Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Avoid becoming a digital islander

How did we come to think like that?

That google constitutes the sum of global and personalised knowledge, so if it's not on the web, chances are it never happened.

It's a specious argument and some clever people seem to be falling for it. Our work and training as digital journalists must circumvent this, otherwise it reduces narrative and knowledge to populist notes.

So the challenge for the emerging convergers cum journalists is to acknowledge this and provide context to what they do and chances at this junction is that it may exist offline.

Even if you take the renaissance as your starting point, chances are there is an antecedent. This introduces the prospect of curating. Certainly too if you want to appeal to different factions.

If you take the 80s, a virile period from the heady 60s, much of what we see today has its seeds then. As a Doctorate researcher, you learn to unlearn this sense of  hubris and rebuild rhetorical arguments based on recalcitrant facts.

Recalcitrant because this knowledge may not exist superficially. It is your job to find it, and once you have to carve an argument that validates or disproves your point.

Similarly, if the extent to which we critique our work is based on whims and a superficiality of journalistic norms; " I don't like that because...." it adds little to advance knowledge.

One of the sessions, I'm delivering to a business publisher delves into criticism and cognitivism

Why do people come to your website seems a superficial question? But it begs a deeper cognitive consciousness. What do they want? How can they be rewarded? What is the exemplar?

And how does that question cohere with external  factors, what one might refer to as the social zeitgeist - the propellant of human action. We're in an digi-assimilation era, attempting to bridge different schematic worlds: analogue and digital, wealth and equality, despair and greater despair, ethnics and natives.

The zero sum digital journalists understand and forms links, the analogue turned multiplatform journalist acting on the technology, understands little within the changes in philosophy.

The technology may enable us to share assets, but socially, the era that envelopes us must warrant different human behaviour.

These issues are pertinent across discipline, Online design and writing, and video making and videojournalism, two fields I'm enamoured by, but are fighting rear end battles to truly emerge from the noughties into the 21st century.

They resurrect themes of being from Heidegger and Hume, desires and reason, shaped for a new generation. My mantra. we need to dig a little deeper.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Advance Storytelling and video journalism on viewmagazine.tv's summer programme

Make cinema, multimedia and videojournalism like you see on viewmagazine.tv

What it is about story telling and video? For years on end, someone else, the professionals did it. They told us their stories, brought us the news, sold us their ideas through promos and commercials.

Then, video became almost as common as writing. Anybody could do it. Online viewers showed they liked funny videos, and we would record those odd moments for anyone's five minute attention.

Video, the assumption is made isn't that difficult. We press a button and record what we see. But video or film is more than the eye beholds, creating a video is more than seeing what you see.

Like anything, language in particular, there is a craft. Some people say in one sentence what would take us five. Others are poets, they capture a mood which fills our head like weights.

In video or film, we follow a deeply rich heritage of communicators. They are directors, producers, assistance, and enthusiasts, who've learned something really special about the language of film and video.

This language is multifarious. You could come from the same country yet feel the person speaking to you is alien because of their dialect.

Language is not fixed and neither is video. Which is why there's no one size fits all.

The fundamentals of any language, its syntax, are the same. How eloquent you become depends on many more things.

What viewmagazine.tv's training programme does is bring this into sharp focus.

How the many professionals accomplish their ends, and then reaching the heights of cine-videojournalism's language.

It is in either of these or the many forms of video as cinema where we can woo people, make our message stick, tell utterly compelling stories.

It's doable, but it takes a deep understanding of your needs, those of your audience and the video maker. That's what viewmagazine.tv's training programme offers.

And its sucess has been proven, through our work with the UK Press Association, and the training of the hundreds of people.

The summer programme focuses the individual on tangible outcomes, coupled with a deep understanding of the foundations, in which I pull together elements from my doctoral research which focuses on artistry and the moving image.

To register your interest email here at: training@viewmagazine.tv.

See you in summer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

RTS winner Al Jazzera's The Stream raises the game on social innovative programming



 Derrick @ashong presents The Stream
James Wright, the the executive producer of the RTS Award winning The Stream looked mildly shocked. He said as much on the podium receiving the award. 

At that moment and hereon, a programme made by social networkers to address politics, social and matters important to its viewers could proclaim to be making an impact.

RTS Awards night, London
For the programme's litany of viewers that's a moot point; they require no validation, however there's always room to celebrate when your peers take note.

I was one of the jurors in the Innovation category, in which The Stream was being nominated in January and wrote about it then.

It would still perhaps be intemperate of me to reveal what goes on behind the scene, but there was no denying win or not, the programme was and is onto something.

The Arab springs and youth uprisings might have been responsible for generating some of the most captivating news items in the last years, and in eras gone by such as "1968". But in interpreting those events, there can often be a disconnect.

Invariably, it's the "grey suit" commentators interpreting events on behalf of the viewer. Intrinsically there's nothing wrong in that, but the audience codifies presentations far differently when being addressed by their age group.

Janet Street Porter knew this when she launched the BBC's radical youth show, BBC Reportage (see report) , which I worked on in 1991.

That training was instrumental in launching a programme in 1997 called The United States of Africa made by African videojournalists. Co-produced by Ghana and South Africa, it's reach was based on the make up of its constituent producers: young, indigenous, who could interpret issues their way.

Al Jazeera's Mark
It was a good day for Al Jazeera overall at the RTS Awards and a brief exchange with James illustrates they have plans for the show in the future.

