Saturday, May 29, 2010

SnagFilms Presents Free Memorial Day Documentaries

SnagFilms is a site where you can watch and share hundreds of free feature-length documentaries online. This weekend it is showcasing a slate of films devoted to Memorial Day themes.

As SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen wrote for Huffington Post:

Featured films include Return To Tarawa, the story of a veteran of one of the bloodiest battles ever fought by U.S. Marines, who returns to that Pacific atoll only to discover that what should be hallowed ground has become a garbage dump—and that the bones of warriors remain in place, unidentified and apparently ignored, at least by our government. Leon Cooper won’t forget, and the film outlines his last battle: to clean up “Bloody Tarawa” and venerate the dead.

Nanking is the highly-honored documentary that picked up its Peabody Award this week—now online for the first time. It brilliantly depicts the heroism of civilians just prior to World War II who tried to prevent a Holocaust from occurring when Japanese troops marched into the then-capital of China in 1937. Nanking reminds us that bravery is not the sole province of the soldier, and that moral and physical courage can come from unlikely sources.

In Vietnam, Long Time Coming, U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers embark on a 1600-mile bicycle tour throughout Vietnam, reflecting with their former enemies on our long war. A similar approach to post-war understanding, On Common Ground, tells the story of American and German World War II veterans meeting 55 years later on the very battlefield where once they’d fought.

Other Memorial Day films featuring World War II themes include Battle of the Midway, and Pearl Harbor: Day of Infamy. East LA Marine tells the story of US Marine PFC Guy Gabaldon, who captured over 1500 Japanese soldiers and civilians—single-handedly. For those who wish to reflect on Memorial Day along the contours of its original creation, SnagFilms is showing Arlington Field of Honor, which offers a tour of America’s most sacred warrior graveyard. Other films in the special offering include Devil Dog Diaries (National Geographic’s inside look at a unit in action during Desert Storm), and So Very Far from Home, the true stories that were the basis of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.
We tried our hand at creating our own SnagFilms Memorial Day movie-theater widget, and found that it is easy to do. This one contains 3 films -- Pearl Harbor: Day of Infamy, Return to Tarawa, So Very Far From Home -- but there are plenty more on SnagFilms that are worthy of your attention.

Watch more free documentaries

See SnagFilms' free Memorial Day documentaries here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Countdown to Soul of Athens 2010

Every year the students at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and E.W. Scripps School of Journalism canvas the Appalachian community of Athens, Ohio in search of colorful stories that lend themselves to online multimedia presentations.

Incredibly for the past four years they've continued to find and explore the pursuits and passions of area residents in this diverse small community, and never seem to run out of engaging ideas.

The annual project is dubbed "Soul of Athens," and every year it is recognized for its excellent photojournalism, videojournalism, and multimedia packages, which are strong on storytelling. The site is designed, edited, produced, and operated exclusively by students; this year, 60 have participated. They tackle an array of topics, ranging from poverty and sustainable farming to fashion, arts, and religion.

The 2010 edition launches on Tuesday, June 1. You can follow the countdown here, with sneak previews of what to expect.

The first volume of Soul of Athens launched in May 2007. Since the initial launch the site has continuously been recognized for its accomplishments in the fields of photojournalism, multimedia web and video production and editing. In 2009 Soul of Athens was honored by Pictures of the Year International with the “Award of Excellence” for “Online Publications Best Use.” The 2008 edition of Soul of Athens landed 1st place in National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism contest in the category, “Best Multimedia Package”.

The 2010 Soul of Athens website will be published in a series of editions, starting on June 1. Every two weeks additional thematic editions will be added to the site. The editions include Expression, Shelter, Passage, Thrive and Experience.

Here are some of the 2009 Soul of Athens video stories that were showcased on

Growing Up After Foster Care
Caeshel Sue Rae Allen, 18, faces single parenthood and life with a drug-using partner who's awaiting trial for abusing her.

A Life Alone
After 63 years of marriage, Tom Rose shares his perspective as a depressed widower struggling to face life on his own.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

20 Free Multimedia Resources

Tim McLaughlin (right) is the Director of Multimedia at the Maine Media Workshops and Maine Media College. As a self-described "multimedia documentarian" he has worked with MediaStorm, the Eddie Adams Workshop, and the Rocky Mountain News.

Tracy Boyer's Innovative Interactivity blog invited him to contribute his list of "20 educational (and free!) multimedia resources."  It covers photography, audio, video, post-production, and Web design.

Read it here, or download a printable PDF file here. Lots to learn -- get clickin'!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From Still Photog to Videojournalist

Good profile of a veteran print photojournalist who expanded his skill set to incorporate online video:

Former Newspaper Photographer Becomes Mobile, Social Journalist

By Damon Kiesow (

"Hi, I'm Jim. I'm from the Internet."

That was the moment Jim MacMillan (pictured), a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, veteran of 17 years at the Philadelphia Daily News and former embedded journalist of the war in Iraq, realized the game had changed.

He uttered those words two years ago to a fire chief at a scene in Philadelphia while shooting video and still photos for the Daily News website. Pursuing a Web-first strategy was relatively new for the paper. And that was the confusion, said MacMillan.

"If I barked 'Daily News,' it said something about the cultural and social authority [of my presence] and where they could find the pictures the next day," he said. But explaining that he was shooting video for the Web and pulling video stills for print, and that the video could be found online via a series of clicks on the site, lacked the same efficiency and charm. "Trying to boil down the shorthand in the middle of a crisis is really difficult," he said.

