Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I'm pressing Jasmin on a question and she's not going to budge answering it. Re-edit interview soon.
These are possibly the first glimpses of the very talented and guarded, acting Newsnight editor Jasmin Bhuttar who's standing in after Peter Barron was headhunted by Google.
I'll be posting about Newsnight, which appeared in this week's Guardian.
I worked on the programme when I was starting off my broadcast career.
In the runnings for editor include Daniel Pearl, deputy editor of the 10 O'Clock News and Eddie Morgan, an ex-Newsnight staffer.
Nailng the Stand Up/ Piece to camera as a videojournalist from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.
The clip you're seeing involves me emerging from a police press conference amongst a queue of policemen and involved no camera operator. How did I do it?
I'd been on the morning shift - a raid to arrest a throng of criminals was being organised by the police.
The codename: Operation Bumblee.
During the briefing I took the necessary shots I needed, caught the duty Sergeant speaking to his men, then realised I needed a bridge.
A bridge would enable me to relay the mood at the time.
So I gauged how long I had, took the camera - a beta 100 - and placed it outside the briefing room and pressed record.
I then went back into the room knowing I only had one shot at this emerging with the police.
In fact I guffed the first because I could see a policeman standing in front of the camera, so I went back in and sandwiched myself between some other policemen and did the take.
Watch the guy in the frame, a newspaper reporter, who has written on his face a look of surprise, before quickly realising what I was doing.
The report was part of a lengthier one on Crime and the opening shot comes from inside Wormwood Scrubs - a high level prison where I'd been inside interview inmate who were serving life sentences.
The film itself is from my archive 1995. I'll try and find the original video report
It's not that viewers are tired of news, they're tired of the way we make it, is the maxim that's come to define why viewers are abandoning news, according senior TV news exec.
Never has this statement rang so true as the economy slowly implodes while video producers look for the low-hanging-fruit video pieces.
When it comes to business stories, historically producers have had to test themselves. The action often happens behind closed mahogany doors and computer screens.
And how do you talk to your constituents explaining the complexities of business without them falling asleep.
But today, the lack of video stories turning finance into high drama has worn thin and the drama can't get any higher.
Great Story Telling
In the last week, quite fortuitously Jeff Randal, the Telegraph's Editor-at-Large has been able to tweak a commissioned set of programmes to the BBC to deliver compelling radio to catch the adrenalin of this high drama.
Good solid producing, backed by a spring in the step at reporting business - that's what Randal delivers.
When I was at Newsnight I recall the programme used a fun fair to explain the ups and downs of a time; the UK's perennial business cycle of boom and bust. It was brilliantly worked.
And on the small box, it's to those we've trusted to understand how the economy a sick patient is continually throwing up: Newsnight and Channel 4.
But where oh where are the Video journalism pieces?
This is where the slow brew of video making and the way newspapers operate, compared with TV, was going to reap major dividends.
Newspaper Video Journalist
Let the video journalist onto the beat, out to their contacts, into the communities and see what they come back with.
The repercussions for this story run so deep, so wide that you could throw a video camera out on a fishing line and it'd catch the breathlessness of this issue.
And while I'd raid my contact book and that of my journalism colleagues to get into any financial institute in the city, the other side of the story, has largely for the meantime been neglected by TV and video producers online.
It's the equivalent of embeds filming the chaos in the war room of a major conflict, yet ignoring the calamity on the battle field.
In part the excuse could be it's yet to trickle down in any great scale, but shareholders, home owners, pension holders, buy-to-letters are going under.
Video journalism was not just going to be about point and shoot, or even slavishly following the TV agenda, but to break new ground.
It's not that business video isn't interesting, it's the way it's been historically made that may suggest it can't make interesting video pieces
Monday, September 29, 2008
The panel are from a broad range of media, e.g Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Standard and Telegraph etc. Joseph Harker - Assistant Comments editor from The Guardian, and someone I have known for a long time has crossed swords with Anne McElvoy a columnist at the Evening Standard.
Ms McElvoy used the word "random" referring to the attack on Ben Kinsella - white.
Joseph argued it intimated that the other murders involving black youth wasn't innocent.
The Panel discuss the figures from latest reports with Mark Easton, now the BBC's Home Affairs Editor ( He was at Channel 4 News when I worked there) saying actual figures show crime going down.
Joseph Harker agrees that you could not ignore however that 2/3rd of the deaths have been been black.
Undoubtedly an angle we can't ignore, he said. Hewlett asks what he calls a vexed question. Does knife crime reflect racial stereotypes? A montage ffs of news broadcasts.
The arc image of knife crime
Hewlett interviews race czar and former broadcaster Trevor Phillips who talks about the power of the image in reporting knife crime.
There are two types of black characters within the story, mums, suffering; dads, dignified and then the hoods.
Trevor then raises a poignant and powerful, if not controversial depending where your POV point, why knife crime was is where it is.
He says a generation of refugee children from vicious war torn regions are now maturing in a culture which is ill suited to understand their back grounds.
He concludes the media is not working hard enough to find out what's going on here.
Hewlett asks the Sun if they were getting it wrong. Their representative vigorously denies their coverage is loaded. That's an insult he adds claiming their reporter is himself black.
He says race issue has been blurred.
Ben Kinsella and Robert Knox says Harker got massive coverage. Cites figures that the 23 non white murders got less less than 50 reports, whilst Ben Kinsella and Knox got 200 and 300 stories respectively.
The Sun earlier commented that Knox, who was to star in Harry Porter was a celeb story.
Coverage of crime
Does the coverage reflect a lack of understanding of black families, asks Hewlett.
Harker says yes qualifying. Easton adds sometimes the press is reluctant to say really wants going on, putting forward the view that a black on black killing is less in philosophical terms a story compared to a white boy being stabbed out on a drink.
The Sun speaker is uncomfortable with this.
Does the Guardian understand this issue asks Helwett to Harker.
Harker's response is intriguing in so far as he does not defend his colleagues unequivocally: They are white middle class, from the home counties, so they see things another way.
When Ian Blair the Met Chief Police said the Media was institutionally racist that's what he was referring to says Harker.
So what did the debate reveal?
That there are chasms of difference in the way the media see the story and that whilst it's likely there will be further deaths, that the media has not got to the bottom of reporting the substance of these heinous crimes.
