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?