Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gear recommendations

Here's what I use that's essential if you're going to be doing video as your full-time job and you give a s__t about the results:

* XHA1 with 4 BP970G batteries (I've never exhausted even one - you could go for a week non-stop on four)
* Sennheiser ME64 mic with K6 module and right-angle 18" xlr cable and Ricote softie wind muff and xlr "y" splitter and various xlr cables
* Sennheiser EW100 G2 ENG wireless kit from B&H with lav mic, EV stick mic and plug-on transmitter (look at the Sennheiser site to pick which freq range won't conflict with uhf tv stations in your area.)
* Canon VL-10Li II light (uses camera batteries)
* Sachtler DV-II tripod (actually I use a Cartoni, but we have several of these and they're ok for a cheap tripod - only $1k!)
* Porta Brace bag, whose model number I don't know, 'cause I inherited it from our defunct creative services department
* Petrol rain cover
* Lowel Rifa Pro 44 light kit and Impact dimmers
* Shure E2C earbuds and Sony MD7506 headphones

I can't emphasize enough how important the mics are -- this list gives you three different mics which will cover 80% of your assignments well and let you get by on the rest. If your budget is limited, get the mics first and a cheaper camera.

I also can't emphasize enough how important a decent tripod is. You can get by with a Libec $400 tripod, but that's the least you can spend, I'm afraid.

I've got the Canon wide angle but never use it anymore. Another of our videographers depends on it and never takes it off the camera. Your mileage may vary.

This adds up to a scary amount of money, I'm afraid, but compared to the TV world it's cheap.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Remember the Basics While Shooting Video!

A plea I wrote to our less-experienced shooters, whose footage I have to help edit:

This is a gentle reminder to remember the basics.

First, the point of daily video is to get it on the web asap. We need to shoot, get into the office, and get it out with speed in mind.

So remember your training:

Get your narrative A-roll. Pull someone aside and get them to explain what happened in one minute or less. Make sure it matches your B-roll.

Shoot transitions: Get in front of the action, plant yourself, hold the camera steady and let the action come into the frame and then go out of the frame.

Shoot sequences: Wide medium tight . Beginning middle end . Getting ready, action, reaction.

Shoot details and closeups.

Audio that goes into the red is unusable. Wear your headphones!

God gave us tripods for a reason.... If you don't have a tripod, use your camera bag, a table, a tree, a post, ... whatever is steady.

Pre-roll and post-roll. We gotta have a little tape before someone starts talking. Also waste a minute of tape when you load the camera (shoot closeups of your assignment sheet; future editors will thank you!)

Keep your finger off the zoom! Use your feet! Hold your shots steady for ten seconds. Count it off!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

In their own words: Times-Picayune photo staff's Katrina coverage

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a very powerful look back at how their staff felt while covering Katrina.

Produced by the Times-Picayune's Danny Bourque.

It's a must-see if you work for a newspaper. It explains why we do this job.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

HD video from still cameras -- Kodak Z1275 and Canon TX1

I clamped three still cameras together and tried out their video functions today.

Two of them are new and capture HD 720p high-def video. The Kodak Z1275 just came out and the Canon TX1 is still an infant. They both are small, Elph-sized cameras that take both stills and video.

The third camera was the Canon Powershot S3is, which shoots 640x480 video.

Both of the HD cameras have problems with video -- the Kodak's image stabilization is worse than useless and can't be turned off. It actually makes the video jump around. The Canon TX1 jumps in and out of focus. Both are too small and light to hand-hold steadily.

The S3is actually makes the best, steadiest video. And even though it's video is lower resolution, it looks better.

The Kodak shoots mp4 Quicktime .mov files which are one fourth the size of the .avi files from the Canons.

All three are pretty good still cameras. I love the 16:9 aspect ratio you can set on the Kodak and TX1. I don't like the almost-but-not-quite square format of the 4:3 aspect pictures you get with the S3is.

The Kodak actually has a useable 1600 iso setting that I think breaks new ground for small point-n-shoots. Unfortunately AA batteries only last about 15 minutes in this camera.

I clamped all three cameras on a c-stand arm and synched them up in post. You're hearing all three audio tracks at once, though mostly what you're hearing is the S3is -- it has the best and loudest audio of the three. I know you can't tell much from this video, but trust me, the HD from these cameras isn't ready for the big screen yet!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Roanoke reporter video

I recently spoke at a University of Florida seminar and it is posted on Mindy McAdams' blog at:

I’d like to point out that I may have given a wrong impression in describing Roanoke’s videos.

I characterized their video efforts as low end, mixed with photographers’ high-end video.

Rather than using point-and-shoot cameras as I said, they are using decent mini-dv cameras in their newsroom and have brought in outside training for their reporters to make sure their quality stays high. The video I showed during the presentation was not typical of their report.

I was trying to differentiate between’s deliberately not-like-TV approach to video and the TV-on-the-net approach of their sister company, I was trying to point out the very different approaches taken by different papers in the U.S., and made it sound like Roanoke doesn’t do quality work. Nothing could be further from the truth. (In my defense, I was trying to avoid mentioning that paper in California that I usually pick on…. )

I did not highlight some of the great and sophisticated reporter’s work (such as (High School graduate takes big steps))that they’re doing in Roanoke on a regular basis, so I left the impression that they’re only doing low-end. They aren’t. Roanoke is doing incredible work in multimedia. Their day-in and day-out multimedia coverage of Virginia Tech athletics is a model for our industry and is something I regularly point to as the way it should be done.

If this sounds like I’m sucking up to Seth Gitner and his work at Roanoke, you’re right. He’s doing things right there and I wronged him when I shouldn’t have. In this era of ever-tightening budgets and reduced resources, Roanoke still manages to produce quality work on a daily basis.