Going from Online to TV - that's the dream of Filminute.com and they're inching closer to it
Almost every media company, newspapers now, hold out the hope that their videos will make compelling watching and break viewing records.
But the holy grail, at least now, is still getting access to the TV screens.
Current.TV sorted that out as part of their growth strategy.
Online is still the long tail
Where once upon a time, broadband was the outback, strategically within a number of broadcast corporations, it's become the ground for the added extras.
"Television Networks and publishers eager to enter and go beyond Web 2.0 are using it as a repository for repeats. At best meeting the need from 'cash rich, time poor' audience. At worst just plugging a nuisance gap: 'what do we do with this all this capacity?"
In time I believe the newspaper industry will be marshaled by their own visual agencies; a suped up Press Association gearing their products for cable, Net TV and various other outlets to amortise their videos.
There is money there, someone's just got to be build the agency and find the buyers.
Online to onTV
Filminute demonstrate how with compelling content, the move looks more than feasible.
Last week I worked with its one of their executive editors to design a look and feel around their existing content: 25 one minute films, which have courted publicity from Wired and Variety and played at a purpose-built cinema in Selfridges - unheard of.
[Part of Filminutes running order used to construct the programme from Vancouver]
For the first show, the links came from the sharp looking Presenter Peter Shinkoda from Vancouver and Exec producers Sabaa Quao in London and John Ketchum in Bucharest.
The above link to the show is Not the final broadcast version which was attempting to resolve technical film issues between cameras shooting NTSC and PAL.
A small team of fantastic producers from notes discussed with Sabaa pulled together their shoot - all in a day and the tapes were sent over.
I shot three segments with Sabaa in London within Selfridges - half a day including the outline of the show. And then a day of editing.
The hold up - day or so - came from sourcing appropriate music.
But the result is, you can see on Adobe's Player platform - something that you could imagine on television, with behind the scene extras on each film maker in the competition.
With the amount of video and specialists within newspapers etc, this surely has to be part of THEIR strategy, at least in a manner of making money from their assets.
I'll post a longer how to including some of the problems involved with NTSC and PAL shooting on viewmagazine.tv,
Tomorrow - creating adverts with one person crews, video journalism
Whether you're a journalism educator, media exec or media watcher, here's something you should try and get your hands on: Trends in newsroom 2008 .
I had mistakenly thought it was one of the many conference give aways, from when I attended WAN, but I have been worming through over the past month and it is quite frankly a superb narrative of the changing landscape with a who's who of what they're doing and how.
Often reports can be too centric, the West, Europe etc. This report takes a broad scope and delivers some pertinent, as well as early warning signs of further change ahead.
It does cost 250 Euros, I have just discovered, but if you're an outfit, that's hardly anything to quibble.
Simply a good buy. I'll add some more notes on the contents later.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
One man's desire, an incomprehensible drive, whom at times was ridiculed, humiliated, but he kept going.
The mere inclusion of Peres in a video shown to the League of Nations blew it for him, but he regrouped and along the way sought interdependent thinkers e.g. Angelina Jolie, Jude law, Annie Lennox, who shared his passion and were willing to give their time and support.
And then one day, one day in September the guns stopped. They fell silent in Afghanistan - a province riddled with killings, so that humanitarian aid could be given to those who needed it most: children.
This wasn't just a superb documentary, it was life changing, for any cynic or doubter, that the will of the determined conquers all.
The film starts from 1999 when Jeremy Gilley had his dream. The film, award winning and why yes, documents his odyssey to change a significant core value of people and the world.
That one person, with the help of others could do this puts to shame others.
It also puts into perspective our loyalties, priorities etc.
When he first launched no one was interested.
He deserves all the riches of humanity that comes his way.
The magic number by technologists was 8mb download speeds, which would enable us to watch lives stream - mirroring the data rate of tvs' stream.
Livestation.com has already cracked that, with a fair few other ISPs; the experience of watching online may not quite be television but its creeping closer.
And yes whilst the two are not the same, I firmly believe the experience of watching a film at 640X480 or more outstrips 320X240.
You only have to watch an Apple trailer at different sizes to get the point or less Holly wood Studio Vincent Laforet which I came across on Angela Grant's superb videographer - posted by Dan Chung.
Or please do have a look at Hillman Curtis' new stuff who uses prime lenses to achieve such great shallow depths of field.
Consumer end, we're getting there. Most of the movies I can now post will make it around 950x540 with file sizes as low as 25mb thanks to the supreme compression in the h264 codec.
This morning I posted some of the films that reflect, I hope, a more appreciative viewing experience, as well as what I use VJ for: news, docs, commercials, long format programmes and corporates.
As videojournalism matures, full quality screen will become the norm; granted grainy news worthy images will still take pride of place, but with new camera-lens technology, the experience is about to go up several notches.
Journalism is about to get more visceral.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Oh no another self indulgent book, with one snag; it hasn't been published yet, despite me toying around with chapters.
So a book that combined video journalism, multimedia and the rest, what might be inside.
I suppose it would be what you'd want to know at conferences
Here's a couple of ideas:
- Videojournalism circa 1994 what worked and what didn't. NB The BBC's hyperlocal idea for news has come full circle.
- Video journalism in Sport - How video journalism was used in the Lennox- Tyson fight. tips sich as fast shutter speeds
- Video journalism in wars and conflicts
- Moving from basic video journalism to advance
- Flash and Video Journalism - some of the early work 1999, I did with a colleague using Flash and Video and how that's dramatically changed.
- Motives and techniques in long format. Recently I have finished a number of projects : a commercial, long format half hour show and promo - vertical editing.
- In about three weeks I'm pitching a script which mixes docu and drama. Mmm
- Added xtras - what you need to give your shoots that bit more
Am I allowed to publish the Phd stuff I'm doing, which is kinda........ ok just a thought
p.s if you look at the front page of viewmagazine.tv, those little boxes animate into pictures and pretty much cover the breath of my media - starting from 1987 at Radio Leicester
So here it is, the academic multimedia lecture room
Less geared to the concentric spatial approach, but an array of screens, which at any time can be independent of each other.
The primary facing screen can be replicated across four others.
Skypes and Ichats are intended to come off the back of live news broadcast where the editor will give us a couple of minutes for students to ask questions.
