Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP Kodachrome, 1935-2010

The last rolls of Kodachrome, the most revered film for color slides for the past 75 years, are being developed today at Dwayne's Photo, a small family business in Parsons, Kansas. Then the last Kodachrome processing machine will be shut down and sold for scrap, rendered obsolete by digital technology.

[SEE PREVIOUS KOBRECHANNEL posts for related info, images and links:

* Last Roll of Kodachrome
* Mama, They Took Our Kodachrome Away]

Read the New York Times' on-location report,"For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas."

Eastman Kodak gave the last roll of Kodachrome to Steve McCurry, the noted National Geographic photojournalist. He shot the last three frames of that roll in Parsons before dropping it off at Dwayne’s, and you can see them on the Times' Lens blog, "A Color-Saturated Sun Sets on Kodachrome."

It's the end of an era, and judging from the myriad readers' comments, on the Times Website and elsewhere, many will miss the film's legendary rich colors ... while others happily prefer the relative ease and convenience (not to mention instant certainty) of digital shooting.

Don't miss the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's excellent short video, The Last Roll of Kodachrome, as featured on KobreGuide. In a story within a story, photographer Robert Cohen describes how he dug a final roll of expired Kodachrome 200 out of the back of his freezer, carefully and lovingly shot 36 frames at the colorful Missouri State Fair… and then drove the film hundreds of miles to Parsons, Kansas to have it developed. All the while he was not sure how, or if, any of the images would turn out – a reminder of life in pre-digital camera days. The story cleverly combines beautiful images and a folksy storyline complete with suspense and a climactic payoff.

[UPDATE: Here's the Los Angeles Times' elegy, "Goodbye Kodachrome," with a reproduction of a 1936 May Company ad that included the paper's first mention of the film. "A 100-foot roll of 16mm Kodachrome film, regular price of $9, was on sale for $6.98. After adjusting for inflation, the 1936 sales price would be $107 today." There's also a reprint of a 1938 "Camera Corner" column about the film, its first editorial mention in the paper.]

For those of you who have used Kodachrome, please share with us your thoughts about its demise. Nostalgic for "the greens of summer" -- or is all the world a sunny day with digital?

(Photo by Steve Hebert / New York Times)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Newspapers Upload More Video Than TV Broadcasters

Here's the best news of the year... so far.

Newspapers have surpassed TV broadcasters in the number of online video uploads and total minutes streamed.

Now we're not saying that all those videos are any good. Most, alas, are dreadful. Or nothing more than raw footage of local high school teams.

But it's significant that newpapers are growing to appreciate the irrefutable allure of video as part of the journalism storytelling mix.

All the juicy details are in a report that has nothing to do with newspapers vs. broadcast video. Instead, it's a white paper about "Peak Video Engagement By Days of the Week and Times of Day" -- i.e. when we watch video -- jointly commissioned by Brightcove (the most ubiquitous videoplayer platform for media companies) and TubeMogul (an online video analytics platform used by advertisers).

Their third-quarter report divulges these fascinating discoveries:
• Newspapers saw significant growth in the number of titles uploaded (51% growth) and surpassed broadcasters in total minutes streamed for the first time this quarter. This is an interesting development, and suggests that newspapers are rapidly adopting and producing video content for what was once a print business. This data also bears out the distinct differences in the content between the two verticals: broadcasters have fewer but longer titles, while newspapers are producing many more, but shorter titles on a more regular basis.

• Online media properties (which includes pure-play Web properties and blogs) also had a strong growth quarter in player loads (127% growth) and titles uploaded (23% growth), suggesting that video adoption and production activity is on the rise across the growing media category.

• Newspapers have surpassed broadcasters in the total minutes streamed this quarter, with 313 million minutes streamed, compared to 290 million for broadcasters. This is an interesting turning point because while broadcasters tend to have longer-form content, newspapers lead the group in sheer number of titles uploaded. It’s likely that spikes in news video production coincided with large events of the quarter, including continued coverage of the World Cup that finished up in July, and of the mid-term elections in the US.

• Q3 saw a significant increase in titles uploaded for newspapers, with a quarter to quarter growth of 51%, and a 110% growth compared to the same quarter last year. Newspapers lead the number of titles uploaded for media companies with 482,000 titles uploaded in the quarter.

• This quarter, we also saw significant growth (23% since last quarter) in title uploads from the online media category, which has now surpassed broadcast uploads, a first this quarter. This represents a 188% increase in video uploads year over year for online media.
The future of videojournalism is here. Now for our collective New Years resolution, let's work on allocating more resources towards improving the quality of those video stories, so we can attract more eyeballs to them. That in turn will woo advertising revenue, which can then be reinvested in further improving those videos, leading to a big happy upward spiral for everyone.

Oh, and if you're still wondering about when folks watch video, here is the report's conclusion: Wednesday is the most popular day for total video views, but people spend more minutes watching videos on weekends (including Friday). So lots of shorter videos mid-week; fewer but longer videos during the weekend. As for optimal times of day for viewing video: "Magazines peaked during working hours, while newspapers had more steady engagement into the evening hours. And, as expected, broadcasters total daily views peaked during traditional 'prime time' hours from 6-11PM, mirroring their television counterparts."

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Newspaper Wins DuPont Broadcast Award

What's remarkable about the 13 recipients of this year's Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for national broadcast journalism is that, amidst the usual alphabet-soup suspects (ABC, CBS, PBS, BBC, NPR), we find the Las Vegas Sun.

Videojournalism stories on the Websites of print newspapers (such as the Detroit Free Press) have started winning Emmy Awards, which were previously bestowed only upon TV productions. But this is the first time that the prestigious DuPont award has gone to a print newspaper -- in this case, for "Bottoming Out," an online multimedia package about gambling addiction.

(Needless to say, the video was originally showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism at the time of publication.)

