Tag Archives: videojournalism

Star-Ledger wins three Emmy Awards for videojournalism

Last month Journalism.co.uk spoke with Seth Siditsky, assistant managing editor for visuals at US regional newspaper the Star-Ledger about its approach to video and how its videojournalism had been nominated for seven Emmy Awards.

At the weekend, the paper won three awards in the sports online, public/current/community affairs and writer/producer categories. Brian Donohue, host of LedgerLive, the evolution of which Siditsky explained to Journalism.co.uk, took the writer/producer accolade.

Siditsky told us last month:

Video here is more entrenched in this newspaper than it’s ever been. It hasn’t necessarily turned an advertising corner and I think we’ve realised that this isn’t going to be the magic bullet. But does that mean it doesn’t have value? I think it has value as a medium unto itself and is a way for us to tell stories that can be as good or possibly even better than ways that organisations were traditionally doing before.

Mastering Multimedia: Improving video on newspaper websites

Many newspaper-produced video stories are boring. The best stories have surprises sprinkled throughout the timeline, which helps keep the viewer engaged. This is mature storytelling that most newspaper video producers have failed to master.

Colin Mulvany offers some excellent advice on what newspaper publishers doing video can improve, including tips on storytelling, editing and the basics of subject matter.

Full post at this link…

On the same note, Seth Siditsky, assistant managing editor for visuals at New Jersey’s Star-Ledger paper and NJ.com website, tells Journalism.co.uk about how newspaper video is progressing in the US.

YouTube’s videojournalism competition opens for entries

Project:Report, the videojournalism contest for aspiring journalists run by the Pulitzer Center and YouTube, has opened its doors for the second year running.

The competition involves three rounds of video assignments. The first to be submitted before 28 February should “document a single day in the life of a compelling person the world should meet and showcase how that person is making a positive impact in his or her community”.

Ten entrants will be chosen to go through to the second round. Five winners will eventually be selected and each will receive a $10,000 travel fellowship with the Pulitzer Center.

Videojournalist David Dunkley Gyimah named Southbank artist in residence

Videojournalist and Westminster University lecturer David Dunkley Gyimah has been made an artist in residence at London’s Southbank Centre.

During his 2009-10 residency, Dunkley Gyimah will work on a new form of artistic film, mixing documentary style with a new response to the film format – he’s already begun working on projects for his residency on his site viewmagazine.tv.

“As a deep reservoir of knowledge, arts and cultures it would be my wish to find new discourses for creating arts reportage, but also to work alongside other artists and, through the style of solo videojournalism I have practised for the last 16 years, continue to develop styles and manners in which we can exploit new and digital media forms to both tell stories and create our own visual and literary footprints,” said Dunkley Gyimah in a statement.

Related reading on Journalism.co.uk: Comment from Dunkley Gyimah – ‘Videojournalism is not a one-size-fits-all medium’

Camp VJ London – Day 2: Filming interviews

Yesterday I attended day two of the Visual Editors’ videojournalism training in London. The four-day course covers the fundamentals of videojournalism with proceeds going to not-for-profit news project Beamups.

You can read my report on day one of the course – an introduction to the basics of videojournalism in this post.

Below are some introductory tips to filming interviews learned from the course.

There are still places available on Thursday’s (October 29) programme, which will focus on selling your videos.

As day two was to focus on filming interviews, I spent most of it getting to grips with my tripod. I wanted to be confident with my kit so I could gain confidence of my interview subject; not look like a complete novice while struggling to get my camera to sit straight.

We learned about basic framing for a shot; where to stand to allow you to maintain eye contact and yet monitor your camera; and tips on getting your subject to relax and open up.

But my main lesson of the day went back to confidence: try to anticipate problems that might arise when you’re filming, before you’re doing it, advised our tutor Robb.

