Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bringing Photojournalism to Bhutan

You'll enjoy this missive from our former student Mary Calvert, an award-winning photojournalist based in Washington, D.C. , describing her recent teaching adventure in Bhutan. Proud to see that she used her old professor's textbook! (Click photo to enlarge.)

"Greetings from the Kingdom of Bhutan," the email read. It came from out of the blue and continued, "I'm very much impressed with your work and congratulations for all the awards you have won so far. I was wondering if you would be kind enough to design and teach photojournalism for a period of week or two in Bhutan for journalists in Bhutan. The details can be discussed if you are interested.
Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.
Dawa Penjor

I had no idea who Dawa Penjor was or even whether Dawa was a man or woman. But I was intrigued and quickly wrote back for more information. I did not even know exactly where Bhutan was. A little bit of mining the almighty Interwebs revealed that Bhutan is a tiny country between India and Tibet in the thick of the Himalayan Mountains. There are only 683,407 people in the whole country and 72% of the land is covered in forest. Bhutan is one of the nine constitutional monarchies in the world where the king is the sole final authority.

In Bhutan, there is no gross domestic product, there is however a "Gross National Happiness" index based on the Buddhist values of the country and there are more monks supported by the Bhutanese government than the total of army troops, police and palace guards.

After a dozen or so emails I found myself on a plane to the Kingdom of Bhutan, "Land of the Thunder Dragon". My students included 15 local Bhutanese photographers and one Englishman at the Department of Information and Media in Thimphu, the capitol and Bhutan's largest city. I brought a case of Ken Kobre's book, "Photojournalism, the Professional's Approach" to share with the class.

My class was filled with bright students who soaked up every bit of advice and the lessons I had to share on photojournalism. One day we drove two hours to the town of Punakha, former capitol of Bhutan, to visit the Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, that was built in 1637 and means "The Palace of Great Bliss". A "Dzong" is a large building that is a combination fort and monastery that house both monk's quarters and government offices. Our assignment for the day was to illustrate the theme "Devotion". All of us just wandered around and made pictures.

Bhutan is an amazing country and I loved my visit. Every single person that I met showed me kindness and I made many friends. I look forward to my next visit to the "Land of the Thunder Dragon".

Mary's blog:

Mary's website:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Audio Slideshows: Soundslides or Final Cut?

Since 2005, Joe Weiss' revolutionary Soundslides software has enabled newspaper Websites to produce audio slideshows -- and paved the way toward multimedia and videojournalism. For the first time, picture stories could be narrated -- by the reporter, the photographer, the subject -- and even augmented with natural sounds.

Its low cost and ease of use have made Soundslides enormously popular. But now that more photographers are shooting and editing video -- which itself has become more accessible and affordable -- they've been producing audio slideshows using Apple's Final Cut Pro or Adobe's Premiere Pro.

The Spokesman-Review's Colin Mulvany, a multimedia trailblazer, writes on his Mastering Multimedia blog: "I cannot say building an audio slide show is easier with a video editing program, but it does afford you some added features that are hard, if not impossible, to replicate in Soundslides."

He then goes on to share invaluable lessons and shortcuts he's learned while producing audio slideshows in Final Cut Pro, and takes you through a step-by-step process for making your pictures look and flow better. He also intelligently addresses such issues as cross-fading:

In Soundslides the default is to add a cross-fade to every image. I see a trend away from this as more people edit in video programs. Most of the time I just use quick cut between photos. It took me a while to break the cross fade habit, but now I see how much better a show flows without all that cross fading. It also makes it easier to edit to a beat in the audio.
Mulvany also cautions against going overboard with the Ken Burns style of zooming in and out of photos. There are occasions when you'll want to take advantage of the ability to create motion with a static image, but as he notes, "you don't want to make the viewer seasick."

Mulvany shot, edited, and narrated a terrific video story about the quirky "One of a Kind in the World Museum." As you can see below, it's essentially an audio slideshow in a video player. Given the static nature of museum objects, which are at the heart of this piece, he made excellent use of Final Cut split-screen features to enhance the use of motion on still images -- something that would not be possible with Soundslides.

Also, video players make it easier to embed and share multimedia stories, as we've done here:

Read Colin Mulvany's blog here. What are your thoughts and experiences regarding audio slideshows? Do you prefer the ease of using Soundslides? Or is it worth the extra effort and expense to produce them as videos in Final Cut?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Canon Hybrid is 'Game Changer' for AP Visuals

Kevin Roach,the Associated Press's VP for Broadcast News, tells Beet.TV that the hybrid Canon 5D Mark II (the first DSLR to enable 1080p video) is a "game changer" for visual journalism. .

The AP wisely committed resources to supplying both its print reporters and still photographers with these pricey tools (which run about $2500 each just for the body) -- and, here's the important part, the necessary training to ensure worthwhile results.

The video interview below includes samples of AP footage -- both raw and "produced." Note that stories often combine stills and video in the same piece, a testament to the enduring power of a single memorable frame.

Everyone loves the image quality, but pros concur that there are still enormous audio drawbacks for newsgatherers. Because there is no audio out (i.e. for headphones), you can't hear the interviews you are recording, to ensure their sound quality. Also, large video files require frequent changes of memory cards. And we've been hearing complaints about the challenge of focusing while in video mode.

We suspect all this will improve soon, and advise media outlets to follow AP's lead in acquainting qualified staffers with the tools and knowledge that will empower them to augment their visual storytelling prowess. It's a prudent investment.

Lots of Inspiration for Visual Journalists

Richard Koci Hernandez has posted his list of 25 books every visual journalist should have on their shelf, on his blog.

(To which we'd humbly add Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach, 6th edition.)

He's also posted a glorious roundup of treats, Featured Work: Curated, Must See, Visual Stories. Many of these videos and multimedia stories have similarly been showcased here on -- a combination of great minds thinking alike, and the cream always rising to the top.

The selections are worthy of your attention, and will give you plenty to look at and enjoy this holiday weekend!

'A Chance Meeting': Powerful Reunion Story

The accidental reunion of long-lost friends or relatives can be a powerful premise for a video story.

Jesse Tinsley, of the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), produced 'A Chance Meeting' about the unlikely re-convergence of two WWII veterans from different countries.