Could they win it again next year? Awards mean validation, help increased branding, bring in more sponsorship, and the brand's message spreads even further.

Why not? But they've just blazed a trail, which is about to become highly competitive as other networks and new players skilled in social network broadcasting get into the field.

The Doctorate study I am completing at the SMARTlab University College Dublin includes investigating innovation and audiences, hence my evoking Reportage.

Stronger brand awareness across other media, myth as a way of reminding others you are an exemplar and innovation will be key. There's also a good deal of timing, what semioticians refer to as period and style relativism.

Sky News a couple of years ago launched The WhiteHouse - a house in Miami which was turned into a social media broadcast experiment; Politics and live music combined.

I judged that as well. It was a slick enterprise and for a generation had the zeitgeist about it; it also appeared to mimic Channel 4's the Big Breakfast from the 1980s. Different times often call on different productions.  EH Gombrich, the art historian would label it: Schema plus variation. Change it or examine those who have been successful by changing something.

The Stream a 4-day interactive current affairs presented by Harvard grad Derrick @ashong, might have to hold its nerve. It's most likely as I speak being deconstructed and reworked by others to find the new alternative.

David Dunkley Gyimah was a juror for the RTS. He has been working online since 1994 and is behind the international award winning site viewmagazine.tv which features his work in China, Lebanon, Egypt, USA, South Africa, Ghana et al

RTS Awards Night Stuart Webb

RTS Awards UK
Stuart Webb doesn't do awards, a peculiar thing to say as you could say almost all practitioners might say the same.

But standing in front of his peers, bathed in glowing lights having just been told he was the best cameraman in the TV News business this year at the Royal Television Awards (RTS), his demeanor said so.

Stuart Webb award winning cameraman
copyright C4 News
His praise for his industry showed a deftness to this sometimes awkward occasion.  The words were gilt-edged, in which any journalist, manager, or TV practitioner would want to imprint on the viewing public at large.

Webb's speech was also for those often evaluating TV News for its dearth of humanistic coverage, a robust and eloquent defence of its realm.

He described how he'd covered conflicts with Alex Thomson, Channel 4's award winning correspondent; and how the bombs fell as loud menacing thuds.

He spoke of a child being severely hurt and how over a 30 minute period the crew watched as the injured child died, once, twice and again.

The viewer at home tends to forget the intricacies of TV News' logistics. The crew watched the child die in reality, and then relived it through the monitor on playback and then again as they decided what editable sequence they would show us viewers at home. The immanence of those inhumane images lives with you.

Webb's parting words from the podium, his voice restraining traces of emotion, was as nuanced as his filming.

He delivered a sincere thanks to Channel 4 News, a tribute to ITN, and then to acknowledge a TV Industry that had given him the selfless opportunity to bring incredible stories to the viewer, for as he so powerfully put it those bombs that reigned down on him and his colleagues, well:

"On our best days we are louder than the bombs".

You can read more about Stuart Webb and his many experiences such as Iraq a hollywood start that descended into war on the channel 4 website.

David Dunkley Gyimah was a juror at the RTS, the highest awards for TV journalism in the UK, and a freelance producer for Channel 4 News from 1997-2001. He is completing his PhD on the TV/ online news industry at the SMARTlab, UCD and publishes his reports on his award winning Viewmagazine.tv.

Further related links for RTS and Al Jazeera winning their major awards

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why it's a great time to be studying...but there's a catch


The statement, why it's a great time to be studying, could frankly apply to any period.

And I'm not only inferring students only at academic institutions, but anyone. In reading this, it could easily be perceived as one of those pieces, proclaiming hope and love found within the leaves of the glossies: "why it's a great time to get fit". I didn't have that in mind, so what's the beef?

In times's of conflict, often economic ruin, on a macro and personal scale, human endeavor creates new solutions to old issues. There's pain indeed, but the phoenix to arise is often a mutated form.

You look within yourself and make a choice that is procured for others. New ideas are fostered and fresh ways emerge for dealing with once recalcitrant problems are on the agenda. The Seattle protest against WTO is a grand scale expression, Journalism which grew so fat it couldn't see its feet is another.

Within ourselves, our personal strifes continue. Four and half years ago , I embarked upon a part time PhD. It has been to say the least a painful, bitter sweet experience; the equivalent of being struck in the groin with a football (soccer) that richochets into the opponents goal.

Wow, we've scored but we're still 4-1 down, and the pain. The result of the expedition and it's by no means over has been an accumulation of new ideas. I'm no longer the entrenched rhetor; there are other sides that require a dialectical approach.

Also, what I once perhaps vehemently thought was new has turned out to be the most magnificent of card tricks. Look what someone else did earlier. Academics may on ocassion fight one another over turf, as do academics and practitioners, but at some point that something becomes the persuasive elocution of the argument based on a grounded approach.

I don't like it because it's red, is a personal cognitive attribute, which doesn't advance the thought thread. Find something deeper.

More often than not, and our Masters students are privy to this; lectures might often turn from a practice of spatial awareness to a philosophical enquiry- not because of a need to be clever, but to refine a point. Any mode of studying is about finding ideas to the point where they start to thread together.

But where do these ideas come from?  The catch I mentioned above enters stage left. It's a great time to be a student because of the flux of ideas and the ease at which they can come, repackage and dusted down from the net.

And whilst most ideas spur another, quickening to a chain reaction, it's how we mine and dig into the "original ideas" that matter. What you might say is theory, which is an institutionalised accepted norm from a proposition that has stood up to scrutiny.