MacMillan, who is finishing up a year teaching at the University of Missouri J-school, said that moment was emblematic of his transition from a street photographer covering crime in Philadelphia to a "social media" journalist who at last count had more Twitter followers than Katie Couric.

The epiphany took place in April 2008, some months after MacMillan had returned to the Daily News from a fellowship, after which he taught himself video and Web skills. As the paper's first video journalist, he was working that day with a Sony HD video camera, using still images from the video for the newspaper.

MacMillan shared the despair of many newspaper videographers at the time: The craft was still new enough that few media websites displayed video prominently, which meant a lot of innovative work went unseen. "You couldn't find my content," he said. There were "no distributable media players and no RSS feeds" on the Daily News site to help the videos get shared and discussed around the Web.

As much as he was concerned with distribution, the technology of remote electronic newsgathering was also a challenge. MacMillan was working at the time to fit a TV live truck into a backpack so he could stream video directly to the Web from anywhere in town. In 2007 that required a laptop, digital video camera, wireless modem and a fair amount of luck. Now, of course, the live truck fits in his pocket in the form of an iPhone.
Read the whole story here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Multimedia Immersion Rap Video: 'Somebody Bring Me Back a Story, Please!'

In celebration of the kickoff of the NPPA Multimedia Immersion workshop in Syracuse, N.Y., Evan Vucci and Matt Ford produced this clever music video parody about being multimedia journalists -- inspired by Jay-Z’s 'On To The Next One.' (Crank it up! Play it full screen!)

New Categories for Online Journalism Awards

The Online News Association and the University of Miami’s School of Communication today opened their call for entries for the 2010 Online Journalism Awards, with new categories that recognize emerging platforms and technologies.

Work published between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010 is eligible. Deadline for entry submissions is July 16, 2010, at 8 p.m. ET. Applicants can submit their work at

This year, ONA has introduced changes to acknowledge the role of investigative journalism, the development of emerging platforms and achievements at the collegiate level, as well as a new site that streamlines the entry experience and judging process. Eight awards now come with a total of $33,000 in prize money, courtesy of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gannett Foundation, which also is supporting innovative investigative work with two new $2,500 awards.

The newest category honors Outstanding Use of Emerging Platforms, achievement by an organization in the use of devices such as smart phones, eReaders and tablets to tell a story and serve a community. To better reflect work being produced by future journalists, students may now enter in three categories — Multimedia Feature Presentation, Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies on the Web and Online Video.
Honorees will be announced on the final night of ONA10, the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet, Oct. 28-30, in Washington, D.C.


The Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism: This category, with a prize of $5,000, honors a person or company, journalistic in focus or not, that has built a digital tool significantly enhancing the practice of online journalism.

The Knight Award for Public Service: Recognizes digital journalism that performs a public service for a geographic community through compelling coverage of a vital community issue or event; one $5,000 award.

General Excellence in Online Journalism: Honors a Web site in each of four size categories, plus two from the non-English speaking community, which successfully fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audience, maximizes the use of the Web’s characteristics and represents the highest journalistic standards. The award is $3,000 for each winner, funded by the Gannett Foundation.

Breaking News: Honors digital coverage over a 72-hour period of a breaking-news event or development.

Specialty Site Journalism: Recognizes niche Web sites that focus on a single topic.

Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism: Honors stories that uncover major news based on the reporters’ own exclusive investigations or that offer compelling and original analysis and interpretation. Open to all formats, including Web documentaries; two awards of $2,500 each.

Multimedia Feature Presentation: Awards excellence in telling a story to an online audience using multimedia techniques.

Online Topical Reporting/Blogging: Recognizes beat reporting by an individual or team.

Online Commentary/Blogging: Honors a unique and powerful voice of commentary original to the Web.

Community Collaboration Award: Recognizing a news project or Web site that produces outstanding journalism through strong interaction with the community being served.

Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies: Recognizes achievement by a site in the use of digital techniques to tell a story and serve a community.

Online Video Journalism: Awards excellence in online-originated video journalism.






Friday, May 21, 2010

New Ways to Make Money in Journalism? Adam Westbrook Tells You How

After a clever ramp-up promo campaign on his content-rich blog, Adam Westbrook has at last released his 68-page eBook, 'Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism,' chockablock with solid info and advice for those crazy enough to pursue our beleagured and underresourced profession.

Guess what distinguishes each of Westbrook's strategies for landing a gig? The recognition of the fact that there are scarcely any gigs left to pursue -- and that you have to find and make your own opportunities.

And so his methods have little to do with the conventional job-application route to success -- forget about resumes, interviews, climbing the corporate ladder.

As it happens, KobreGuide's editorial director lives and works in Hollywood, where he is surrounded by hordes of starry-eyed wannabes who say that they yearn to be a writer, a director, an actor, a producer. His advice? Stop wanting to be, and start doing. Write, direct, act, produce. Think verbs, not nouns. Don't sit around waiting for someone else's approval or permission. Go out and do your own thing. Next time you meet him, ask him to perform the ditty he wrote about this frustrating phenomenon -- 'Everybody Wants to Be (Nobody Wants to Do)'.

So back to Adam Westbrook, who clearly gets this ethic -- don't wait, create! He embodies it by virtue of his informative blog, and now this eBook, available in North American and (his native) UK editions, for an "early bird" discount price of $9.50 US (thinking entrepreneurialy!)... You'll personally find lots of solid nuggets here to warrant the investment, and point your life and career in a positive direction.