Two elderly gentlemen, each suffering the indignities of advanced age, meet in a hospital room. Their conversation reveals they have something in common going back many years.
And their reunion magically happens to take place on Veterans Day -- what are the odds?

The narrator's voiceover is well-scripted and voiced. Plus, note the effective combo of audio of one of the subjects relating the story as we see archival WWII footage. Also, note the story structure -- starting briefly in the present to tease the story before going back seven decades. (The other way around -- starting with WWII -- could have lost the audience instantly.)

The video is composed almost entirely of still images -- we hear but don't see one of the subjects talking, and there is only one brief video moment of the two men interacting. We would argue that more such moments would substantially strengthen the piece.

Here's the accompanying text story, 'Priest meets paratrooper who liberated his town during WWII.'

'A Chance Meeting' brought to mind another WWII-related reunion story, 'Berlin Classmates Reunite After 80 Years,' as showcased on KobreGuide.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AP Is Hiring a Videojournalist in D.C., But...

The good news is that the Associated Press is hiring a videojournalist for its Washington, D.C. office.

We're sharing its job description, to give you an idea of the superheroic skill sets that media organizations are demanding in applicants these days.


The Associated Press is looking for an experienced video journalist with strong writing and video editing skills. We want producers who take ownership of their stories and work through obstacles to get the job done. The ideal candidate has solid news judgment, reacts quickly to breaking news and has the ability to work in a high-pressure, dynamic newsroom environment. Previous experience working in a multimedia newsroom is a must along with strong interpersonal skills. Candidate should have experience editing non-linear video, preferably FinalCut Pro. The preferred candidate is familiar with photo editing software, preferably Adobe Photoshop.
However, a careful reading of the actual duties indicates that this particular position involves mostly pre- and post-production, not actual shooting.

This Newsperson writes, edits and files video packages for AP Broadcast and works with the assignment desk and supervisors to coordinate all content for video packages, ensuring a well told, clear, concise and balanced story. This Newsperson works closely with other AP desks, including the London video desk, on developing stories. The Newsperson monitors breaking news events and reacts as necessary by creating topical video packages. The Newsperson scripts packages for web users and television broadcasters and edits video packages using a non-linear editing system. This Newsperson sets up and/or conducts interviews and works with field crews on the necessary video and audio elements to be gathered from a news event. The Newsperson monitors AP’s consumer-facing video web sites to ensure they are up-to-date and accurate.
So what's the bad news?

"Must be able to work all shifts, starting out overnight."

Still interested? Apply here.

ComScore: 'Online Video Gains Momentum'

In its 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review whitepaper on prevailing trends and their implications for the future, ComScore reports that online video "continued to gain momentum, with an average of 179 million Americans
watching video each month."

Engagement levels also rose during the year, with viewers watching online videos more frequently. More than 88.6 million people watched online video on an average day in December 2010 (up 32 percent from December 2009), while viewing sessions totaled 5.8 billion for the month (up 13 percent).

Americans also spent a significantly higher number of hours viewing online video in 2010 versus the prior year due to increased content consumption and more video ad streams. The average American spent more than 14 hours watching online video in December, a 12-percent increase from last year, and streamed a record 201 videos, an 8-percent increase.
There was also good news about video advertising, which "now reaches 7 out of 10 Americans online, and nearly 1 out of 2 Americans nationwide each month. In December 2010, video ad networks served 5.9 billion ads, averaging 40 ads per viewer and 0.4 minutes per ad."

(Click on image to enlarge)

ComScore's 2011 projection:

Online video viewing continues to account for an increasing amount of consumers’ time online, as content options, quality and convenience drive people to this channel. Video ads will continue to offer advertisers an engaging venue to reach their target audience and will be an important aspect of the development of the online video industry. In 2011, look for cross media relationships to take center stage as the convergence of traditional TV and online video viewing continues to blur the lines between media channels.

ComScore is a leading online marketing research company. Download the full report here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NPPA's 2011 Multimedia Immersion Workshop

Only 40 spots are available for NPPA's 2011 Multimedia Immersion Workshop, May 17-22, 2011, at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

The workshop is for visual journalists who are looking to expand and grow their multimedia skills using the latest technology. We will focus on mixing photographs, audio, and video content and editing them into multimedia presentations.

Previous students include Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists, top title winners from the Best Of Photojournalism contest, White House photographers, academics, editors, working professionals and freelancers, and graduate and undergraduate students, all looking to supercharge their careers.
Students will be provided with computers and software, but are encouraged to bring their own audio and video gear that they will be using back home.

NPPA executive director Mindy Hutchison says students will learn:

•How to effectively plan and develop a multimedia story, saving time on workflow and increasing the quality of the piece;

•Professional audio recording techniques from audio documentary experts;

•Hands-on explanations and experiences on how to use audio, video, and photography equipment, along with gear recommendations;

•Training on how to shoot visuals for multimedia storytelling, including techniques for documentaries and working as a one-man-band or mobile journalist;

•Hands-on video production editing training, and experience in Final Cut Pro;

•How to integrate music into multimedia work, and the ethics and legal issues that come with music;

•How to navigate modern freelance business issues encountered while working in multimedia;

•Inspiring information on how the most cutting edge multimedia projects were created from the industry leaders who worked on them.

Every student at the workshop will produce their own finished professional project, from capturing all the content to editing and compressing the final files.
Workshop faculty includes:

•Brian Kaufman - Detroit Free Press
•Will Yurman - Penn State University
•Evelio Contreras - The Washington Post
•Evan Vucci - Associated Press
•Steve Elfers - USA Today
•Joe Weiss - SoundSlides
•Wes Pope - formerly of The Rocky Mountain News
•Sung Park - Syracuse University
•Bruce Strong - Syracuse University
•Will Sullivan - St. Louis Post Dispatch
•Seth Gitner - Syracuse University

Cost is $1,095 for NPPA members, $1,205 for non-members. For more info, and to register, go here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Q&A with 'Pine Point' Tourguides, The Goggles

We told you about an innovative approach to interactive multimedia storytelling -- "Welcome to Pine Point," about the Canadian mining town that vanished in 1988, and what became of its residents.

Now here's an insightful interview with The Goggles, the creative team who developed and produced it, by Andrea Pitzer for Nieman Storyboard (a cousin of Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab). The Goggles are Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge (pictured).

