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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Africa's Climate Conflicts: New Video by Yale Environment 360 and MediaStorm

MediaStorm scores again, with a multimedia project produced for Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

It's called "When The Water Ends: Africa’s Climate Conflicts."

The 16-minute video is about nomadic herdsmen in Kenya and Ethiopia who, because of climate changes that have depleted water supplies, now battle and kill each other over water and grass.

It's "a tale that many climate scientists say will be increasingly common in the 21st century and beyond — how worsening drought in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere will pit group against group, nation against nation."

But the story recounted in “When the Water Ends” is also about how deforestation and land degradation — due in large part to population pressures — are exacting a toll on impoverished farmers and nomads as the earth grows ever more barren...

The herdsmen who speak in this video are caught up in forces over which they have no real control. Although they have done almost nothing to generate the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, they may already be among its first casualties.
According to MediaStorm's site:

Photojournalist Evan Abramson, 32, spent two months traveling and living among these tribal communities. "When the Water Ends" is Abramson's first multimedia piece, and he captured several voices and communities during his reporting. He shot over 10,000 photographs and interviewed several tribesmen and leaders from local NGOs. Yale Environment 360 commissioned the project and asked MediaStorm to produce a video that also included interviews from the scientific community.
Watch it here.

Want to learn how to produce multimedia the MediaStorm way? Enroll in one of their 2011 New York workshops.

* March 5-11, 2011 (application deadline January 7, 2011)
* July 23-29, 2011 (application deadline May 27, 2011)
* November 12-18, 2011 (application deadline September 16, 2011)

Over the course of a week, participants will 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. Each team will produce a professional-quality, ready-for-publication multimedia story.
Go here for more info.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BoingBoing Cuts Back on Original Video

Oh, no! One of the better sites for original videojournalism has announced it's "dialed back significantly from producing original daily packages to presenting mostly other's videos."

In an interview with (below), BoingBoing co-editor David Pescovitz says that the quirky tech/culture blog is slowing down original video production and focusing on curating videos from other Websites.

This is despite the fact that its own evergreen videos are finding an audience, even in off-site syndication on Virgin American airlines.

We're sorry to hear this, since, like the BoingBoing site itself, their videos are smart, quirky, and passionate. Here are a couple we showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism:

A Privileged Marriage: Elizabeth Holzer, who is Jewish, married Friedel Pschorr, a wealthy Aryan, which saved her life in Nazi Germany. Now 98, she reflects on their intense love story.

Mardi Gras 1956: Through My Father's Lens: Posthumously discovered photos of a long-ago holiday parade help an artist discover her dad's secret passion, and cherish his memory.

We understand that original video storytelling of this caliber is labor-intensive and requires a commitment of resources. Still, we hope that BoingBoing will continue to generate more high quality videojournalism.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SPJ Report on Staying Relevant Shortchanges Videojournalism

The Society of Professional Journalists has issued a report on how to stay relevant in a digital age when both "professional" and "journalist" have taken on significantly new meanings. The report pays lip service to "digital media," "multimedia," and "emerging technologies" -- and the struggle to stay abreast of these trends while staying rooted in traditional values and principles. But despite its commonsense conclusions, the report seems to be missing an opportunity to meaningfully incorporate video into the mix.

Or perhaps the findings of the panel participants merely reflect the wobbly state of online videojournalism.

Mark Luckie, national innovations editor for The Washington Post, blogger at

“I think that there is sort of a ‘wow’ factor for multimedia. The attitude is, ‘Now, we’re going to be doing this because everyone else is doing this,’ but people are not identifying how ‘this’ works for a particular newsroom. Are you doing photo slideshows and video that your readers want to watch? You can just do them, but are they good? People understand they should be using multimedia, but a lot of people are reluctant to do it themselves, and they don’t know where to start."

Wendy Ruderman, investigative reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting:

"You can’t just go out and shoot video and audio and come back and put that on the Internet and consider that deep investigative journalism. There isn’t any replacement for getting out of your newsroom and pounding the pavement, whether you do that with your camera or a notepad....

I don’t know how the hell you go out and shoot video, edit audio and write a story... I think journalists have to strike that balance, where maybe you team up with reporters who specialize in multimedia, to give them help in the things they already know how to do...

"A lot of the interns and a lot of reporters come in and they know a lot of multimedia, but they don’t really know how to put a story together or have the writing skills and interviewing skills....

