trying to do some general organization of it all. At around 10 p.m. Colin sends us to our hotels to get some sleep and T.J. promises he’ll be there to let us into the building at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Sunday, 7:45 a.m.

Back to editing. Sit there for about six hours straight editing this 80-second piece. Colin moves around the room, sitting with each of us and working one-on-one, commenting on our progress and helping us fine-tune the edits. How amazing it would be to work regularly with an editor like him.

Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

Forced to finish our projects and export them to present to the group. I never did get to use those great shots of seniors circling around singing “God Bless America,” but who knows? Maybe it will appear in the revised longer version!

Here's what I end up with: "Music for the Heart":

(Here's a link to a full-screen version. And you can watch my classmates' videos here. )

Part 2: Three Most Amazing Aspects of the Workshop

1) The coaches
2) The coaches
3) The coaches
Truly, these people are unbelievable!

I’ve been to a handful of these classes and workshops now. They are always staffed by the best and brightest people in the field. These are the experts in our evolving profession and they spend their weekends – sometimes 15 hour-days -- to teach the video gospel for free. They are unpaid! They use vacation days and leave their families for the weekend. Their generosity is tremendous.

I asked some of them why they did it and got these responses:

T.J. Mullinax:

Why? Because there's a need. Journalists, regardless of the name, title, experience, need to take the growth of multimedia seriously. The ones who do, find it daunting to get adequate training. With (in my opinion) so few opportunities to learn about videojournalism in the Northwest on your own dime, I thought I should step up and do what I could for everyone who cares. It's inspiring to me when I can see others get excited about the things I am passionate about. Fortunately for me I am surrounded by amazing visual/multimedia journalists and they share that motivation to get others ready for the dawn of a new industry. Without that help and camaraderie the Northwest Video Workshop would not exist.

Colin Mulvany:

When I first started shooting video, I saw a tremendous need for video literacy education within the newspaper industry. Several years back, the amount of video training opportunities were limited. mostly because only a few videojournalists at newspapers were qualified to teach video storytelling. In those early days, the few of us who had experience were asked to speak at every photojournalism conference and workshop to the point of exhaustion.

Now things have changed. Video is integrated into most newspaper Websites and there are many more talented videojournalists out their producing quality video storytelling and sharing their knowledge.

When my newspaper invested in me by sending me to the nine-day Platypus Video Workshop in 2005, I came home exhausted but professionally changed. I understood video had a great future and I wanted to share the knowledge of what I learned with my co-workers.

I made a deal with myself that I would teach anyone that wanted to learn multimedia skills, such as audio slideshows, video storytelling and editing. I’ve kind of stuck with that through the years.

I had one visiting journalist tell me to guard my gift. That somehow, if I shared what I knew with others, it would be taken away from me. The idea that knowledge is power is true. I hated that; I felt in order for my newspaper to embrace their digital future, I needed buy-in from the top management all the way down to the content producers.

By taking my video storytelling gift and sharing it, I feel much better about myself than if I had kept all that knowledge bottled up. Teaching video storytelling is something I feel passionate about. It has been fun to see the seeds that I’ve sown begin to grow. Our industry is in transition. As our print products diminish, I hold firm to my belief that video storytelling will have a solid future in the digital world. Making sure that ALL newspaper journalists have some understanding of video will only do them and our industry good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yahoo's Do's & Dont's of Online Video

We're cheered by Paid Content's optimistic outlook on Web video, in today's report by James A. Pitaro, vice president of media at Yahoo!

He prefaces his advice to video producers, in "The Do’s And Don’ts Of Creating Original Video," by noting:

Today, web video has mainstreamed. Three-quarters of Internet users, or 47% of the U.S. population, now watch video online. Videos streamed in September totaled 11 billion, up 24% year over year. Web-original video content is making up a bigger chunk of this consumption and has quietly become a viable business model for many online distributors.

As a result, new Internet companies focusing on video are emerging every day, and many existing businesses are transitioning to a video-intensive model.
Though he's focused on original drama, see if you can find ways to take his advice and apply it to nonfiction videojournalism stories:

You need more than just a good idea: Identify something that is not just a good idea, but a good idea for the Internet -- something that takes advantage of the medium.

Track your audience: If researched and developed correctly, your program should be virtually foolproof because it will deliver the right content to the right user at the right time on your site.