Oh and I'm told I can in a kafkaesque flick of a switch control every one's screen.
[Moral outrage and indignation follows]
Ok I didn't say I would do that.
Incidentally one door away in googleesque, down play fashion is the anti room - a sort chill out space with movable chairs and tables that can be built like Lego into an array of seating configurations
But the question is what should the multimedia lecture room look like?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Whilst the question draws some parody with jokes about light-bulb changing from lawyers to rugby players, everyone has an opinion; there's some common ground.
These are the best of times and the worst of times.
Basic principles, tick.
A penchant for the new and evolving culture, tick.
But for me the one things that stands out is that insatiable, big fat pressing
Because if you're nosey, don't take no for an answer, have an insatiable desire to understand what's going on, then a lot of those other things will fall in place when they cross your path or not.
Why is online different to print?
Why should I have to learn video if I'm a print journo?
Friends psychologists say we lose our propensity to question as we mature. Some outfits if you look at the US elections have completely lost it.
Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister was renowned for not entertaining questions from the public ( that famous incident).
Why? Because at some time, that why drives you to discover, drill, mine, root out answers.
One of our students on her exit interview smiled, when she added:"best part of the course being up till 2,3 in the morning fixing our site".
You have to admire such focus and not be surprised when the why pays dividends.
And in case you're wondering, I don't advocate 2/3 morning work outs or as we used to call them at boarding school TDBs Till day Break, as a pre-requisite to fortitude.
But I guess if something's goto be done, it's goto be done, which reminds me of an item on Radio four when a US Law team had closed a deal on a Friday and needed to present on Monday morning, only to hear that their Brit partners quipped: "But it's Friday".
For today the the UK's regulatory broadcasting body, OFCOM will likely allow ITV to ditch its news.
So for example Bordertv will reduce its regional 30 minute slot from half an hour to 15, with news coming from elsewhere, Cumbria - a neighbouring region.
It's like saying New Yorkers will receive part of their news from DC.
The move saves nearly 200 million pounds ITV can give back to its investors and cuts up to 200 jobs.
So to be expected, a lot of people are livid, employers and viewers alike.
The harsh reality is the looming digital switch over, ITV's falling ad budget revenue, which has been slipping year on year and the fact news cost a lot of money, and pound per second doesn't square up the books compared with say drama or reality tv.
ITV effectively wants to relinquish its public service role, an anachronism you might say anyway in these free-for-all digital times.
So if you ever needed reminding, broadcasters aren't altruistic and while they use words such as audience what they mean is their shareholders and ensuring executive staff have a job to go to.
This is instructive, a model to befuddle the populace at the birth of TV and radio, when execs decided how expensive it would be to get a license to transmit, but would be cheaper with a TV set to receive pictures has had its day.
This is the industry's mini-financial crisis. It wasn't supposed to be this way, and five years ago most execs scoffed at the idea that TV, a structure built on solid business acumen would be in dire straights.
As Ed Richards, the chief executive of Ofcom, put it on Radio 4, it's about protecting peak time news, which audience TRULY want to see.
Earlier this year I was asked to a meeting of former broadcasters in the Midlands looking to exploit ITV's plans.
Whilst the BBC is considering going more local, its opposition is moving the other way.
Some one's right somewhere, but then the BBC does receive 3.4 bn UKP in license fee money.
So you're an entrepreneur with a local newspaper, what are you to do?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
- Stand to the his right for the camera; it's the dominant position.
- Don't look at the camera for THE Shot and do not be broad smiling. Be looking at him. It shows engagement.
- Stand slightly leaning into him but half a foot just in front; if gives you further height dominance
- Have prepared your response. Yep doesn't matter what the president says, even though you more or less know what he's going to say from your aides' briefing.
- Let him do a lot of the talking and you nod in agreement
- Wear dark colours and a scarf around your shoulders; deference which'll show, and lead him to be generous with his response.
- Don't take or answer questions on financial matters. Remember tax payers will still be sore from the 70 billion plus bail out plan for financiers.
- Refuse any attempt, in the walk to and from the interview to chat to any female staff; ruins the image.
Sorry, matters on video journalism will resume shortly
You can observe but you can't report cuz they'll be no reporter.
We all know and have worked the pool system, but this would have been something not to have a reporter present.
You might as well get your own camera ala PR and flog the video with your icon at the top.
Rightly so there's been a hue and cry. C.f ABC News's blog, with word that broadcasters would have boycotted showing anything.
Webwise it would have been interesting to see whether online news sites show a blank or black screen in protest - something that was done in the 90s when US authorities sought more power to curb the independence of online sites.
Now I have been using the past tense through out here because it appears, from ABC, that the fire has been put out as a CNN producer will now be allowed in.
No word on who the producer is and what they'll be allowed to ask.
But in light of this foreign policy cram, how much I wonder will Palin allude to an expanse of international experience from her meeting, and more importantly what quotes are likely to be lifted for the ads to highlight her competence.
" I found Mrs Palin, to be fully aware of the pressing issues of security within our country and her pledge and commitment to seek greater interaction to resolving the festering sore, when she assumes her VP role".
says Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Oh slip of the tongue; jolly laugh with reporter: " I meant should she become VP, which I see no reason why she should not".
Too late, we know which one we'll edit. See those film review pages where comments like: "Great film but the acting sucked", and the review on the poster becomes; "****** Great film.
Yep you're ahead of me.
Now come to think of it was PM Gordon Brown having a freudian dig at Palin when he said government is no time for a novice.
Meanwhile says Palin, "There Obama put that in your pipe and smoke it. I met Karzai".
Next week, the SALT Treaty is revisited.
And whilst browsing blogs Instapundit [v.interesting piece on a school boy suspended for wearing an "Obama-Terrorist" t-shirt and then flitting over to Wonkette and then Andrew Sullivan, I got distracted.
I looked up and in my field of vision was the television set to a news channel blurting out today's news of importance.
Of course I changed the channel as I wanted something else and got more of the same just different shirt, different coloured dress.
I'm not underscoring the importance of news, I avidly watch it from time to time.
I'm questioning this thing - television quarantined to a few samey channels - the premium channel still reigning supreme.
So how far are we away from revolutionising the screen to reflect something more in tune with our liking.
