Thursday, December 24, 2009

KobreGuide Showcases 400th Video Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays!

Apple to Unveil Tablet on Jan. 26th?

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

Tablet Tuesday, they're calling it.

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

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

How big is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How the Mystery Mac Will Change Journalism

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

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

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

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

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

Bets, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Journalism Trends for 2010 ?

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


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

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

What are your predictions for journalism in 2010?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Download the World's Longest Documentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

NPPA Launches Free iPhone App

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

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

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

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

Introducing the J-Rod CUBE Solution

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Video Q&A with Documentarian Ken Burns

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Win a Trip to Africa with Nicholas Kristof

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contest info.

Contest video.

Enter the contest here.

Upload video here.

84 Websites Where You Can Watch Videos

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beet.TV Roundtable on Online Video News

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

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

Watch for yourself:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Momenta Workshops in India, New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

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

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

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

Question #1:

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


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

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

Question #2:

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

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

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

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

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

Like a Bird on a Wire - 3:18

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


Parkour Documentary - 4:01

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


NDR Extra3 Bahnuebergang Groß Duengen - 3:16

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

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


Anything by Les Blank

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


Utopia 3 by Sam Green and Carrie Lozano

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

$10,000 Concentra Award Entries Due 1/22

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

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

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


About Concentra

Rules & Regulations

Entry Form (pdf)

MediaStorm's 'Crisis Guide' Wins Emmy

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A New News Platform: Google's Living Stories

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

One video is worth 10,000 words:

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

J-Rod Mount: Clever Video Camera Accessory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete list of IDA nominees and winners here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Do You Correct Errors in Video Stories?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* Craig Silverman's Website

* Regret the Error Website

* Regret the Error book

* Regret the Error column (Columbia Journalism Review)

* Regret the Error 'Accuracy Checklist' (pdf)

* Poynter interview with Craig Silverman

Tip of the cyberhat to Advancing the Story!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

10 Tips for Adding Music to Video

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

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

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

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

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

3. Use music with a strong rhythm...

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

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

6. Keep levels consistent. ...

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Study Video with Me in Perpignan, France

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

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

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

When: June 24 - July 23, 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More info: or ieiMedia's Website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'Waiting Topless' Tops KobreGuide Nov. List

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

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

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

Int'l Documentary Ass'n Awards Announced

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

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

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

More winners:

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

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

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

More info at .