The cornerstone of the three-part package is a video self-portrait by Tony McDew, who documented his own Las Vegas casino slot machine addiction with the hope of helping others, and in the process ended up quitting gambling himself.

The series is strengthened by a powerful video diary following one man’s descent into gambling addiction with strong interactive engagement. The Las Vegas Sun explored problem gambling three ways — through the experiences of an addict; by examining what happens inside the brain of an addict; and by considering the role of slot machine designs in feeding gambling addictions. The web site also provides support and resources to help gambling addicts.
Part 1: Tony's Story
The pull of a drug, a push to the brink

Part 2: The Physiology
Illness theory gaining ground for gambling addiction

Part 3: The Machines
Could the game be partly to blame for addiction?



LINKS:

* Las Vegas Sun's award-winning multimedia package on gambling addiction.

* Las Vegas Sun story about DuPont Award

* "Bottoming Out" on KobreGuide

* 2011 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award Winners

Monday, December 27, 2010

Videojournalism Opportunity in Detroit

One of our favorite newspapers is hiring a staff photographer. Nowadays, because their work will appear not just in print, but also on the Web and mobile platforms, that also means videographer.

In fact, a glance at their help-wanted ad is testimonial to how many disparate skills visual journalists must master these days:
The Emmy Award-winning Photography & Video department at the Detroit Free Press seeks a Staff Photographer to shoot and produce video, multimedia and photographic content....

JOB REQUIREMENTS:

* Strong news judgment and writing skills with emphasis on script writing and news production
* Ability to juggle multiple stories, multiple platforms and multiple media
* Superior video editing skills in Final Cut Pro - a fluency in Avid is OK
* Computer and audio/video equipment proficiency
* Creative approach to social media and alternative video production methods
* Ability to work well with others
* Strong ethics in news gathering and editing

We’re seeking candidates from all visual news organization backgrounds – whether that would be TV, a newspaper or a Web site.
To see samples of the illustrious staff's high-quality work, visit the Detroit Free Press channel on KobreGuide. The lucky candidate who lands this cherished slot will be in excellent company. For more info, and to apply, go here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Animated News to the Rescue? No!

What fresh hell is this?

Animated news stories?

The new savior of journalism?

Just because the Taiwanese company Next Media Animation has attracted a lot of eyeballs by turning news stories into cartoons doesn't mean it's journalism.

Movies "based on true stories" are still fictionalized re-imaginings of real events -- and not to be confused with the real thing.

Triply true for these over-the-top Asian renderings of real people in fantasy scenarios.

Despite what this Time.com video (below) and accompanying story imply, just because these are situations that weren't captured by cameras or videocameras does not forgive the bizarre distortions of reality under the guise of "news."



Next Media Animation first gained notoriety in the U.S. by animating the supposed scuffle between Tiger Woods and his wife. It depicted her bashing in his car with a golf club -- an incident which both say never happened.

It's gotten much worse since then, with truly cartoonish vignettes of characters ranging from Lindsay Lohan in the slammer to Julian Assange in the sack. To call them journalistically unreliable and unbalanced would be a massive understatement.

This is a black eye for visual journalism. When it comes to depicting truth, and not what Stephen Colbert sarcastically dubbed "truthiness," there is no substitute for cameras and videocameras. Animated news? We're not buying it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Boston Pizza Affects a Brazilian Farm Town

"From Brazil to Beacon Hill" demonstrates how a video can help illuminate a complex story -- in this case, about a complicated relationship between a Boston pizza empire and the tiny South American farm town of Marilac that helped build it.

It's a story of negative unintended consequences, involving illegal immigration, workers' rights, and allegedly corrupt business practices -- produced by Dina Rudick for the Boston Globe.

According to the video, entrepreneur Jordan Tobins (pictured) built and expanded the successful Upper Crust pizza chain on the backs of radically underpaid immigrant laborers. What makes the story remarkable is that about 80 of these men came from an impoverished rural town in Brazil, which also benefited from the arrangement. The men would plan to work hard in the U.S. for five to seven years, to make enough money to bring back to their families, and use it to build their own homes and businesses back in Marilac.

In short, the Brazilians paved the road to their dreams through Boston, making pizzas at 17 locations, and delivering them on bicycles, working up to 90 hours a week. The fly in the ointment was that, after 10 years, some of the Brazilians complained of being exploited, overworked, and undercompensated, with former employees suing for money they claimed they earned but never received.

The six-minute video takes us to both locations -- Boston and Brazil -- to tell the story of a mutually dependent relationship that happened to be illegal, but worked to everyone's advantage ... until workers claimed that management overstepped the bounds of fairness.

After this video was published online, the Boston Globe followed up with a report that the Upper Crust "is coming under scrutiny by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office for potential violations of the state’s minimum-wage and other workplace laws," and is also being examined by the Department of Labor, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

***
We are reminded of a similarly themed video story about illegal immigrants working in the U.S., in a situation where everyone benefited, until legal action doubly impacted their original and adopted hometowns. In this case, one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history devastated the economy of a tiny town in Iowa and two small villages in Guatemala. Frontline's "A Tale of Two Villages" details how the arrest and deportation of 400 undocumented workers at a Postville, Iowa meatplant had horrifying repercussions on two continents.

"A Tale of Two Villages" is showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can Your Documentary Change the World?

If you're in the Los Angeles area, check out a panel discussion presented by the International Documentary Association: "Can Your Documentary Really Change the World?"

Topics:

* How can you make sure that your documentary has the greatest possible impact?
* What kinds of outreach and marketing campaigns are the most effective?
* How can you best partner with non-profits to get your message out?
* What do funders and broadcasters expect from documentary filmmakers?
* What's the best way to build a successful social action campaign?

Panelists:

* Jennifer Arnold, Director, A SMALL ACT
* Robert Kenner, Director, FOOD, INC.
* Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
* Dennis Palmieri, Director of Communications, ITVS
* Sara Hutchison (moderator), IDA Board of Directors

It's Monday, December 20, 7-9pm, at The Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax, with audience Q&A and wine reception to follow. Tickets are $15 for IDA members, $20 for non-members.