"SPJ needs to do something for tech-savvy journalists who want to learn storytelling, basic storytelling, and what makes a story a story."
Of the committee's ten solid recommendations, this one came closest to addressing the need to prep and train videojournalists:

Teach journalists and their managers the theories behind why they should use new media technologies and examples of best practices, rather than just providing lessons about how to use equipment.

Among the bright lights SPJ's Digital Media Committee enlisted for this roundup were media analyst Ken Doctor; Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab; Josh Breitbart, New America Foundation; author Clay Shirky; Pulitzer Prize winners Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, Philadelphia Daily News; former Seattle Times executive editor Mike Fancher; digital media pioneer Howard Owens, Washington Post National Innovations Editor Mark Luckie; Jay Rosen, New York University; Tom Rosenstiel, Pew Research Center; media analyst Alan Mutter; Rick Edmonds, Poynter Institute; and Mark Briggs, author of “Journalism 2.0.”

The independent committee, appointed by SPJ’s president, interviewed more than a dozen media experts to advise the 101-year-old, 8,200-member Society on how to stand out among more than 90 national journalism organizations.
Its top recommendations include:

1. Bridge the divide between new and old media by aggregating and spotlighting high-quality journalism and facilitating communications among online start-ups and legacy media.

2. Create a vibrant network for new media start-ups to share ideas online and in person.

3. Take stands on hot-button digital media issues affecting the future of information sharing. Become an advocate for expanding access to the Internet, news and information.

4. Teach reporters to use powerful emerging technologies, from software to websites and gadgets capable of providing greater depth to stories and increasing public participation.

5. Educate members and citizens in the basics of journalism because proper information-gathering and storytelling techniques are more important than ever in the digital age.
You can read the full report and list of recommendations here (PDF).

The committee also recently published a two-part “Digital Media Handbook” filled with training tips on new media. Part I of the handbook is available here; Part II is available here.

Video is addressed, perfunctorily, in "What Makes a Good Video Story," by Rebecca Aguilar:

Video stories have become a vital part of online and newspaper multimedia reports, but not every story should be turned into a video report. I thought I’d ask three television news videographers to help us in our quest to figure out what makes a good video story and when should it only remain a story in print.
Conclusion? In a nutshell: good action, good characters, good audio.

SPJ also offers free online "Training on Demand" to members, including Basic Video Techniques in three parts: camera movements, shot composition, and Flip cams.

What else do you think SPJ can and should do to promote videojournalism?


SPJ Report

SPJ Code of Ethics

SPJ Blog

SPJ Training on Demand

Digital Media Handbook, Part I

Digital Media Handbook, Part II

Monday, October 25, 2010

Journalism Teaching Opportunities Abroad

ieiMedia has a few openings for college journalism instructors for month-long specialty courses next summer.

Descriptions and qualifications can be found here.

Videojournalism instructor
Perpignan, France
June 23-July 23, 2011

International reporting instructor
Istanbul, Turkey
June 23-July 21, 2011

Magazine editor/instructor
Urbino, Italy
June 9-July 7, 2011

Multimedia instructor
Istanbul, Turkey
June 23-July 21, 2011

Friday, October 22, 2010

Online Video Documentary About Wikipedia

Here's a new feature-length online documentary about Wikipedia that should make good weekend viewing. It's called 'Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia,' directed by Scott Glosserman and Nic Hill.

Wikipedia is the world's largest information database that's written and edited by... well, anybody who wants to participate. Therein lies its strength, and its weakness. Is it accurate or unreliable? Is it neutral or biased?

As Wikipedia approaches its tenth anniversary, it is the seventh most visited site on the Web. This video explains its origins, profiles its founder Jimmy Wales, delves into the philosophical ramifications of its inner workings, illustrates its global impact, and doesn't shy away from the controversies stirred up by the populist encyclopedia.

Evenhandedly weaving multiple perspectives about the impact of Wikipedia, the film provokes a deeper conversation on how knowledge is formed and what future generations will learn about history and the world. Co-director Glosserman sums up the central question asked by the film: “Should you and I be charged with canonizing the sum of human knowledge for everyone, or should we be leaving that to the experts?”

Watch more free documentaries
You can view the 86-minute documentary in its entirety on Snag Films.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Donut Sandwich with Bacon? D'oh!

Had your donut yet today? Twister Donuts in Olympia, Washington serves up 20 kinds of deep-fried pastries daily, including a new twist on Homer's favorite treat.