Here's his pitch:

* 10 new & exciting ways of making money in journalism
* 7 bonus chapters covering the practical nuts & bolts
* 12 interviews and in-depth case studies with the journalists and entrepreneurs who are already making it work for them
* Solid advice on what makes a good news business idea
* 30 things you can do right away to make the new career paths happen
* 2 introductory chapters which guide you through how to decide what you really want
* Step-by-step guides to creating your own portfolio business, collaborative & hyperlocal website
and loads of ideas and encouragement!
And here's a sneak preview of the Table of Contents (click to enlarge):

Download 'Next Generation Journalist' here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bill Gentile's Backpack Journalism Workshop

Emmy Award-winning producer Bill Gentile (right) was probably among the first to call himself a "backpack journalist" -- i.e. a one-man-band mobile videojournalist.

His next hands-on workshop is June 24-27 in San Francisco, which he describes as "an intensive immersion in the craft of visual storytelling."

Gentile brings more than 30 years of field experience to teach the full range of skills essential to making powerful, character-driven stories for television and the Internet: story conception, shooting, scriptwriting, narrating, editing, marketing.

In this unique and supportive environment you will learn:

• To use portable video equipment to effectively capture images and sound.
• To recognize and cultivate dramatic story arcs.
• To conduct proper, in-depth interviews.
• To write powerful treatments and scripts.
• To narrate your story.
• To edit with Final Cut Pro for maximum effect.
• To distribute your story to local, national or global audiences.

Cost: $1,495.
For more information about Bill Gentile and his laudable workshops, go here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Report Shows Boom in Online Video Produced by Media Organizations

Brightcove and TubeMogul recently issued a research report to "identify key industry trends" that may lift the spirits of media organizations that have been grumbling about the financial state of online news video. (Brightcove is a videoplayer platform; TubeMogul is a video ad platform.)

Here are some of their key findings:

Growth Trends

• Broadcast networks and pure-play Web media properties represent the fastest growing sectors for online video streams.
• Newspaper and magazine publishers have the greatest number of video players across online media properties.
• Newspaper publishers show the most growth in video production for online properties, followed by broadcast networks and pure-play Web media brands.


• Online video content from broadcast networks attracts the most viewing time per video.
• Newspaper and magazine publishers garner the highest online video viewing completion rates.
• Consumers in the U.S. average more minutes of video watched per stream from broadcast networks and newspaper publishers, compared to their European counterparts who average more minutes per stream from magazine publishers and music labels.


• Google generates the highest volume of referral traffic to online video content, followed by Yahoo!, Bing and Facebook.
• Compared to search engines and other social media sites, Twitter referrals generate the highest level of consumer engagement for online video content from broadcast networks, magazine publishers and music labels.  Newspaper publishers see the highest level of engagement from viewers who find their content via Yahoo!.

Formats & Strategy

• In-stream video advertising is the dominant ad format followed by  overlays, sponsorships, companions and player skins.
• Despite experimentation with other ad formats, 35 percent of survey respondents said in-stream video advertising produced the most revenue for their media business compared to other ad formats.
• For in-stream advertising, respondents said the dominant insertion point is pre-roll, followed by post-roll, player load and mid-roll.
• More than half of the survey respondents indicated that they would add sponsorships to their monetization strategy for online video this year.
• Close to 70 percent of respondents said that their media companies sell their own advertising versus using an ad network.
• While just over 10 percent of respondents said that they currently distribute ad-supported video content to mobile devices, more than 50 percent said that they will roll out ad-supported mobile video within the next twelve months.

Video Stream Trend Data

Broadcast networks and pure-play Web media properties represent strongest growth sectors:

 Broadcast networks and pure-play Web media brands represent the largest volume of online video streams with a combined quarterly run rate that now surpasses 700 million streams.
 Last year, these broadcast networks grew online video streams by 74 percent. During the same period, Web media brands grew online video streams by 165 percent.
 Data from Q1 of 2010 suggests another strong growth year for both media industry verticals. Broadcast networks have started the year doing more than 380 million video streams, which represents a 44 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year. Similarly, Web media brands kicked off 2010 with 326 million video streams, which is an increase of more than 300 percent compared to Q1 of 2009.

Magazine publishers and music labels achieve next highest volume of video streams:

 Magazine publishers have achieved eight consecutive quarters of video stream growth.
 Overall, magazine publishers grew video streams by nearly 100 percent between 2008 and 2009.
 Magazine publishers walked into 2010 doing more than 190 million video streams in the first quarter of the year, which is up 90 percent as compared to Q1 of 2009 when this media vertical did 99 million video streams.

Newspaper sector video streams flat in 2009, but signal growth ahead for 2010:

 As a category, newspaper publishers did nearly 136 million video streams in Q1 of 2010, a similar volume compared to Q1 in 2009.
 Newspaper publishers had only one quarter of stream growth in 2009, but have grown overall by five percent from Q4 of 2009 and Q1 of 2010.

1Q10 Online Video report -

Read the full report here. (PDF)

New numbers: Online video makes big gains
By Regina McCombs (

A recent batch of new research may provide some fresh hope for those who've been discouraged about news video. While the news is best, by far, for broadcast outlets, growth in audience should be good news for all video producers.