The event is part of the IDA's Doc U series of educational seminars and workshops for aspiring and experienced documentary filmmakers. "Taught by artists and industry experts, participants receive vital training and insight on various topics including fundraising, distribution, licensing, marketing, and business tactics."

Info and tix at Documentary.org .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WikiRebels: The Documentary

Here is a rough cut of an hour-long in-depth documentary, in four parts, produced by Sweden's SVT network, that gives the WikiLeaks story a different dimension than all the written and video pieces we have seen so far.

From summer 2010 until now, Swedish Television has been following the secretive media network WikiLeaks and its enigmatic Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange.

Reporters Jesper Huor and Bosse Lindquist have traveled to key countries where WikiLeaks operates, interviewing top members, such as Assange, new spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, as well as people like Daniel Domscheit-Berg who now is starting his own version - Openleaks.org.

Where is the secretive organization heading? Stronger than ever, or broken by the US? Who is Assange: champion of freedom, spy or rapist? What are his objectives? What are the consequences for the internet?
Cyberhat tip to Online Journalism Blog, which notes: "It covers quite a bit of the history of the organisation, the lessons it learned and the partnerships it made along the way – all of which provide valuable insights for any student of journalism as a practice or a cultural form, not to mention a more complex understanding than most coverage of the current situation provides."







Sunday, December 12, 2010

One Video is Worth 120,000 Bits of Data

Hans Rosling teaches global health. He knows how to make numbers interesting. Raw data, he realizes, is not enough -- he needs to "show it in ways that people enjoy and understand."

For a BBC segment, The Joy of Stats, he does that by animating data in real space -- a remarkably engaging and effective use of video that goes beyond what is possible in words alone.

Edward Tufte would be proud.

In trying to explain 200 years of development in 200 countries -- using 120,000 separate bits of data -- he creates a 3D animated chart, with an X-axis for wealth (income per person) and a Y-axis for health (life expectancy). Each colored data point represents a country (with the size of each circle representing that country's population). So we can watch as clusters of countries move from poor and sick to rich and healthy between 1810 and 2010. In five minutes.

And look what we learn -- visually. Initially Western countries get healthier faster, while Third World countries lag behind. Asian countries start to play catch-up in the 1950s, and become emerging economies in the 1970s.

There are still huge disparities between the worst-off (Congo) and best-off (Luxembourg), but the gap is closing, and overall, most countries have improved immeasurably over the past two centuries, migrating to the "healthy/wealthy" corner of the graph.

However, seeing this progress is infinitely more impactful than reading about it.



Can you think of creative ways to use data visually to make your video stories clearer and more compelling?

(Tip of the cyberhat to Society of Professional Journalists blog, "Journalism and the World.")

Thursday, December 9, 2010

AIDS and the Elderly

AARP Bulletin produced this online video story, Standing Up to Stigma, in honor of last week's 22nd anniversary of World AIDS Day. It's about a septuagenarian stigmatized by perceptions of AIDS and HIV, even (especially?) among the elderly.

Robert Franke (pictured), 77, is a retired college provost and former minister who moved from Michigan to Arkansas last year to be closer to his daughter.

However, an upscale assisted living facility there ousted him after one night because he has HIV, resulting in a discrimination lawsuit -- and ultimately an undisclosed settlement.



Katja Heinemann's video is part of her longterm project on HIV and aging, called "The Graying of AIDS," which you can see on her portfolio Website, KatjaHeinemann.com . She says that projections indicate that by 2015, half the HIV-infected population of the U.S. will be over 50 years old.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First Platypus Workshop for 2011

Dirck Halstead's next Platypus Workshop for videojournalism will be held February 13-19, 2011 at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.

"The only thing you need to supply is your own DSLR capable of shooting HD video. We also recommend you get a Zacuto finder for the camera as well as a hard drive."

You will learn how to use your DSLR, along with tips and tricks to make it an incredible tool for you in editorial, corporate and filmmaking settings. We will teach you field sound recording, cinematic storytelling, the use of lenses, tripods, multimedia applications, and Apple's latest Final Cut Pro editing software.
Since its inception in 1999, over 300 photojournalists have been trained in multimedia at the Platypus program.

Our graduates have gone on to do television documentaries, Web videos, especially for newspapers, and even films. One of our graduates was a nominee for an Oscar in 2006, and the 2010 winner of the Sundance Film Festival Documentary Award for his film Restrepo was Platypus graduate Tim Hetherington.
You can attend the workshop as a shooter or as a producer, to collaboratively create the class exercises and a final 3–5 minute documentary or news story.

The cost of the workshop is $1795. NPPA and ASMP members are eligible for a 10% discount.

Register at the Precision Camera & Video website - or at (512)467-7676 Ext. 360.

For more info, email Dirck Halstead at dhalstead [at] mac[dot]com

Friday, December 3, 2010

NPPA Advanced Storytelling Workshop

Take advantage of early-registration discounts and sign up now for NPPA's Advanced Storytelling Workshop

The week-long program (April 10-15, 2011) at Texas State University (San Marcos, TX) is designed for experienced television and newspaper photographers, reporters, and video journalists – "anyone who tells stories with moving pictures, sound, and words."

During the week, you will develop story ideas, research, report, shoot, edit and produce complete packages.

Everyone’s a participant. To maximize the participant-to-teacher ratio, enrollment is limited to 35. We pick up where the NewsVideo Workshop in Oklahoma leaves off.
You can see videos by previous students here.

Registration info is here.

Alexia Photojournalism Award Deadlines Announced

The Alexia Foundation has announced the deadlines for its 22nd annual photojournalism grant competition.