My apologies.
Chuck Fadely

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's Not About Gear

Seems like every time I open my mouth about spending money for good gear, people get upset.

But I'm not advocating spending a bunch of money to equip reporters with good gear. Not at all. That's a waste.

I'm advocating spending a bunch of money to train some staffers to be full-time video professionals. And if you're going to do that, then equip them with decent video gear. Doesn't matter if they're photogs or reporters. Pick the visually literate people who can tell stories and who get along with technology.

It'll take at least three months to get them up to speed if you already have video pros aboard who can train them. It'll take a year if they're learning in a vacuum.

Creating compelling stories in video is hard.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Great Video Gold Rush -- a reality check.

The publishers have sighted gold in them thar video player hills.

All the newspaper people have piled into the wagons and are heading west toward Video, in the hopes of striking it rich. Imagine! Those pre-roll ads get higher rates than banners! Let's do video!!!! The rush is on!

Someone on the internet said you can do video with a point and shoot! Let's give our staffers the cheapest video cameras we can buy and send 'em out. We'll be rich!

Well, folks, circle the wagons around the campfire here and lets have a little chat.

This video stuff ain't easy nor cheap. No matter how many well-intentioned bloggers tell you all you need is a $89 camera and the will to do it, the reality is far different.

It takes good audio gear, reasonable video gear, modern computers, and most of all, time, to produce intelligible video for the web.

So many papers have staffers struggling along with antideluvian computers and too many assignments to ever cover in a day.... and now corporate says they have to do video, too! I feel for you, brothers....

Since newspaper people have apoplexy at the thought of TV budgets, where a camera costs $25,000 - not including lens or battery -- I'll try to make an analogy with something most newspapers are familiar with: photos.

Most newspapers have photographers with pro Canon or Nikon gear to shoot the majority of their display pictures. Sure, even the big papers use the reporter's point-n-shoot mug shots when necessary. And when the plane crashes into the shopping mall, I guarantee the picture you'll use will probably be some amateur's coolpix shot -- because they were there, and your photog was in south county for the garden league meeting.

But no respectable paper intentionally makes a habit of putting crappy pictures on their section fronts. They have staff photographers with $15,000 worth of still gear to go make an image out of something that's news but not really visual. That's a staff photographer's job: make something visually interesting from nothing. You're paying them to see things you don't.

And the reason you pay them weekly weakly, is that readers value good images. Pictures rule. They're what readers look at first. Photographers, for all their A.D.D. and dyslexic faults, draw readers. They're worth it.

After decades of experience with photo departments and visual professionals, here's the strange place we've landed:

The internet audience is growing and you want your staff -- from the janitor all the way up to the M.E. -- to contribute to the web product. Video! Let's do lots of video! There was some guy at the publisher's association meeting who said all you need is a point-n-shoot; let's get 'em for everyone. How 'bout the photogs? Nahhh, they care about silly quality.... we won't ask them about doing video... We'll get the web people and reporters to do video.

So the reporters start doing video. All of a sudden the story they used to be able to write blindfolded, in five minutes while doing the office football pool, takes 'em six hours of work to get the video into their computers, figure out why Movie Maker keeps crashing -- I've got 128 megs of ram, fer krissake! -- and finally re-compress the file into the right size on the third try.

And the web people? Well, they don't have a problem figuring out Movie Maker, but gee, maybe that video they just finished should have said something about the three dead or maybe included someone besides Crazy Joe who likes to pretend to be the mayor. Oh, wait, that was the managing editor's video? Oh, no problem then....

A few months of this and the landscape starts to change at papers. Gee, why don't our videos get as many hits as LonelyGirl15?

All of a sudden you're moving someone over to edit video because it takes so long and gosh, the publisher says he can't understand a word in any of those videos... maybe we need a better mic. But some corporate flunky type who was at the ANPA meeting with the boss has decided what gear you're getting... after all, his cousin does dog show videos.

Sheesh, people, get a clue!

Ok, cowboys and cowgirls, here comes the sermon:

VIDEO IS MAGIC! It's the most f'ing wonderful thing on the internet. YouTube feeds millions of videos per day to your former readers. Video is an emotional medium that grabs the viewers by the throat and makes 'em weep, laugh, and scream. Video appeals to an audience way beyond your literate readers in the 65+ demographic. The boss did say we need to capture younger readers, right?

Does your reporter video fit into that "magic" category? Does your 'random' video make you weep? (It makes me weep, but not because of the story...)

If you haven't reached this point yet with your video program, here's the important stuff you need to know:

Video storytelling is technically difficult; extremely time-consuming, and takes talented people and expensive gear. A good video story can appeal to a huge audience. And will keep appealing over time.

Video clips, on the other hand, can be done by almost anyone with a point-n-shoot. We're talking the video equivalent of a page 4B traffic accident brief. A video clip appeals to the 17 people who were affected by the wreck (unless it's a porn starlet).

Remember way up above when I was talking about your photogs doing the section front pictures while you used the reporter mug shots on page 6B? That's a concept you should be able to wrap your minds around. Hey, maybe the same philosphy applies to video.... maybe you should have a core group of video pros to do the display stories and let the reporters and citizen journalists do the potholes and car wrecks.

Here's the bottom line: to get good narrative video, with clean audio, that is engaging to the viewer, requires a full time video person, who has spent a year learning all the technical stuff about audio, cameras, and video editing programs. It takes about $10,000 in video and audio gear and another $10k in computer and software. And it takes a willingness to display that video far and wide over an extended period of time to get hits that build over time. Oh, and the technology is not stable, so you'll need to replace everything before the depreciation's done.

Who makes a good videographer? You've probably got a couple on staff. Great story-tellers with the timing of a comedian who are technically savvy, visually literate, and quick learners. Invest in them, they're worth it.