New numbers from Brightcove and TubeMogul look promising. Broadcasters who stream from Brightcove have seen a 74 percent increase in traffic the first quarter of this year, while they've posted only 10 percent more material than in the first quarter last year.

Web-only brands do even better, with a startling 300 percent growth in views. Newspaper videos were up 37 percent from the same period last year. Broadcasters get the best news in length of time watched, with users spending an average of 2:53 watching video, compared to 1:41 average time watched at newspaper sites. It's a bit of apples and oranges, however, since the broadcast material includes a lot of much longer non-news content. Newspaper sites had a slight edge in completion of videos, at 41 percent of viewers finishing, compared to 38 percent for broadcasters.

Read more here.

Broadcast TV and Web Media Sites Winning in Online Video
By Erick Schonfeld (

You can hardly run into a media site these days that no longer includes online video (even we are getting ready to launch TechCrunch TV). But which kinds of media sites are getting the most views? In a joint report by Brightcove and Tubemogul, the non-YouTube sites seeing the most success with online video are those of the broadcast TV networks and Web-only media brands, followed by magazine sites and music labels. Newspaper sites are lagging when it comes to both total video views and growth....

Obviously, newspaper sites are having a real problem getting their audiences to watch videos. For every 2 billion videos they throw in front of them, only 136 million get viewed (6.8 percent). Whereas broadcast TV sites are getting 380 million views for every 670 million attempts (56.7 percent). Maybe that is because people go to newspaper sites for news and quick hits, and they go to TV sites to watch videos. But even magazine sites are seeing a 12.7 percent hit rate. Again, this could be a time commitment scenario. Most people go to news sites for quick facts and breaking news. But those people who do bother to watch videos on newspaper sites, are slightly more likely to watch them to the end more than on other types of sites. The completion rates for videos on newspaper sites are 41 percent, versus 39 percent for magazine sites, 38 percent for broadcast sites, and 29 percent for music label sites...

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Student Media Advisor Iraq

From Jackie Spinner, via the Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS):

I started a student newspaper at The American University of Iraq. Last week we launched the college radio station. I won a Fulbright Scholarship for next year in Oman and need to find someone who can spend the upcoming academic year advising the student newspaper and directing our media operation.

This is a one-year backpack journalism job for someone who is willing to backpack in northern Iraq with a staff of 45 student journalists who are writing in a language they learned three years ago and trying to produce Iraq's first independent student newspaper in what Kurdish writer Bakhtiar Ali has appropriately described as a struggling dictatorship and not a struggling democracy.

If this sounds like your dream (it has been mine), please email me at or The pay is good. Housing is provided. Travel is included. Full health benefits. No language requirements. Significant others, spouses and children welcome. (Many of our teachers have their families with them). Relative safety in northern Iraq. We have a bowling alley, symphony and movie theater. I walk to and from work in American clothes. I speak English on my cell phone in the market.
For more information about the student newspaper, check out these links:

The American University of Iraq:

Student Newspaper:

Recent articles about publishing a student newspaper in Iraq:


US News:

College Media Matters:

International Journalists' Network:

(NOTE: Unlike the media "job offer" from the State of New York (below), this one actually pays.)

'I Love Working for Free!' (Not!)

Pete Rabot, creative director of Munn Rabot agency in New York, received this request:

"In the midst a national economic downturn and record state budget deficits, New York finds itself with no money to produce a much needed TV commercial for this summer’s critical tourism season. That’s why I LOVE NEW YORK is asking for pro bono assistance from the state’s film and TV industry to produce a thirty-second TV commercial promoting New York State."
The state's solicitation for a handout inspired Rabot's sarcastic blog item, "I Love Doing Work for Free," in which he comments:

Responding companies don’t need to develop an idea, because some numskull in accounting has already done that. All they want is your cameras, director, production crew, trucks, lighting, sound, craft services, editing, finishing, and trafficking. Oh, and your time, which, because it’s yours, should cost nothing. Your noble efforts could add millions of dollars to the state coffers, which will probably go to augment much needed salary increases for more numskulls...
(Cyberhat tip to David Kennerly, who adds: "As a photographer observing the steady devaluation of photographs and other artistic endeavors, I appreciate the Rabots of the world who stand straight up, poke their finger into the eye of injustice, and cry, 'Enough you numskulls!' ... His words are in solidarity with those of us who just want to be paid fairly for the work that we do.")

Monday, May 17, 2010

My First Flak Jacket & Other Stories from Israel

I was in Israel for a month, shooting my documentary about AP photographers called “Deadline Every Second.”

The first morning I walked into the AP office in Jerusalem, the staff outfitted me with a bullet proof flax-jacket, weighing 16 pounds, a steel helmet, a portable telephone and sent me off to document Pulitzer prize-winning AP photographer Oded Balilty covering the "Day of Rage."

I later found out that protective gear comes in two sizes -- “heavy” for war wear and “light” for clash wear. Unfortunately, AP was out of the “light” at the moment.

The uprising, which was called by Hamas, involved "riots" or "clashes," depending on your politics, between young, rock-throwing, tire-burning Palestinians and Israeli police shooting tear gas, stun guns and rubber bullets. The police also used dogs to chase down rioters. The one place you don't want get caught is between the two groups. Especially when police unleashed the dogs who go after the protesters. The dogs, however, cannot distinguish protesters from journalists. The clashes alternated between the masked teenagers, using an overturned garbage container for protection, advancing on the police by throwing stones or using sling-shots to launch stones, and the police repeling the youth with canisters of tear gas and loud stun guns.