We all visit a number of blogs everyday, which gets me asking"
When do some of the bloggers I like, get to present their own shows,which I can flick to, cuz frankly the news belt could be any ones?
Of course it's feasible now to a degree ( youtube embed), but given the explosion in blog comms and publicty, in netcasting terms there's relatively little ingenuity here.
Trouble is the model for this creation is tied to existing TV formats, but could there be an alternative?
I think so and may involve a carnival of blogs to set up something like that. Mmnm!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
On the front of viewmagazine.tv, a cut of the Apple talk which included why we need a new style of reportage. Click 4th link that says "apple".
Call it the linguistic equivalent of Politic's 3rd way - though that in itself is a bind to explain.
I'll post more self explanatory stuff when I'm free of induction week, this week at Uni.
The typogs below were created in Final Cut in a matter of minutes, though the best place for that is After Effects or Livetype.
I'll be on this theme for a while, though it may well migrate to a new template blog.
On the front page of viewmagazine.tv, I have attached segments of the shoot with Filminute.
A detailed "how to" will follow at some point but a few markers to throw down.
I'm using video journalism as the template, as opposed to a crew, so have opted to shoot 'dirty' ( no clean line of sight) and tagging. It has its own energy.
I remember reading a good while back how some of Hollywood's top camera operators had to really "let go" to get that immediacy look, so loved by many directors.
You're almost discarding everything film school has told you. Bummer!
There's some blocking on one of the earlier shots from Canada created by the shoot team.
Diagetic music and Non-diagetic is so important in creating a mood for a show.
You'll often hear me asking what's the "emotional involvement", and "editorial proposition" for where the show's going.
Diagetic music refers to actuality in the film. Close your eyes and see [:)] if you can pick out every strand of sound in your surroundings, because you can often use this to craft a story. It's all in the ambience.
Diagetic is about the musical tension and I often, where possible, eschew using 4/4s. In the making of I'll post some of the music that we worked to get right.
Saba, exec producer of filminute, is a natural at presenting. The key- keep it natural, but project your voice a tad more than you would.
Filminute should be coming to a small screen near you. In the meantime go vote for your favourite film online here
Monday, September 22, 2008
So students sharpening their note pads. Mmm doesn't quite work that. Students sharpening their pencils may either gawp or be nonchalant about the new multimedia lecture room where we shall regale all with tales of journalism.
Seating 40, five monitors, a whiteboard and cameras, whilst the space is not quite concentric circles, there's a focus on digitally mining and knitting all things we've become techie too.
"feed guest lectures onto the giant monitors as we speak web analytics.
But enough, the proof as they say will be in a couple of days time, when I'm likely to kick off asking what is the industry looking for in new journalists.
Answers - scribble below
And now I can visualise the build.
More importantly my constructivist critique, and I mean that in a superbly nice way, would like to see it built as we line up meetings.
"It's all in the grind" was how Ewan MacGregor's character put it on Black Hawk Down, though he was referring to coffee.
I can't fathom what it'll be, just like anyone else, but it'll probably be spectacular, so my puny thoughts have sought to dream about the entity and then deconstruct it.
Just in time for Phd week. Good ! that means no more time to do anything other than gaze at the ceiling
"NewsJack is built specifically with a focus on video enabled mobile phones. It is accessed by a web front end or by WAP, so you don’t even need a computer to use the NewsJack service.
Internet usage is taking off with next generation mobile smart phones. Internet usage on mobile phones is up around 20% on last year (Google). Such a prospect with the knowledge that there are over 3 billion phones in use in the world today (three times as many phones as PC’s) it’s a sobering statistic and means a big potential audience.
You’re no doubt aware of YouTube, and there are many other services vying to host your valued user created content. So what makes NewsJack any different?
Already mentioned, NewsJack is aimed specifically at mobile phones and that’s because it’s backed by ROK a mobile technology and content specialist with an unprecedented global reach into the mobile markets."
The results of which you can see with this mini promo that should be on the front page of viewmagazine.tv.
The full show should be on their site soon.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Lee, Rachel, David, Julian, Ravi - some of the ex channel Oners with their then MD
I'm not one for pose-photos, but yesterday WAS a very special occasion.
Very special for Julian Aston ( second from right) in the pic.
After years in the media industry working with one of the UK's media heavyweights Lord/ Viscount Rothermere, and launching the likes of Teletext, The Performance Channel, Channel One TV, Julian is off to other non-media things.
Julian, a highly successful producer/ director in his own right was class mates at the London School of Economics with none other than the Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger and recounted how they use to mock Mick who'd tell his classmates:" **** Economics I'm off to listen to Bo Diddly ".
It was a great evening rounded off with a reunion of some of the originals from Channel One many with the own tales to tell and a debt of gratitude to Julian.
Ah yes, Channel One was the UK's first and so far only 24 hour cable news network staffed only with VJs as news and programme makers. It cost 50 million pounds over its four year cycle from 1994-98. With Michael Rosenblum et al knocking the VJs into shape.
Julian told an interesting story about a major UK publisher who'd just launched their news outfit making fundamental mistakes that he first identified at Channel One.
And I have to add I have come across many myself
Remember when Channel One launched there was no blue print for how you develop a 24 hour news station with video journalists.
But what we learned both in terms of TV, cutting edge film making and the structure and experience of setting up a VJ station has been invaluable.
In the Pic
Lee Wellings - now a senior sports producer at Sky
Rachel Ellison MBE, a successful motivational coach, with a strong track record in broadcasting and working in Afghanistan,
And then far right Ravi Vagdama - whom at the time was one of the youngest VJs at Channel One and is now in charge of the news hour 6-7 at GMTV.
Out of the pic on a night edit, so could only stay a while, Dimitri Doganis, who is one of the UK's most successful producer/directors and was behind the critical Siege of Bethlehem
The award winning and critically acclaimed current affairs film aired around the world was the 38 day siege of one of the most scared of Christian sites - the Church of the Nativity - by a group of Palestinians, many heavily armed, and some 30 priests.
They were surrounded by the Israeli army.
Yesterday for the first time Dimitri explained how he got that world exclusive and it is an amazing story, not least also because he was working the VJ route and at times shooting with a VX 1000.