And why should you go to all this expense and trouble? Because video is magic. Oh, and also because the local TV station is finally figuring out that you're eating their lunch. They're gonna kick your butt in video soon, along with 3,472 other outlets on the web who want to come steal your local advertisers from you. You better figure this video stuff out soon.

(A bit of video magic by Candace Barbot and Ricardo Lopez / the Miami Herald)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Change is in the air

Bill Gates in the Seattle PI:
"On television: "This is a subject I think about a lot, because it was actually about a little over 10 years ago that Microsoft first got involved in this idea of changing TV from being a simply broadcast medium to being a targeted medium (through its IPTV initiative). ... In order to have this be targeted, you cannot send it over the airwaves. There's just not enough capacity to broadcast thousands and thousands of different video feeds. And that's where the Internet comes in. The Internet is now cheap enough that the idea of having every household in America watching a different video feed has become practical. There's some infrastructure improvement that that implies. Actually, that's very much under way. ... It's a dramatic change in TV. ... Broadcast infrastructure over these next five years will not be viewed as competitive. The end-user experience and the creativity, the new content that will emerge using the capabilities of this environment will be so much dramatically better that broadcast TV will not be competitive. And in this environment, the ads will be targeted, not just targeted to the neighborhood level, but targeted to the viewer. ... We'll actually not just know the household that that viewing is taking place in, we'll actually know who the viewers of that show are, and so it's a very rich environment."
Seattle PI: Todd Bishop's Microsoft Blog


I lived through the linotype-to-typesetter revolution in newspapers. I watched the paste-up artists walk out the door the last time. That entire floor of our building, once an incredible beehive of frenzied activity, is still like a tomb, 20 years later -- because the computer rooms that replaced hundreds of jobs are sealed off and refrigerated like the morgue.

That kind of paradigm change is happening again with video. As you TV guys argue big camera vs. small, professionalism vs amateur, penny pinching vs. quality, the world is bypassing you. YouTube is feeding 200 million videos a day. That's 2 with eight zeros after it.

As we speak, probably a thousand photographers and reporters at newspapers across the country are figuring out how to use a video camera. Already newspapers outpace television in online video revenue.

But both newspapers and local tv depend on local advertising -- and that revenue model is shifting even faster than camera technology. It ain't about mass market anymore. It's about targeted publication. And small targeted advertising to niche audiences won't support my newsroom nor yours. Everything will change.

The question is, how fast?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

News from NAB

I didn't make it to NAB, the huge broadcast trade show, but am eagerly following the announcements from there.

Perhaps the biggest news for us online video folk were the competing announcements from Microsoft and Adobe. Microsoft is introducing a new media player, Silverlight, and Adobe is announcing the Adobe Media Player. Both are for web video and both will change our world.

From, "Major announcements this morning at NAB 2007 from both Adobe and Microsoft find each one vying the lead in the ever-more-lucrative online video market. Adobe announced its Adobe Media Player, a standalone video player that gives Flash Video DRM for the first time, while Microsoft introduced Silverlight, a cross-platform, cross-browser media and application delivery plug-in."

Also announced at NAB, the Associated Press Online Video Network, with the ability to upload local content to the AP player, is no longer a beta product. From their press release, via,: "With its initial year growth reaching 45
million unduplicated unique visitors, AP has completed beta testing and
today announced the next phase of its Online Video Network (OVN), which is
based on MSN technology. The release of the local contribution module
enables AP OVN affiliates to leverage AP breaking news video and national
advertising sales managed by Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions. In
addition, affiliates can add local video and generate revenue from local

And from the Radio Television News Directors Association panel on News 2.0, Michael Rosenblum says to burn down the television stations:

If you're a masochist, the whole 64 minute panel discussion, including Amanda Congdon, is on

The other big news is from Apple: Final Cut Studio 2.0. Mix formats on a single timeline. Pro color grading. Flash files output from Compressor. It's awesome. So's their trailer:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stunt Journalism

I'm off on a blogging adventure. Check out Unlikely Passage .

The video on the blog is mostly from a Canon S3is which makes great pictures but produces really unuseable sound. This trip is a test of technology -- I'm testing a Sprint Rev A USB modem which works great for sending video.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Good Newspaper Web Video

"Where's the good newspaper web video?" I'm asked.

Some of the best newspaper video is not just video but a mix of video, stills, graphics and words. Some of the best is narrative; some not. Here's are links to some cool stuff:

The Dallas News is doing some great work and is well along in converting all its still shooters into video shooters. They do good stuff almost every day. But their Katrina anniversary package is very moving: A Year after the Heartbreak shows that David Leeson understands that video - even when done with stills - is an emotional medium. Also check out Yolanda's Crossing . Dallas' Leeson has some of their good stuff on iTunes podcasts: Best Of, which includes Moments 2006, which is still on their site along with Leeson's blog, which lists a bunch of good video. Whew!

Tom Van Dyke at the Chicago Tribune did this weather feature on one of his first outings with a new video camera - and instead of trying to do TV, he found a great character:

(And why can't I embed video from any newspaper sites?)

Everyone knows about Travis Fox at the Washington Post, but they've got some other great talent: Drumline by Preston Keres has the rhythm. And Justin's Got Game is a good hoops story by Pierre Kattar.

Stephen Crowley at the New York Times (who's only been at it a year) has done some cool stuff with reporter Charlie LeDuff on their series American Album .

Roger Richards at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot edited and produced My Favorite Child, a moving story about the lasting effects of institutionalizing a child with Down Syndrome.