Our observation is that, in lieu of traditional audio narration, the multimedia project made excellent use of still and video images, but still seemed text-heavy -- because of its origins as a potential book project, and The Goggles' previous foray in traditional book publishing. Here we're introduced to the concept of the "liquid book," and also the controversial notion of what happens when you tell a story that leads linearly from A to Z, in traditional fashion, without stopping at B through Y.


What if your hometown disappeared, literally vanished from the map? How would you hold onto it? Would the community of people who had lived there continue? “Welcome to Pine Point” is a website that explores the death of a town and the people whose memories and mementos tell its story today. The site lives online under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada. It incorporates music to haunting effect but is especially innovative in its use of text and design.

Q: Did you call it a liquid book, or is that a term someone else coined?

Simons: Other people have tried to come up with a term for it. People are excited about it. They thought it might be a new form of storytelling, something they hadn’t seen before. So that was a name other people attached to it.

It was new to us, this kind of interactive documentary, but we didn’t find anything else that we could reference for this, except for, obviously, books and film. But nothing interactive – nothing with the written word, audio and visual. So I think that’s what’s been exciting people the most so far. What is this thing? What we’ve been told is that they’re not used to having this emotional response from a website.

Shoebridge: Because we were book guys, we kept a lot of the old handmade book-like things, in keeping with that medium-is-the-message concept. We tried to emphasize what each medium does well. Keeping the words as writing rather than voiceover narrative was something we wrestled with at the start, but I think we’re happy we kept it as words.

For us, it’s that kind of internal narrator. You can have a different conversation with yourself. And reading is a more active experience than listening. I think we’re happy we did that, but we haven’t seen multimedia projects where writing is the number one thing you’re seeing, and everything else informs that.

Q: Is there anything about the Pine Point project that people wouldn’t know from watching it that would be useful for them to know?

Shoebridge: The thing for us that we’re happiest with is that we stuck to what linear “narrative” has done for so long: that beginning, middle and end. Because we stuck with that, that’s the thing that worked the best for us. People want to be told stories, they want to be engaged.

When people think of digital interactive media, one of the first things they say is “It’s going to have multiple entry points, and you can go wherever you want to.” And sure, you can deliver certain kinds of information like that, but it’s not super-great for stories, at least in our experience. You can skip ahead, if you want to, you can go four chapters ahead, but you can also do that with a book.

We’re hoping that we’re keeping people engaged and keeping each section as interesting as possible. For us, I think that was the key. We had to break it into chunks, because that’s how it had to go. We wanted people to be engaged, so using media like writing meant that you have to read it to experience it. You could flip through it and kind of experience it, but if you don’t read it, you’re not really getting engaged.

And then breaking it into pieces like a magazine. If you flip to the middle of the magazine, it’s still intriguing, you still want to keep going through it. For us, I think we tried to pull as much old-media logic into a new media form as we could.

Simons: The challenges and limitations were things that we had never considered before, like the loading up of information. Part of the more bite-sized pieces of the story were dictated by how much information we’d be able to technically upload onto someone’s computer so it didn’t crash, while still keeping it seamless and moving. We were presented a lot with technical challenges that we didn’t know about or care about before we got into this world. So some of those things did inform how we had to deliver the story. I don’t think it changed the content, but certainly the experience was altered by limitations of the media.
Read the entire interview here.

Nieman Storyboard's motto: "Breaking down story in every medium." Find more examples here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Videojournalism Tutorials by D.C. Pros

Once again we're sharing some video tutorials about videojournalism from the International Journalists' Network. They're from top pros in Washington, D.C.

The first two are from Pierre Kattar, who produced Emmy-winning videojournalism for the Washington Post, and now flies solo.

Telling True Stories with Video, Part 1

Telling True Stories with Video, Part 2

These next two are from Bill Gentile, a pioneering videojournalist who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., where he founded and directs the school's Backpack Journalism Project.

Bill Gentile on Backpack Journalism, Part 1

Bill Gentile on Backpack Journalism, Part 2

Bill Gentile also runs acclaimed videojournalism workshops. The next one is March 10-13. More info here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to Have a Commanding Broadcast Voice

Solo videojournalists have to not only report, shoot and edit their stories, but often have to provide voiceover narration. It's no secret that most of us are horrified by hearing the actual sound of our own voice. It never sounds as rich and authoritative as it does inside our own heads.

Dr. Ann S. Utterback to the rescue! The author of the "Broadcast Voice Handbook," plus seven other books about speaking, has more than 35 years of experience counseling on-air talent at major TV networks, local affiliates, and other TV and radio stations throughout North America.

In this video, courtesy of the International Journalists' Network, Dr. Utterback teaches you how to have a commanding voice:

A common problem, that most of us don't realize while we're reading a script (but is painfully obvious in playback), is that the sensitive mic is picking up the sound of us inhaling between phrases or sentences. Dr. Utterback demonstrates how to eliminate those audible intakes of air:

* Utterback Publishing
* A Voice Doc
* video tutorials

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vivian Maier Update

We previously told you about Vivian Maier, the Chicago nanny who took tens of thousands of photographs of Chicago street scenes that she never showed to anyone. Most were never even developed. Young real-estate agent John Maloof serendiptiously acquired them at an auction, not knowing what might be on all those rolls that had been abandoned in a storage locker. He was looking for images for a book he was writing. What he saw amazed him, and now he's devoting all his time to processing all that film, and establishing Maier's reputation in the pantheon of fine-art photography greats.

By the time Maloof even identified the mystery photographer, Maier had recently died. So he set out to find and talk to her former employers.

As this new CBS video (below) shows, one of the surprises is that the mysterious French nanny was hired in the late '70s by former talk-show host Phil Donahue to care for his four young sons. She took his picture, and, recalls Donahue, once sternly corrected him for calling her Mrs. Maier: "It's Miss Maier, and I'm proud of it!" Another client swears she never made personal phone calls, and had no friends.

Acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who literally wrote the book on "street photography," offers an enthusiastic assessment of Maier's oeuvre: "She's not trying to charm anybody. She's ruthlessly honest. I think she should be taken seriously."

John Maloof is still working his way through her negatives -- there are still 90,000 he hasn't laid his eyes on.