I'm hoping to talk more about this with Dimitri on camera. Really don't miss this, there are so many twists and turns, it's a film on its own.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Dave Lee - extraordinary blogger posted this below - a great conversation piece for the heart of coal-face video journalism.
I have posted a response below which I hope opens up the debate about video journalism-on-the ground.
Dave Lees Blog
Back in January of this year I wrote a review of Gnooze, a quirky news site featuring the wonderful Marta Costello.
I remember thinking “she’s really on to something” back then. In a typical late-night surfing session, I decided to check in on Marta. See what she was up to. I wondered what she made of the elections.
I found this incredible report. Watch it. To the end. The final few scenes really are gripping stuff.
What makes it work?
A few things:
- Getting dirty ie huddling into the story, something photo jos do time and time again, and it may seem odd, but the stanza of video journalism, “getting down and dirty” is closer to photojoing than news broadcasting.
- Staying with the story - Many broadcasters will be working to a deadline show so will only be able to parachute in and out.
- A good VJ team would stay with the story, they do; a good VJ swarm team would “swarm and tag” the story from many quarters.
- Being fearless and discreet, where possible - smaller cameras give you greater cover.
- Intending to go off the beaten track of the news agenda - though you prob wouldn’t know the majors weren’t covering this till you got down there or enquired from the organiser.
Broadcasters WILL miss stories. VJims strongest asset is a combination of covering “Non news agenda” but also how the film is produced ie the exposition.
One aspect of the shoot is what we call “open wide”. It requires a fearless quality, good picture/location judgment and a steady hand from the shooter because the action’s unfolding before your very eyes.
Then the construct kicks in. e.g. some of the VJs I work with would have been trying to track the flight of the gas canisters. It’s the “verb” - the action thing that has a profound effect. Requires good whip pan tracking.
Also the presenter here conveys a good sense of what’s going on. She’s not afraid to brave it; something forcs ( foreign correspondents) , and yes some domestic reporters do more often in troubled spots.
Interestingly and lets not take away from the fact it’s strong “theatre”, but Dave you said it yourself ” The final few scenes really are gripping stuff”.
But how do you get to those scenes, the chronological way or strongest pics ( agency approach)
The options for the team was a slow build up in which case the cue could have hinted at later. Or to reveal a slice of what happens and then build backwards to reveal the dénouement .
I’ll go have a look at their site, because having done this, there’s some great follow ups to get.
p.s latest addition to the post, the wonderful Marta Costello should learn the basics of shooting. She's talented plenty enough from what we see. However, the conventional route of reporter/ camera person is an achilles here, at least a major part at the end.
There were a couple of characters we could have gone back to during the riots, but the camera person did not have that immediate option, as he reaction from Marta was required. If Marta could film herself here this would have freed up the camera operator.
p.s I have wanted to fold some of my deeper thoughts as well many newspaper, magazine articles and things like deep video, and managing story chaos into a manageable book.
Hopefully I'm a step nearer because of the fantastic Hillman Curtis. Once again Hillman thanks ever so much.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Let me explain; we all have dreams, wild ambitious, sometimes half baked and cooky, but they are our dreams.
We toy with them in our heads, occasionally we allow them out and then put them in their pens again.
At times, after a drink or two ( Orange juice) we splutter and meander what it is in a circuitous way that only friends would entertain the pregnant pauses and 20: 20 stares.
And then when we do, some friends sagely looking into their beers, others shrug their shoulders and then there is the Rachel.
What did that mean? Why did that happen? What will that do? Who is that for?
A litany of questions, non threatening, but interrogative, whose purpose is designed for you to dig deeper, explain simpler, see farther.
Rachel is like that.
She's a colleague of mine, but more than that, an unassuming scholar, a practicing medical doctor who gave up the oath to pursue her own dreams and one of those seems to be how she can help those unlock what they wish they could unhinge.
Everyone needs a Rachel.
By the time I finished up to leave, I was much clearer of several questions I have myself shied away from. Her friend a senior exec in Microsoft agreed Rachel is an extraordinary person.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It's one of the more common responses to open presentations I have given e.g. Apple, and I do often apologise for not being able to meet every one's expectations.
Some turn up just wanting to know what's possible. Others want a detailed break down of how a particular project was achieved; the story behind the story.
I'll hopefully be posting "the making of" with the global entertainment filminute film.
As with any project some of it is technique, then the rest inspiration and serendipity. It's often a mishap, but it works because you've made the mistake in a fruitful area.
It's the equivalent of a footballer sticking his foot out when a cross comes into the box. You have to be in the zone and then either by design or pure chance the ball connects with the footballer and goes in.
Which begs the question is there really a creative process in this thing at all.
Maybe part of another tutorial should be getting yourself into the zone.
Paps do it and then sit patient. Have you noticed then as soon as their subject looks up, a torrid of flashes fire off?
PEOPLE AT WORK
Except, often artists conceal their inner workings or find it difficult to articulate why they did, what they did.
Some also consider it a bit rude when asked about their inner workings.
I find I'm more inclined to speak complete tech-speak in workshops, lectures and training sessions, obviously.
Coming back to this idea of making mistakes, I'm aware that the most common mistakes come good occur in compositing video. I know what I want to achieve, through technique, but will often be unaware what's set to come out.
When it works that's a joy
I know when I definitely don't like what I see, but that's rare.
But what is really prevalent in shooting is how I have come to discard my first thought for the visual narrative. Too easy is my thought and I'd like to be surprised as the viewer.
For that it's figuring out in those few minutes the best "other" place to let the lens follow the action and how that pushes the literary narrative.
Ahh one thing rarely spoken about but so much part of my unconsciousness is how to adapt your metronome to the subject matter.
All visuals have an internal clock. In Chemistry I'd be telling you they work at different entropies and you wouldn't bat an eye lid.
How are you shooting her? Bland? Aggressive? Sympathetically?
And quite often these tells are NOT so obvious, BUT make a profound difference to the outcome of the film.
Film language's subtlety which is exploited by directors means you, the viewer, often can't say why you like a film even when there's nothing to like.
It boils down to visual journalism, something graphic artists are adept at, rearranging space.
Here's an example
One of these typographic messages is used at train stations. Can you guess which one?
This is a superb package with views that will be self evident to many, irrespective whether you're a lecturer or not.