The sound of the stun guns made me think I was in the middle of a war. To add to the overall auditory illusion, the Palestinian youth were firing a series of firecrackers. As soon as the tear gas went off, all the kids ran up the hill with me huffing and puffing behind. AP was fresh out of extra gas masks for visiting photojournalists the day I arrived, so I was left to cough, cry, run away from the cloud of gas. Wearing his gas mask, Balility stayed in the thick of the action when the tear gas exploded, as I made a hasty retreat up the hill and shot the action with a long lens.

Two photojournalists were injured during the day at the clash I covered by Israeli police bullets and tear gas canisters. The Reuters bureau photographer wound up with shrapnel in his leg and the AFP (Agency France Press) photographer was shot in the wrist with a rubber bullet. I did not get hit with anything more than tear gas....

Read the whole story of my month in Israel shooting video of AP photographers in action for my documentary "Deadline Every Second" here.

Photos by Oded Balilty.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking Back at the Volcanic Ash of May 1980

Spokesman-Review's Colin Mulvany produced, and Jim Kershner wrote and narrated, this powerful thirtieth-anniversary retrospective, "Looking Back: Mount St. Helens Comes to Town."

Note the excellent use of archival black-and-white photographs, intelligently orchestrated (in a multi-panel array) to a well scripted VO narration and subtle music soundtrack. Cumulatively they tell a decades-old story that still looms large in local lore. To feel and breathe that volcanic ash, play it full screen:

UPDATE: Read Colin's behind-the-scenes story.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NY Times Unveils 'Moment in Time'

At long last, the New York Times presents its interactive "Moment in Time," the ultimate "citizen photographer" project.

Readers of its Lens blog were invited to submit photos taken at precisely 15:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), Sunday, May 2, 2010. The thousands of submissions were diligently sorted, categorized, and affixed to a virtual globe, where, after many delays, they can now be viewed in all their universal glory.

It's clearly more a stunt than a work of art -- or journalism, for that matter -- but the bottom line is that the project was undertaken with diligence and sincerity, and the Times even went out of its way to own up to the process' inevitable shortcomings. (In fact, they're still working out a few bugs.) More importantly, it's fun to click through and look at. And be forewarned, that all those "moments" can add up to hours of viewing.

Read all about it here.

See it here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Immigration Raid Documentary on PBS Frontline Tonight

Tonight, PBS Frontline/World will broadcast a 15-minute version of the documentary "In the Shadow of the Raid," by directors Greg Brosnan and Jennifer Szymaszek.

The documentary details the devastating cross-border economic impact of the United States' largest ever immigration raid, in Postville, Iowa on May 12, 2008. The raid exactly two years ago on the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant wrought economic disaster on a Guatemalan village and wrecked the economy of a former Midwestern boom town.
Here is the trailer for the longer 30-minute version:

Frontline's "Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages" (pictured), by Brosnan and  Szymaszek, was showcased last year on KobreGuide.

Monday, May 10, 2010

NY Times Video on Sex Toy Biz in Islamic Pakistan Wins Concentra Award

Congrats to Adam Ellick, whose New York Times video, 'Cracking the Whip in Pakistan,' (pictured) won the 2010 Concentra Award for outstanding videojournalism, with a 10,000-euro prize.

The five-minute video, featured last year on KobreGuide, profiles two brothers who slyly run a million-dollar business in Karachi, amid a stronghold of radical Islam, manufacturing fetish and bondage gear for Westerners.

The Concentra Award for Breaking News -- for a piece that is shot, edited and broadcast in one day -- went to Casey Kauffman from Al Jazeera International for 'Baby Feras', the story of a Palestinian boy in desperate need of heart surgery who is trapped behind the Israeli blockade in Gaza.

'Baby Feras' was also previously showcased on KobreGuide.

See all the Concentra 2010 nominees here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good Weekend Reading On Videojournalism

We amassed some good weekend reading for you. Browse the excerpts here, and then click on each title for the full story.

Also, given our finite number of eyeballs, please feel free to forward us links to any good online articles about visual journalism that you've seen and would like to share with your colleagues and fellow enthusiasts.

Separate Yourself from the Pack

By David Bergman (Guest blogger for Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider)

I’d like to share the key to making a living in this crazy business of photography:

You need to separate yourself from the pack.

But how do you do that? I’ve realized that there are a few things I consistently do when preparing for a shoot.

1) If I see a group of photographers standing together, I run the other direction.

At most of the events I cover, there are a lot of other photographers. The wire services and local newspaper shooters always do a great job covering the event. So what can I bring to the table? If I just shoot the same images as everyone else, there’s no reason for me to be there.

The easiest way to separate myself is to literally move away from the other photographers. I try to take chances and go for the high risk shot. It doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it’s worth it.

For example, I was assigned to shoot the Live Eight mega-concert in Philadelphia a few years ago. This was a huge international event with performances by Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, and more. There were expecting a million fans.

When I arrived, I saw that there were only two photo positions for the 50-plus credentialed photographers and the spots were way back by the sound board. I don’t like shooting from the back because the pictures just aren’t as dynamic as the shots from the photo pit in front of the stage. More importantly, there were more than 50 photographers all shooting exactly the same thing! I don’t care how big the event is, there’s just no reason for me to shoot the same pictures as everyone else.

