Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ghana and its independence

So I'm watching CNN and this lavish affair - the first collaboration between CNN International and CNN local to celebrate India's standing with its next generation.

Meanwhile on the Euro front, in Berlin, celebrations are in motion to buff the treaty of Rome - 50 years since it was signed. Will they won't they, that is apologise for slavery? - The world, the UK in particular, marks the abolition of slavery with a series of programmes. In April Larry King CNN's venerable chat show host celebrates something of sorts.

Then, blink and you might miss it, but Africa's first state to gain independence 50 years ago has just spent a shed load of money to commemurate this event. But then you probably missed it.

I have a vested interest in the latter: my parents are Ghanaian. My mother in fact half German - the result of early traders looking for new pastures. And I have spend considerable time in Ghana.

So to the celebrations or thereabouts. Ghana couldn't have picked a worse time to proclaim its jubilation for being set free. The BBC carried a slice of news, tucked away on its web site. There was an interview with the president HE John Kufuor on Radio 4 and a smattering of news packages here and then.. and then that was it.

In our teutonic news driven world, there's a lot to be said about how proactive one has to be to gain column inches. And sadly a proactive news agency is one thing the Ghanains are lacking in the UK. Notwithstanding the absence of any lobbying, why, you could ask, rely on the big news sources anyway.

Perhaps because the big news beasts still matter on the international front. But that doesn't negate the Ghanaians from forging their own documentaries to underscore the year. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case. Browny points to the good people behind What's on Ghana for putting a series of gis together.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Please help me

I have been lazy.

In the 90s I was an avid reader of all things techy from magazines such as New Media Age, Production Solutions, Digit, Create Online etc. In fact I have spent a small fortune getting my head around such laudable questions as "Is TV dead?" and "Creating your own TV Station".

Somewhere along the way, I read and reread about how broadband at 8mb download represented a digital rubicon. That the data rate of TV runs at 8mb, so once broadband crossed that threshhold we could attain DVD [mpg2/4] quality films via the web.

I have loftily taken this as fact in the way it spews from lectures. It might well be, but now feel strongly that I need to delve deeper. I rifled through some of my old archive copies of the aforementioned magazines, but guess they're being recycled into 24k diamonds

8 mbit was a huge area of disucssion at a time when we ran on 56k modems. But trawling the net, I'm coming up short finding anything on this.

What I do understand to quickly avoid any public blushes is that bit rate of video is different to bandwidth transmissions.

So is TV really 8mb as generalised or is it that 8 meg download is the key for streaming [live or progressive in the nature of VOD]?

There are ome some knowns: greater bandwidth allows for the transmission of better quality video and IPTV -Internet protocol TV will be a huge player.

I also said at a conference how I favoured Flash over Windows Media Player and was in the habit of advising clients about using the FLV player because of its aesthetic. A further clairification might help. When it comes to image quality, Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media player run on similar principles. What you put in, you get out. Meaning, it's up to you. If it looks bad on your newspaper site that's because whoever encoded the video did so with a heavy hand, and would probably muck up Flash all the same.

No my real leaning to Flash is its aesthetic, that I can devise my own play back controls and that they are not visual comparison for Windows clunky less ergonomic displays, but then that's a personal opinion.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The video journalist Decree

In my 15 years as a video journalist, I have fought many battles, witnessed many things. I have worked in Apartheid South Africa; my doc was the only non-South African feature played during their historic election. I would be introduced to Nelson Mandela. I worked for Lennox Lewis with with his fight against Tyson.

I produced South Africa's first African co-production. I have dived with specialist divers and military personnel on an open sea expedition to the ruins of WWI, almost buying a one-way ticket. I have been shot at. I produced a promo within 24 hours aired on CNN. I shot designer Ozwald Boateng's first promo.

I have been in prison - the notorious Wormwood Scrubs - talking/filming Life inmates. In each event I have had my camera with me. Each time, that which I seek to do I have been told can not be done.

The professionals will tell you, it is impossible to be multiskilled. But everything we do is multiskilled. Before the ubiquity of the motor car, professionals would tell you, mastering this vehicle was a job alone in itself. Before the mass production of the stills camera, we were told only the professionals can take pictures.