Good advice:

  • Prepare your tripod and camera as far as possible (e.g. check your battery’s charge).
  • Avoid one word or yes/no answers by giving your subject commands rather than asking questions e.g. “Tell me….”, “Describe to me….” – you need longer answers so you can get the worthwhile soundbites to edit.
  • Take headphones with you so (if your camera allows it) you can monitor how the footage sounds on location.
  • Take plenty of natural sound – you may need this if editing shots together.

Sent out on our lunch hour to find willing interview subjects, I convinced a local businessman to let me film in his shop. A hairdresser for 45 years, he was animated and engaging.

Some things I learned:

  • Don’t be afraid to move your camera if you want to change the framing during an interview. I needed to step a little closer to improve the frame and give louder audio. Just make sure you let your subject know what you are doing.
  • If your subject is sitting and you’re standing, this doesn’t matter, so long as the camera is at eye-level with the interviewee rather than the camera looking down on them.
  • Asking some initial throwaway questions helps your interviewee relax and gives you time to adjust your camera if needs be.

Editing my footage (around 10 minutes including cutaway shots) was much quicker today – less than an hour for three minutes, including work on audio and splicing together different answers with cutaways.

Camp VJ London – Day 1: An intro to visual storytelling

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend day one of the Visual Editors’ videojournalism training in London. The four-day course covers the fundamentals of videojournalism with proceeds going to not-for-profit news project Beamups.

Below are some introductory tips to visual storytelling learned from the course.

There are still places available on Wednesday (October 28) and Thursday’s (29) programmes, which will focus on video editing and selling your videos respectively.

Day one was spent learning how to use our cameras, the basic shot types and – after a stint in the field (well, London’s Finchley Road) – some simple editing skills.

Here are my main lessons from the day:

Using your camera:

  • Hold your camera from beneath e.g. using your hand beneath to make it more stable;
  • If you don’t have a tripod and need to steady your camera, find a natural tripod (a ledge, a table) or use your own body to stabilise the shot.

What film can do:

  • Film can handle multiple story forms e.g. images (both still and moving); graphics an animation; and audio;
  • Use visual elements to solve problems in your story e.g. to help move between locations or compress time, such as the transition from day to night.

Some tips for audio whilst filming:

  • “Microphones don’t have brains,” Robb told us, so you need to monitor how your film might sound while your in the field;
  • Take a pair of headphones out with you – while you’re concentrating on the visuals there will be many sounds your camera and its mic pick up that don’t even register;
  • Sometimes you need to think of your camera as an audio recorder to capture extra sounds in addition to all the shots you need.

In the afternoon we were sent out to practice the morning’s lessons, in particular the idea of 3:6:9 – three angles; six seconds; nine locations for the camera.

And here’s what I ended up with after an introduction to my editing software (Final Cut Express) and 45 minutes working on it. It’s not finished, but it’s a start!

In particular, I need to look for links (colours/characters/objects) between the scenes which will strengthen the transition from one to the next.

Adam Westbrook: 6×6 video for freelance journalists

This is the second in a series of six blog posts by Adam Westbrook, each with six tips for the next generation of freelance multimedia journalists, republished here with permission.

Follow the series at this link or visit Adam’s blog.

Video has by far and away become the most popular medium for the multimedia journalist – to the extent it almost seems many won’t consider it a truly multimedia project unless it’s got a bit of video in it. The thing is, video is a tricky medium and must be treated differently in the world of online journalism.

1) Video doesn’t need to be expensive
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t do video just because you haven’t got any cash. Sure, if you want to go right to the top range, say a Sony EX3, Final Cut Pro and After Effects, yes, it’s going to set you back about £3,000 ($5,000). But high quality can be achieved on lower budgets.

Check out my article on how I put together an entire film making kit for £500 ($800).

2) Shoot for the edit
If there’s one piece of advice for multimedia journalists making films – it comes from Harris Watts, in a book he published 20 years ago. In ‘Directing on Camera’ he describes exactly what shooting footage is:

“Shooting is collecting pictures and sound for editing (…) so when you shoot, shoot for editing. Take your shots in a way that keeps your options open.”