The professional grant proposals and accompanying photographic portfolio are due January 18, 2011 (5pm ET), and the student deadline is February 1, 2011(5pm ET).

Contest administrator Tom Kennedy says:

"The Alexia Foundation promotes the power of photojournalism to give voice to social injustice, to respect history lest we forget it, and to understand cultural difference as our strength — not our weakness. Through grants and scholarships, The Alexia Foundation supports photographers as agents for change.

"It is not a portfolio competition. The grants are awarded to a photojournalist who can further cultural understanding and world peace by conceiving and writing a concise, focused, and meaningful story proposal, and who can demonstrate the ability to visually execute that story with compelling images...."

LINKS:

Rules (Professional category)

Rules (Student category)

NPPA report

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Kobre Videojournalism Consortium

We've applied for a Knight News Challenge grant to help subsidize our plan to create the Kobre Videojournalism Consortium.

We're inviting your input -- please take a look at our proposal here -- and take a minute to rate it and comment on it.

(To her horror, one of our colleagues accidentally hit the "one star" rating, when she meant to click "five stars" -- so we need some positive ratings to offset that!)

No, it's not a popularity contest, but obviously enthusiastic endorsements can't hurt.

And of course we welcome your feedback.

The idea, in a nutshell, is to create a consortium of top media outlets that would share ideas and resources to produce topnotch videojournalism that could be distributed to all members (to pump up audience and advertising revenue) and also licensed/syndicated to non-members for additional revenue.

Here are some of the advantages.

Lots of newspapers are producing original video stories of universal appeal whose audience potentially lies outside its own distribution area. This would give a newspaper in Detroit, for example, an opportunity to have its best work seen in Seattle, San Diego, and St. Petersburg. Bigger distribution, bigger ad dollars. AND the reciprocal opportunity for Detroit citizens to see high-quality video stories produced by newspapers in other cities, that they would not ordinarily see.

Further, we would initiate and generate original video story ideas that we would then assign to, and invite input from, partners and affiliates. This would give local context to national stories, and national context to local stories. Think of how news wire services, or TV/radio news networks, operate -- with participation from member organizations. So far, nobody has attempted this with videojournalism.

It would create a network of top videojournalists throught the nation (and eventually the world) who are either affiliated with major media outlets or cream-of-the-crop freelancers (sorry, no "citizen journalists"!). Instead of having to rely on the traditional "one-man band" approach to videojournalism -- where newspaper staffers are expected to be able to excel at a disparate variety of skill sets (interviewing, shooting, editing, etc.), we could count on specialists.

There's lots more to the proposal -- including the development of a standardized videoplayer, with the most technologically advanced functionality, that would fit all content management systems and platforms. (This has been a stumbling block to enabling media organizations from showcasing each other's work -- and we believe we are in an ideal position to solve this problem.)

Others have successfully formed loose affiliations of freelance videojournalists, notably VJ Movement and DuckRabbit.

What we're proposing is an affiliation of major media organizations, who are in a position to partner and share in the creation and distribution of original nonfiction video stories, and profit from the additional revenue that would create.

The beauty of this scheme is that, for very little additional effort, major media institutions stand to gain in the quantity and quality of videojournalism -- and, by broadening their audience both within their distribution area and beyond their geographic borders, fatten their coffers in the process.

Having published KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism since 2008, and consulting with the leading videojournalists during that time -- both at the managerial level and in the field -- we are singularly in the best position to put this plan into action.

What do you think? Let us know! If you have trouble with this link, then go to http://www.NewsChallenge.org, click the READ & COMMENT tab, and enter KOBRE in the search field.

We eagerly await your feedback.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2 New MediaStorm Workshop Videos

Take a look at these two results of the recent eighth MediaStorm Multimedia Workshop.
They're both video profiles. Mr. Blues introduces us to an upscale Harlem barkeep and the neighborhood changes he and his institution have endured and surmounted. Running with Scissors takes us inside the life of a hairdresser who makes housecalls, and is confronting midlife health and emotional issues.

Samuel Hargress Jr. is the owner of Paris Blues bar in Harlem, New York. The bar attracts a cast of characters that could have come from Cheers, Harlem-style. While witnessing dramatic changes in the neighborhood, Sam created a timeless place where regulars dance in their godfather hats, snakeskin leather shoes, and 1940’s styled zoot suits.
See Mr. Blues here.

Hairstylist Brian Machon has been practicing his craft for over 20 years and has close relationships with his clients. When he narrowly escaped a heart attack, questions surrounding his life, and his real family, were raised.
See Running with Scissors here.

The MediaStorm Multimedia Workshops in New York City are intensive, hands-on educational experiences in advanced multimedia storytelling.

"Over the course of a week, participants work in three-person teams, reporting and editing in collaboration with a seasoned multimedia professional to produce a multimedia project for distribution across multiple platforms."

MediaStorm will hold three Multimedia Workshops in 2011:

* March 5-11, 2011 – Application Deadline: Friday, January 7, 2011
* July 23-29, 2011 – Application Deadline: Friday, May 27, 2011
* November 12-18, 2011 – Application Deadline: Friday, September 16, 2011

For additional info, and to apply, go here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

You've Got to Learn How to Share

Mindy McAdams, who teaches online journalism at the University of Florida, makes some valid points about embedding, linking and downloading videos for increased viewership.

"It doesn’t take too much intelligence to conclude that it’s very important to make it very easy to share the videos that you produce."

Why don't more journalism publishers/producers get the message?

Read her blog post here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

President's Photographer: Tonight on PBS

Be sure to catch The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office tonight on PBS. The National Geographic production features Pete Souza, an acclaimed photojournalist who previously served as President Reagan's official photographer, and now performs those same duties for President Obama.

Did we mention that Pete was one of our first photojournalism students, way back when? He's currently on leave of absence from his normal post as an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication.

