Friday, August 29, 2008 and video journaism - what's on

On, coming up a raft of video journalism features and changes. e.g.
  • widget to incorporate blog
  • soon reposting (archive) videos with controls*

Buzzmachine and associate professor Jeff Jarvis* is a fan of viewmagazine. We have a laugh, but this year with a new multimedia studio at my uni I'm looking forward to swapping ideas with Jeff and his students.

Scaling down
The menu listing has been scaled down.That gives more scope at categorising video features, which will soon broadly fall into VJ and Media and Culture and Arts. In the latter, a couple of things that could illustrate VJ Arts styles coming up soon.

More archive and contemporary features.
There are several archive features I intend to post, and equally exciting some new long formats - there aren't enough hours in the day frankly. Watch out for more archive radio podcast features interviews along the lines of the late Godfather of Soul James Brown's sidekick Maceo Parker

Advanced Video Journalism
If you havn't submitted your film to the VJAwards2008, do hurry and if you are planning to be in Mainz Germany for the awards, look forward to seeing you there, where I'll be delivering a perfomance lecture n advanced video journaism techniques.

I am mercedez - creative visuals

Lots of ideas here for VJs, visual journalists, to feast over. Good Ads, that are 40 second vignette flms exhibting DOP (Shallow Depth of Fields) and jump cuts, that''s how the flash effects are achieved.

I have had a sneak preview of some of this year's entrants for Filmminute , - the International 1 minute film festival which prompted this post.

If some of the films I saw make it to the finals, available next week onwards for votes, you'll see what I mean.

With Vjism, Video Journalism, one of the tests is to get a sense of the film with the sound down.

While there exists multiple interpretations in the Mercedes, the visuals are resoundingly strong, the music hauntingly alluring.

The ad itself is a break from usual car ads and more reminiscent of Glazer's award winning Guinness Ads.

And if you haven't seen that master piece here goes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iconic Olympic video promos -just watch it

Many moments from the Olympics.

But three stand out for me; two of which I'd like to share with you.

BBC presenters at the time of this broadcast eulogised  Eddie Butler narrator and sporting poet, which while not knowing Mr Butler made me a tad irritated.

This is a big wrap and the producer who in BBC terms often doubles as the director should be given a huge dollop of the credit. His/her name is unknown, never mentioned on air, unless that is Eddie Butler was the producer as well.  

There is artistry in this directing e.g. the insert sequences of martial artists, but there's also technique, synchronising imagery and music; the presenters themselves rising to the occasion with rousing uplifting snatches; the drum beats and the high board diving; the close up sequences before that, attention to detail and flow of passion and etchings of emotion on faces.

This was Crouching tiger meets dog town, Band of Brothers and Gladiator - sport makes for enviable promos, borrowing here and there from film.

Aside from the telecine, odd saturation, slow mo, glow effect and mask achievable via After Effects there's little distortion of the footage.

You might say the footage sells its self and it does.

Where the producer really earns his/her pay cheque per second is a section within this 30 minute wrap, also a popular section in itself: Bolt destroying records to the tune of Eric B and Rakim's Follow the leader.

The opening shimmys with multiple layers composited in Black and White film/video: frame by frame with transparent layers on top of each other, then the producer goes into twin narrative mode and a series of harsh jump cuts. Don't mention this to TV News people, but shuuush the film keeps crossing the line - in fact there isn't one.

Bolt should equally be complemented as he provides so many different characters within his race: fun lover; jester; playing to the crowd; playing to the camera; running like thunder, that there's a lot to play with.

If you look at it closely enough, you'll spot the producer/s style at work, reserving a trade mark pull out trait of slow mos - at the line-crossing.

Highly commendable and what the BBC does so so well. Something that surpasses whatever News might provide.

p.s If I had the footage...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reporter catches Bullet- perils of reportage and then video journalism

The footage of a Turkish reporting team under fire covering the Russian-Georgian conflict is as dramatic as it is terrifying.

Reported on television one of the crew sustained a bullet wound to the head. It has since been reported on sites like that he has lost his sight in one eye.

That the crew managed to keep the tape rolling is highly commendable and will no doubt serve a purpose in training journalists entering and evading trouble spots. Note most of the bullets were aimed at driver height hitting the front windscreen.