Maloof has so far raised more than $75,000 to produce a feature-length documentary about his adventures, "Finding Vivian Maier." Using Kickstarter to group-fund his project, he's exceeded his $20,000 pre-production goal ("equipment, research, trips to conduct interviews and collect footage, editing costs for promotional trailer"), and will allocate the rest towards post-production. To help contribute, go here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Beet.TV Videojournalism Panel Livestream

UPDATE: To see the archived videos and liveblog of this event, go here.

Watch this space on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 9am ET (6am PT) for the livestream of Beet.TV's videojournalism panel, "Exploring the digital transformation of video news reporting and distribution."

The panelists consitute a veritable Who's Who of top execs at major media institutions. (See list here.)

On Twitter, you can follow Beet.TV via @Beet_TV . The hashtag for the livestream is #beetmeet.

See you there!

Platypus Workshop in San Jose, 3/27 - 4/2

For those who want hands-on lessons in videojournalism, the Digital Journalist's Platypus Workshop for February is sold out, but there's still time to register for the March 27 - April 2 session at San Jose (CA) State University.

Platypus founder and leader Dirck Halstead writes:

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 Final Cut Pro editing software.

We teach high-definition digital shooting, editing, and multimedia with an emphasis on storytelling. We have taught over 300 photojournalists since our inception in 1999. 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. The 2010 winner of the Sundance Film Festival Documentary Award for his film "Restrepo" was Platypus graduate Tim Hetherington (currently nominated for an Oscar).
Students provide their own HD DSLR camera and lens -- all else is supplied. The cost of the workshop is $1795.

To register, contact Michael Cheers at For more information about the workshop, contact Dirck Halstead at

Pine Point is Dead. Long Live 'Pine Point'

What's the best way to tell a story about a town that disappeared?

Pine Point was a northern Canadian mining town that closed in 1988. Evacuated. Demolished. Gone. Everyone moved away.

But the residents had to go somewhere. And wherever those families and individuals are, Pine Point is still alive -- tattooed on their hearts and souls and memories.

One former Pine Point resident painstakingly built and maintains a quaint Website commemorating the dead town, "Pine Point Revisited." He intends for it to be not just a scrapbook but also a watering hole for his former neighbors to share photos, mementos, and, yes, those memories.

And now there's a slick, polished, interactive and thoroughly engaging "Welcome to Pine Point" Website devoted to the story behind that "Pine Point Revisited" Website.

Complicated? Let us explain.

"Welcome to Pine Point" -- designed for everyone, not just former residents -- is the handiwork of The Goggles, a pair of award-winning creative directors best known for their work with Adbusters magazine: Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge.

The duo have conceptualized magazines, books, television spots, and produced major international advocacy campaigns. They are co-authors of "I Live Here," a book about four of the planet's most troubled cities.

So how did The Goggles come to create "Welcome to Pine Point," an interactive Web documentary for Canada's National Film Board (NFB)?

They were initially hooked when they stumbled across the "Pine Point Revisited" Website, the quintessential exercise in nostalgia that turns out to be managed by the former town's least likely character -- a key plot point to the project.

It seemed the site acted as a kind of public album, a touchstone for the people who lived there, but also, for those of us who didn't. It was unpretentious, honest, and represented a sentiment and perspective that we felt needed sharing...It could have been a book, but it probably makes more sense that it became this.
The end result is astonishingly visual, with lots of still images and video clips, and inventive use of audio.

Is it indeed the best way to tell Pine Point's story?

KobreGuide reader Ron Smith, who was among those who excitedly called the site to our attention, remarks: "This is really amazing. I spent 30 minutes reading about this town I have never been to, a town that is longer there, and I was so moved. Really touching stuff, and a way to tell stories that I've never seen before."

Tracy Boyer, over at Innovative Interactivity, wonders whether it's too Flash-heavy.
The animations, multimedia and interactivity throughout the massive step-through documentary are impressive, to say the least. But, as I took the time to click through to the end, I couldn’t help but think to myself that the site seemed overly flashy and cluttered... My personal preference is that of a cleaner layout.

All together, this site houses nearly 50 frames of multimedia content divided into 10 chapters. Up until 2008 all of my multimedia projects were done 100% in Flash. But the more I read about HTML5 and the inability to play Flash on Apple products, I’m beginning to wonder whether producers should start experimenting with other languages for the interactive component.

The producers spent a year working on it and designed everything in Photoshop before animating it in Flash. If it takes a year to produce something of this capacity, how is an interactive Flash site going to have competitive advantage in the longterm, and withstand the quicker and more scalable programming languages that help producers make something comparable in days or weeks?
Personally, we love all the clever sights and sounds, but wonder about something else.

Because its roots are in a book-publishing sensibility, it is also text-heavy. It's a delight to look at and listen to, and even all that text is smart and quirky and fun to read. But it compels us to ask: What if, instead of non-linear interactivity, "Welcome to Pine Point" was re-created as a single video story about the aftermath of a town's demise? What happened to all those people, where are they now, and how does their former hometown figure in their current lives and sensibilities? How would that narrative best be structured? Chronologically? Or starting in the present and looking back (in medias res)? Without giving away too much, one of the richest rewards is discovering what happened to the town's characters of yesteryear -- surprises that would be spoiled if they were introduced too early in the narrative.

Imagine you had stumbled across the original "Pine Point Revisted" Website, and thought, "Hey, this would make a great video story!" How would you go about shooting and editing it? How would you go about telling the story of the town that isn't there anymore?

"Pine Point Revisited":

"Welcome to Pine Point":

P.S. Visit the National Film Board of Canada Website for more fine documentary films and interactive stories.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Learn Videojournalism Online from Top Pros

We're proud to announce that KobreGuide is officially an affiliate of the New York Video School (NYVS), an online education center created by pioneering videojournalist Michael Rosenblum.

NYVS provides anyone with a video camera an easy and affordable way to learn to make films and videos like a Hollywood professional.

As a NYVS member you'll have access to video courses, critiques, tutorials and a learning community that will help you quickly become a master at video editing, video production, videography, iMovie, Final Cut Pro and much more!
NYVS instructors have worked with PBS, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, ABC, CBS, the New York Times, and many other leading media institutions.