I'm reminded of my own antics, my past which has become part of the school of learning both in and outside my Uni.
Made in 2004 and spotted from the Teachers Tube Network it is inspirational and also motivational and I agree with it more so than I disagree. There are some things I could pick holes.
We might have a philosophical chat on what now constitutes an accepted form of teaching, but yes we live in a visual world, and you have to be on the curve or ahead of it to make sense of the many questions which will be posed.
But after you've watched this I'd like to add my two-bits.
Classrooms can very often mirror society, so the range and diversity of knowledge can be broad. Broad enough to make some students feel inadequate and others to feel under nourished.
Part of the skill is recognising in the compressed time we have, to use Marine talk, "no one is left behind".
Last week I spoke to some of my colleagues about "Learning without Walls" - a world where the Fordisation of module delivery is almost non existent.
Many are gradually inching there, with cross -discipline modules on offer.
So I would hope my lecturer should have broad knowledge of other things. Many experts are looking to the Lecturer pretty soon becoming the "filterer" - much in the same way we speak about the journalist.
Experience is thus a good teacher
But there is another thing I would want from my lecturer/ teacher and I have found them in my own sister, who recently was informed by her educational authority in the borough of Kensington they would like to send newly qualified teachers to observe her.
We've seen him in Patch Adams, a mad bonkers, confident tutor looking to do things differently to heighten his students' sense of worth and sensation.
And more recently I heard her on BBC Radio 4, a breathless woman teacher talking about physics, CERN's new particle smasher, as if it were a racy novel.
I want to be inspired. I want to have fun. I want to learn.
My sister teaches young children, 5, 6 years old and on one occasion disappeared from the class in front of an educational expert and returned with flippers, a wig, face mask and tassles all around her.
The inspector was gobsmacked, the class went "wow" and they finished off their whale story in class of intrigue, group participation and at times utter silence.
Ultimately, and with greater transparency now, to quote Dan Gilmor, my audience know more than I do, and as such I confess I may not know about the latest AJAX. It may even deliberately be outside my sphere of knowledge.
But I'd like to know even if my Lecturer/teacher doesn't know, he/she had an idea of how to get somewhere closer to get to know.
That coincidentally is the job of a good researcher. You may not have the contact number for Obama , but you know someone, who knows someone who does and you can get it.
Teaching is often comodified because we serve a system predicated on exams and learning tolls, but it's also a medium to expand our horizons, to teach us to understand, to teach us to learn how to understand, to teach us that the process is a reciprocal one.
Help me to help you said Cruise's character - and for that no one should truly be left behind.
Post script: Incidentally the inspector who observed my sister at her school called some months later to the school and joined her class again, insisting she should not start any of her methods without him. Do you have spare flippers? he asked.
I have belatedly learned that someone whom I have the greatest admiration for, whom just by observing, whose generosity taught me about the human condition and the magic of radio has passed away.
Loftus production's Nigel Acheson wasn't just an award winning producer, but one of the nicest people you'd meet anywhere let alone the media.
It's very likely wherever you are in the world if you're a fan of radio, you would have heard one of his company's many, many programmes.
As a jobbing freelance journalists you'll know what it's like finding your next job- near impossible.
But a call from one of my mentors to Nigel would result in lunch and a meet with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
Yasmin, a high profile commentator, was to due to chair two discussion programmes for BBC Radio 4.
Would I be interested in being the researcher, asked Nigel
I leapt at it
It was an incredible experience and I was all the richer for it because Nigel was so supportive, and OMG I got paid.
On occasion I'd find an email in my inbox from Nigel about coming over for a barbecue he was organising.
You simply had to go and I did.
The obit I have just read from the Independent brought a wry smile. And even though you may not have known him, this extract I have pulled, I hope will lead you to read more.
He simply was the way we should all be, irrespective of who we are, what we do, and how well we do.
Our thoughts go out to him and those he loved.
"Acheson would have smiled gently if he had read these tributes and suggested that perhaps there was an element of exaggeration in them for, as Matt Thompson also said, "Nigel was not a flash person, nor was he a flash producer." But he would have been pleased to be remembered above all as a radio producer." More here
Monday, September 15, 2008
Spent the afternoon honoring a shoot for Filmminute.com against a backdrop of other work.
Filminute wants to develop its aggregated content into a fully fledged show, with the added caveat of making it "edgy" using the VJ Way, shot on a competitive budget.
I'd previously advised on some drop-in segments from the filminute team in various regions around the world.
Those were segued into a show format devised with one of the show's executive.
Then time to record some links to bump against the core content of the show; the finalist for this year's comp.
Their key partner, Selfridges has built a customised cinema in the store's lounge showing the films on a loop, which provided some good appropriate backdrops.
That went on for best part of the afternoon, with the show's exec proving to be an adept presenter.
My rucksack, despite a huge improvement on my previous life in broadcast where we'd be hauling around blondes and redheads ( rigging lights), mini jib, digibeta, and vinten tripods etc., still felt like a sack of potatoes.
Though I might put that down to the hardback books, the equivalent of an A1 slabs, I had been carrying to varsity to devise new modules in multimedia.
I'd been looking forward to catching my Phd colleague, Dr Rachel Armstrong, presenting on her cytoplasmic theory, but for the life of me couldn't find the venue on Tottenham Court Road, somewhere called The Store.
Then there was a cataclysmic breakdown in the trains on the way home, which resulted in a circuitous series of buses.
I'll post some shots from the shoot over the weekend when I get to edit it.
By the fourth time vanguard video journalist Ruud Elmendorp had sought an answer from one of the Lord Resistance' child soldiers, their eyes glazed with nothingness, two thoughts cross your mind.
Ruud is either being very reckless or very clever.
As a seasoned hack and video journalists, Dutch-born Ruud wears the experience of working Africa with such aplomb; he demonstrates he knows the area, its people and is highly respectful.
It was no small wonder the film took a major award, and garnered many critical reviews.
And here evidently lies two core values of video journalism on display.
1. The ability to unearth stories - a quality many of us possess.
2. The ability to on-the-fly film and weave together visuals in which the sum of their parts tell a compelling story - something many of us are learning.
One of the biggest assets for video journalism is how its widening the visual documentation of stories, from areas previously overlooked by mainstream.