Theory is not the same as assumption, though that helps as well. The catch - the ideas, the theory needs to be grounded. Pop ideas may provide a partial warm blanket, even give you the fashionable start of a trend, but be careful with them.

Reading a book, which extemporises design, having a conversation based on prior knowledge you've acquired with a crowd or the new educationalist matters. New educationalists are the increasing number of lecturers I'm finding who are practitioners and theorists.

Our Masters students are due to launch their sites quite soon, wrestling with those seemingly intractables from a standing start. And around education world tens of thousands, if not 100s are gaining an experience.

It's an exciting time because whether you're in NY or Queensland, things don't have to be the way envisaged by the baby boom architects. I might have written this in 2005, that you can bend reality. But in 2005, we could not fathom where we'd be in this digital whisk.

More so, than 2005, it's a great time because nothing looks remotely like settingling down, and it's still looking like the era for new, radical ideas. Time to get busy huh!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Functionality of good design - British Library

In your field of vision 

then this second page - but how do you log in

The British Library has produced a new website.

It's probably a couple of months old, but it's the first time I've returned to the site in a while.

I'm registered so I wanted to order a book in advance.

Then the fun began. No matter what I did, there seemed to be no easy route to register. I'm stubborn, and being a designer myself persevered.

Nope. I could find things like requests I made, but I hadn't made a request.

So after 20 minutes I gave up and rang.  The customer service woman that answered was, as always, incredibly polite.

The Library conversstion - shhhh
I'm having an interesting time trying to log in, I said.

Oh yes, she said it's tucked away.

Go to the front page click catalogues, then explore the library. Now if you look to your far right, can you see log in.

Ah yes I replied. But it's not an intuitive place to put it, I added.

No, she said, apparently that's where people expect the log in.

Oh really......

I'll break here and give you my analysis before going back to the conversation.

Whether cognitively or using semiotics, the coded way for western readers is to go from left to right. And the British Library knows how dominant  usability flow of left-to-right is because its interactive logo is placed bang on the left.

Curious then that it should place log in on the right separated by a sea of white space. The white space and singular line are effectively back grounded, because all the "active zone" is centred within the frame work of the main body of the site.

What's more when you're looking for something you develop tunnel vision, meaning your peripheral vision is only really active when something moves.

It's the reason magicians can pull of tricks. We're so hardwired to be focusing on one thing, that they know they can pull a trick and you won't notice.

The result of all this, is that the "log in" is outside of  your plane of vision. Step back because you're making a cup of coffee or a friend is sitting next to you and it become apparent. Doh, but on your own...?

So back to our conversation.

Oh the designers say it's always on the right, she said.

Nope I disagree and relayed my logical approach.

Had any complaints, I asked?

Quite a bit she mused, but then added, well when other people see it they say of course.

We're creatures who don't like change, so some of that possibly bleeds into this deduction. Yet on the other hand, there is no fixed place for a "login in" being on the right side of the screen, particularly as one line separated as it is.

If a designer says so, ask to see the evidence.

The British Library does have a good fall back decision, because once you, a registered reader know where it is, you'll not make the same mistake. Design flaw taken care off.

Ultimately, the issue is an interesting one in light of the diversification of the Library. No longer a place for woolly jumpers and tweed coats to read, its a bonhomie of an outfit finding new ground.

Hence something has to give. We're a resource now, not  a library. Right time to go and register for that book

Lucky Wall Street Journalists with Grammy's Adele.. but filming her?



You have to envy the few Wall Street Journalists who managed an audience with the Grammy's darling Adele.

In an intimate setting the august US newspaper gave the Brit the floor to perform "Someone Like You" from her record breaking album 21.

For many of us Adele could perform in pitch black and we'd still coo, reach back into ourselves and think "blimey her story!". Yes I know it's called radio. So the idea of me posting about Wall Street's video is in essence a moot point.

Yet for the journos in the audience, the experience they got, which can't be replicated exactly with video, is worth a thought or two.

So what's wrong with the video?  Take a few minutes...

She's telling her story. Her story is writ large on her face and hands.  I wager those in the audience would have been transfixed on her, her face and hands - extraordinary expressive.

But we, viewing, rarely see this. The big closeup, ironically captured photographically on the above video's poster frame, is rarely seen. The pained look, the eyes, her eyes... Her poetics of expression. Then there's Ben her pianist who seeks anonymity, but whose fingers dance across the keys. He too is telling, and reflecting Adele's story.

So watching this video you're loving Adele and thanking quite rightly Wall Street, but I'm also telling those I work with, the new generation of visualists that they still have much to offer, as the Street, hasn't quite cracked it.

Is the print generation still getting to grips with the differing concepts capturing the representation of the event versus its affective state?

It will nail it one day, but for now if you can produce exemplar work, people will come to your site.

How do you produce exemplar work? If you're studying etc. watch what others have done and attempt to understand the art of visual storytelling. Deleuze, a philosopher talked about the affectivity of the close up, much admired by Hollywood studios on Dietrich et al

And there can be no bigger star at the moment than Adele.

Think Sinead Oconnor's "Nothing compares to you".. No! I didn't say film the whole thing in close up.  But watch how Adele's  own video is made. Because the video maker is an artist abstraction is key, but the close up still features.

You can read David's work with the Financial Times and Chicago Tribune training them in the art of videojournalism on Viewmagazine.tv

Monday, February 13, 2012

Watching what others are watching - video online



Crack this and you'll probably be in line for a Nobel. You'll also have removed one of the biggest untold mysteries of our time: How does a film/video maker know without a shred of doubt that you'll like what you're about to be shown?