Filming with the final piece firmly in mind will keep your shooting focused and short. So when you start filming, start looking for close ups and sequences. The latter is the hardest: an action which tells your story, told over two or more shots.

Sequences are vital to storytelling and must be thought through.

A simple sequence: shot 1, soldiers feet walking from behind
A simple sequence: shot 1, soldiers feet walking from behind
Then to a wide shot of the same action...
Then to a wide shot of the same action…
...and then to a wide reverse showing more detail
…and then to a wide reverse showing more detail

3) Master depth of field
In online video, close-ups matter. The most effective way to hold close-ups – especially of a person – is to master depth of field. Put simply the depth of field how much of your shot in front of and behind your subject is kept in focus. It is controlled by the aperture on your camera – so you’ll need a camera with a manual iris setting.

Your aim – especially with close-ups – is to have your subject in clear focus, and everything behind them blurred: Alexandra Garcia does it very well in her Washington Post In-Scene series. (HT: Innovative Interactivity)

Screenshot: Innovative InteractivityScreenshot: Innovative Interactivity

Here’s a quick guide to getting to grips with depth of field:

  1. you need a good distance between the camera and subject
  2. a good distance between the subject and the background
  3. and a low f-stop on your iris – around f2.8, depending on how much light there is in your scene. A short focal length does this too.
  4. You may need to zoom in on your subject from a distance

4) Never wallpaper
If there was ever an example of the phrase ‘easier said than done’ this would be it. It’s a simple tip on first read: make sure every shot in your film is there for a reason. But with pressures of time or bad planning you can often find yourself ‘wallpapering’ shots just to fill a gap.

In his excellent book The Television News Handbook Vin Ray says following this rule will help you out no end:

“One simple rule will dramatically improve your television packaging: never use a shot – any shot – as wallpaper’. Never just write across pictures as though they weren’t there, leaving the viewer wondering what they’re looking at. Never ever.”

5) Look for the detail and the telling shot
Broadcast journalists are taught to look for the ‘telling shot’, and more often than not make it the first image. If your story is about a fire at a school, the first thing the audience need to see is the school on fire. If it’s about a woman with cancer, we must see her in shot immediately.

But the telling shot extends further: you can enhance your storytelling by looking for little details which really bring your story to life.

Vin Ray says looking for the little details are what set great camera operators apart from the rest:

“Small details make a big difference. Nervous hands; pictures on a mantelpiece; someone whispering into an ear; a hand clutching a toy; details of a life.”

I’m midway through shooting a short documentary about a former prisoner turned lawyer. One of the first things I noticed when I met him was a copy of the Shawshank Redemption on his coffee table – a great little vignette to help understand the character.

6) Break the rules
The worst thing a multimedia journalist can do when producing video for the web is to replicate television – unless that’s your commission of course. TV is full of rules and formulas, all designed to hide edits, look good to the eye, and sometimes deceive. Fact is, online video journalism provides the chance to escape all that.

Sure it must look good, but be prepared to experiment – you’ll be amazed what people will put up with online:

  • Cutaways are often used to cover over edits in interviews; why not be honest and use a simple flash-dissolve instead. Your audience deserves to know where you’ve edited, right?
  • TV packages can’t operate without being leaden with voice over, but your online films don’t need to be.
  • Piece to cameras don’t need to be woodenly delivered with the camera on a tripod.

The final word…
Here’s VJ pioneer David Dunkley-Gyimah speaking at this year’s SxSW event in the US:

When it comes to the net, there is no code yet as I believe that is set in stone (…) we’ve all been taking TV’s language and applying that and it hasn’t quite worked. Video journalism needs a more cinematic, heightened visual base.”

Newspaper videojournalism – mapped

Courtesy of Ian Reeves and Kent University’s Centre for Journalism comes a map plotting newspaper video experiences and experiments across the world.

The map is intended as a place for journalists and publishers to share tips and examples of ‘best practice’ in newspaper video journalism and can be contributed to at this link.