It wasn’t going to be easy to break away from the group because the publicists and security guards had made it very clear that we weren’t allowed to shoot anywhere else. I knew I wouldn’t get into the pit in front of the stage, but as fans started to stream in, I noticed that they were giving out wristbands for the front, standing-room section.

I left my 600mm lens with a friend in the back and pretended to be a fan. After seamlessly melding into the line, I managed to snag a wristband! Next thing I knew, I was in the front row pressed up against the barricade and right next to the photo pit. The only thing to do at that point was hide my cameras until the last minute and hope I didn’t get kicked out.

I’m not suggesting that it’s always necessary to break the rules, but in this case, most of the fans in that section had cameras anyway. I shot the entire show from that spot and made pictures that were different from the ones shot in the back.


Newsy raises $2M for honest-to-God mobile video journalism

By Paul Boutin (Venture Beat)

Newsy, a startup formed in 2008 and based in Columbia, Missouri, announced this morning that the company has raised $2 million from undisclosed angel investors. The money, president Jim Spencer wrote in a prepared statement, “will allow us to grow our news operations and deliver a remarkable product.” Separately, Newsy’s free iPad app, released last week, shot to No. 6 on Apple’s list of most popular news apps.

What’s the big deal about Newsy? In short, Newsy is trying to do for the mobile video explosion what Ted Turner did with the cable TV explosion thirty years ago: Deliver a new kind of news enabled by the technology.

“You should go look at our iPhone app, at the quality of video we can deliver over 3G,” Spencer told me during a phone interview. “That wasn’t possible two years ago.” Imagine what two more years will bring.

Newsy does neither original reporting nor automated aggregation. Instead, the company calls its product “analysis.” Newsy prepares two-to-three-minute videos that highlight and explain the different coverage angles on a topic from different media sources. The goal isn’t to look for biased reporting, but rather to provide viewers with a wider range of valuable information on a hot topic. Newsy’s human journalists summarize the expanding newsosphere so you don’t have to do it yourself.

Newsy operates a website version of its news analyzer, which you can currently use for free and without being interrupted by ads. For example, see Newsy’s recent report on Florida governor Charlie Crist’s defection from the Republican Party. Newsy’s reporter narrates a mix of reports from Fox, CNN, Florida newspapers, plus political blogs you’ve probably never heard of. It’s a great clip that opens immediately with Crist giving his reasoning to an audience. An unnamed female anchor then guides viewers through reactions and reports from Fox, CNN, and a couple of blogs you may not have heard of. How will Crist’s move play out? Newsy hits a half dozen pithy takes from people who come across as experts.


Are We Done with DSLR Video?

By Jonathan Shuler

Two weeks ago Vincent Laforet gave the VJ world permission to shoot on traditional rigs again. He did it during an interview with Dan Chung of DSLR Shooter at the NAB conference and ever since the VJ/PJ blog world has been a’tizzy about how excited they are to get away from DSLRs and back to ENG kits like before. Cliff Etzel of Solo Video Journalist said, “I’m calling it as I see it. DSLR video is a fad – at least in solo video journalism it is.”

I feel like we forgot how we got here. Does everyone remember three years ago when there was no DSLR video?.

I was shooting on Panasonic HVX200s and Canon HF20s when I needed something really small. Do we all remember that? If you guys want to leave the DLSR Video Journalism sandbox, that’s cool, but I’m staying.

I can’t wait for everyone to leave and go back to shooting on $7-12K rigs that push up overhead on production and insurance, weigh roughly twice as much, have blindingly inferior low light performance, poor wide angle options, and expensive propriety storage mediums; all on chipsets smaller than a nickel. I’m sure it will be a party.


Demotix adds video content and custom ecommerce system to new site

By Judith Townend (

Demotix, the citizen journalism site and photo agency, has launched a new site and user payment system.

The site - which has grown to 3,000 active contributors in 190 countries since launching in autumn 2008 - will now feature a video content, as well as a new ecommerce system.

"Every contributor will have a hidden page on their dashboard where they can see what has been sold, for how much, and when they'll be paid," CEO Turi Munthe explained.

"It will make their lives much simpler, and will make us much more transparent. Having it run automatically also simplifies our life tremendously."

Demotix says it can sell images for professional rates to mainstream media and other buyers, with 50 per cent going to the producer.

With the new site, there are also changes for buyers, Munthe said. For example, the URL structure of Demotix has been altered to make every image searchable outside of a story. This will make searching for images inside Demotix, and on the external web, much easier, he said.

He also hopes content commissioning will be simplified: "We've built a dead simple ecommerce sales platform which will allow anyone to licence Demotix imagery direct from the web. We get a lot of one-off queries for pictures that would be far more simply done automatically." The new process will be easier for buyers, and easier for Demotix, he adds.

Munthe expects the site's use of video to develop as its photo agency has: "Demotix has always been a word of mouth build, and video will be the same.

"We'll be reaching out to new video users in our key geographic areas, and we'll be trying to educate our current users to get into video, but we'll eventually - and shortly - be looking for interesting video partners too."

The first video features an interview with a journalist from Kazakhstan, discussing freedom of speech. It's appropriate, says Munthe, in a blog post, because "Demotix unashamedly stands for free speech and a democratised media".

My first video journalism shoot with the Canon550D

By Adam Westbrook

I was recently commissioned to produce a five-minute video package ahead of this week’s General Election in the UK, on the controversial ban on prisoners being able to vote.

It was a commission for the VJ Movement, and has since been featured on Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

It was also the first test for my new Canon 550D DSLR camera and related paraphernalia.