Hollywood's made an industry of it and various scientists and cognitvist continue in their quest to bottle  that elusive quality.  To keep up with changing habits of viewers and vice versa film makers invent and reinvent all sorts of techniques.

Behaviourism - how you behave experiencing a film, and then within a group and then as a society provides the biggest clues for film and TV when they document BARB, RAJAR figures. But these methods can be flawed.

Yet if I can present a shot of a door bathed in shadows and strike a g minor or d chances are I'll make you scared. This is a general mannerism.

In news making, editors choose an item to show based on their experience or gut feeling it will work for the viewer or, and that the viewer needs to know this.

At Sky News and several other networks, a news ticker shows what's popular which impacts upon the broadcaster to eventually make the film.

Yet while Sky knows what the viewers are demanding, it does not uniequivocally know the process how they came to appreciate what they're watching. It perhaps doesn't want to, other than knowing the viewers ARE watching.

What exactly is going on in your head that signifies the intent to like a film? That's what makes the above research so exciting, but also for us and marketers very troublesome.

In a now famous incident, a British Satarist and producer  Chris Morris inserted a one frame insult into his show, Brass Eye, calling his boss Michael Grade a C**T.

Some viewers at the time couldn't work out why they felt strange at the end of the show. When reviewing the show some spotted the offending word and made the connection.

The art of making video and films is based on a complex number of factors that we often attempt to delineate into tips which often work, but in ten years time when they crack the above, it may well be that you can produce Spielbergs and Murrows and Walkers of an assembly line.

A different sort of film maker will be born. Perish the thought.

David Dunkley Gyimah, a Doctoral Student at the SMARTlab, University College Dublin is investigating aspects of how to produce engaging programmes and can be contacted here David@viewmagazine.tv

Sunday, February 12, 2012

OUTWITTING THE NEW EXPERTS - GETTING MEDIA IDEAS DONE



Admit it, you're no more interested in what happened 5 years ago, than you are 60 odd years ago, when vast swathes of the media was taking shape.

But there's an interesting phenomenon, which I keep encountering which I'd like to share with you and why those yester years really matter. I have illustrated it with this oversimplified diagram.

1) It goes something like this. At some point in the 20th century or before, or lesser so now, an individual (an exemplar, genius) or a group, often unconnected, discovered something. Let's say in this case television.

2) A number of key figures then came up with their findings that suited them for personal reasons that they would share with others. Television news producers terrified viewers would turn away from their reports if they were longer than 2 minutes kept them short and snappy. They also devised a number of highly relevant schemes for the time, such as how to make a report. The TV equipment was heavy and cumbersome so it shaped their thoughts to keep the camera steady.

3) These key decisions determining television became sturdy and contemporary. If it's not broken why fix it.

4) Then you and I came along. What we observed as contemporary features suited us fine. They had to be true and meaningful, otherwise everyone else would not be using them. It's like your grand mother and father telling you a story. It's true, but it doesn't mean we too need to go and find bicarbonate of soda to clean are teeth.

6) We then decided, based on what we'd observed that this is how things should be and where they're going.

5)  Except that we'd missed out point 5) which arises because at the point that the exemplars (clever people) made their decisions, which were often correct, and before they became contemporary, a number of things changed. What's more, the people who often adopted forms from exemplars had different ideologies from the exemplars.

Why it's all different now
Society changed, the ideology of those who often pushed what the exemplars knew were different, culturally, we've grown, technologically the camera's no longer heavy, and philosophically a range of the original theories or even guidelines have been questioned.

Someone asked the question: what's the appropriate length of a video online. To answer the question, you either conduct your own research, which can be time consuming or expensive ( not really!) or you take heed of what some other clever person is saying. But what you can't say is, just because it was like that before, should be the reason why it is now.

What we know, is only as good as the period it was often devised, and some. Some of the exemplar features ground everything there is today e.g. the motor car, but to understand the true nature of the forces of change and how to get by the new experts, we need to go and talk to the exemplar.

There's a lovely point in the film The Facebook, and whilst I know its fictional, it may just have worked this way when Mark Zuckerberg figures out what people want to see. They want to know about each other, his character proclaims. Zuckerberg the exemplar of his time based his thinking on what people before him, such as Hobbes had discovered in the 17th century about social networking.

Now a brief point, the exemplar is not fixed in a time zone. They exist now as they have over the years, but what separates the exemplar is they started from scratch, with no readily available, prior concept, or already made creation that they mimiced to launch their idea.

And that is the Fork in the road syndrome.

The next time a media expert tells you something ask them how they know :)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

REDUX - how to produce deeply affective, immersive stories for the screen generation.

Speakers point of view at Newsrewired

Former broadcast journalist, turned academic, Doctoral student and trainer David Dunkley Gyimah on Affective Reportage. He has previously presented to BBC Execs at the World Service and trained newspapers such as the Financial Times in videojournalism


Last Friday I presented at Newswire, where I attempted to explain an unveiling manner of engaging storytelling that used subconsciously or otherwise information as an affective aesthetic artifact.

It can become 'Integrated News [c]inema which you could called 'Vinema' - a hybrid source horrible word. I use this [c] term because of how ideologically loaded cinema as a word has become.



BBC Reportage from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

I played this clip from BBC Reportage circa 1992, which I worked on at the time, and compared it to something else. Here I'm using the trailer from Tahrir Memento, which I made last year.