It's a donut sandwich, with cheese, sausage, egg ... and bacon on top.

Only in America!

Olympian videojournalist Tony Overman captured all those fat-laden calories just for your viewing pleasure.

This video won't win those big prestigious prizes that go to investigative reports on world hunger; some might complain that it's sugar-coating serious nutritional issues confronting society today.

We say, watch here and drool!

Monday, October 18, 2010

YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video

Go take a look at some of the 125 videos that have been shortlisted for "YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video." They've been selected from more than 23,000 submissions from 91 countries.

A jury, which includes performance artist Laurie Anderson and film director Darren Aronofsky, will now select their top 20 choices to be revealed at a special event at the Guggenheim Museums (in New York, Berlin, Bilbao, and Venice) on October 21, and on view to the public and on through October 24.

What sort of videos?

...innovative, original, and surprising videos from around the world, regardless of genre, technique, background, or budget. This global online initiative is not a search for what’s “now,” but a search for what’s next... The end result will hopefully be the ultimate YouTube playlist: a selection of the most unique, innovative, groundbreaking video work being created and distributed online during the past two years.

We received a wide range of videos, from experimental or abstract work and mashups, to animations, music videos, and narrative short films. They include submissions from students, video artists, photographers, filmmakers, composers, video game programmers, a comedy improv group, an American women’s chess champion, a Swedish rock band, a South African hip-hop group, and an Australian electronic music producer, among many others.

In short, not much videojournalism, but probably plenty to inspire videojournalists... and amuse video aficionados of all stripes... Watch here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

VJ Movement Investigates Invasive Species

VJ Movement, an online collaboration of videojournalists who pitch and vote on story ideas to determine which ones will be assigned, is celebrating its first anniversary with a site redesign. In addition to videos on individual themes, they explain, "we've started organizing our content into projects."

The first such project, featuring reports from four VJs in the US, UK and Mexico, is "Footing the Bill for Invasive Species."

In the absence of natural predators, non-native species of plants and animals can become invasive, unbalancing local ecosystems and causing material harm. Every year the European Union alone spends some twenty billion euros on damages and control costs of invasive species. Yet some argue that we should let invasive species be, and that the natural environment can manage without our interference.

This project looks at how countries deal with invasive species and asks if we should be spending huge amounts to eradicate them.

The videos include "Invasion of the Lionfish" (Isaac Brown & Ana Paula Habib), "Mexico's Future Corn" (Greg Brosnan), "Native vs. Non-Native" (Pierre Kattar), "Extreme Eradication of Japanese Knotweed" (Adam Westbrook).

Headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, VJ Movement features the work of 150 videojournalists from more than 100 countries.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Multimedia from 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop

The 22nd annual Eddie Adams Workshop ended this week, and you can see the participants' multimedia assignments here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Adams founded the intensive tuition-free four-day program "to create a forum in which an exchange of ideas, techniques, and philosophies can be shared between established members and newcomers to the world of visual journalism."

One hundred carefully selected students gather in Jeffersonville, New York, where they are given a two-day shooting assignment. Some augment their still photos with audio and video, working in multimedia teams led by industry giants Brian Storm, Tom Kennedy and Rich Beckman.

Nine videos resulted from Barnstorm 2010. Take a look and share your thoughts.

You'll find multimedia assignments from previous years here.

'Last Minutes with Oden' Wins First Vimeo Award

'Last Minutes with Oden' has won the first Vimeo Award for best short documentary -- and the award for best overall video, which carries a cash prize of $25,000 to create a new project.

As with most award-winning videojournalism, it was previously showcased on

The heartbreaking video, by Eliot Rausch of Phos Pictures, depicts a man saying goodbye to his loyal old dog as the pet's struggle with cancer finally comes to an end.

'Oden' was among nine Vimeo award-winners in a variety of categories, culled from more than 6,500 submissions. You can watch all the winners here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Craigslist TV Launches 2nd Season

We just caught Craigslist TV for the first time, and it's a hoot.

We've often suggested Craigslist as a resource for students (or even pros) looking for ideas for nonfiction video stories -- behind every human transaction lies a dramatic narrative waiting to be discovered. And often a healthy dose of comedy as well!

It turns out that Craigslist itself is way ahead of us -- the first "season" of the Web reality series drew more than two million views on their YouTube channel, with the slogan "Real people, real postings." Their second season kicks off with this winning installment, "Accordion Idol."

