Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beirut, I should try harder - A Videojournalist's tale

Viewmag’s David at one of Beirut’s thriving Art Bazaars, which comes
alive at night.
TRY HARDER - is the title of a short film

A personal poem

Returning from Beirut, I'm reminded why I wanted to tell factual stories.

But I should try harder.

I recall in 92 how driven by idealism I made my way to South Africa, looking for the next generation.

And knew then I should try harder.

There as with Beirut, a state was shaking of the yoke of its perceived image, pleading for the documentarists:

to try harder.

To see past the news, the simplified mimetic discourse which feeds a cycle of recycled news.

That's why we should try harder.

For invariably, in all communities, states, our minds ferment more complex thoughts which require the light of day.

To show just how hard we are trying.

And in many cases it's been driven by the young, the successor generation,

who are trying really hard.

Their endeavors often go unnoticed, their voice drowned by three letter acronyms of news internationalists.

Are THEY really trying hard?

It is not the job of news, the argument goes, to tell anything other than that of news value.

But try this hard description for size then.

What is news?

Videographers, artists, bloggers, photojos, journalists, designers have within their reach the potential to show how THEIR view can turn yours on its axis.

Hard. Try. Try. Hard. Though I might add not through propaganda.

What is art is a perennial question ?

That which challenges us unlike no other to perceive beyond our station, to reprocess ingrained thoughts.

And that's why it matters.

Returning from Beirut I've rekindled the flame of why story telling keeps me awake.

Because the more we try, the easier it gets.

And the more easier it gets, the more we should most definitely try harder.

I sat down and brain dumped the above this morning, digitising footage for which I plan to make a short film from Beirut. Sadly, I hadn't planned any story or interviews, so really haven't done myself justice ( I was here for other, specific, reasons looking at the work of other VJS)
But in any case, I figure I'd like to go back soon and in this case I should try harder.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Videojournalism in Beirut

There's lots I can say, but alas don't quite have the time at the mo, but please drop by over the weekend when I'll round up my visit to Beirut and to one of the top newspapers and there incredible team of Videojournalists- a real joy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You say VJ, I say Videojournalism, some say Videojockey

CTRL ALT SHIFT - from V.I. Artists on Vimeo.

A tad long perhaps, but this interesting film frames the practice of Vjing. That's video jockeying.

Interestingly, it's now a recurrent theme. "I'm a VJ", which then follows a period of acknowledgment, only for at some point someone to say:" Oh I thought you were a VJ".

I am, but that's video journalist.

So what came first in that entangled debate of the chicken and the egg?

Though the term seems to have become popular around 2000 ie video jockey, you could argue early video artists and even the psychadelics of the 60s might have called themselves such.

Much further back, you could argue Georges Méliès - L'homme orchestre (early film, 1900) and his contemporaries were early incarnations of video jockeys.

Yes it wasn't video, and sound would arrive later, but the lead into special effects around Vaudeville were early incarnations of using projected visuals in live entertainment.

Equally video journalism, the practise, not necessarily the use of the exact tools has its roots bang on film's emergence, with the bolex et al playing a hand in where we are in today.

In practice these semiotics and simulacrum are never quite clear cut, but there is a great deal of common ground and appreciation of form.

One uses music to carry narrative and motion; the other uses narrative to inform music choice motivated by the performance. And then when you watch a video documentary by a video jockey about videojockeying, what then?

And even where there are no obvious mind melds, there's every reason to look at this burgeoning form and ask what can be borrowed, inculcated into either.

Experimenting in the grey zones
A VJ piece live at the Purcell Rooms to Classical Music - the Shirley Thompson ensemble

It's in the cracks of semiotics where some of the most interesting and passionate debates take place as much as new developments.

Whether its in the basement jack or the multimillion pound extravaganza roadshow of U2, or the corporaredom of the AV industry, to the heightened launch of the next BMW series behind discordant visual themes, or any number of the zeigeist VJs to the film makers turned installation artists like Peter Greenaway, it's the experimentation of the form that is vital.

Incidentally, one thing that is very common with my shoots, is something called the dance - an as live shoot of a film, bit like drama, where I am being influenced by narrative and music.

Videojournalism Fight Club - from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

You'll find quite a few on and the recent Fight Club piece (posted two day's earlier) or Obama video projected live over Shirley's Classical score are examples of how live VJ videojournalism mixes its form.

So what came first VJ or VJ.

Yes I agree with you. Who cares? So long as you come away feeling nourished.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Video Journalism Fight Club

Videojournalism Fight Club - from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Just for the fun of it 100 stories in 40 seconds - pure mashup nonsense

Respect to Rob Chiu - Ronin for audio

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cultural shifts - the emerging video journalism picture

An Iranian woman struggles to exit a wagon in Tehran's Metro.
Image by Yannis Kontos at

The world is turning on its axis and in reference to Bushism's legacy, axis needs to reclaim its more appropriate usage.

Bluster-diplomacy is giving way to the more refined process of language nuances. Is there a cultural-socio shift really in the offing?

Obama's Cairo speech, Netanyahu's response, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's announced probe into Iran's recent elections. On the lighter side, Buckingham Palace planting it's own vegs in a new allotment??