The production modes might look remarkably similar, even though they are almost 20 years apart. However there are huge differences, which you may not notice. The obvious in (i) it's a team effort of around 8 people. In (ii) it's just me.

The differences become more acute when you compare me here reporting for London Tonight. However these aren't necessarily new points.


But all of a sudden my method of explaining change can be delineated through the programmes I have worked on over the 20 years, such as WTN, Newsnight, Channel 4 News etc. It's a process called Phenomenology.

Meaning of words
The term aesthetic, I used about in this context refers to the look and feel, whilst [c]inema is how configured shots and narrative give over to a physical form of film making that uses technique, process, and style to affect us.

News experts may argue it's always been there.

It's called getting "close to the story",  or "good solid journalism",  but I would argue it's been a challenge to create as late and, that is "getting close", because it's dependent on a number of esoteric variables.

The more generic reasons include: zealous control of media and pictures by story sources, our own self-censoring, how reporting has often slid into get-it-out-quick churnalism and the lack of meaningful thought given to constructing a report.

Getting close to a story is the hallmark of great journalism (re: Murrows et al),  but an Integrated [c]inema is a contemporary quality - a 21t century concept that collapses a host of forms and aesthetic platforms.

It's almost as if CSS which bears no relationship to video now share common features... and they do!

And I don't proclaim to own it the process. Other than state that it's happening, and is growing.  The goal posts are being inexorably moved.

And whilst getting close to a story has a cinematic effect, it does not make Integrated [c]inema. The  sustained semiotic we, as news viewers* have become accustomed to means there's a way in which we differentiate news from cinema-like pictures, which I tried to get across in my Pecha Kucha.

Again, the idea of getting close physically and metaphorically comes with problems. Say you've been told there are gunmen or snipers nearby. You'd much prefer to be 400 metres way than 100 metres. It's human instinct. Good reportage though depends on you getting close, seeking out trouble, but ill-defined lines of conflict do not make give you that blanket safety zone anymore. The risks you weigh up now are more heightened. The society you once knew has changed.

David reporting from South Africa in BBC Ariel 1992
Getting to the story
If you'll allow me this slight deviation and personal story. I was always amazed how close Soweto was to Johannesburg when I freelanced as a reporter in South Africa during the 1992-94 conflicted transition from Apartheid to democratic state.

Residents in Sandton, an affluent surburb, could virtually live in peace, while thirty odd minutes away in the townships there were massacres. So to report we (reporters) had to search out trouble.

Oh and less I forget, the term [c]inema requires all sorts of unpacking and then describing what sort of cinema you're employing, which I do in my thesis, so I can only touch the void in this post.

I aim to give a master class in this soon.








Breakdown of the story
So, to BBC Correspondent Paul Wood's report with his Cameraman Fred Scott in Homs, Syria.

The team are risking their lives to bring us this report. I have picked up a segment to deconstruct. Woods has announced they've been smuggled in by forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's forces.



 A metonyn of war - the shattered glass. It's how close up the lens is to the shards that tells us this is a dangerous area. Side shots equals snipers. And then the pan, to the next shot.


A deserted street. the grey cubic architecture, space... Cinema.

Importantly, this cinematic shot has been found. The team could easily have not got into a car, or could have chosen not to film this section. The narrative has them being smuggled into a conflict zone. You could hold this shot for as long to reinforce  Wood's point.

In this PTC or stand up Wood's cameraman Scott is employing a shallow-depth-of-field. Though as a period style I don't place emphasis on this for [c]inema, its the composition and muted colours.

Our focus is drawn to the defocused end-of-street-shot. There's something lurking there? This is playing with repressed or symptomatic feelings. Paul makes no specific mention to this. If you're a student deconstructing this, what would you have said and do next, particularly as a videojournalist.


videojournalist story, because this form of categorisation would be crass. This was a reporter-camera shoot. However its worth thinking about this as an exercise and what you might have done.

This shot emphasis where the reportage team is. The end of the cold war heralded this shift in what could be defined as fast changing front lines in conflict. This is one such example. Close quarter fighting in which the reportage team are in as much risk as those with guns. This is cinematic. You're right in the action.

The same with this shot. Life imitates art imitates life. If I showed you this shot and said this was from Greenzone ( Dir Paul Greengrass)  you might say, "yeah and so?"

Fictional cinema has often stolen from factual cinema to look believable and the dominance of cinema at large means we become accustomed to shots that say something from fictional cinema, rather than factual. But show this to a class without the captions and see how a large proportion may tell you this is Greenzone.

If the cameraman was ten feet away from where the fighters it may not have produced the impact the camera man desired.

A metonymic shot if there ever was one. This shot above embodies all there is about war. The cameraman is at eye level. He's noticed the fear writ across the fighter's face; a blurred gun turret in the background, and that one fleeting gaze captures the moving image moment. 

Any photojournalist would be pleased with this shot. Again its compositional arrangement and blue background isolate the face. 


One...

 two...

 three..

four..

Four frames that I have chosen portray Wood's experiences as he reacts gun fire. This is not embedded journalism. This is the risk that this BBC team have taken to produce footage to verify the denials of what's going on in a region.

There's no grandstanding, looking for the perfect akimbo stance to deliver the stand-up. This shot places the reporter within the zone of peril. "We are in the thick of things here",  the cameraman is telling us, specifically referring to the reporter.