The presidential photographer's job is two-fold: one, taking photographs of the president greeting dignitaries, visitors and guests; and two, perhaps more challenging and gratifying: documenting for history every possible aspect of the presidency, both official events, backstage happenings and "off-duty" private moments. "Creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job, creating this archive that will live on," says Souza. "This is not so much photojournalism as photo-history." Souza and his staff produce up to 20,000 pictures a week.

"The job of presidential photographer is all about access and trust, and if you have both of those you're going to make interesting, historic pictures," Souza says. He earned the President's trust by following Obama on his rise to the Presidency covering then Senator Obama as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune.

Watch the full episode. See more The Presidents Photographer.


Read the Washington Post's excellent review here. Excerpt:

Perhaps only Bo the Dog and personal aide Reggie Love have better access to Obama than Souza, who is a constant presence with a couple of cameras slung over his droopy shoulders. Both Bo and Love figure prominently in some of the memorable shots Souza has taken so far; the president, we learn, is particularly enamored of a photograph of himself blocking Love's shot on the basketball court....

Without hammering the point, and with some of the more interesting behind-the-scenes footage yet of the Obama White House, "The President's Photographer" makes clear the lasting power of the still photograph, even in this tech-savvy era. It's possible that Souza's perfect picture of Obama already exists; probably it has yet to be taken. Time has a way of editing all images down to the one that says it all.




Read our previous blog items about Pete Souza, here and here. And check out his online portfolio, which also showcases his "non-presidential" assignments.

Check your local PBS listings for air times.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Help Kickstart a Documentary About 10 People Who Are Making a Difference

We got a note from photographer/filmmaker Gail Mooney today, about an ambitious global video project she's undertaking with her 23-year-old daughter, Erin Kelly, a recent graduate from Northwestern University. It's called Opening Our Eyes.

We recently returned from a 99-day journey around the world, shooting a documentary about people who are making a difference in the world. We interviewed and filmed 10 individuals on 6 continents who are creating positive change. I know the power that we as visual communicators have in creating awareness with our cameras and our craft and how that can influence and move people. Our ultimate goal for our film is to inspire and motivate others to be change makers because we believe in the power that the individual has in making a difference, even through small acts in their own communities.
Gail still has to edit 150 hours of footage, and is trying to raise funds to hire a professional editor through a Website called Kickstarter, which "supports creative projects and provides a portal through which to raise funds via crowd funding."

In other words, you can pledge any amount of money to help Gail and Erin. So far, the project has 70 Kickstart "backers" who've pledged $4,035 towards their $7,500 fundraising goal -- with just 49 days to go to secure the rest of the financing (otherwise all pledges are forfeited). "Our clock is ticking."

Take a look at a ten-minute sample of their film and check out some of the rewards for various pledge levels here.



The women were inspired to make their film by Maggie Doyne, 23, who went to high school with Erin, and was the subject of a recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

Maggie has built a home in Nepal for over 30 children and herself, and has recently completed the construction of a primary school for over 200 students. I knew that there had to be thousands of people like Maggie around the world who were creating positive change, and my daughter and I set out to tell their stories through film and photographs. We made the trip financially possible by cashing in all our airline miles, hotel awards and Amex points, along with some bartering - accommodations for video services.

In total, we filmed ten extraordinary people in Uganda, Poland, Russia, Nepal, Thailand, Australia, Peru and Argentina. We have one more story to tell in North America. Our intent is to create short videos on each subject for their foundations' websites, as well as a feature length documentary that will include all ten of these incredible people.

Our trip was the journey of a lifetime. Not only did we witness the power of the individual and what one can do to "make a difference," but we experienced this together. In the process of making this film and this journey, we learned about each other as the people we are - not just as a mother or a daughter. We formed a bond that will last a lifetime, and that in itself was perhaps the most rewarding part of the journey.

Our ultimate goal for the film is that it is seen by as many people as possible in the hopes that they too will be inspired and motivated to create positive change in their own communities.

You can follow our 99-day journey through our blog posts at: http://www.OpeningOurEyes.net
For more info, and to make your pledge, go here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heads Up, Journalists! Craigslist is Drinking Your Milkshake... Again!

Newspapers had plenty of opportunity to spiff up their clunky classified advertising sections and customize them for streamlined Web use. They had access to a marvelous new technology, a whole new medium, but they chose to ignore it. They failed to invest talent and resources. They were comfortable and entrenched in doing things the same old way. And while they sat back, while their advertising sections withered and died, Craigslist came along and ate their lunch.

Now the same thing is happening again, in another arena. Over the past couple years, newspapers have had the opportunity to double down on relatively inexpensive technology to shoot and edit video. Most dipped their toes in that river, but failing to see instant financial returns, they fell into that vicious cycle of blaming their disinterest in producing professional quality video stories on the audience's apparent disinterest in viewing them.

In reality, newspapers hid their video so well on their own Websites, that their own producers couldn't find them -- so how could they expect readers to locate them? And even then, newspapers were so reluctant to invest time and money in an unproven medium -- especially as budget cuts mandated staff reductions -- that the videos themselves were often slipshod affairs. They were not only aesthetically inferior, but frequently fell short of basic journalism standards.

Realistically, neither print reporters nor still photographers should be expected to magically master video storytelling -- and "training" a staff or department in how to use a Flip vidcam is hardly sufficient to create professional quality results. It's like grooming someone to be a reporter by teaching him how to use Microsoft Word.

This past year, Craigslist -- now synonymous with online classified and personal ads -- has gotten into the videojournalism business with Craigslist TV. Who knows why -- other than that founder Craig Newmark thought it would be a cool idea. Unquestionable it's a brilliant marketing and brand-promotion concept. Essentially, each 8- to 10-minute episode follows the ins-and-outs, and ups-and-downs, of one offbeat Craigslist transaction. As with all human interactions, the stories are often fun, quirky, and even poignant.