These in retrospect may be the normal on goings as the world turns on its, yes, axis; night follows day, weeks to months and a new bout of things to deal with.

Yet if there is change a foot, we still haven't cracked the one which gives journalism sleepless nights: the deteriorating health of newspapers, with no cash injection life support to keep it going. Conversations are being held.

Hell, some as high up in Government, but it follows that all too familiar sound of the few discussing what's percieved good for the many.

It may not be the right subject bed fellow, but when the conversation started against Facebook's ownership of your material, it went nuclear, driven by you and I, then change happened. Actually a revert to common sense ground.

Perhaps, this pay-as-you-surf is not in our best interests.

But this thought was not what got me writing today. Though there is a relation. I've been clearing out my study; magazines and articles that date back to the early 90s, some in pristine condition.

The 1990s
The late 90s came flooding back with a series or re finds and there in lay a lesson.

Does anyone remember First 9 months?

In 1999/2000 an amazing piece of work by a graphic designer doodling around with Flash 3/4 hit the web. It documented the journey of his first child - from conception to the final image of himself and wife.

First 9 Months was simply a stunning piece of work.

It had not been done before. Flash had not been used to the best of my knowledge in a way that brought together journalism, Graphics and motion graphics.

And what about Hillman Curtis's multimedia promos and in particular his story, as I recall about a journey, not his, across Afghanistan ( I think!).

What made it so mesmerizing was the use of typography in telling a story. There was no Flash involved, but you kept reading. This was the era of the wild west, legendary Saul Bass's reincarnation through the work of graphic designer Brendan Dawes.

What was, did not exist before. There was no standard. It was fresh exciting, anarchic , banksyish, sometimes, but above all it dared to do it.

Do what?


That's all changed somewhat, though you can still find clusters of "the thinkers". The serial idea brokers, who play the numbers game releasing as many great ideas that see the light and many perhaps that slow burned away.

What happens behind the scenes offers value, which we sometimes give scant regard to. When we get the headline idea, the news, that's it.

It's milked, before the cow runs dry and then is slaughtered. Innovation yields to commercialisation. One source of news and that even might do.

Behind the scene
Obama's Cairo speech, Netanyahu's response, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's probe into Iran's elections are fantastic stories, but what lies either side of them provides the sort of needed context to understand the complexities of these crucial items.

No it's not about the big story per se, but watching Rageh Omar's brilliant Iran feature, interviewing ordinary ( small "O") people gave some idea of how the schism in a state reported for its overall control, could happen.

It's the "either side" of the dominant news that provides us with both context and revealing content, which is why White House photographer Pete D Souza's pictures are so compelling.

Rageh is a highly skilled programme maker, but his pleading with an Iranian music star for an interview gave the feature that of-the-cuff videojournalism moment and pathos of the film wanting to be everything that TV doc features aren't in being too rehearsed.

For that moment I even had a heart chuckle remembering the Rageh I bumped into time and time again as we were both attempting to launch our careers with the BBC African Service in 1992.

These small cameras we have access to are something much bigger than often I find from the value given them.

Yes, they have multiple functions indeed for the big story, and even the obscure ones, but above all, they should allow for stories, a bolder approach to producing, not performed in that metronomic way of news, but perhaps more reflective of the whys?

And that's an axis worth looking at in greater detail.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Creative archivers- Videojournlism's legacy

Some of them set the tone; early creatives undeterred about what you or I said, because frankly there was no standard.

No wait, what standard did exist they made up. But these weren't whims or wild guesses. They were gudied by their own strong sense of design and creativity

In the last 15 years I have been charting their progress, from subscribing from the first editions of Computer Arts International, Video Age, to attending some of the first One Dot Zeros.

And now? Why now, we've got all formulaic. Going back to basics and with a new look and feel to some of the videos and projects coming up here and on

See you soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Learning video journalism - a trainer's tale

Learn video journalism - a trainer's tale from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

There is an iteration of videojournalism as a newsgathering unit which has yet to find a widely acceptable lease of life.

I'm not referring to the individual. There are magnificent videojournalists around, but how it works as a unit and with a news agenda that delivers on a new approach to the audience.

David Brewer a fantastical media manager who's been behind some of the biggest online launches around e.g BBC, Al Jazeera, ITV, and CNN International gave a presentation in Podgorica, Montenegro.

I may show it here one day, but the essence of it was how a newsgathering unit becomes reliant on the "diary" by as much as 70%, when it should be driving its own news by that amount.

That's a lot of money and resources. Actually it's not and depends much on your underlying strategy at driving a well oiled news system.

At Miami University, the students' coverage of the Special Olympics targeting
the family of the Olympians is an example of innovative reportage.

Videojournalism at its basic form is a a device to collate more material, but just like a burgeoning Net which is unrecognisable from the time I built my first web site in 1996, it is much much more.

The video I have posted provides a basis of that thinking, when I say it stands to be a language in itself.

Having worked for the BBC in radio and TV, Channel 4 News, WTN... I'll stop, but you'll get my point, videojournalism's operating practice has for me been an exercise in the modifying the strengths and revising the weaknesses of its related disciplines.