And some newspaper video doesn't have a frame of video in it: Train Jumping from Gary Coronado and writer Christine Evans at the Palm Beach Post isn't video but has nat-sound driven narrative.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Richard Koci Hernandez and Dai Sugano and the rest of the staff over at the San Jose Mercury News are pushing the envelope with their interpretive video, and though there are sometimes rough edges it's always fresh: Friday Night: 7 Bamboo, a karaoke bar story by Dai Sugano is very different from what we're used to and Richard's solo production of Red Hot Rails, a Flash/video/still examination of the explosion of railroad traffic due to increasing imports, is great. And The Extreme Southwest is art, as is Richard's essay on the the Seasons.

Lest we forget our friends up north, the National Post produced Eastside Blues as their very first attempt at video. The Toronto Star's Bernard Weil has a little more experience and has a good Skating video.

The Detroit Free Press is also doing some good work covering the military and Iraq: The Christmas from Fallujah video by Dave Gilkey . And the first Michigan Band of Brothers video of their training in the Mojave Desert before their deployment to Iraq. They also covered a Marine funeral, covered by two shooters (in the same video) in Iraq and Michigan. (Needs Firefox on a Mac.)

Sonya Doctorian at the Rocky Mountain News has done a lot of good stuff, including A Sister's Gift .

Please, dive into the comments and add some more!

Friday, March 9, 2007

What standards should newspaper video have?

The judges' decision to withhold awards from some web video categories in the NPPA Best of TV Photojournalism contest has caused a lot of discussion about what we're doing in the industry and what standards we should have.

Looking beyond the abrasive tone (TV photog/blogger 'Lenslinger' and new media guru Howard Owens are having a Jerry Springer moment over on Howard's blog ) the point that Stewart Lenslinger Pittman is making is not that TV and still SHOOTERS are different, but rather that video and still SHOOTING is different.

The actual points that Lenslinger brings up are valid: He says that the contest judges' decision to withhold awards in some online categories "seeks to establish a standard of visual storytelling that transcends outlet, medium or format.... (consumers) don't want to struggle to understand anything - not in a 500 channel, infinite website world." And he says "With fewer time restrictions and a ubiquitous delivery method, the newspaper industry can indeed rewrite the book on video news. No one's demanding your fare be as slick (and vapid) as what we churn out on the evening news, but it must be clear, clean and easy to follow." Howard Owens generally argues that video can be used as a facet of a story -- and it doesn't have be THE story. Once you edit out the vitriol, both sides are perfectly reasonable positions.

Contests always represent lofty ideals. The contest winners, still or video, are what we should aspire to. Reality is always different. No one can produce contest-winning work on every assignment if they're doing it daily.

Very few people at newspapers have a grasp of how vastly different narrative video is from what they're used to doing. Good video storytelling is emotional and temporal. Newspaper editors try to avoid emotion and seek to capture information at a particular point in time. Newspapers' stock-in-trade is providing facts and figures -- something video is ill-suited to provide.

The web is a great publishing platform because story telling can take almost any form. Words, graphics, tables and charts, videos, stills, and who knows what else. But most newspapers have not yet learned how to choose which format to use with which stories. Video is new and novel for newspapers. But stock market tables, after-the-fact police blotter items, and check-passing banquets shouldn't be covered in video. We shouldn't be focusing on doing the video equivalents of 1/2-column mugshots.

There is plenty of room on our websites for both narrative storytelling video and for ten-second clips that show what something looks like. The problem comes when we turn what should have been a ten-second clip into a two-minute story. We need to develop an institutional knowledge of what stories make good video. Contests can point us toward that goal.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Who says web video has to be short?

Ya gotta love the internet.

On Google Video, a minute :43 of Anna Nicole being sleazy is trailing in page views to conspiracy theories at an hour and 49 minutes.

Of course the anti-immigration folks have 14 minutes of numbers.

All three have over a million and half views.

And here I thought 90 seconds was the key to web video.....

That any of these three are in the "most popular" category is scary. Notably absent from any of the video popularity lists is anything resembling journalism.

Of course, they're way behind the five million views of another conspiracy video that's an hour and a half long. (This one disturbingly opens with a notice that the material in the video is stolen ("contains unlicensed footage.."))

But really, we're in a hurry after all: witness the six and half million views of a 13-second panda sneeze: I guess there's some virtue to brevity.

Of course, while we're on the subject of long videos, you can learn a lot about editing from watching eight minutes of crazy Russian climbers:

Pay attention to the transitions here -- how they get from one scene to another. No, not the stupid pixelation thing, I'm talking about the way they let the action go out of the frame. This one's got over 11 million views.

And finally, the sports video category is filled with long, half-hour plus videos.

So what's better? Long or short?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Red Hots

Richard Koci Hernandez of the San Jose Mercury News put together a great multimedia package about the resurgence of rail traffic due to increased imports. It's a package that really breaks away from the newspaper mindset that a lot of us have. He did both the video and the Flash for "Red Hot Rails."

Unfortunately, the newspaper mindset still rules the Mercury News web site template. A day after it was published, you can't easily find it there.

What's up with that?

If your staff produces something great that will draw traffic over time, make an effort and put it out there for the world to see! Many of the newspapers I look at regularly do the same thing -- hide, fritter away, and lose great content. And worse, the special projects are in Flash and don't get search engine traffic.

Shortly after "Final Salute" won the Pulitzer, it couldn't be found on the Rocky's site. Good stuff on our site disappears after 24 hours. At least Dallas' Katrina and 'Yolanda's Crossing' packages are still on their photo/video page.

C'mon people - the web's not a broadcast medium!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Kurt Andersen from New York Magazine has a column about online newspaper video which succinctly sums up the possibilities of the medium and why quality is important in what we do. It is a must-read.

From "You Must Be Streaming:"

"The lessons seem obvious: Don’t do Web video if you don’t have anything interesting to show, and don’t compete with TV unless you can do something they can’t or won’t. In other words, use the medium."

About Travis Fox, from the Post: "Fox sees himself as a sort of quiet revolutionary, eager to overthrow the ancien rĂ©gime: “The possibility to replace television is in sight.”