But also, and this is equally big, how it can fundamentally redress the way we tell (news) stories to give them a boldness and to make you the viewer sit up and care about what you're watching.
That human endeavor, social reaction, our fears and hopes are universal and whilst Africa [ a figure of speech] may be 1000s of miles away from where ever you are, thus dimming our care quotient and appropriate response, the skill of the VJ is to make you care.
These are stories that are often unapologetic and devoid of celeb culture, hiding the template of good strong film making.
You've either come across them, just the characters are different as well as the contextual profoundness of the issues relative to their origin, or they take the mind on that mysterious journey good films are capable of executing.
Poverty in Africa? But you wouldn't have to search hard enough to find poverty in and around the big cities we occupy. The destitution is relative.
Today one of the richest banks in the world filed for bankruptcy. How can that be?
Context and relativity!
You've seen it may times, when the same networks pitch at the same stories, yet their final product differ. Many times they might almost look the same.
If news is about relaying contracted events, which in story telling shrunk to the point of anorexia, then video journalism is about restoring news stories as must sees, the film maker as the loquacious technician.
A film maker who understands how to arc the film to keep you tuned will not be worried by the fixed stanza of 1.20 minutes or 2.20.
If it's online, it should be as long as it is, in the same way a skilled film maker can have the boldness to take you up to three hours if the material is compelling.
We're wearing old clothes sown for us in a different era. Nostalgia and our parents telling us there's no more money to buy new ones, keeps these ill-fitted covers on our back.
The truncated duration of news and its a la carte delivery arose by default, then re-enforced by pollsters' audience research.
In the 90s BBC Director General John Birt insisted on a style broadcasters jokingly referred to as "Birts mission to explain".
A package should be all but self-contained. Aha the formulae.
The skilled visual broadcaster might not have adopted this but was masterful at grabbing your interests. Go back and listen to Fergal Keane in South Africa and Rwanda.
The newspaper inverted style of writing which would impact radio and TV News stories arose out of a basic necessity.
Stories were wired via telegraph from the source to their final destination, but the telegraph lines had a habit of going down, so it was both necessary and prescient to get the most important information at the top.
If the line disappeared during transmission you could count on the fact that the best part of the story got through.
Film makers, with their own canvass, have no use for the inverted triangle.
Meanwhile News could get x nunber of ad breaks in an half hour so making them 1.2o was ideal.
We're not bound by those constraints any more, at least online. And inspite of the cultural attention span we, netizens, have adopted, the belief is we can rewrite the rules.
Those incredible films you're seeing unfold online are a slow gathering testament to that.
Films that are crafted, not shot from the source of which we term "open wide" where the camera records uninhibited, a skill itself, but video journalism is about the craft.
Video journalism is about factual digital film making, "factual" - the operative word.
The banking industry senses a fundamental correction following this era of economic unrest. Lets hope so. Corporate greed has unleashed enough demons.
The fundamental correction to the media landscape may be in progress, but I'm still unsure it's had its big bang.
"There you are he says. When can we see something"
For the last fortnight I have been bricking it. Three newspapers surrounding our patch are posting video.
The bosses are getting nervy. You'd think their jobs are on the line.
In meetings they give it some welly, you know we must be doing video, but no one's told us quite how.
So we've taken to watching videos, lots of them; sometimes as much for an hour, and the truth, a lot of it is pretty shocking.
I wouldn't mind but the site our boss cites as the standard looks like that lot from South Park having a laugh.
Can't be that difficult though: point and shoot, a mate told me.
Yesterday, we heard from the local nick ( police) a VJ from another newspaper had been arrested and cautioned. He was filming outside a school, where it's alleged a local paedophile stalks.
The journo wanted to show what the perv sees, but a teacher nearby called the police, believing he was a perv.
His NUJ card didn't help much. Police referred him to some law governing the filming of children and gaining consent. Apparently he didn't know
Police cells stink of sick. urghh!
What's the point in all this? Came across a brilliant site, names escapes me, which spoke about increasing the diversity of stories, the ones mainstream fails to cover, but the piece also noted that if its not done well, you might as well not have bothered in the first place.
Jumped up TV ******* some of them, but tomorrow we're getting a TV guy in who's finally going to be teaching us video journalism.
Looking forward to this.
Tales of a video journalist, is a fictional account of a video journalist gleaned from feed back of more than 200 video journalists and their own stories, which will appear on Viewmag.blogspot.com.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
In 2002 one US newspaper declined to use the term for the Republicans suggesting many people would not understand what it meant.
Surprisingly the use of the acronym in the wake of the Republican's move for modernity and change rubs somewhat against: Grand Old Party.
There, now we can read through those political newspaper tombs littered with GOP and be a little wiser, or not as the case may be.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I had one of those eureka moments with a colleague of mine Steve May who runs e Script writing on the Masters in Film on campus.
The upshot of our exchange is that in a couple of weeks I'm pitching a film idea at a script session organised by Steve that includes producers from the hugely successful working title.
As Steve put it, you'll get some very good feedback, if you're up for it and I'd like to work with you on the script.
The brief is essentially a video journalism feature piece, but I'll be using tried and tested methods within video journalism to up the ante.
And in case you're wondering, the three act tale with arcs, so much a feature of film making has been part of video journalism for the best part of ten years, is one of them.
For about 20 minutes we stood in the court yard ping-ponging film talk at each other.
Steve: As far as scripts go, it's not one of the classic thriller script but what makes Bourne work is the editing and Greengrass' sense of tension. For classic thriller go see Marathon Man.
Me: Yes, but its his tagging and blocking - derived from documentary making- also a feature of video journalism, and dramas like Homicide that makes Greengrass's stuff edgy.
Steve: the docu drama look - if you look back at some of Cecil B DeMille's work you'll see this at work.
And so it went culminating in Steve asking me to come and speak to a group of film makers about the video journalism approach.
What we all share in common, I suppose is, character development and the metronome of story telling.
By the way when I say character development, it's in part a reference to the central characters in a piece and whether or not they're suitable for the piece.
Often its a genu-reflective of their direction and how management need to stem the hemorrhaging of viewers and readers.
Sometimes it can be an exercise in self-indulgence; ignoring the obvious signs as scaremongering. This thing called the Net, it won't survive, was the tune being sang by many a management in the early days.