But here's the point. Are you listening, newspaper publishers? All you beleaguered journalists out there better wake up -- Craigslist is once again drinking your milkshake.

We already showed you the premiere episode of the second season of Craigslist TV : "Accordion Idol."

Since then there have been three more stories (one of them a two-part episode). They have strong and interesting protagonists, compelling story lines, and illuminate or put a bigger issue in context. And there's not one that any newspaper in America, with ambition and resourcefulness, could not have produced on their own. It's a matter of dedication to the tenets and principles of non-fiction video storytelling -- investing in hiring and/or training staffers not just in using cameras, mics and editing software, but also in the principles of visual nonfiction storytelling.

Here they are (below). "Drinking Buddy" is the funniest; "Getting Married" is the most poignant.

Superheroes Strike Back! (Part One)

"Superman" uses craigslist to unite all the costumed characters recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. His "Town Hall of In-Justice" attracts an interesting crowd and leads to unexpected consequences.



*****

Superheroes Strike Back! (Part Two)

"Superman" and the other costumed characters were recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. After their "Town Hall of In-justice" became a shouting match, a dejected "Superman" decides to risk arrest by going to Hollywood Blvd. in full costume. And later, he and other characters stage what may be an even riskier public protest.



*****

Drinking Buddy For Hire!

Daniel offers his services as a drinking buddy on Craigslist. The surprising folks who respond to his ad are more in need of cheap therapy than free drinks.



*****

Getting Married

In 2008, Rev. Lorelei Starbuck married over 600 same-sex couples before Prop. 8 restricted marriage to only "a man and a woman." But in 2010, a federal judge concluded Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, so Lorelei again posts on craigslist offering her services to gay couples looking to wed.



*****

And in case you missed Season One, here are some of the loglines:

Rent My Couch! - Must Love Dogs:) (6:30) Megan is strapped for cash and lists her couch for rent on craigslist. Folks soon learn that Megan already has a full house.

Wanna Join My 80's Cover Band? (9:51) Meg uses craigslist to assemble the most kick-ass 80's cover band in history.

Hip Hop Jaysin Wants a Hype Man (9:52) As Jaysin's big showcase approaches, tensions rise. Can Jaysin keep his cool and impress promoters? Jaysin, an aspiring hip hop artist, uses craigslist to find his very own Flava Flav - a "hype man" to whip up the crowds at his big show.

Ninja for Hire! (9:12) Ninja Nick offers his services as a ninja for hire on craigslist. Dog walking, car washing, pool cleaning and massage - all for free!

Michael Mullen & Sandra Bullock's Dress (6:45) Aspiring fashion designer, Michael Mullen, uses craigslist to reach Sandra Bullock in hopes of dressing her for the 2010 Oscars.

Trista and Tara's Missed Connection with a Hottie (8:11) BFF's Trista and Tara post an ad in Missed Connections on craigslist after spying a hottie at Subway. Will it lead to Trista finding her Mr. Right?

Charity's Casting Call for a Husband (9:00) Spunky and vivacious Charity is fed up with the dating scene and posts on craigslist

*****
The series' mandate is to "follow weird and wild postings on craigslist in real time." New episodes of Craigslist TV appear every Thursday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Meet President Obama's Official Videographer

Arun Chaudhary, a former NYU film instructor, is the first person to hold the job of White House videographer. According to today's New York Times profile, he is "part documentarian, part White House-message-machine post. He travels with the president on roughly two-thirds of his trips, documenting the behind-the-scenes occasions and public theatrics."



Using only his handheld videocamera and laptop, Chaudhary compiles his video highlights into a weekly roundup, "West Wing Week," which appears on WhiteHouse.gov every Friday. (See this week's episode below.)

The profile depicts Chaudhary as a perpetually disheveled man on the go, scrambling to both keep up with President Obama and keep out of his way -- though the boss offers his personal documentarian the ultimate accolade: "a very cool guy."

Like official White House photographers, Chaudhary is part historian, part propagandist, searching for and releasing only the President's most flattering moments. But that is not without precedent.

Since at least the time of President Ronald Reagan, successive White Houses have understood the power of video, investing time and effort into creating images for television to record.

But Obama aides have gone a step further, creating imagery and then filming it themselves, knowing they can inject it into the media bloodstream because of video-sharing sites like YouTube and the increased appetite for new media and technology.
But Chaudhary claims he is taking the long view, and capturing history in the making for future generations to savor -- especially the largely unseen candid side of President Obama, even the awkward or unflattering moments. All those deleted scenes and outtakes are preserved on huge storage servers and will become part of the official record in the presidential library.

As with videojournalists, Chaudhary finds the best moments are the unanticipated ones -- the private interactions that occur between the official staged events. “Whether you are in the United Nations or a castle in Prague," he notes, "anything can happen, and probably will, in the hallway.”

Here's this week's episode of West Wing Week:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Media Innovation Contest Deadline is 12/1

We just received this invitation(below) from the Knight Foundation. Perhaps you can cook up and submit a worthy videojournalism concept.

If you have an innovative media technology idea, you might be able to get funding from the Knight News Challenge contest. Run by the Knight Foundation, the grant competition awards up to $5 million annually for innovative projects that use digital technology to transform the way communities send, receive and make use of news and information.

More info can be found here: http://newschallenge.org. The site includes application information, as well as details about past winners. This year's application deadline is December 1.

The News Challenge is looking for applications in four categories: mobile, authenticity, sustainability and community. All projects must make use of digital technology to distribute news in the public interest. The contest is open to anyone in the world. A simple description of the project is all you need to apply. Submit a brief pitch to http://newschallenge.org. If the reviewers like it, you'll be asked to submit a full proposal later.