This shot pulls the focus onto the movement of the fighters but also draws attention to the cameraman moving at pace to catch up but also acting cautiously.

Journalism not for the meek. Independent verification. Please note, a construct could possess many cinematic effects and not classify as cinema ( whose cinema, what cinema??)

But there is an overall hacceity that comes to bear when watching something in which you suspend the gaze attributed to television for the sustained look - something you give over to darkened room cinema.

I can only allude tot this as it requires far more unpacking than I have spaced for, but as a general term it possesses the currency,  others have limited to personal, immediate, immersive and so on.

NB * Viewers - here I'm looking at those who would say they grew up on television as opposed to cinema


In my next post I use semiotics t show you how Sherlock Holmes faked his death in the BBC TV series





Log onto viewmagazine.tv for more media





Sunday, February 05, 2012

Cinema, Michael Mann, Luck and Abel Gance



How Michael Mann could have made the horse sequences 80 years ago.  The true genius of Abel Gance

Redux - how to produce affective, immersive stories.

Speakers point of view at Newsrewired

Former broadcast journalist, turned academic, Doctoral student and trainer David Dunkley Gyimah on Affective Reportage


Last Friday I presented at Newswire, where I attempted to explain an unveiling manner of engaging storytelling that used subconsciously or otherwise information as an affective aesthetic artifact.

It can become 'Integrated News [c]inema which you could called 'Vinema' - a hybrid source horrible word. I use this [c] term because of how ideologically loaded cinema as a word has become.



BBC Reportage from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.
I played this clip from BBC Reportage circa 1992, which I worked on at the time, and compared it to something else. Here I'm using the trailer from Tahrir Memento, which I made last year.


The production modes might look remarkably similar, even though they are almost 20 years apart. However there are huge differences, which you may not notice. The obvious in (i) it's a team effort of around 8 people. In (ii) it's just me.

The differences become more acute when you compare me here reporting for London Tonight. However these aren't necessarily new points.



But all of a sudden my method of explaining change can be delineated through the programmes I have worked on over the 20 years. It's a process called Phenomenology

Aesthetic in this context refers to the look and feel, whilst [c]inema is how configured shots and narrative give over to a physical form of film making that uses technique, process, and style to affect us.

News experts may argue it's always been there.

It's called getting "close to the story",  or "good solid journalism",  but I would argue it's been a challenge to create as late and, that is "getting close", because it's dependent on a number of esoteric variables which I'm writing up in my PhD.

The more generic reasons include: zealous control of media and pictures by story sources, our own self-censoring, how reporting has often slid into get-it-out-quick churnalism and the lack of meaningful thought given to constructing a report.

Getting close to a story is the hallmark of great journalism (re: Murrows et al),  but an Integrated [c]inema is a contemporary quality - a 21t century ideation that collapses a host of form and aesthetic platforms.

And I don't proclaim to own it. Other than claim that it's happening, and is growing.  The goal posts are being inexorably moved, but so imperceptibly as not to be noticed.

And whilst getting close to a story has a cinematic effect, it does not make Integrated [c]inema. The  sustained semiotic we, as news viewers* have become accustomed to means there's a way in which we differentiate news from cinema-like pictures, which I tried to get across in my Pecha Kucha.

Again, the idea of getting close physically and metaphorically comes with problems. Say you've been told there are gunmen or snipers nearby. You'd much prefer to be 400 metres way than 100 metres. It's human instinct. Good reportage though depends on you getting close, seeking out trouble, but ill-defined lines of conflict do not make give you that blanket safety zone anymore. The risks you weigh up now are more heightened. The society you once knew has changed.

David reporting from South Africa in BBC Ariel 1992
If you'll allow me this slight deviation and personal story. I was always amazed how close Soweto was to Johannesburg when I freelanced as a reporter in South Africa during the 1992-94 conflicted transition from Apartheid to democratic state.

Residents in Sandton, an affluent surburb, could virtually live in peace, while thirty odd minutes away in the townships there were massacres. So to report we (reporters) had to search out trouble.

Oh and less I forget, the term [c]inema requires all sorts of unpacking and then describing what sort of cinema you're employing, which I do in my thesis, so I can only touch the void in this post.

I aim to give a master class in this soon.








So, to BBC Correspondent Paul Wood's report with his Cameraman Fred Scott in Homs, Syria.

The team are risking their lives to bring us this report. I have picked up a segment to deconstruct. Woods has announced they've been smuggled in by forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's forces.



 A metonyn of war - the shattered glass. It's how close up the lens is to the shards that tells us this is a dangerous area. Side shots equals snipers. And then the pan, to the next shot.


A deserted street. the grey cubic architecture, space... Cinema.

Importantly, this cinematic shot has been found. The team could easily have not got into a car, or could have chosen not to film this section. The narrative has them being smuggled into a conflict zone. You could hold this shot for as long to reinforce  Wood's point.


In this PTC or stand up Wood's cameraman Scott is employing a shallow-depth-of-field. Though as a period style I don't place emphasis on this for [c]inema, its the composition and muted colours.

Our focus is drawn to the defocused end-of-street-shot. There's something lurking there? This is playing with repressed or symptomatic feelings. Paul makes no specific mention to this. If you're a student deconstructing this, what would you have said and do next, particularly as a videojournalist.


videojournalist story, because this form of categorisation would be crass. This was a reporter-camera shoot. However its worth thinking about this as an exercise and what you might have done.