Robin puts a FREE ACCORDION on Craigslist. The HITCH? This beautiful instrument will go to the best performer at this makeshift "Accordion Idol" contest held at a big Italian dinner party.
Terrific premise, wonderful characters, drama, humor, suspense, first-class production values -- it's got it all, and an accordion soundtrack to boot!

Future online installments include “Drinking Buddy,” “Getting Married,” “Barter King” and “Design Your Digs.” New segments are scheduled to be uploaded every Thursday through December 2. Watch here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'Starved for Attention' Chronicles Malnutrition

Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and VII Photo Agency have partnered to produce a series of short online videos that chronicle the devastating impact of childhood malnutrition throughout the world, "Starved for Attention."

Top videojournalists have committed to this humanitarian project in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, India, Mexico, and the United States.

Marcus Bleasdale, Jessica Dimmock, Ron Haviv, Antonin Kratochvil, Franco Pagetti, Stephanie Sinclair, and John Stanmeyer traveled to malnutrition “hotspots” around the world -- from war zones to emerging economies -- to shed light on the underlying causes and innovative approaches to combat this condition.

An estimated 195 million children worldwide suffer from the effects of malnutrition, with 90 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Malnutrition contributes to at least one-third of the eight million annual deaths of children under five years of age.
In honor of World Food Day on October 16, Telegraph21 video magazine is featuring six stories from this series.

For Invisible, photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair turned her lens on a Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) program in Bihar state (India) which treats children at the epicenter of one of the world's malnutrition hotspots. These children descend from generations of a chronically undernourished population, where malnutrition is so pervasive, it is almost invisible.

In Terrifying Normalcy, photojournalist Ron Haviv documents the challenges of food insecurity, rapid climate change and poverty that make malnutrition so pervasive on the densely-populated island of Bhola in southern Bangladesh. In his intimate portraits, Haviv captures the resignation with which Bhola's malnourished mothers and children accept a chronically-meager food supply.

“Documenting malnutrition has been one of the toughest challenges our agency has faced,” says Ron Haviv. “We believe that we have found a completely new visual language to tell this story -- one that has the potential for great impact.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gone in 10 Seconds!

We're so impatient!

How long do you think we'll sit through a video before we click away to something else?

A minute? Nope: 44.1 percent will be gone by then.

How about ten seconds? That's when 19.4 percent will have flown the coop. Yes, nearly one in five viewers won't even give you ten seconds of their attention. (Click on graph at right to enlarge image.)

And it doesn't matter whether the entire video is five minutes or an hour -- if you don't grab them in the first ten seconds, say bye bye.

That's the conclusion drawn by Visible Measures, a video metrics outfit that analyzed the habits of viewers who collectively watched (and ultimately abandoned) over 40 million unique video clips, which, in aggregate, received nearly 7 billion views. And we're not talking feature-length documentaries here -- the research project was limited to short-form videos of less than five minutes in duration!

Something to think about when you're shooting and editing your videojournalism masterpiece. Those long slow scene- and tone-setting builds and reveals may be Oscar fodder in movie theaters, but will be completely lost on online video audiences.

It bears repeating -- you've got ten seconds to hook 'em!

Download the full free report: Research Brief: Understanding Viewer Abandonment Trends in Short-Form Online Video Content .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Texas Monthly's 'Reasonable Doubt'

The October issue of Texas Monthly features Innocence Lost, by Pamela Colloff, an excellent in-depth look at the probable wrongful murder conviction and (so far) 18-year incarceration of Anthony Graves, who most likely did not commit the crime.

To accompany and augment this story of legal injustice, Pamela Hastings produced a compelling short video documentary, Reasonable Doubt -- a task made more difficult by the fact that she had to reconstruct most of the narrative: "I made it with no budget," she says, "with less than optimal equipment, and had to use mostly old, found images to tell the story."

Recommended viewing here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Vidcam Gadgets: Cool, But Useful?

For video gadgeteers, here are a couple new toys in search of a use that justifies their expense.

The first is the Steadicam Smoothee (top right) for your smartphone or Flip vidcam, that's bigger and more expensive than the device itself. It's a handheld mini-version of the rigs used in Hollywood to eliminate the shakes from tracking shots, for a fraction of the price -- $180 instead of $60,000. It's not available til December, so meanwhile see what the New York Times Gadgetwise blog has to say.