Now, mainstream media has more or less adopted the free-for-all tools of participatory info flows, but that might not be nearly enough.
There lies an inherent attitude thing. What do our viewers think about us?
First you've got stop your readers from drifting, then you've got to up the ante, get bullish and win them back, then drive the numbers up.
The two require different strategies and due to the nature of the wisdom of crowds, require constant attention.
The problem Labour are going through reflect that as much: first we've got to stop the rot, then steady the ship, then drive the new message. Place the wrong one in front of the other and you're in danger of being ridiculed.
In the 70s/ 80s and 90s, specialist pollsters were almost exclusively responsible or judging the health of a network and prescribing medicine that ran along the lines of: counter programming, tent polling and hammocking - a process of running a new show or item between two successful shows favoured by NBC.
The net rendered the more austere of these redundant, though many schedulers still work around similar processes.
In the last couple of months the BBC in particular has been pushing its offline to the web with regular announcements on radio and TV of added value online.
Not just an extension of the same but by a neat trick of changing the direction of a story at the last few seconds of the item, and then telling the listeners there's more on line.
Digital experts refer to this as a second shift aesthetic.
Within the BBC and a number of broadcasters it has not been lost on them that newspapers are making heavy inroads into web audiences, so the debate is skewing to how do we ( media) extend the shelf life per item of our correspondents.
How do we use the web for more breaking stories? How do we keep the audience in our garden.
Watch out at some point for perma links on TV, more cross talk between the online and offline teams in hand overs and perhaps another new favorite of "ploughing".
The latter I'll explain in a visual theme I'm working on very soon.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Bidding for a politician to come on your new network is one of the most pressing functions for broadcasters. For any researcher and producer given the task it amounts to a sacking or favoured son/daughter moment.
Once at Newsnight I remember pleading to the point of desperation with my government spokesman to come on the show.
Tim Gardam, the editor at the time, made it clear: get the spokesman in the studio.
So here's my play guide at Broadcasters interviewing politicians.
1. Before the good old days of instant audience feedback and blogs, programme makers worried very little about what the audience thought. They likely still feel that way. About the only thing on their mind is what rival broadcasters think.
2. Making a bid for a politician means talking to their party machinery. First the personal secretary or press office depending on what number you have or better still if you know the party chief strategist, pulling in a personal favour.
3. At the time of bidding, the team are also vetting you. Who's going to give them a good run? The arm chair approach or the confrontational.
4. First time out, as a newly elected, the team are looking for a soft landing inteviewer. Some one who won't be rude, will not want to be scoring points on banana skins and understands the game.
You can be firm, but cross the line and you're exclusives are out. See you in the pool and then some.
During the 2001 general election in the UK, Channel 4 political programme powerhouse ran an item I'd produced around national insurance contributions. It imagined a "what if" NI hike by labour. A senior labour spokesman being questioned by the venerable Michael Brunson, called the item twaddle or thereabouts claiming labour would never put up NI - which Labour had never pledged. Ooops!
Labour's leaders, Blair and Brown, refused from then on to take any questions from the Powerhouse team in news conferences. Funny thing was, the editor of Powerhouse was Andrew Brown, Gordon Brown's brother, here providing me with a glowing reference.
The Powerhouse team though did wonder what Sunday meals must have been like with the Browns at home.
5. Some call it the Apollo syndrome. When the expeditions first started NASA needed the air time, but then Apollo missions became bland and the networks turned off. That is until disaster struck and the networks needed the exclusives.
The Network needs the politician to deliver ratings so a tacit agreement kicks in about what can and cannot be talked about. It's a barter. Anything off limits and that's it you're done.
Interviewing the Tory's Secretary of state for transport, Brian Mawhinney, during the Major government I was warned by his team I could not ask about the M11 motorway expansion plans.
After my second question I ran out of ideas, so asked the question. The interview was near stopped.
6. In the bid you'll put forward the presenter likely to be doing the interview. At some point you'll put your journalist on the line with the party machine. They'll talk for several minutes.
7. On interview day, you arrive with crew and whilst you're setting up, your presenters prepping. Often that means talking to the interviewer, smoothing over how it'll start and the direction. Specific questions are not spoken about, but the strategist will be conferring with you researcher and producer about off limit subjects as well as gauging what you're looking for.
Journalists like Jeremy Paxman don't do small talk, as far as I recall working on Newsnight. He might just about say hello, but then that's it.
8. The politician has been coached how to deal with journalist:
rule a) Call him or her by their first name. It destroys any notion with the interviewer that this is confrontational and if it does go that way, the audience look on thinking " how could that SOB do that to that person".
b) Always look at the presenter. If you don't know the answer to a question turn it into a question. It'll buy you time and in some cases the nice presenter will fill in some gaps for you.
c) If you don't know an answer pose the question and don't fill in the silences. TV presenters get paid to fill in silences otherwise it aint TV. Likewise if you want to make a point and you're talking across each other, don't back down. TV presenters get paid to back down otherwise it aint good TV.
9. How much research did you pass by your presenter? Loads, you handed your presenter the Magna Carta. Unfortunately there's only a set number of minutes available and because there's no one issue to hammer, it's likely the interview will be expansive merely touching various points.
And unless that is your presenters is wired up with an ear piece to an off camera editor, the presenters on their own. Even the most skilled presenters need a good editor/producer to help them zone in on answers usually glazed over.
10. When the interview is completed the party will ask for a copy. Don't give it to them until you've broadcast otherwise they'll want cuts and lean heavily on you with future offerings if you don't.
Also watch out for the freebie exclusive tickets to Tennis, and the inner sanctum. There are many ways of thanking a presenter for a "great interview".
You've just played the interview game. No blood on the floor. Your reputation in tact and your interviewer fights to see another day. Even become vice president- when you get pay back.
Meanwhile your interview gets syndicated and agencied to every broadcast around the world. The politican shuts the gates to all others: "Sorry no more interview at the moment". Unless that is you can promise us something....
p.s I got my spokesperson in the studio who spoke about government action in Child abuse cases.
A few of David's interviews
Interviewing the Director of Chatham House
Interviewing former director of the CIA, James Woolsey
Interviewing US Special Forces in Africa
Interview with Political Assassin Dirk Coetzee, South Africa : sorry no video controls on this yet.