Motion graphics, photography, cinema, TV, radio, montage, online, social network, innovation and the Outtherenet - my own area of research.

But what makes me terribly excited is what might come from the interaction with artists - at the South Bank.

Here, perhaps is the opportunity to push again and new vigour outside that comfort zone we inhabit when co-opting technology.

And throughout the summer, I'll be looking to put on a few masterclasses and gatherings that seek to address some of these evolving issues.

See you there!

NB. If you're interested in training - you can contact me on

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Breathing creative air - a new chapter

It is a humbling experience to be sat at a table surrounded by people who excel in their own fields to be told "why don’t you show your work".

This morning's meeting with some of the artists-in-residence at the south bank yielded such an occasion.

Humility is a word that often loses respect; we tend to forget this at conferences and the like.

There was Martin whose meme diagrams are works of fantastical scale and art; and Martin's new deal of the mind seeks to be the 21st century blue print for how creative talent can work us out of austerity.

Meeting people whom by dint of their presence may challenge sometimes your own epistemologies can be an experience. In the commercial world it can easily degenerate into bear bating.

You said videojournalism is better than broadcasting. what the *** do you know?

But in an artistic setting you’re allowed your space. Indeed the criteria amongst the gathering AIRS is to be nice.

Being nice helps, certainly for the newbies, but it's about being afforded creative space to say what you want and when.

An important lesson my alma mater share is everyone is addressed as senior, irrespective of the year you graduated. And if you know the lesson of the first captain and crew studies in the 70s, then enough said.

In ten minutes it is both futile and in my case an exercise in linguistic slaloms to tell my story, but it is an invaluable introduction to initiate further dialogue. For it’s through shared space and talk that we begin to pick out areas of interest and mine deeper.

And there's the theme of reciprocity.

Creative Audits
Call it an audit; there is value in that, yet commercialism would sometimes have the quick fix.

Taking time out to explain is something I feel is done less well nowadays, and when it is it’s obfuscated in meetings about meetings and the power card: "here's my card... call me"

A couple of years ago my father passed away. I remember hurtling down the stretch between Kumasi and Accra, a section of which is known as the road of death for good reason, when our driver found himself sandwiched between two articulated trucks, as we all let out wails and screams.

I was being taken to see the queen mother of the village my dad had grown up in and indeed I’d spent some of my formative years.

Why were we going?

In part to pay our respect, but also to find that space to talk. And the queen mother, one of the humblest people I had ever met was a good listener and talker.

We sat on her balcony and she offered us water, which she retrieved herself. Yes she did have servants. And we spoke about the world, this and that, and left.

I often find myself reflecting on those times and others when in a big spacious place.

I left with several impressions this morning, a sense that I had found the queen mothers balcony, closer to home.

And for that I’m grateful. Grateful that I felt invigorated at a new chapter in learning and that it was not my story that mattered, but that I'm looking to engage in with everyone else in this new space of the mind.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A gift from Cairo University

From Cairo University, handed to me on a visit talking to med... on Twitpic

Handed to me after a talk with media staff at Cairo University, but what does it say?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Freeframing inside BBC Multimedia

It looks like something out of youtube, which in itself has its own aesthetic, but videojournalism film making is all about different forms and applying them.

I'd probably have preferred going handheld peaking. See 8 days or Reuters for a good example. but freeframing, is the dogsville of filming, surfing blindly not so much as looking for a set, but feeling it.

So this VJ shoot, most likely the only one you'll find on a non corporate site, of the BBCs recently appointed Head of Multimedia News raises a number of things.

Firstly deep thanks to the Mary for granting me the time. She's extremely busy. We met in Podgorica, Montenegro on a training presentation programme.

Results - How to create a multiple angle interview in 3 mins from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Mary wasn't excpecting a camera when I got to the BBC and neither was I really in the mood to do a "crafted" shoot.

The intention was for a show around the BBC's new multimedia studios, so while I had my camera frankly its incidental all the way through and I never make any real attempt to focus up or frame. Mostly it's being framed by spatial awareness.

It's evident because Mary and I are actually having a conversation, rather than an interview, and the camera is almost always at waist level focusing up, with me throwing the odd glance at the viewer.

Freeframing is something that's catching fire and the real proponents of this shoot so carefreely, that so what if you hive of a head or get the composition wrong.

If you're a trained VJ it's more difficult, but there is a time and place for freeframing and I have come across many instances whereby it's the only option for the shoot.

In this case, given time constraints and the attention given to the conversational exchange, I'd let this through.

By the way, at Channel One we use to freeframe a lot. Bear in mind we were using BVW betas with no flip out screens, so the question is how did you know what your framing looked like ona fast turnaround shoot.

A more refined version of freeframing is peaking - cf 24. and this short piece on Reuters launching their mobile phone.

I'm going to be engineering variants of this following a summer programme of being an artist-in-residence at the South Bank supporting work which I'm feeding in from my research.

Next week I'll post a tour given to me by the head of the media department at Cairo Univerity - where President Obama has just visited. Here I'm in shoot mode.