This shot emphasis where the reportage team is. The end of the cold war heralded this shift in what could be defined as fast changing front lines in conflict. This is one such example. Close quarter fighting in which the reportage team are in as much risk as those with guns. This is cinematic. You're right in the action.



The same with this shot. Life imitates art imitates life. If I showed you this shot and said this was from Greenzone ( Dir Paul Greengrass)  you might say, "yeah and so?"

Fictional cinema has often stolen from factual cinema to look believable and the dominance of cinema at large means we become accustomed to shots that say something from fictional cinema, rather than factual. But show this to a class without the captions and see how a large proportion may tell you this is Greenzone.

If the cameraman was ten feet away from where the fighters it may not have produced the impact the camera man desired.


A metonymic shot if there ever was one. This shot above embodies all there is about war. The cameraman is at eye level. He's noticed the fear writ across the fighter's face; a blurred gun turret in the background, and that one fleeting gaze captures the moving image moment. 

Any photojournalist would be pleased with this shot. Again its compositional arrangement and blue background isolate the face. 



One...

 two...


 three..


four..

Four frames that I have chosen portray Wood's experiences as he reacts gun fire. This is not embedded journalism. This is the risk that this BBC team have taken to produce footage to verify the denials of what's going on in a region.

There's no grandstanding, looking for the perfect akimbo stance to deliver the stand-up. This shot places the reporter within the zone of peril. "We are in the thick of things here",  the cameraman is telling us, specifically referring to the reporter.


This shot pulls the focus onto the movement of the fighters but also draws attention to the cameraman moving at pace to catch up but also acting cautiously.



Journalism not for the meek. Independent verification. Please note, a construct could possess many cinematic effects and not classify as cinema ( whose cinema, what cinema??)

But there is an overall hacceity that comes to bear when watching something in which you suspend the gaze attributed to television for the sustained look - something you give over to darkened room cinema.

I can only allude tot this as it requires far more unpacking than I have spaced for, but as a general term it possesses the currency,  others have limited to personal, immediate, immersive and so on.

NB * Viewers - here I'm looking at those who would say they grew up on television as opposed to cinema


In my next post I use semiotics t show you how Sherlock Holmes faked his death in the BBC TV series



Log onto viewmagazine.tv for more media 

Friday, February 03, 2012

David Dunkley Gyimah's Newswire Media in Motion presentation


I'm David Dunkley Gyimah and have worked for TV News, doctcoms, videojournalism outfits over the last 25 years. It was good to see some friends in the room: the FT (their story here), that I did some work with, and Joel from the Guardian newspaper, whose colleague Cameron I know.

One of the 20th centuries most eminent philosopher Gilles Deleuze marvelled at the work of another philosopher Henri Bergson for discovering something that was yet to be popularised.


Deleuze said of Bergson that: "the discovery of the movement-image, beyond the conditions of natural perception, was the extraordinary invention of the first chapter of Matter and Memory" (Deleuze, 1986, p.2)

Now, I'd like us to park that thought, as we'll come back to it.

So if you'll forgive me, I'd like to make an assumption - a big one at that.   That my being at this event, is I will assume, based on the notion I have something to offer, be it a tip or an idea.

That  essentially my experience may have some currency in assisting you. Perhaps that's why you've paid to be here, and why I have taken up being an academic.

If that's so then my experience holds something, and in talking about my experience I also aim to reach a conclusion - which unveils my tip or mega rule as I want to call it. 


This idea of hearing one's experience is partly the basis of phenomenology, but much richer under another philosopher, Heidegger.

So this is BBC Reportage (watch and read about its past here). I'm not sure you're aware of the programme, but in 1992 you could describe it as the Youtube of the BBC. It was a revolutionary programme, made by young people, that would change the style of BBC current affairs. These are not my words but execs who worked on the show such as Rachel Purnell.



Some of the figures behind Reportage are international and household names  e.g. Bruce Goodison who made Shoot to Kill for Channel 4 News and the indefatigable Hardeep Singh Koli, whom I worked with.

If Reportage taught how to discard the rules at a time when conventions were being challenged. Note, this was the time of  the YBA - the art movement; The Face magazine, Brit Fashion and the New Romantics.

Newsnight which I'd worked on before the programme removed the idea for me that news is immutable; that it can exist in what ever form you want: a discussion, a feature, a short news piece and on rare ocassions 20 min short stories, and so on.

In 1992 I could not find work in he UK, so relocated to a country which had the world's eyes trained on it. In South Africa I did many things radio, TV for ABC News, magazines, but it was the prospect of wiring up four young South Africans about to vote in their first ever election at 20 plus for BBC Radio 4 which got me going.


First time Voters  (FTV) used radio in a way that  got intimate with the four stars and they were stars. The feature played on Radio 4, the world service and on the eve of the South Africa's historic election after being bought and played by their network. My interviewees in South Africa today are huge e.g. Eric Miyeni and Niemann Fellow Gale Smith. In 1999 working for Channel 4 News I remade FTV to Successor Generation.

In the UK in 1994, a strange irony, the Internet has gone public, and Associated newspapers launched a strange concept called videojournalism.  Here I'm presenting an item for the web in 1995.

The motto for me was if you can think it you can do it. Most videojournalist shot two to three stories a day, totting up 500 plus in a year.  You can spot some celebs from here that now appear on BBC Breakfast TV.



After Channel One and short stint at WTN I became a regular freelance at Channel 4 News for four years, while prodding here and there, for what was possible. A report for the World Service involved an unusual deep sea dive to war graves from World War One.