And, "Ann Derry, the Times’ video No. 2, enthusiastically but very calmly says, “We are reinventing journalism.”

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Making Content Pay, III

The New York Times, in an article "All the World's a Stage (That Includes the Internet)" Thursday 2/15/07, gives a roundup of the video sharing sites which pay for content and traffic.

The Times article says that more than a dozen sites now pay for video.

They quote Metacafe co-founder Arik Czerniak: “A video has to grab you by the neck in about five seconds — otherwise people lose interest,” Mr. Czerniak said. “The maximum length is about 90 seconds.”

Monday, February 12, 2007

Think of me first as a person....

Roger Richards of the Virginian Pilot has done a two-part video about the subject of a father's home movie, "Think of me First as a Person."

Roger's moving story combines old family footage with current video to show the life of Dwight Core, Jr., a Down syndrome man who was institutionalized by his family when he was a child. Dwight's father recorded film and audio many years ago about the conflicting emotions of putting your own son in an institution. Now, Dwight's sister cares for him at home.

Roger's work shows the value of treating your subjects as persons first. Empathy and care shine through in this piece, making a video that will move you.

Great stuff!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Having a Super time

There are quite a few Newspaper Video shooters in town for the Super Bowl at Dolphins Stadium in Miami.

I had a chat with Matt Dial from the Indianapolis Star while we were standing on queue to join the Media Day zoo at the stadium Tuesday.

He is one of two shooters from the Star who were to do video from Miami for the paper. He was shooting with a Z1U and said he would have been using Firestores if the other case of gear they shipped ahead had made it to Miami. The Colts are a big draw for their website and the video (see "Fans party outside RCA Dome") he did of fans after their playoff win drew 20,000 hits, he said.

Of the thousands of media in attendance, there were a lot more mini-dv cams than I'm used to seeing at pro sports. AP had a couple of shooters there and most papers seemed to have someone shooting video. Even Bloomberg had a vj shooter there; she was editing on top of a trash can the last I saw.

Of course, none of us will be able to shoot the game because of TV rights. This is a big problem that will have to be worked out over time. As more papers transition to using grabs from video, the restrictions on video will become a bigger problem. Even AP is experimenting with pulling stills from video. (See Evan Vucci's post at the bottom of this thread.)

Were you at Media Day? See if you can find yourself:

You can see Matt's Media Day video here . (Needs Firefox on a Mac.)

You can see my Media Day video here .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Making good content pay

Interesting inteview with Brian Storm on OJR: Building a perfect storm of journalism and multimedia

MediaStorm publishes and brokers multimedia projects at a high level. They auctioned off Ed Kashi's work from Iraqi Kurdistan as a flipbook project, with debuting the novel piece.

They also produced Gail Fisher's piece on the Navajo's uranium contamination for the Los Angeles Times. The four-part Blighted Homeland on is beautifully photographed. (You have to dig a little to get to the multimedia pieces.)

MediaStorm is a popular site, featuring serious, quality photojournalism. Brian Storm from the OJR story: "There are a lot of interesting things about the way the audience is different. About 70 different countries hit our website. How do they find us? It's all word of mouth. We don't do any marketing. It is all viral conversation and its exact opposite of broadcast. When we launched on November 16, 2005, maybe 500 people watched our project that day. Today there are thousands of people watching those same projects who have never seen it before right so the whole time-shifting capability is really critical to this medium."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Making content pay

Another Reuters (via story about video sharing notes how martial arts expert Joe Eigo made $25,000 from the five million views of a video he posted on

Video sharing sites are starting to share the wealth, with YouTube anouncing revenue-sharing recently. is one. They're aiming for high quality.

Gates predicts

A Reuters news story out of the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum covers Microsoft chairman Bill Gates' speech:

"The Internet is set to revolutionize television within five years, due to an explosion of online video content and the merging of PCs and TV sets, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said on Saturday."

Searching video

A Washington Post article by Sara Kehaulani Goo talks about the efforts to index online video and the problems of doing so.

From her story:
"The key point to understand is that Internet video is going to go to the television," said Phil Leigh, founder and principal analyst of Inside Digital Media, a digital media market research firm. "All of us are going to use the [Internet] search tool to find what we want to watch" on TV.

Are papers in their death throes?

There's a raging discussion on my NewspaperVideo email list. The news of accelerated media job cuts (Pace of Downsizing Accelerates) has put everyone in panic.

I don't know if we're all fawked. I suspect the New York Times and the Washington Post will continue in some form. The LA Times, they're f*d, though. The super-local super-small papers have a chance of surviving.

But us mid-size metros are in a world of trouble, I think. We depend on a mass audience but our audience is imploding, scattering like a supernova to the far corners of the media universe. Savvy marketers -- from the white house to your local auto dealer -- are bypassing mass media to sell directly to the consumer. At some point the balance will tilt and advertisers will leave our print product like field mice fleeing a grass fire.

As much as I'd like journalism to be free, it ain't. We spend gazillions covering the news. We spent megabucks covering hurricanes for the last few years. We spent megabucks covering Haiti, and Cuba, and the rest of Florida -- our back yard. Real journalism costs real money. Lawyers for FOI requests and record requests aren't cheap. Helicopters cost $750 an hour when the school bus gets hijacked. Heck, it costs $25 just to park to cover an assignment. The sat phone is $2 a minute when the storm hits. Journalism is definitely not free.

What are we going to do? Maybe we'll continue as an advertising company at a hyper-local level. And just maybe, a few of us can make a living as content producers. The Associated Press is a content company. Even the local dinner theater is a content company. They make a living. Maybe we can, too.