Among the benefits of registering for the NYVS online curriculum:

* Learn video with hundreds of online tutorials
* View the latest video news and events
* Find opportunities to use your videos
* Participate in online video contests
* Post and search for jobs and internships
* Find places to make money creating video

NYVS courses have been grouped into five categories: Storytelling, Shooting, Editing, Practical Use, Video Basics

Andre Malok, a videojournalist at the Newark Star-Ledger, took Rosenblum's popular VJ video training bootcamp two years ago. He recently produced this stellar 24-minute online documentary (below), "The Wreck of the Lady Mary." The in-depth video represents a rare high-quality blend of reporting and interviewing with shooting and editing. Remarkably Malok accomplished it all single-handedly, using techniques and skills that you can acquire at NYVS.

The Lady Mary left the Port of Cape May on the morning of March 18, 2009 on a routine scallop fishing trip. The vessel with its crew of seven traveled 66 miles to a restricted scallop fishing area. Early on March 24, the boat sank to the bottom of the ocean, and six of the seven crewman were killed. Was the boat swamped in rough seas? Or did a passing container ship strike the boat without ever knowing it? After months of investigation, the Star-Ledger explores the mystery of the wreck of the Lady Mary.

For more info on NYVS, or to enroll in courses, please go here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Doctorian to Focus on Multimedia Storytelling for Washington Post

Congrats to Sonya Doctorian, new deputy director of photography at the Washington Post. She will focus primarily on photo projects, staff development and multimedia storytelling.

Doctorian is an independent online videojournalist based in Denver who joined the Rocky Mountain News in 2003 as projects photo editor. She also worked as its first videojournalist until the paper closed in 2009, just short of its 150th anniversary. Doctorian and the video team won a regional Emmy for their online documentary, "Final Edition," which chronicled the newspaper's final weeks. After the Rocky folded, she began producing independent short-form documentaries.
Two of her video stories for AARP Online were showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism.

"Filling the Gap" documented a weekend of free dental care for hundreds of uninsured patients who showed up at the Colorado Dental Association's "Mission of Mercy."

"Silverton Saves Its Paper" chronicled how a local Colorado historical society rescued a small town's beloved century-old weekly publication on the brink of closure. It won the KobreGuide Award for Best Videojournalism Story of 2009 in the "Media" category.

FYI, Sonya was one of Prof. Kobre's photojournalism students when he was teaching at University of Missouri. She went on to earn her master's in documentary filmmaking from American University in Wash., D.C., and has held top photojournalism positions at the St. Petersburg Times, The State (Columbia, SC), The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and the Tampa Tribune. We look forward to seeing her imprint on the Post's visual journalism.

Beet.TV's Online Videojournalism Summit

Look at all these heavy-hitters who will be on the panel of Beet.TV's Online Video Journalism Summit, which will be streamed live on Feb. 1 (9-11:30 am ET).

The topic is "Exploring the digital transformation of video news reporting and distribution."


Alex Weprin
Editor, TVNewser

Andy Plesser
Executive Producer, Beet.TV

Guest Speaker:

Chris Cillizza (pictured)
The Washington Post, "The Fix" blogger


Ann Derry - Editorial Director, Video and Television, The New York Times

Steven King - Editor of Video, The Washington Post

Mark Larkin - Vice President,

Mark Lukasiewicz - Vice President, NBC News Specials and Digital Media, NBC News

Mosheh Oinounou - International Editor, Bloomberg Television

Kevin Roach - Vice President & Director of U.S. Broadcast News, The Associated Press

Anna Robertson - Director of Original Video and Social Media, Yahoo! News

Mike Stepanovich - Managing Editor, Reuters Insider

Mike Toppo - Senior Director for News Operations and Production,

Jeff Whatcott - Senior Vice President, Brightcove

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Real Mystery of the Lost Roll of Film

Todd Bieber (pictured) was cross-country skiing in Brooklyn's Prospect Park after a recent blizzard and spotted a canister of film lying in the snow.

What happens next became the subject of a YouTube video that Bieber made, which documents his processing the black-and-white images ("I was in awe of these pictures") and his so-far unsuccessful attempt to track down the photographer.

Now Bieber's video has itself become a story.

A bigger mystery than the identity of the people in the pictures (or behind the camera) is how and why Bieber made a video about it in the first place. On the surface, it seems an innocent attempt to speculate about, and locate, the rightful owner.

But there are doubters as to his motive. Is the whole thing fiction? A hoax? A film-student exercise? A blatant attempt to create a viral video? (And if so, for what purpose?)

Amateur photo sleuths have questioned aspects of the story -- beginning with Bieber's footage of him discovering the film in the snow. Surely a "dramatic" re-creation, yes? Other details are scrutinized in forensic detail -- how could there be 40 shots on one roll? And why only one shot of each image, when "film" photographers usually shoot multiple shots, at varying exposures, for safety? Why are the young men in the pictures themselves carrying digital cameras around their necks? Most baffling, what's all that business about a woman finding $26 and foisting it upon Bieber -- who ultimately uses it to process the film.

Chief among the cynics is "The Online Photographer" blogger Mike Johnston, who writes, "I have to admit that something about this story sets off my BS detectors... The video and the narrative voice seems a bit too slick, the pictures too competent. One or the other I could believe, but both together seems just a touch too convenient. Midway through the roll, the narrator breezily ascribes an esoteric interpretation to one of the photos that requires a knowledge of Russian... Looks like an exercise in 'how to make a video go viral' to me."

But then ABC World News did a straightforward report on Bieber's discovery, including a talking-head interview with Bieber via Skype, without a trace of skepticism.

You have to search no further than Bieber's own Website to see that he "writes, directs, edits, shoots, and produces videos - mostly comedy and documentary, or some combination of the two." He has extensively studied and performed improv comedy, and has worked on Onion News Network video satires. All of that would certainly suggest "spoof."

However, Bieber himself insists, "This story is 100% true. Cross my heart. I didn't realize that would even be an issue for some people. Just interested in telling my story and finding the owners."

What do you think?

We previously told you the amazing story about the young real estate agent who serendipitously discovered a treasure trove of thousands of world-class photographs that turned out to have been taken by a recently deceased nanny named Vivian Maier -- which are now being validated by fine-art photography enthusiasts and displayed in museums. (SEE: "Discovering Vivian Maier")

Comparatively speaking, stumbling upon one roll of so-so tourist snapshots of Coney Island and Central Park doesn't seem like much of a stretch.