Before the industrial revolution, the technology revolution, the very job you are doing now would have been seen as impossible. The only thing the professionals would like you to believe is that you can't understand what they know.

In Britain, before Journalism was gentrified, before it became white collar, for 100s of years in the back streets of London, East End "blue collar's peddled news slips and gossip.

Here therefore is my emerging manifesto - the decree of the video journalist.

The video journalists Manifesto.


1. I am a video journalist: I crave creativity, loathe that which is predictable. It is my job to look for truth.

2. I can move alone in any terrain. Experience is my blanket. Swarming (groups of Vjs coming together) increases my range.

3. I will be told by those who believe they know best that it can't be done. I must accept that they don't understand my job, my limitations. Nothing is impossible.

4. When they look at a blank piece of paper they see nothing, when I look at a blank canvas, I see the orgins of motion graphics, film and information coming together.

5. I start a dialogue. My packages can be open ended, begging further questions and dialogue. My work is never done. Each thread leads into a new tapestry of ideas and dialogue, which I relish. Herein lies the possibilities of deep video linking

6. My greastest allies are the hundreds of contacts I am yet to meet. I am surrounded by ideas, people, who have a story to share. And I often shoot-on-the-fly, unrehearsed; news in unpredictable.

7. Failure is an option. I must be allowed to fail. I do not court it, but is is a precondition of creativity. I am a researcher with a camera, experimenting with the template which has driven news production. I write my story as it unfolds and sometimes I know, just like a newspaper journalist, I may have to spike my story. Visually it just didn't work.

8. I am lean. I carry no excess weight or baggage. I am a specialist. I kill only that which I can eat, lessening the load and burden which others artificially absorb. There are some shots such as court and "big game" reportage where I may be unsuitable. There are risks as a solo journalist, but discretion is on my side.

9. My job is never done. My camera is my third eye. My camera goes where I go.

10. Like an actor I crave new parts, Like a footballer I make endless runs into the goal mouth searching for scoring opportinities. My work rate is phenomenal. But I'm trained to undershoot so my work load is made lighter.

11. I am a child of a bygone era. There were others before me. The first film makers were VJs [ Victorian VJs] I respect and build on their skills. My fall back is history, convention; my milestone is the future.

12. I am a designer, an editior, a producer, a director, a reporter, photographer an designer. I am a jack of all trades and a master of them.

13. I represent a new discourse in story telling and journalism blurring the boundaries between technologist and artisan, the net and TV, a writer and visual blogger.

14. I hear pictures, see sound, absorb words and can visualise music -all of which makes me a more attuned VJ.

15. Mi6 Video journalism allows me to strip a story bare: the podcast, blog, article, video, and multimedia

16. The tools of my trade: a powerful laptop, editing software, rugged rucksack, collapsable tripod, High Definition DV Cam, water, pen, firewire cable, external 200 g hard drive.

17. My software includes: Final Cut Studio, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, In design, After Effects and Flash

18. It's all in the story. My job is to craft it visually.

19. The Net - the most powerful broadcast media-in-waiting is my natural home.

20. The benefits of video journaism are many; but the ink definning video journalism is not dry. It is many things to all people. To me its is an aggressive, sometimes stealth way of shooting where the results of my labour will outdo those of bigger crew.

21. The work of Claudio Von Planta, Scott Rensberger, Rosenblum, Naka Nathaniel, Ruud - just some of the doyens of videojournalism illustrates the aforementioned point.

22. This manifesto is not complete

23. Belatedly added. Videojournalism is but another thread sowing the tapestry of our many stories, but what's next? What will come to define in our contracted timeline the new discourse and new tools. Qu how might videojournalism evolve?

Belated addition to the decree

24. Create alternatives to the convention ~ that may surprise you

25. Experiment or expire - a run on demo or die from MIT

26. Acknowledge that online the environment is interactive, your package can have multiple entry points.

27. Think expansively, shoot lean. Think like a detective entering a crime scene. If you think too narrowly, too traditionally, you're in danger of missing the new story, the new clues.

28. Videojournalism, blogging, photography are daughters of multimedia which may well require a multi modal language approach i.e. you could be the one to better define the new language.

