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.