The story

We spent a fair amount of time thrashing out the story arc for the piece, something VJ Movement take very seriously.

Together we’re trying to produce video journalism which doesn’t conform to the old rules of a TV news piece. This first commission doesn’t quite go the whole way with that, but the opening sequences and the atmospheric introduction of the main character attempt to try a few different things.

We used John as the main character to drive the narrative forward, rather than flipping between talking heads, which works well, and he lent himself well to colourful soundbites and nice sequences.

The story is limited though by its complex and legal nature; there’s a lot of elements to it not just John’s personal story which all need to be included – a challenge to both shoot and write to.

The gear

For the most part the 550D performed well, and produced some excellent images. I have the most basic 18-55mm lens but it’s a good all-rounded for most shots. Importantly it performs very well in low light, which helped in the darker locations I was filming in for this piece.

It also produces a nice colour for the images. Some limitations with recording time though: you can only record for a maximum of 12 minutes at a time, regardless of the size of your SD card (I have absolutely no idea why). You might also spot a couple of out-of-focus shots too, a result of not being able to focus properly on the LCD screen.

The rough edit contained a few handheld shots but we removed them as they were too shaky. Being an SLR it’s not an easy camera to keep steady -- more support for always using a tripod where you can.

The biggest challenge, as with all the DSLRs, is audio. As well as a Rode VideoMic attached to the camera, I recorded all the interviews separately onto a Tascam DR-07 and synched it in Final Cut Pro.

I am very happy with the quality of the audio – but ran into trouble with frame rates. If, for example, I changed the shutter speed down to 25fps to brighten the image, the audio recording was not recorded at the same speed.

All minor problems to iron out with more practice, and I personally don’t find it too much of a hassle to sync the audio in post – if it means the sound is good quality.

The DSLR debate

I’ve enjoyed working the 550D: very happy with what I got for the price and also glad to have the flexibility to take photographs and produce audio slideshows with a single camera.

Meanwhile the debate over whether video journalists should use DSLR cameras continues; the detractors – for example Cliff Etzel – label it a “fad” and accuse users of a “lazy” obsession with shallow depth-of-field.

And of course Cliff is right, it’s the story not how the pictures look. But personally, I think it’s possible to care about both.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Webby Award Video Winners Announced

The 14th Annual Webby Award winners have been announced, along with the People's Voice Award (chosen by online community voting) in the DOCUMENTARY and NEWS & POLITICS sections of the ONLINE FILM & VIDEO category.


Waterlife (National Film Board of Canada)

In Silence: Maternal Mortality in India (Human Rights Watch)


Alabama's Homeboys (Los Angeles Times)

Gun Markets of Pakistan (VBS.TV)

Awards will be presented during Internet Week in New York, June 7-14, 2010. The ceremony is famous for limiting acceptance speeches to five words. Get tickets here.

Albert Maysles on Documentary Filmmaking

With his late brother David, Albert Maysles is a giant among documentary filmmakers. Over the past half century, he has produced behind-the-scenes chronicles of cultural icons (the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Vladmir Horowitz, Christo, Jessye Norman), and is best known for "cinema verite" documentaries such as "Grey Gardens," in which the camera captures natural conversations and activities without the intrusion of interviews or narration.

This approach is often referred to as "fly on the wall," a term Maysles abhors, for reasons he cites below. He is currently producing "Handheld and from the Heart," a self-portrait film celebrating his 50th anniversary in filmmaking, in his own words and images.

On his recently redesigned Website, Maysles shares his thoughts on documentary filmmaking:


As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality. It is my caretaker, the provider of subjects, themes, experiences -- all endowed with the power of truth and the romance of discovery. And the closer I adhere to reality the more honest and authentic my tales. After all, knowledge of the real world is exactly what we need to better understand and therefore possibly to love one another. It’s my way of making the world a better place.


1. Distance oneself from a point of view.
2. Love your subjects.
3. Film events, scenes, sequences; avoid interviews, narration, a host.
4. Work with the best talent.
5. Make it experiential, film experience directly, unstaged, uncontrolled.
6.There is a connection between reality and truth. Remain faithful to both.

Some Do's and Dont's

• Hold it steady.
• Use manual zoom, not the electronic.
• Read as much of the PD 170 manual as you can.
• Read book or chapter in a photography book on how to compose shots.
• Use the steady device that’s in the camera.
• Never use a tripod (exception: filming photographs, for example).
• You’ll get a steadier picture the more wide-angle the shot. In a walking shot go very wide angle.
• Hold the beginning and end of each shot. The editor will need that.
• Use no lights. The available light is more authentic.
• Learn the technique but equally important keep your eye open to watch the significant moment. Orson Welles: “The cameraman’s camera should have behind its lens the eye of a poet.”
• Remember, as a documentarian you are an observer, an author but not a director, a discoverer, not a controller.
• Don’t worry that your presence with the camera will change things. Not if you’re confident you belong there and understand that in your favor is that of the two instincts, to disclose or to keep a secret, the stronger is to disclose.
• It’s not “fly-on-the-wall.” That would be mindless. You need to establish rapport even without saying so but through eye contact and empathy.
Maysles also explains why he feels the Sony PD170 is "the greatest technical innovation":