29. Mi6 VJ says you can shoot and strip a package 6 ways,. You're a conductor controlling the play of any instrument at any time in unison. But you'll need to appreciate the capabilities of the instruments.

30. Add value to the visual conversation rather than exclusively always seeking a reaction. There is a difference. Being confrontational does not always lean towards resolution

31. It's not multimedia that is impossible. it's how you're conditioning your thinking.

32. It is an evolving language atracting jack of all trades and masters of all.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Design event submission to minister - news and design

This is a precipe of my talk to an influential design group, which is preparing its submisssion to the minister wo overseas this sector

THE OUTERNET - 21st century internet.

My talk focused on the Outernet – a manifestation of an emerging era of the internet which will have far reaching implications beyond that of the net itself.

We’ve seen glimpses of it in science fiction movies like Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Reports, where electronic billboards react with the user, where screens had the ability to recognise individuals via a number of arrays e.g. voice, iris ideintification, which are indeed a reality and today.

The Outernet is an outward front facing internet in public spaces – a html/css driven televisual medium delivering bespoke video programmes and ideas for the deliverer to end users.

It will be is possible because broadband at 8mb plus enables the streaming of DVD quality programmes.

Thus the biggest revolution to communications is the next crossroads of download speeds – an optimum 8mb. It’s also the biggest threat to the existence of television.

Imagine that: a council, an estate, a shop, an individual responsible for a “web site” with moving image information and advertising. There will be no OFCOM rules to navigate, no licenses on broadcasting. Decency and impartiality will be in the hands of the beholder.

We’re seeing early signs of this already in UK political site 18 Doughty Street, Al Gore’s US teen site and perhaps even my own work

As a news broadcaster, designer and video journalist, there are a number of facets to reconcile.

• A fundamental shift in the design of web sites; sites will look increasingly like TV screens and vice versa e.g. BBC
• A shift to database as opposed to time-tranistion programme. This has already contributed to the success of Youtube.
• A much more streamlined and cost effective way of programme making. This will involve video journalists – one person news crews – working more closely with subjects. This has been the path the UK newspaper industry is taking, which I have been involved in as a consultant and trainer.
• A fundamental shift on news and hierarchy. We should no longer entertain the artificialness of the news agenda which supposes news and programming should be centralised. One of the most exciting ideas to emerge is some work I’m undertaking with a senior government advisor on crime. The community we’re entering will, with a number of safety measures intact, be making programmes about the social impact they’re experiencing – which will be of interest to other groups attempting to find solutions. We’re experimenting on placing outernet screens within the estate.
• Gametheory: embracing new paradigms to combine journalism and design. The work we produced, The Family, for Channel 4’s digital awards is an example of this and one which I integrate into my lectures as a senior University lecturer
• A greater embrace of designers and information flow producers
• An examination of video hyperlinking and new technologies to strengthen our understanding of information.

I believe all the above is doable. The work I have produced in the US and Germany, both of which have won prestigious international awards demonstrates the need for looking at complexity, and Initiatives such as 'Designing for the 21st Century' to enrich all communities.

David Dunkley Gyimah

Friday, March 02, 2007

BBC - Youtube deal

Times reports the big one. If you're an independent, be afraid be very afraid. The BBC may have been slow in catching up with the new media thing but this news from the Times is enough to make any newspaper and broadcasting exec throw their coffee on the cat.

BBC -Youtube deal
"Executives at the Corporation believe this is the best chance for the BBC to “crack America” while Google — the owner of YouTube — say that it is the largest content partnership it has struck in the website’s short history

Wired Magazine's feature in January looked at whether Youtube would usurp traditional media. I doubt it, but the future is data base television.

But the BBC's has been busily trying to strike all manner of deals including a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft which should be interestng to watch.

When I interviewed the BBC Director General at the WeMedia summit, it was obvious then that Mark Thompson believed the corporation should be doing a lot more to exploit the future and attract the next generation.

I'm looking to write a more expansive feature on viewmagazine, together with an insider view of London Underground's Cross Track Projection ( XTP).

Meamwhile, there will be lots of jubilation within the pastel covered walls of the BBC's exec media land.