We multimedia producers have a highly saleable product. The gazillion outlets for TV are hungry for content. We can sell 'em what we produce after we've posted it on our web site. We can produce high-quality stuff that gets hundreds of thousands of hits, instead of hundreds. We can be the authors of all the content that the aggregators will eventually have to pay for when the AP wire service model wastes away. (We're already talking about dropping AP.) But the transition isn't going to be pleasant.

We had the belt-tightening meeting yesterday. No layoffs, though, they promise. Me, I'm still pushing to get a broadcast camera in the hopes of having marketable footage. Ain't gonna happen, but we can dream, can't we?

At least us new media folks will be the last ones out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


According to the NPD Group , six million households downloaded online video in the third quarter of 2006.

I would have thought about five million of those would be mentos-and-diet-coke videos. But no, sixty percent was porn. Another 20% was from TV shows. Five percent were movies. Which leaves 15% for lonelygirl15, amanda, eepy, and us newspaper people.

Just so you know where we stand.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How's your CMS handle video?

Adrian Holovaty writes about newspaper content management systems in A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change . He explains that rigid content management systems that identify every entry as a "story" get in the way of useful database publishing.

But his arguments also apply to video on newspaper websites. We really need to get video, photo, story, graphic, raw data and archives all together. Arguments for lo-fi video to go with stories are specious until we can post the video with the story, instead of some player on another page.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Showtime for Smithsonian

IFC News says Showtime locked up rights to the Smithsonian Museum's archives. But we're here to look at the newscast, not the news. For you Timescast-style news show fans, check out IFC News' intro and their chromakey background. They manage to combine professional production values with an anti-tv feel.


NY Times invests in Brightcove

The internet video distributor Brightcove just got an additional $59.5 million in funding from a group which includes the New York Times. They've got some heavy hitters behind them, including AOL, Hearst, and I think the Washington Post. See the story at Red Herring.

I hope the practice of putting a TV set (a separate video player) on a web page dies off quickly. I'm still waiting to see an automated content management system that will put video embeds on pages the way newspaper pictures sit on the printed page. The idea of captive pre-roll advertising is really strong, though, so expect to see lots of Brightcove players soon.

On the other hand, anything that increases revenue, I suppose, is a good thing....

One really cool thing about Brightcove is the reporting that tells how many people watched your video all the way through. Check out some of Brightcove's site and you'll see that almost nobody finishes one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Internet TV from a newspaper company

If you haven't checked out lately, they've gotten over their growing pains and their servers feed video smoothly now. It finally works the way it should and it's an interesting place to visit. is a huge internet-only TV station created by Landmark Communications / Pilot Media Companies, whose Virginian-Pilot newspaper is the largest metro in Virginia. (They also own the Weather Channel and multimedia powerhouse Visual Journalists at the Virginian-Pilot contribute pieces to, but the majority of local content comes from dedicated shooters.

They have channels on their player and you can get world, national, and local content, as well as viewer-contributed.

Their ".com is so yesterday" intro is worth the price of admission.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ethernet Inventor Says Transformation to Internet Video is Here

This is a six minute interview from with the guy who invented ethernet. While the perspective he brings to internet video is interesting, what's really cool is how this video got here on this blog. If you haven't experienced Google Video's "post to blog" button, it's really cool. One click and any Google Video is automagically here. If you haven't checked lately, it has become a repository for lots of footage. Getty archival footage is available, as well as almost anything else you can imagine. -- Chuck

The implications are profound says Internet Pioneer Robert Metcalfe.

We are on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the annual Emerging Technology Conference organized by Technology Review. At the kick-off dinner at the MIT Museum, I had the good fortune to interview Robert Metcalfe, the pioneering computer scientist who invented Ethernet back in 1973 -- before that he was a principal researcher at MIT on ARAPNET - the early Internet.

Bob tells Beet.TV he's long had a vision of the Internet as a delivery platform for video. Sure video takes more bandwidth, but it's still all about the Ethernet packets which carry the data, he notes.

Among the most important implications is the prospect of energy savings by facilitating communications through video interaction.

Thanks Bob for all you've done.

Vlogging The World's Top New Innovators

Gathered at the MIT conference are the the world's top 35 young innovators who are being recognized for their achievements. Technology Review has launched a cool vlog comprised of interviews with many of the winners, as well as speakers gathered here at the conference.

Please stay tuned to Beet.TV this week for ongoing coverage of the Technology Review conference up here at MIT.

-- Andy Plesser

View this post on Beet.TV,

- Contact us at

Coming Clean: MIT's Technology Review, the organizer of the conference, is a client of Plesser Holland, publisher of Beet.TV

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Adobe Digital Editions: free ebook on Flash

Speaking of Flash, there's a free e-copy of a chapter in the Visual Quickpro Guide: Macromedia Flash 8 Advanced for Windows and MacIntosh on Adobe Labs' site:

This is interesting because the page uses Adobe Digital Editions - a new way of publishing using a pdf-style drm program. It is still in beta, but now runs on Mac OS X. It somehow hooks into Safari when it installs.

Check it out.

Update: this is one funky program. It only works when connected.... you can't download the content, apparently. It puts a 4kb ebx.etd file on your computer that manages the digital rights. If you click that file, it tells you you've already accessed it and you're out of luck. But if you go back to Adobe Labs page, you can still read the content.

When you right-click on an ebook, you get a settings dialog that can allow Adobe access to your web cam and mic....!!!

And as noted in the comments below, it's not the whole visual qp guide book, just 24 pages.

FLASH VIDEO HOW-TO by Chuck Fadely

FLASH VIDEO HOW-TO by Chuck Fadely

Adobe (Macromedia) Flash is the best way to put video on a web page. Nearly every computer hooked to the internet has a Flash player installed. A Flash .flv-encoded video streams itself, so you don't need a streaming server.