If you have questions you can a) reference the FAQ: , or; b) check the archived chat transcript (another live chat will be held before the end of the contest period, time/date TBD). You can follow Knight Foundation on Twitter . The News Challenge Twitter hashtag is #knc .
Tell 'em @Kobre sent ya!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Rwanda Story You Don't Usually See on TV

Today's featured video is courtesy of Michael Rosenblum, who is spending the month in the UK teaching reporters at media organizations, such as the BBC, how to create solo videojournalism projects. In other words, how to interview, light, shoot, record audio, and edit video without benefit of a TV crew or postproduction facility.

On Rosenblum's New York Video School blog, he posted a sample by Victoria Holt, a reporter with a small BBC local station.

She was assigned to do a story on local immigrant issues.

For most local TV stations, that means finding a family and profiling them at home, sometimes with a few photos.

But not now.

Not when for $600 you can buy a plane ticket from London to Rwanda and spend a week going home with a Rwandan refugee who has not been home in 10 years.

Here's the piece that Victoria shot, reported, scripted and edited all on her own, using a small digital camera and a laptop to edit.
"You tell me," asks Rosenblum rhetorically. "Is it worth it?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Real Political Journalists on the Beat

Want to see what real reporters look like when they're working? Pierre Kattar and Jill Drew followed three political journalists -- Don Gonyea of NPR News, Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, and Alexander Burns of Politico -- "as they scour the country for insights into Congressional candidates and their campaigns."

Here's their resulting video snapshot for Columbia Journalism Review: "The Buzz and Beyond: Reporting the 2010 Midterm Elections."

The Buzz and Beyond: Reporting the 2010 Midterm Elections from Pierre Kattar.

'51 Birch Street': Marriage Mysteries Revealed

We told you earlier this week about Doug Block's new documentary, "The Kids Grow Up," now arriving in theaters. For that feature film, Block turned the camera on his daughter Lucy -- from birth until she left home for college at 17. Block's 2006 film, "51 Birch Street" (pictured), intimately chronicles the 54-year marriage of his parents.

It's featured in its entirety this week for free on SnagFilms.com, and it's well worth your attention.

Filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parent’s 54-year marriage was a good one. So he isn’t prepared when, just a few months after his mothers’ unexpected death, his 83-year old father, Mike, phones to announce that he’s moving to Florida to live with “Kitty”, his secretary from 40 years before. Always close to his mother and equally distant from his father, he’s stunned and suspicious. When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the longtime family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers 3 large boxes filled with his moms’ daily diaries going back well over 35 years. Realizing he has only a few short weeks before the movers come and his dad will be gone for good, the veteran documentarian sticks around, determined to investigate the mystery of his parents’ marriage. Through increasingly candid conversations with family members and friends, and constantly surprising diary revelations, Doug finally comes to peace with two parents who are far more complex and troubled than he ever imagined.

Both unexpectedly funny and heartbreaking, 51 Birch Street is the first-person account of Block’s unpredictable journey through a whirlwind of dramatic life-changing events: the death of his mother, the uncovering of decades of family secrets, and the ensuing reconciliation with his father. What begins as his own intimate, autobiographical story, soon evolves into a broader meditation on the universal themes of love, marriage, fidelity and the mystery of family. 51 Birch Street spans 60 years and 3 generations, and weaves together hundreds of faded snapshots, 8mm home movies and two decades of verité footage. The result is a timeless tale of what can happen when our most fundamental assumptions about family are suddenly called into question.
You'll enjoy the surprises that unfold, and mysteries that are resolved, reminding us how little we really know about even our closest family members. At the same time we come to appreciate how much an intensely personal documentary approach can reveal -- not just about its subjects, but about universal truths that embrace us all.

Watch the entire 90-minute film for free on SnagFilms. Here's a preview:

Watch more free documentaries

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Female Drunk Drivers on the Rise

The Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger has spent years investigating the impact of drunk driving.

In its longterm series, Driving to Endanger, the newspaper takes an in-depth look at the arrests of dozens of repeat drunken drivers, and the legal system that lackadaisically processes them, and concludes: "In Massachusetts, drunken driving is still considered a petty crime."

More recently the Ledger has looked at the significant rise in the number of female drunk drivers. "Nationwide, the FBI found that while male drunken driving arrests fell 8.8 percent from 1999 to 2009, the number of women similarly caught soared 41.8 percent."

Award-winning staff photographer Amelia Kunhardt explored the issue of women and drunken driving while on a six-month Kiplinger Fellowship on multimedia storytelling earlier this year at Ohio State University. Her efforts resulted in a series of seven videos that took first place in the NPPA monthly contest in the multimedia category for October 2010.

Kunhardt interviews a number of women who have been arrested for drunk driving. She focuses especially on the case of Marybeth Frisoli, who was sentenced to six months in jail for a drunk-driving accident that cost motorcyclist Mark Cronin his leg. The video follows the courtroom proceedings, introduces us to the victim, and shows the impact of Frisoli's misdeeds.

Watch the seven videos produced for this special report here. Introductory overview below:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Grandma's Tattoo: A Family Video

Sometimes the best video stories can be found in your own backyard. That's what Miranda Harple discovered when she and her sisters, and their mother -- scattered throughout the world -- all decided to get "a small tattoo of an anchor, each on different places of their bodies, to symbolize the family's deep connection to sailing."

The icing on the cake was when their grandmother decided to join them.

In this AARP video, the Harple clan explains their bond -- to each other and to the ocean -- and their delighted surprise at their grandmother's participation. Then we actually get to see granny get inked! Take a look:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 Noteworthy New Documentaries

Courtesy of Telegraph21, the online video magazine "featuring the best documentary films ... from around the world," we call your attention to three promising new feature-length documentaries.

"The Two Escobars," directed/produced by Jeff & Michael Zimbalist, examines the intersection of sports and crime through the lives of druglord Pablo Escobar and soccer player Andres Escobar. Though they weren't related, according to a Los Angeles Times review, "they led intertwined lives of glory and infamy in Colombia, and the full-throttle documentary dynamically chronicles their meshed fates." The Times says it's "one of the best sports docs in recent memory."