1. focuses down to inches.
2. has a magnificent manual zoom.
3. is supersensitive to light.
4. an excellent zoom range especially with the addition of the Century wide-angle adapter.
5. only 3 dollars per tape.
6. extremely useful automatic focus, also manual.
7. manual and automatic exposure control.
8. single system picture and sound plus two sound inputs.
9. as you shoot, you control exposure simultaneously while observing recorded images.
10. steady device in the lens makes for a steadier picture.
11. unlike the 10minutes 16mm film camera magazine, each tape runs 40 or 60 minutes, virtually no run-outs.
12. with tape you needn’t change stock.
13. camera can be held in many positions with viewer still visible.
14. holding camera below chin, a camera person can see much more than is in the eyepiece.
15. holding camera below chin, camera person's gaze is available to subjects to assure rapport.
16. camera much lighter (only 3 or 4 pounds vs.20).
17. can vary shutter speed.
18. camera costs only around $3500; a 16mm film camera with lenses and magazines around $100,000.
19. the zoom lens is so good you need no other lenses.
20. easy to film in tight quarters; for example, in cars.
21. totally silent.
22. less intrusive.
23. batteries are tiny (3"x 1 1/2"x 1"), weigh little, run for as much as 8 hours.
24. quality satisfactory for TV and can be blown up to 35mm.
25. all you need to shoot goes into a normal camera bag.
26. when necessary can shoot all alone.
27. no waiting a day for rushes. Results are immediately available.
28. fewer or no problems with hot or humid conditions.
29. can go straight to edit; no processing negative, workprint, or transfer to tape.
30. is a near perfect one-up on the 16mm film camera.
You can find news of upcoming lectures and screenings, along with info on purchasing Albert Maysles Eyewear for Barneys (!), here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Video Q&A with Photojournalist Neal Menschel

Be sure to catch this illuminating video interview with photojournalist Neal Menschel, conducted by Marc Silber for his Web series, "Advancing Your Photography."

With a career that spans over 25 years, Neal Menschel has photographed some of the most important world events of the last few decades. He captured the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, photographed Nelson Mandela when apartheid ended in South Africa, and has covered half a dozen presidential elections. He was director of photography at the Christian Science Monitor for 13 years, and his clients have included Newsweek and the New York Times.

Watch the interview and you’ll learn:

1. The Importance of Anticipation — In Neal’s line of work, you never know when the unpredictable will happen. That’s why you always have to be on top of your game and ready to shoot at the drop of a hat. Watch Neal discuss how he keeps himself prepared for any situation.

2. Creating a Rapport with Your Subject — Many of Neal’s photographs manage to capture an emotional depth in his subjects because he has spent the time to get to know them before he even lifts a camera to his eye. Watch as he describes the importance of developing a rapport with the people he is shooting, and how this relationship turns into a “collaboration” that is essential to great photography.

3. How to Capture a Heart-Grabbing Image — From composition and lighting suggestions to the importance of using Sandisk cards (”In ten years I’ve never had one fail,” he says), Neal offers specific tips and tricks on what you can do to create moving, heart-wrenching images.

Menschel describes his routine for documentary shoots. He considers himself a journalist first, so he looks for stories that speak to the human heart and he gets to know his subjects as much as possible...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

They've Got That B-Roll!

We laugh because it's funny; we laugh because it's true:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finding the Frame: New Watering Hole for Visual Journalists

Clipped from: by

Here's a new opportunity for videojournalists to critique each other's work. Spokesman-Review multimedia guru Colin Mulvany has launched a Website that enables his colleagues throughout the industry to get feedback on their projects from "expert visual storytellers."

It's called Finding the Frame, and Mulvany envisions it will become "a gathering spot where multimedia journalists can receive feedback on their videos, audio slideshows and multimedia projects from industry professionals and fellow visual journalists."

The plan is to have onboard as many “expert” volunteers as possible that have solid foundations in video storytelling, audio slide shows or Flash projects. This pool of reviewers will peruse the submitted links of multimedia in the “Story Pool”. If they decide to comment on a story, it will then become public on the Finding the Frame home page where anyone else is free to give added feedback.

So why do this?

While most publications have driven head first into the online world, multimedia storytelling is still in its infancy at many newspapers. Unfortunately, not all people tasked with producing multimedia received adequate training or had the financial ability to attend a multimedia storytelling workshop. Many multimedia producers are self-taught, having picked up bit and pieces of knowledge along the way. Many photojournalists are struggling with how to tell an effective video or audio slideshow story that is different from the traditional still picture story.

Our hope is that Finding the Frame will begin to address the need for feedback and in turn, help multimedia producers improve their storytelling. Just read some of the comments by reviewers so far--you’ll be impressed. The professionals that have signed on as reviewers are the some of the top in the industry. If they critique your story, please thank them for giving up some of their precious time to help out a fellow visual journalist.

What we need is for enough producers, multimedia editors and photojournalists who have a solid experience with multimedia storytelling to step forward and share some of their knowledge with those that are looking for constructive, honest feedback.
So far about a dozen videos have been uploaded for review, and topnotch practitioners are volunteering their services, including many whose own work has been showcased on Among the accomplished panelists: Chuck Fadely (Miami Herald), Peter Huoppi (, Eric Seals (Detroit Free Press), Will Yurman (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle), and KobreGuide's very own senior editor, Kathy Strauss.

If you want to improve by learning from the best, or feel qualified to help others learn from your insights and experiences, Finding the Frame should be your next stop. Says Mulvany: "We hope over time that this will become the place where great conversations about multimedia storytelling will take place."