The second is a hands-free camcorder called the Looxcie (bottom right) that clips over your ear, and records what you see while you're walking (or rock climbing, or whatever), and then enables you to share footage via email or social network sites through your smartphone. The Times' Gadgetwise blog gave it a bemused spin around the neighborhood (see video below), and happily reported that the glowing ear appendage didn't attract the anticipated unwanted attention from passersby, but complained that the 480x320 resolution was too low to justify the $199 pricetag.

What possible scenarios would warrant posting your unedited mobile world view for the world to see? A Facebook commenter proposed strapping the device to a pet -- so brace yourself for the inevitable YouTube follies.


On a far more serious note, a moving Time magazine video, Amnesia and a Camera: Photos as Memories, illustrates a useful purpose for a device attached to a person -- in this case a woman whose encephalitis robbed her of thirty years of memory. She doesn't even recognize her own husband and four kids. As the protagonist in Memento takes Polaroids to ID faces he'd otherwise forget, Claire Robertson "captures memories of daily life through thousands of images a Sensecam on her chest takes daily."

She can't recapture old memories, but can help preserve new ones. While the video doesn't provide any "big picture" assessment of how prevalent this condition is, or what her prognosis is, it does provide perspective on the impact of imagery in all our lives...

The video story is conceived and directed by Lauren Fleishman, produced by Paul Moakley, and edited by Bryan Chang.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

News Video Comes to Twitter

Here's a new boon for videojournalism producers and consumers. The "new Twitter" enables you to embed photos and videos directly into your posts, thanks to partnerships with more than a dozen popular hosting sites, including Flickr and YouTube.

And now Brightcove is joining the party. That's huge news, simply because Brightcove's clients include many of the major news publishers, including New York Times, Washington Post, Time, USA Today, and Financial Times.

In short, you're going to start seeing more professionally produced news and feature videos embedded on Twitter, without leaving the site. It's just a matter of time before broadcast networks and even local TV stations come aboard.

Beet.TV interviewed Brightcove SVP Jeff Whatcott, who explains it all in the video below, which Beet.TV embedded in its own Twitter post, simply by cutting/pasting the URL of the YouTube clip, which automatically created the videoplayer when published.

It's time to start strategizing how you can best start deploying video on your Twitter account.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Would This Have Been Better As a Video?

Here's something to ponder. If Tiger Woods accidentally chips a golfball straight at you, would you rather be looking through the lens of an SLR camera or a videocamera? (No ducking -- you're a pro!)

(Click on image to enlarge)

Mark Pain, sports photog for UK's Mail on Sunday, was pointing his Nikon D3S at Tiger at the Ryder Cup when the ball loomed ever larger in his viewfinder. Pain had the wherewithal to fire off his own shot, at 1/1000th of a second, with a 24-70mm lens -- and better accuracy than Tiger's, it turns out. As his newspaper noted, he "didn't flinch, and captured this extraordinary picture just before the ball hit his camera, bounced on to his chest and came to rest at his feet."

Tell us, would it have been better had the same coming-at-you perspective been captured on video? Admittedly, the video would have been exceedingly short. Whereas the photo draws you in, invites you to relish the moment. For instance, watching a video, it's unlikely that you would have noticed that wonderfully surprised face of the mustachioed guy on the right with the stogie... much less Tiger's own chagrined expression.

On the other hand...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MediaStorm Multimedia: India's Undesired Women

MediaStorm's latest multimedia project focuses on India, where the preferential treatment of men results in "a near constant disregard for the lives of women and girls."

From birth until old age, women face a constant threat of violence and too frequently, death. The numbers are staggering. Since 1980, an estimated 40 million women are 'missing,' by way of abortion, neglect or murder. 7,000 female fetuses are aborted every day according to the U.N., aborted solely because they are girls. One dowry death is reported every 77 minutes....

Today, eighty percent of Indian states are now facing a shortage of women. To compensate for this differential, young, unknowing women are bought from surrounding countries like Bangladesh and sold to young bachelors. Not knowing a word of the language, these trafficked women now face the same kinds of violence as other Indian women.
Walter Astrada's video is titled "Undesired."

Want to learn how to create MediaStorm-quality videojournalism? Consider enrolling in one of the Brooklyn-based production company's workshops. There's one on Multimedia Methodology coming up January 10-15, 2011 (apply by November 1, 2010). Info here.