There are a number of different versions of Flash. Flash 8 is the current and highest quality. But many office computers have the FlashMX players, an older version, and are locked down so the user can't upgrade. If most of your traffic comes from the 9-5 weekday crowd, you should encode using FlashMX (which uses Sorenson Spark encoding). If your audience is hooked up, use Flash 8 (which uses the On2 VP6 codec)- it's better quality.

You can encode video into Flash in a number of ways. There is, of course, Flash 8 , if you've got it. You can also use Sorenson Squeeze , a great compression software that has many uses beyond flash. VP6 encoding software from the company that wrote the encoder for Flash is On2 Flix. makes stand-alone encoders and a Quicktime plug-in so you can export Flash from a Quicktime app. And if you're on Windows, there's a free encoder from Riva.

Compression settings are a whole 'nother encyclopedia. In general, though, you should compress your video using two-pass settings, at a 400kbps max data rate, at half the frame rate of the original video (15fps for normal ntsc 29.97 fps video), at 320x240 for sd video and at 400x224 for 16:9 widescreen video. Sound can be 56k at 22khz sample. This will give you a video with rather mediocre quality but will be able to play on the $24-a-month slow dsl lines. Compression settings are an art, though, and vary with content, size, and motion in your video.

Once you've encoded your video into flash, you'll need a player for it. A .flv video won't play by itself. It has to be played in a flash player. To run it in a flash player, it has to be put on a page with a chunk of html that calls the player. has a bunch of (commercial) info about flash players.

There is a player at as well as a tutorial on how to embed it on a page.

The html code to put Flash in a page looks something like this:

HTML embed code:

<object width="400" height="224" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,19,0">
<param name="salign" value="lt">
<param name="quality" value="high">
<param name="scale" value="noscale">
<param name="wmode" value="transparent">
<param name="movie" value="">
<param name="FlashVars" value="&streamName=FLV_Video_URL&skinName=">
<embed width="400" height="224" flashvars=&streamName=FLV_Video_URL&autoPlay=false&autoRewind=true&quality="high" scale="noscale" salign="LT" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" src="" wmode="transparent">

This coding will play a widescreen flv video from my site named "video.flv" It uses a player named "flvplayer.swf" to play it. Cut, paste, and figure it out. (Watch out for dropped brackets and quotes. Getting html code to display on an html page is a bitch.)

And here's what that code produces:

Here's the sermon on the mount, straight from the source: Adobe - Developer Center : Flash Video Learning Guide

Here's WebMonkey on embedding the video.

Here's University of Florida instructor Mindy McAdams' instructions: Flash and Video . (pdf)

Here's how to do it with Windows Movie Maker and Riva:'s "WWW FAQs: How do I add video to my web site?"

Another good one is at's forums.

Here's a WordPress page with links to a lot of plugins to get the video on your WordPress blog -- but many work with other types of pages.

The Wimpy Player is a nice one. This has ways to play in both html and javascript.

For an overview of Flash video, including streaming vs progressive, see the Flash Video 101 articles on this page from Peachpit.

Good luck.

Video killed the TV Star

Newspapers and TV Stations are circling around each other like dogs looking for a fight. In this Washington Post story, Newspaper-TV Marriage Shows Signs of Strain , Frank Ahrens explains the trend.
"At the Washington bureau of the Belo newspaper chain, two veteran television reporters whose stories appeared on Belo's 19 broadcast stations were laid off and are to be replaced by videographers who will shoot digital video for the Web sites of Belo's 11 newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Handycams: tape is dying

A bunch of new camcorders were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. New hard drive and digital camcorders with proprietary codecs that you won't be able to edit in your NLE. See

The Panasonic GS300 is apparently discontinued and replaced by a model that doesn't have external microphone input.

Treat your Optura 50's and GS 400's with care -- they were apparently the last of their breed: cheap 'corders with manual controls and inputs.

TV Jersey

Jersey's got their own TV now:

YouTube is their friend.

Pangea Ultima

Convergence is coming -- but not soon: New York Times

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quality Counts

It is entirely possible to produce good content with cheap cameras. See this music video, produced with a cell phone: 'Oceans' by Rob Dickinson

But much of what we do as journalists involves making a story rather than just covering it. Plane crashes and shootings aren't going to happen in front of your staff very often, no matter how many point-and-shoot cameras you put on the street. Much of what we do for a living is to explain boring stuff in interesting ways.

To make compelling video of those stories takes talent and decent gear. And any business that depends on gear should have equipment that stands up to daily use.

Beyond that, though, we need to produce stories that have more than novelty. We don't want our video to become the pet rocks or cb radio of this generation. If all you want is traffic, run porn or mentos videos ... or maybe porn AND mentos videos....

The buzz these days is all about community. But newspapers have ALWAYS been about community. Newspapers exist to land on the doorstep of people who have put down roots, who are raising their kids, and who are fully vested in their neighborhoods.

We need to invest in serving our communities online -- in ways that our viewers will remember favorably. Quality counts. Viewers -- our subjects -- have very long memories and will never forget that we made them look bad or made their voices sound awful.

As a journalist of long experience, I can tell you that nothing is as final as the door slammed in your face by a news-making person who once had a story done on them they didn't like. And no one is as helpful as the subject who respects what your institution has done to them previously.

Your community deserves steady, clear video with good sound.