Get sponsors involved early in the creative process: Partner with the advertiser starting with idea conception and co-develop your program.

Be fast: Regardless of genre, web content must be timely.

Don’t spend a lot of money: Yes, it is possible to produce high-quality content without breaking the bank if you hire seasoned professionals and offer them some creative freedom and license – a somewhat novel concept in the entertainment business.
Read the whole report here.

Toy Hall of Fame Inducts 3 Classics

Last week on KobreGuide we showcased an appropriately whimsical video ode to the dozen nominees for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY.

They ranged from the generic (paper airplane, playing cards, balls, sidewalk chalk, the toy tea set) to the commercial (Big Wheel, Cabbage Patch Kids, Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Nintendo Game Boy, Rubik's Cube, and Transformers).

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle videojournalist Will Yurman crafted a delightful video, "Nominees," that incorporated all 12 of them.

For those of you in suspense, the three winning inductees have been announced. Toy drumroll please... for the Ball, Big Wheel, and Game Boy.

Check out the "Nominees" video today before it disappears from our homepage!

(NOTE: When videos do disappear from the KobreGuide homepage after a week, guess where they go? To the KobreGuide Hall of Fame!)

By the way, you can read KobreGuide's excellent interview with Will Yurman here.

Ira Glass Teaches Storytelling (4-part video)

The problem with many attempts at videojournalism is that they are passable reports, but are deficient in the storytelling department.

TV newsmagazine afficianados know that what engages an audience is more than merely an assemblage of facts and figures. We all respond better to a central character, dramatic conflict, and a sequential series of events that actually lead somewhere.

Nobody tells stories better than Ira Glass ("This American Life"), who clearly embraces the essential building blocks of storytelling -- on radio (audio) and television (audio & video). So who better to teach you the art of storytelling?

Here's a four-video series brimming with his excellent advice and tips:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Monday, November 9, 2009

DigitalJournalist: Berlin Wall Photos (11/9/89)

The November issue of Dirck Halstead's The Digital Journalist, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain, is now online.

When the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, the Iron Curtain was lifted on Communist Eastern Europe. In short order, the Soviet Union was itself in the dustbin of history. Contributing photographer Peter Turnley witnessed all of the tide-turning revolutions in Eastern Europe, and was there when the Berlin Wall was literally torn apart. According to Turnley, "This period not only affected the geopolitical life of the world in a decisive way, but impacted the personal life history of anyone present, including my own."
Included with Turnley's photographs is a video that he recently did for CBS News Sunday Morning.

Video Series: Can Investigative Journalism Survive?

This weekend, launched an 8-week series of interviews with journalists and media insiders on the future of journalism. Focus: What will the media look like in 5, 10, or 15 years? Can investigative journalism survive? The Nation's John Nichols leads off, followed by Nick Penniman (Huffington Post Investigative Fund), Ana Marie Cox (Air America and MSNBC), Dan Rather, Jane Mayer, Mark Luckie ( and Victor Navasky.

Nichols speaks about the disconnect between old media models and a nonfunctional new media model for producing journalism. He evokes history in noting that when our country was founded media was heavily subsidized by the government and proposes this as a model to strive for. Nichols is the co-author of Saving Journalism: The Soul of Democracy (New Press), which will be published this fall.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Video WTF: Free Answers to Your Questions

Video WTF is a new communally-minded open-source Website where you can ask -- and answer -- any question about video cameras, editing, production, publishing, promotion, whatever.

It's collaboratively moderated, and you can dive in and participate without even registering. And it's free!

(Though your first question might understandably be: For a site that aspires to mainstream acceptance, why the potentially controversial and off-putting name?)

Topics range from how to bid on a video project or construct a business proposal for a Web series, to hardware/software recommendations, to infinitely more technical considerations.

(We're encouraged because Video WTF is brought to you by the same folks who created Miro, a high-quality open-source, non-profit HD video player and podcast client that hands-down beats what most newspapers out there are using. You can download the free software to view and publish video. They've also recently launched Miro Community, which enables you to create your own private multi-source YouTube for free -- a boon for colleges and PBS affiliates.)

Have a video whose length or file size exceeds the limitations of YouTube or Vimeo? Use Video WTF to ask for pointers to alternative video sharing sites. Or to help others by sharing your knowledge.