The fact that it's stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy perhaps speaks more to the state of nonfiction video, and our increasing inability to distinguish between gradations of fact, reality and objective truth. And that's a challenge facing all videojournalists.

Meanwhile, Bieber's video has surpassed 1.1 million views on YouTube. The official ABC World News YouTube video about Bieber's adventure (which tellingly and alarmingly does not enable embedding!) has attracted only about 4,300 views. That should speak volumes right there.

P.S. Did you lose a roll of film in Prospect Park, or know anyone who did? E-mail Todd Bieber: BrooklynFoundFilm(at)gmail(dot)com .

P.P.S. Cyberhat-tip and thanks to Walter Wick, for alerting us to this story.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominees for Best Documentary

Congratulations to all Academy Awards nominees for Best Documentary (feature) and Best Documentary (short subject), announced today.

Since these categories traditionally take a back seat to the more familiar and glamorous Oscar nominees for feature films, we thought we'd provide you with links to their respective Websites -- and each documentarian's short synopsis of their own work -- to give you a taste of the diverse topics that the best nonfiction filmmakers are focusing on.

We hope this will inspire you to add them to your Netflix queue, or otherwise seek out screenings at a theater or Website near you.


"Exit Through the Gift Shop," Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz

This is the inside story of Street Art - a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide. The film follows an eccentric shopkeeper turned amateur filmmaker as he attempts to capture many of the world's most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results.

One of the most provocative films about art ever made, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a fascinating study of low-level criminality, comradeship and incompetence. By turns shocking, hilarious and absurd, this is an enthralling modern-day fairytale... with bolt cutters.

"Gasland," Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic

The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a "Saudia Arabia of natural gas" just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.

"Gasland" will be broadcast on HBO through 2012.

"Inside Job," Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

"Inside Job" is the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, "Inside Job" traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Matt Damon, "Inside Job" was made on location in the U.S., Iceland, England, France, Singapore and China.

"Restrepo," Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

"Restrepo" chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.

The war in Afghanistan has become highly politicized, but soldiers rarely take part in that discussion. Our intention was to capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. Their lives were our lives: we did not sit down with their families, we did not interview Afghans, we did not explore geopolitical debates. Soldiers are living and fighting and dying at remote outposts in Afghanistan in conditions that few Americans back home can imagine. Their experiences are important to understand, regardless of one's political beliefs. Beliefs are a way to avoid looking at reality. This is reality.

"Waste Land," Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Filmed over nearly three years, "Waste Land" follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.



"Killing in the Name," nominees to be determined

Ashraf Al-Khaled was celebrating the happiest day of his life when an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber walked into his wedding and killed his father and 26 other family members in front of his eyes. Now, he is rising from that horrific tragedy to break the silence in the Muslim community on this taboo subject by speaking out against terrorism. "Killing In the Name," directed by Jed Rothstein," follows Ashraf’s quest to speak with victims and perpetrators and expose the true cost of terrorism, taking us on a journey around the world to see if one man can speak truth to terror and begin to turn the tide.

It’s a sad fact that stories like Ashraf’s pepper the news almost daily. In the last 5 years, over 88,000 people have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks worldwide. The majority, like Ashraf, were Muslims.

How can someone be so robbed of their humanity that they happily commit mass murder and suicide? It’s one of the fundamental human questions of our era, one that has haunted Ashraf since his wedding day, and what is now driving him to rise from horrific tragedy to take an unprecedented step – breaking the silence in the Muslim community on this taboo subject by speaking out against terrorism.

At times chilling and moving, terrifying and hopeful, this film is a far- reaching and necessary first step in tackling what is arguably the most pressing issue of our age. As Ashraf puts it, “If we can’t even talk about it, this terror will never end.”

"Poster Girl," nominees to be determined

"Poster Girl" is the story of Robynn Murray, an all-American high-school cheerleader turned “poster girl” for women in combat, distinguished by Army Magazine’s cover shot. Now home from Iraq, her tough-as-nails exterior begins to crack, leaving Robynn struggling with the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Shot and directed by first-time filmmaker Sara Nesson, "Poster Girl" is an emotionally raw documentary that follows Robynn over the course of two years as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and redemption, using art and poetry to redefine her life.

"Strangers No More," Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

In the heart of Tel Aviv, there is an exceptional school where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. Many of the students arrive at Bialik-Rogozin School fleeing poverty, political adversity and even genocide. Here, no child is a stranger.

"Strangers No More" follows several students’ struggle to acclimate to life in Israel while slowly opening up to share their stories of hardship and tragedy.

With tremendous effort and dedication, the school provides the support these children need to recover from their past. Together, the bond between teacher and student, and amongst the students themselves, enables them to create new lives in this exceptional community.

"Sun Come Up," Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger

"Sun Come Up" follows the relocation of some of the world’s first environmental refugees, the Carteret Islanders – a community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean.

When rising seas threaten their survival, the islanders face a painful decision: they must leave their beloved land in search of a new place to call home.

The film follows a group of young Carteret Islanders led by Nick Hakata as they search for land in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea 50 miles across the open ocean.

The move will not be easy as Bougainville is recovering from a 10-year civil war. Many Bougainvilleans remain traumatized by the “Crisis” as the civil war is known locally. Yet this isn’t a familiar Third World narrative. Out of this tragedy comes a story of hope, strength, and profound generosity.

San Kamap (Sun Come Up) means sunrise in pidgin and reflects this sentiment - the resilience of the community, and the hope that’s present at the start of a new day. The Carteret Islanders have formed their own organization, Tulele Peisa, working with local leaders on the ground to relocate 1,700 islanders to Bougainville over the next ten years.

"The Warriors of Qiugang," Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Villagers in central China take on a chemical company that is poisoning their land and water. For five years they fight to transform their environment and as they do, they find themselves transformed as well.

Zhang Gongli is a farmer who grew up in the village of Qiugang, in Anhui Province; his house and fields lie near the banks of the Huai River. In 2004, private chemical companies took over an old state-owned enterprise that had long produced pesticides and dyes in Qiugang. As production ramped up, black waters disgorged from the plants and flooded the fields of Qiugang. Fish died, crops failed, and villagers grew alarmed by the large numbers of their own succumbing to cancer.