(This was written in response to Mindy McAdams blog entry "Cheap cameras fine for video?" )

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Here's what you need to know if your boss hands you a camera and tells you to do a video story:

IF YOU ARE SHOOTING TAPE, ALWAYS PRE-ROLL AND POST-ROLL: this is a REALLY IMPORTANT technical thing related to editing that will bite you in the ass if you don't follow the rules. This means:
1) ALWAYS record a minute of tape before starting. Video editing programs need extra space before and after the bit you want. (Pre-roll and post-roll!) Write down the story, date and your name on a piece of paper and tape that for 60 seconds. Or tape your cat for 60 seconds. This avoids tape dropouts that always happen at the beginning. It also reassures you that the camera works.
2) ALWAYS record at least 4 seconds before someone starts talking and at least another 4 seconds after they stop. (you can't capture the soundbite in the editing program otherwise. Pre-roll and post-roll!)
3) ALWAYS record a minute of tape after you've finished everything. Your cat is still fair game. (pre-roll and post-roll!)
4) REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT: Never break timecode! If you try to watch what you've recorded and then start recording again with even a half-second of blank tape in between, the piece cannot be edited. DON'T REWIND UNTIL YOU'RE DONE! NEVER! EVER!


HOLD THE SHOT: Line up your shot in the viewfinder, press record, and then HOLD IT FOR TEN SECONDS. Don't pan. Don't zoom. HOLD THE SHOT. Count to ten! Even if we only need a second of it, hold the shot so it can be edited later.

SOUND is the most important thing in video. Record the interview sound separately from the images. Get the microphone within 12" of the person speaking and hold it still during the interview. Don't talk while the person is speaking -- nod but don't say "un hunh". The interview is called "A-roll" and will be the main sound track for the piece. Keep the subject's sentences short and sweet. Record the sound in a quiet place. Turn off the tv and radio. Air conditioners, traffic, and ringing phones are your enemy. Listen to the sound through headphones while you're recording.

IMAGES: Now that you've gotten the sound, take video of everything the person talked about. Shoot close, medium and wide of each thing. Hold each shot for 10 seconds. Let the subject move, not you. Don't pan or zoom. Get close. Brace against something so the camera doesn't shake. The images you shoot of whatever the subject talked about is called "B-roll" For a minute-long interview, you'll need dozens -- DOZENS -- of different B-roll shots related to what he's talking about. Shoot details, establishing shots, and activity. Shoot lots of shots of the subject doing things. Make sure you've got at least five different shots for each good sound bite. For example, if the subject says "Oh my god -- I can't believe we're alive! The car crashed right into the bedroom!", you'll need a wide shot of the house, a medium shot of the car in the wall, several shots from different angles of the car from both inside and out, close-ups of the bed, close-ups of the broken wall, details of family photos on the dresser with debris around, etc.

BE FOCUSED: Web videos need to be short -- one or two minutes. Pick one aspect of your story -- something with emotion -- and make the video about that. Keep it short.

FIND A CHARACTER: A successful video needs a 'character' to be the star -- find someone who is articulate and engaging, someone who makes quips and jokes -- and does them in short, sweet sound bites. Run-on sentences are death in video.

GET THE SUBJECT TO TELL THE TALE: Don't ask yes or no questions. Ask the subject to "describe" or "give me the background" or "tell me in short sentences" what happened. If they ramble, say "I'm not sure I understand. Tell me again about...." until they say it in a direct way. You need the 25-words-or-less version! See "BE FOCUSED" above.

DON'T STEP ON THE AUDIO: Don't start talking until they've stopped. Don't jump in immediately with another question after they've stopped speaking -- first, you need a break in between for editing, and second, people hate a vacuum and will sometimes volunteer really great stuff after they've directly answered the question.

Remember to pre-roll and post-roll! Don't hit the record/off switch until at least four seconds after they've stopped speaking.

Have fun!

FOR MORE TIPS, check out these links: -- Shooting Web video: How to put your readers at the scene --- producer training -- online journalism wiki on video -- Envronmental Justice Foundation video training -- Rules for Taking Good Video -- BBC's Good Shooting guide -- basic principles -- Ezine "How to shoot good digital video with your camcorder".

Sunday, January 7, 2007

What is your preferred language?

Michael Browning, one of the most amazing writers ever to toil for newspapers, died recently. He worked for much of his career at the Herald, covering China for a while, and anything else his expansive mind fancied. I remember covering a hurricane in Key West with him once. While I literally waded into the storm to take pictures, he retired to his hotel room with a stack of books. In the morning, his story wove history, literature, and the cosmos together to explain man's struggle against nature. I hated being assigned to his stories -- he could never really tell you what they were going to be about.

His language was on a different plane from most journalism. His writing was advanced calculus compared to simple inverted pyramids. It was brilliant. But it didn't lend itself to succint story budget lines. Toward the end of his career at the Herald, budget cuts and a changing emphasis on story lengths marginalized Browning, sending him off to other employers. I think editors weren't able to deal with someone who couldn't sum up his story a day in advance in a single paragraph. His language was not that of newspapers. But if there were more writers like him, we'd have a different language in our papers, and probably more readers.

Editors didn't know what to do with Browning's writing; they didn't speak the language.

Right now, we've got another problem with language. Newspaper editors in general don't speak the language of multimedia and images. They can't wrap their minds around the possibility of telling a story in some other way than words. They don't know how to take a great story and make an interactive graphic out of it. They don't know how to visualize a video that will tell all the emotion and character of a story without words. They don't know how to look at a photo and find a thousand words in it. They don't know how to make a web page that sings. They don't have the visual language skill.

If you've never watched a teen play video games, you should. You will receive an education in another -- visual -- language. Any kid who's ever touched a game controller can process visual images at mind-blowing speed. Their brains are wired for this language. A flood of images come at them at 30 frames per second; they process and discriminate intricate details from this blur without a problem. It is a language -- a way to process and deliver information using context, cuing and inflection. And newspaper editors, in general, don't speak a visual language. Nor do managers -- the people who are desperately trying to hire employees who do speak it... so we end up with illiterates running things.

The problem is finding journalists who speak a visual language. Do you find a journalist and teach them visuals? Or do you find artists and teach them journalism? It's pretty clear that hiring computer geeks for your web site doesn't produce good journalism, visual or otherwise.