Read the L.A. Times review here.



*****
"The Kids Grow Up" earned a "critic's pick" designation from the New York Times.

"One plausible if not necessarily generous reading of the film is that it’s about how difficult it can be to live with a documentary filmmaker. Or at least with Doug Block, the director of this one.

On the evidence presented here, Mr. Block, who lives in Manhattan, has turned his video camera from a domestic accessory (as it is for so many families) into a virtual family member."
The result? "A chronicle of ordinary life that is partly a scrapbook, partly a memoir and, most movingly, an essay on the passage of time and the mysterious connections between parents and children."

Filmed by her father from the moment of her birth, Lucy at age 17 is just months away from leaving home for college. Moving fluidly between past, present, and the fast-approaching future, Block uses a lifetime of footage to craft not only a loving portrait of a girl transitioning into womanhood, but also a candid look at modern-day parenting, marriage, and what it means to let go.
Read the N.Y. Times review here.



LINKS:

The Kids Grow Up Website

The Kids Grow Up on Facebook

The Kids Grow Up on Twitter

New York Times article

*****
Director Jennifer Arnold has stitched together a powerful tale of "paying it forward" that makes you appreciate the far-reaching ripples that can be created by one seemingly insignificant pebble.

Her new documentary "A Small Act" has its genesis in a modest $15 scholarship awarded by a Swedish woman named Hilde Back to a Kenyan boy named Chris Mburu.

Her humble but steady sponsorship put Chris through school and eventually launched him into Harvard Law, paving the way to his job as a United Nations attorney.

Now in her eighties, Hilde meets Chris for the first time as he launches his own small act of benevolence: the Hilde Back Education Fund for the children of his village. Hilde's astonishment at the potency of her long-ago gift is matched in scale by Chris's surprising discovery that Hilde is not Swedish at all, but a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust.

Exploring the enduring challenges of achieving an education in the developing world, the documentary follows Kimani, Ruth and Caroline -- each at the top of their class at Mukubu primary -- who are pinning their hopes on winning one of Chris’s scholarships. Interweaving their stories with those of Hilde and Chris, the film reveals just how powerful a gesture of kindness and generosity can be, and that an education is perhaps the most generous gift of all.
In this featured clip below, Mburu explains how the Hilde Back Education Fund selects scholarship students:



LINKS:

A Small Act's Website

Hilde Back Education Fund's Website

A Small Act's Facebook Page

A Small Act's Twitter Page


*****
Be sure to check out Telegraph21.com for illuminating Q&A interviews with each of the documentary directors!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Online Videojournalism Awards Presented

Congrats to all winners of Online Journalism Awards, presented this weekend at a banquet in D.C. by the Online News Association.

Per usual, all the videojournalism winners were showcased at the time of their original publication on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism -- the place to catch award-winning work months before contest judges officially acclaim it!

Online Video Journalism, Large Site
The Toronto Star
William and the Windmill

Online Video Journalism, Medium Site
The Las Vegas Sun and the Greenspun Media Group
Bottoming Out

Online Video Journalism, Small Site
Yale Environment 360
Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining

Online Video Journalism, Student
Knight Center for International Media, School of Communication, University of Miami
My Story, My Goal

The student award went to fourteen University of Miami multimedia graduate students, who teamed with students from seven Knight Center for International Media partner schools in Africa and Asia "to tell stories that attempt to personalize the United Nations Millennium Development Goals."

Working with Tom Kennedy, Knight Center Professional-in-Residence, each team found personal local stories that shed light and insight on critical global issues, including poverty, maternal health, environmental sustainability, universal education, gender equality, HIV AIDS and children's health.
In addition to seven individual mini-documentaries on each of those topics, focusing on seven people from seven African and Asian countries, the project includes a 27-minute documentary, "This is My Goal" (pictured above).

*****
We previously posted a salute to OJA finalists here (9/29).

To see all the OJA prizewinners in all categories, go here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Homegirl at Crossroads

Reuters photojournalist Lucy Nicholson produced one of the best and most popular videos ever showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism.

It's called "One Man Brand" -- about that singer/guitarist in Times Square who performs in nothing but a cowboy hat and tighty whities. He calls himself the Naked Cowboy, and he has female fans aplenty. Lots of other journalists have profiled him, but Nicholson's video -- produced at a MediaStorm workshop -- went one step further. It took us to his home, showed us his off-hours routine, and introduced us to his girlfriend. The multiple locations and perspectives is what gave her project added value.

Nicholson normally shoots stills of major events for Reuters -- from the Olympics to hotspots like Gaza and Afghanistan.

But she recently posted a new video profile worthy of your attention. This one is called "Homegirl Cafe," about Stephanie Lane, a former teen Crips gangbanger. Through Homeboy Industries, a pioneering gang intervention program, Lane left behind a world of drugs and violence, and got a job as a waitress.

Homegirl from Lucy Nicholson.

With text, powerfully intimate images, and video narrated by Lane herself, we get to see a life in transition. She confesses to "backsliding" -- leaving the cafe and returning to the violent and dangerous ways of the 'hood on weekends. After she got shot, and survived two bullet wounds, she took up boxing, rechanneling her energies. Now she's on the path to a career in restaurant management.

Nicholson artfully combines on-camera interviews with telltale B-roll that shows Lane in action -- at the restaurant and at the boxing gym.

Father Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, provides background and context, though we admit we would have liked to have heard more from Stephanie's restaurant co-workers and patrons, her sparring coach and partners, her family and friends in her tough neighborhood. Still we get a strong sense of a young lady who is confronted by tough challenges and obstacles, but finally making good life choices, shaping her own destiny, and setting her sights on a more constructive path.

It proves once again that capturing captivating characters closeup during pivotal periods in their life is a key to successful video storytelling.

Watch the video here. See more of Lucy Nicholson's multimedia stories here.