To get my listeners to understand what it was like 40 metres below the sea I took an extended chord and tied a condom onto the microphone. Also I nearly met the big fellow up there, when I fell on some live arms and ended up running out of air.



The following years had their moments; videojournalism in Africa (Click the image for video behind it) , creative director for an ad agency, and working in one of the dotcoms that's still around today.

Then 2005 hits the year of You tube. Videojournalism has come full circle. The Press Association and me put together a programme to help train the UK's regional journalists. That very first programme we do is 8 day, because in 8 Days they had to learn Videojournalism because they were going live soon afterwards.



PA's programme over the years fulfil a curious thought, however much you think you've moved away from something you're still standing still. It's 1994 again.

From work, academics in China, showing how our university trains, to consulting for a newspaper in Beirut ( film here), to a four year study working with young journalists inside state TV in Egypt - an extraordinary programme that showed how much could be achieved if you're willing to go down the rabbit hole.





Mohammed - one VJ shoots like Hathor - and mad forty VJ reports in a month.

So from 1992 with this short insert from reportage - to this promo from Cairo, there's a theme that runs through these - we're back at phenomenology - the study of my experience, and when I do reflect something keeps cropping up.

Not that you have to chase and experiment in finding some of this field's elusive answers.
Not that sometime you have to travel to regions where the story is - as so many people have done.

But that the thread in this is.... Cinema!


Firstly I realise how laughable this might seem or indeed absurd, even dangerous.

Because at this point you're prone to thinking I have a tendency to fictionalise accounts; I'm not to be trusted. In the years I have practiced this craft of factual storytelling, integrity and truthfulness have met everything, so fiction is not a feature in my book.

However, if this was 1930, you would have no problem with the term "cinema". We'd be talking about Grierson or at least Hitchcock would. Then, experts differentiated from what they called commercial cinema, motion pictures and cinema documentaries and factual films.

Same could be said of the years to follow. But the notion of cinema I evoke is not exclusively physical  though I also claim a cinematic concept of story telling. Principally my notion is more a mental attribute. The thing that affects you. Information that is affective.

That's what Deleuze talking about Bergson was all about. Bergson talked about cinema and affectivity even before the machines that made cinema had been made.

When I approach a subject, I'm having an internal dialogue saying how best can I portray this so the audience, the viewer feels this like I am.

Now, if you still believe cinema is exclusively Hollywood - listen to one of the best film makers alive making a close point.



But now we have a conundrum. If you, as I do think cinema, the next question is who's cinema? What cinema? That's the interesting really, truly interesting question - and while I have an answer, this again is not the forum.

However, the reason why general tips about trends can be counterproductive is for that reason. Cinema, physical, goes in and out of season, it's mental state is what draws you to any number of artifacts.

Today it's shallow depth of field, a generation before and beyond it will be deep focus.

If you can agree, and if not there is a plethora of info that talks about cinema as factual film, ( so I'm not saying anything new) then we must also appreciate cinema is diverse.

I gave Rachel, the News Editor of Journalism.co.uk, and organisers of today's event, some water. She prefered non-fizzy, but it's still water, I said.

That's the problem with cinema. It's so vast, but it has inherent qualities. The films shown by Josh ( FT),  John from the Guardian mimic cinema's qualities e.g overhead shot of St Paul's former Canon; the head to head - which is Errol Morris, or the Lady in the Lake, which is a POV film.

But the question is what cinema are we talking about, even though cinema's internal engine is about affectivity. This is too big a conversation to go into here, but it's one I have ponder for a long while.

What do you make of this image below?

Here's the photojournalism film I made for Yannis as he won the world press award. It takes the cinema of affectivity into cinema physical. This by the way is still a favourite,


Can you figure out how this was taken?


In China, commercial cinema, the concept of hyper reality, has taken a step into interactive cinema. the seats and auditorium moves and as this young child is doing you interact with the screen.

We blithely, and I confess I harboured such thoughts too that TV was on its last feet.

Not a chance. I mooted as much at SXSW and for the last couple of years sitting as one of the judges on the RTS awards, what's coming through illustrates innovation and cinematic qualities - at least in my head.



These then are old established qualities

So to my Mega rule 1.

And those exemplars include Fellini, Godard, Marker, but yes there are contemporary ones who openly talk about how they've been influenced by that past.

Mediastorm - is an outfit that needs no introduction. They've won unteempth awards



Which leads me to Mega Rule II


And here I learned a lesson in1996, which would materialise in 2006 which perhaps was the knod from the Batten awards. I wanted to after all those years put into practice this understanding of media, So I coded, designed, made the videos and built this site.


So two strong ideas that guide me, a holistic look at the whole workflow and cinema. If we stop trying follow trends, and seek exemplars we'll be more diverse. Most of the companies you might quote as exemplars rarely followed others.


Remember that lovely moment in Facebook the film  - I know its fictional - but MZ connects Facebook to work, based on behaviours, what people want to do - connect. An idea as established as Hobbs Commonwealth.

So whilst I'm guided by trends I believe in a quality that Bergson promotes: that information has affective qualities. If we can do this in the construct the audience will watch. If not we run the risk of treating all info as equal - the problem with the package.


You can learn more about my methodology and training here me, whilst my Apple profile and all sorts of  gubbings exists here.


My parting links that excite me. 
http://mediaville.info/londonair/ FMR MASTERS STUDENT WITH HER AGENCY
http://vimeo.com/8191217 LAST MINUTE WITH ODEN ~ Eliot Rausch