When his own fields could no longer be farmed, Zhang filed a lawsuit against the factory that adjoins his land. He lost. This marked the beginning of a stubborn and often dangerous campaign that spanned five years. Our film follows Zhang and his allies in the village as they draw up a petition to bring to Beijing, recruit support from the local media, reach out for help from a local NGO, and in time, make contact with environmental activists from across China.

From clandestine trips to the nation’s capital to private negotiating sessions with factory representatives, our footage reveals a rare portrait of grassroots activism in contemporary China. Far from a simple black-and-white portrait, the film tracks the villagers as they seek out the help and power of the national government to curb local businesses and local officials. The film’s intimacy leads us past the headlines and clichés about modern China to offer a memorable portrait of villagers wrestling with, and transformed by, China’s headlong rush into modernity.

Complete list of Oscar nominees can be found here. The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 27, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ira Glass: This American Sermon

When "This American Life" host Ira Glass (pictured) talks about storytelling, we listen.

Huffington Post's religion editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush has resurrected an interview that he conducted for in 2008: "Ira Glass, Religion and the Empathetic Power of Storytelling."


Yes -- when Raushenbush first stumbled upon Glass's award-winning radio show, he reveals, "the tone and content was so unlike anything else on the dial. For the next hour I was immersed in stories from other people's lives that were compelling, funny, tragic and -- to my religiously tuned ear -- sacred."

Though Glass was raised Jewish, he purports to be an atheist. But as you'll see in this excerpt below, he acknowledges that his goal is to create mini-sermons.

Q: What is the value of telling stories?

GLASS: The story is a machine for empathy. In contrast to logic or reason, a story is about emotion that gets staged over a sequence of dramatic moments, so you empathize with the characters without really thinking about it too much. It is a really powerful tool for imagining yourself in other people's situations.

The mission of our show [is] to take the people and present them at exactly life scale. So when we do a story about sailors on an aircraft carrier that is flying missions over Afghanistan in the early months of the war on terror, we didn't only go for the heroic gung-ho men and women who are traveling in harm's way, we go for what it is actually like for the majority of the people there. In the show we did, the first person you meet is a woman whose job it is to fill candy machines on the ship with candy. That's her job in the war on terror, which she laughs about.

Most people on the aircraft carrier don't fly planes, or shoot guns at bad guys to make the world a better place. They do laundry, they check the radar, they fix the intercom system. That's a lot of what it means to be in the military.

Q: How do you tell a story well?

GLASS: There is a kind of structure for a story that was peculiarly compelling for the radio. I thought I had invented it atom-by-atom sitting in an editing booth in Washington on M Street when I was in my 20s. Then I found out that it is one of the oldest forms of telling a story -- it was the structure of a sermon.

I actually realized it when I went home for Yom Kippur in Baltimore. We have a great rabbi. He is one of those guys whose sermons are the total entertainment package. There is one anecdote after another and then, of course, the Torah portion for that week. He then ties it all together with some heartfelt emotional moment.

So I'm with my sisters and my mother and he is giving the sermon and doing his thing, and I thought, oh, that's the structure of my radio show.

Q: Does every story that makes it onto "This American Life" have a moral?

GLASS: A moral overstates it. Every story has some thought about the world...
Read the whole terrific Q&A with Ira Glass here. There are lessons aplenty for visual journalists.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ford Foundation Pumps $50 Million into Documentaries

Some rare good news for documentary producers and fans.

This week the Ford Foundation launched a $50-million, 5-year initiative to find and support "next-generation" nonfiction filmmakers whose themes address urgent social issues.

The new project is called JustFilms. According to Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas: "With the growth of the Web and social networks, the potential global audience for filmed content with a social conscience has exploded. We want JustFilms to support visionary filmmakers from around the world... and help them reach and engage audiences."

JustFilms will also leverage the foundation's global network of 10 regional offices to identify and lift new talent from around the world and to strengthen emerging communities of documentary filmmakers.

JustFilms will focus on film, video and digital works that show courageous people confronting difficult issues and actively pursuing a more just, secure and sustainable world. The initiative will pursue three distinct funding paths, each receiving roughly one-third of its annual overall budget:

•Partnerships with major organizations such as the Sundance Institute, the Independent Television Service and others.

•An ongoing open application process that will help JustFilms stay attuned to fresh ideas and stories wherever they may emerge.

•Partnership with other Ford Foundation grant-making programs where the introduction of documentary film could help draw attention to an issue or advance a movement.
Directing the JustFilms initiative will be Orlando Bagwell (pictured), an award-winning filmmaker ("Eyes on the Prize") who has served as a program officer and director in the foundation's Freedom of Expression team for the past six years.

Some examples of works JustFilms is already supporting:

•"Women, War & Peace," a four-part PBS special, examines the enormously disproportionate suffering of women in today's wars, but also how they are emerging as leaders in brokering peace and forging new international laws governing conflict.

•"Higher Ground" explores the efforts of Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed to petition world leaders to save his island from rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

•"Detroit Hustles Harder" (working title) chronicles the lives of courageous individuals who have made the conscious choice to stay in Detroit to help turn the city around. Their lives and dedication represent not only what can transform the city, but what can renew America.

According to the JustFilms Website, the foundation seeks to:

•Enlarge the conversation on issues of importance by investing in documentary films that capture people’s imaginations and engage them in shaping their futures.

•Expand the community of independent documentary filmmakers and lift the voices of new and innovative filmmakers from around the world.

•Help filmmakers craft important stories, and also develop strategies for finding and building audiences across a variety of platforms.
Learn more about JustFilms here.

Explore the documentaries the foundation has previously supported here.

Making Stuff with David Pogue

For your weekend viewing pleasure, we share with you the first episode of "Making Stuff," PBS's new four-part NOVA series exploring the materials that will shape our future.

It's hosted by popular New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, with an entertaining mixture of wonder and humor. The first installment, "Making Stuff Stronger," looks at what defines strength. Among the materials explored: steel, Kevlar, carbon nanotubes, bioengineered silk, mollusk shells, a toucan's beak.