A relatively inexpensive lavalier (Azden WMS-PRO Wireless Microphone System for $160) was generously recommended to us by a KobreChannel reader, but sounds too good to be true at that price, and so we just asked Video WTF users if they have heard feedback about it, or personally encountered any drawbacks (e.g. static).

Similarly, our new Kodak Zi8 does not zoom smoothly or silently -- a glitch with just our video camera, or a flaw in the model? We asked Video WTF denizens for their experiences.

We look forward to sharing their responses with you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lightscoop: Perfect Holiday Gift

Looking for that perfect inexpensive holiday gift for your favorite amateur photographer whose camera has a pop-up flash? And, attention, pros: This is the perfect gadget for all those folks who ask you how to make their pictures better.

It's an easy-to-use device that easily slips onto your SLR camera and dramatically improves the quality of flash photography.

And it's got a catchy name -- Professor Kobre's Lightscoop.

OK, you don't have to take our word for it, just because we happened to have invented it.

Everybody's singing the Lightscoop's praises. Listen:

"LightScoop Rescues Horrible Built-In Flashes"

Bizzie Mommy:
“Lightscoop: My new favorite photo accessory. I was actually on the verge of buying an external flash before I discovered the Lightscoop while flipping through a photography magazine.”

"WOW! The Lightscoop is amazing!!"

Lifetime Moms:
“I have been avoiding taking indoor pictures at night because I just hated how the pictures would come out with the camera flash on... Luckily I stumbled upon the Lightscoop...”

A Cowboy's Wife:
“I attached the Lightscoop to my camera and voila! Now THAT is a HUGE difference! I’m already sold and that was just the first comparison I did.”

The Gadgeteer:
“Professor Kobre’s Lightscoop is a clever and inexpensive ($35) device that clips on to the hot shoe of your DSLR or SLR camera.”

Gear Diary:
“Tired of flash photography that makes your victims look like a deer in the headlights? Here’s a cool photography tool designed for the everyday picture taker.”

“The 'Scoop redirects light upwards, bouncing it off the tops of walls and ceilings which ends up giving the immediate surroundings more of a glow instead of spotlight appearance.”

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Plenty more accolades can be found here, including raves from David Pogue (New York Times), and American Photo, which awarded the Lightscoop an "Editor's Choice" honor.

And here's how it works:

One-stop shopping at Guaranteed to make your holiday season brighter! (And more evenly lit.)

P.S. Here's a little gift for you. Use this gift code when you check out, and receive a 15% discount just for KobreGuide fans: HOLIDAY.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Feature Film About Videojournalists?

There are plenty of classic films that glamorize journalists, from The Front Page to All the President's Men, but how about a movie about heroic videojournalists?

Poking around our iPhone apps, of all places, we stumbled across one!

It's called Burma VJ, and it's about a real event -- the 2007 uprising in Myanmar, as seen through the cameras of the independent videojournalist group, Democratic Voice of Burma.

While 100,000 people (including thousands of Buddhist monks) took to the streets to protest the country's repressive regime that has held them hostage for over 40 years, foreign news crews were banned to enter and the Internet was shut down. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a collective of 30 anonymous and underground videojournalists (VJs), recorded these historic and dramatic events on handycams and smuggled the footage out of the country, where it was broadcast worldwide via satellite. Risking torture and life imprisonment, the VJs vividly document the brutal clashes with the military and undercover police – even after they themselves become targets of the authorities.

Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, the acclaimed filmmaker, Anders Østergaard, brings us close to the videojournalists who deliver the footage. Though risking torture and life in jail, courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism as they insist on keeping up the flow of news from their closed country. Armed with small handycams the Burma VJs stop at nothing to make their reportages from the streets of Rangoon. Their material is smuggled out of the country and broadcast back into Burma via satellite and offered as free usage for international media.

The whole world has witnessed single event clips made by the VJs, but for the very first time, their individual images have been carefully put together and at once, they tell a much bigger story. The film offers a unique insight into high-risk journalism and dissidence in a police state, while at the same time providing a thorough documentation of the historical and dramatic days of September 2007, when the Buddhist monks started marching.

Amidst marching monks, brutal police agents, and shooting military the reporters embark on their dangerous mission, working around the clock to keep the world informed of events inside the closed country. Their compulsive instinct to shoot what they witness, rather than any deliberate heroism, turns their lives into that of freedom fighters.
Burma VJ is directed by Anders Østergaard, and written by Anders Østergaard & Jan Krogsgaard.