Pogue travels from the deck of a U.S. naval aircraft carrier to a demolition derby to the country's top research labs to check in with experts who are re-engineering what nature has given us to create the next generation of strong stuff.
The one-hour show was written, directed and produced by Chris Schmidt.

Upcoming installments:

* Making Stuff: Smaller
Future technologies will depend on tiny stuff—from silicon chips to micro-robots that probe the human body. (Premiering January 26 on PBS)

* Making Stuff: Cleaner
Can innovative materials help solve the energy crisis and lead to a sustainable future? (Premiering February 2 on PBS)

* Making Stuff: Smarter
Explore a new generation of ingenious materials, from clothes that monitor your mood to real-life invisibility cloaks. (Premiering February 9 on PBS)

What will the future bring, and what will it be made of? From the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age to more recent periods dominated by plastics and silicon, materials have defined the progression of humankind. Now we are once again poised on the verge of a materials revolution, as researchers around the globe push the boundaries further than ever before, using biology and chemistry to imbue materials with new qualities that are expanding our technological frontiers.
You can watch the fascinating series here.

Meanwhile, here's the first episode, in seven "chapters":

"Making Stuff" is produced in cooperation with the Materials Research Society (MRS), an international organization of nearly 16,000 materials researchers from academia, industry, and government.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Welcome to Dhaka, the World's Fastest Growing Megacity

The United Nations estimates there are now about 20 "megacities" on the planet -- urban areas where the population exceeds 10 million. The fastest growing is Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Dhaka is the subject of a five-part multimedia series, "Rise of the Megacities," in the Global Post, a relatively new, privately funded, international online-only news publication.

Reported and produced by Solana Pyne and Erik German, the series takes a ground-level look at problems created by the world's rapid urbanization... and some solutions.

"For first time in human history," we learn, "the world has become more urban than rural. By mid-century, 80% of the world's population will live in cities, many in the exploding slums of the developing world."

Among these megacities, The World Bank says Dhaka, with its current population of 15 million people, bears the distinction of being the fastest-growing in the world. Between 1990 and 2005, the city doubled in size — from 6 to 12 million. By 2025, the U.N. predicts Dhaka will be home to more than 20 million people — larger than Mexico City, Beijing or Shanghai.
How can you get a handle on such a vast topic?

As you can see in the five narrated video reports (linked below), we don't just hear the platitudes of government bureaucrats, but we get a candid closeup and personal look at the lives of the men, women and children who populate these slums.

Only by pursuing that "ground zero" view were the videojournalists able to uncover suprising truths -- including that formerly agrarian lives are actually improved in a slum economy, and that even the most dystopian vision of the future contains as much hope as peril.

PART ONE: Dhaka: fastest growing megacity in the world

Dhaka Rising: Decoding the Chaos of Earth's Fastest Growing Megacity (video)

PART TWO: The dreams of Dhaka's garment girls

Dhaka Wears it Well: The Financial and Cultural Impact of the Garment Industry (video)


PART THREE: Disasters drive mass migration to Dhaka

The Human Race: Migrants Arrive in Masses Searching for a Better Life (video)


PART FOUR: Interview: Looking on the bright side of Earth's growing slums

The Underground Economy: Tracking the Cash-Only Industries that Form Dhaka's Foundation (video)


PART FIVE: Who can solve a problem like Dhaka?

Water Wars: The Fight Against Thirst in a Rapidly Depleting City (video)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Documentary: A Year Inside the N.Y. Times

As the 11th Sundance Film Festival opens today in Park City, Utah, one of the most anticipated documentaries is “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” by Andrew Rossi, who, as the title suggests, spent a year following the fabled institution's reporters and editors.

According to Kara Swisher at All Things Digital:
What is probably most interesting is that many of the stories covered by the Times in the film are about the technological forces that have put it and other traditional media organizations through the digital ringer in recent years.
One of the biggest "characters" in the film -- in every sense of the word -- is Times' media columnist David Carr (pictured, left), who can be very funny, and doesn't pull his punches.

Here's a sneak peek:

The revered institution, and indeed the journalism industry, has surely come a long way since the days chronicled in one of our favorite books, "The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at the New York Times" by Gay Talese.

Rossi previously directed "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven" (2007) and "Eat This New York" (2004) -- both documentaries about opening restaurants in New York City.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creative Navigation for Complex Video Projects

Here's a multimedia project with an alluring navigation scheme that shows some creative planning and thinking.

It's an interactive Web documentary produced for the Web by Australia's SBS TV that explores the lives of African refugees and immigrants living within Australia, appropriately titled "Africa to Australia."

A cyberhat tip to SBS's Matt Smith, who alerted us to the package:
"The goal of the project is to inform the wider Australian population about the issues faced by, and contributions made by, African migrants (a highly under-represented community within the Australian media). However, we also wanted the content to work for these African communities, so we have translated the whole site into six African languages.

One of the other unique features is the related content area. As themes emerge within individual videos we relate them to other stories within the site. For example, a boy in Melbourne may be talking about discrimination, and the site will suggest sections of other videos that also discuss discrimination."
Considering the slop-pile hodgepodge that normally passes for Web video pages, the effort devoted to arranging and presenting the mix of individual tales is admirable.

The first-person stories are told by the subjects themselves, and they are shot (using both stills and video) in their own natural home and work environments. One nitpick is that the personal stories could use some more dramatic flair. Some of the subjects narrate their own names and background info into the camera, without much indication that an interviewer worked hard at digging out the kind of material that would have made for more compelling viewing. (One segment begins with a boy laboriously introducing each of his family members by reciting their dates of birth -- not a great hook.) The upbeat subjects mainly talk about themselves and their jobs (taxi driver, hip-hop MC, etc.), and their perceptions of adapting to their new homeland.

And as creative as its internal navigation is, curiously it's not easy to find "Africa to Australia" on the SBS homepage -- amidst the plethora of sub-links in the Video and Documentary categories. But once you do arrive, you are drawn in by the big attractive visuals, and are enticed to scroll from one story to another -- up and down, left and right -- since they are laid out in logical but non-linear fashion. Other links lead to supplementary text material, and there are also the requisite links that enable you to share the stories via Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, a professional job of packaging and presenting a multi-faceted multimedia project. Check out "Africa to Australia," and see if you agree.