Staying on one viewer makes a plea with's vanguard crew to be careful whilst covering international reports.

It's a message the Committee to Protect Journalists drives home on its site for anyone with the intention of reporting a story in hazardous areas.

Given the dash to video journalism, and increasing use of we-journalism what's often overlooked is safety, which leads me to think that the old paradigm of giving students practical and theoretical knowledge about media reporting could do with an overhaul.

To some extent we already do that with our NATO war games and soon I hope to post what will be a long format doc of footage seen below.

Safety or glory first
I'm reminded of several stories which capture the perils of international reportage produced as a feature by CNN - well worth a look.

I also recall my own memories of working the townships, a young wanting-to-impress reporter signing a death warrant 2x; once entering the murder capital of the world then, Katelong, and then going down a mine shaft, one of the deepest and considered riskiest.

On a trip to Sun City, at the artificial border between South African and Boputhatswana, I got into a tense exchange with a border guard and here (1994) in this clip below I have entered the world of hatred and violence between political rivals: guns available for 20 dollars carried by young people sometimes aged 11 year olds.

South Africa circa 92 - a pending election brings political violence to the fore

Most of the things I did then, I'm not sure I could do now; that's the power of youth and invincibility.

There are times when nothing can be done to help:wrong place and time, but if you follow Martin Bell's ( former foreign correspondent - and one of the best) advice of not turning your back on the action, being aware of your surroundings and that no story is worth the ultimate risk, then you increase your chances of returning home safely.

Of course some stories put you at the heart of the action. Who can forget Rageh Omar, but Rageh, an old mate from the BBC World Service, will be the first to talk safety.

We bumped into each other recently and save for how busy he is at present, I hope to talk to him again about reporting in troubled spots.

Whilst it would have been unlikely in the past for new graduates to become front line reporters, without five years experience, that isn't the case anymore and video journalism comes with a whole new set of problems- one which photojournalists and camera crews share.
(Award winning photojournalist Yannis Kontos in action some of the world's trouble spots.)

At the BBC's launch back in 2001 I spoke about city trouble as a lone reporter with a camera.
One evening returning to my car as I enter ted the Cul de sac I was met by three young men exiting my car with tripod and tapes.

They spotted my $60,000 beta camera and their body language asked the questions.

Camera or your health?

Don't be silly, I thought there's only one answer for that: I chose the camera and barely escaped without a bruising.

Funny though I kept the tape rolling. What's with that!

I duly raced to the nearest police station to show them the footage.

Their response: go home mate there's nothing we can do.

I guess its high time safety and risk reporting became more of a feature on courses training next generation journalists.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mark Riley at the Democrat Convention 2008

Mark Riley (pictured) one of the most respected journalists in New York is at the Democrat Convention and is set to put together a series of reports talking to insiders.

I spoke to him an hour ago and he was due to interview Whyclef ( fmrly fugees)and some of Obama's press people, so if you're interested in a real insiders guide to the conference from someone with 30 years experience I hope you can join Mark.

Multimedia generation test themselves
George Skafidas class of 2006 who now writes for a major publication in Greece still maintains his final project site which profiles the talents of underground scene musicians.
As part of their final project on the Masters of International Journalism, a small group of students, often it's about eight, this time four, undertake 10 weeks of work culminating in a web site.

The criteria is simple. Their work should sit between what might be expected of student work and an industry worker; quite often I stress it's got to tick a number of boxes.

Around 2000 when I worked in Soho - dotcom boon n' all - the agency I worked for made a number of successful pitches for work, often involving complex briefs.

So I have implemented some of that methodology to the work done here.

Please note these are student journalists, so we tread an interesting line between content and presentation, BUT they recognise they would do well to develop their design skills.

We meet over the course deconstructing and reassembling; their briefs are scrutinised, their content written and re worked.

They become their best critics.

Some conventions are observed e.g. how to write for online, but others have no boundaries e.g. being creative.

Their brief should contain enough info to allow anyone with a working knowledge of dreamweaver, html, css to build their sites, often revealing line-by-line code.

The brief answers the ff and more:
  • Do they know their audience?
  • Is the site replicable?
  • What value does it have in the market?
  • What skillset did they deploy?
  • How much would it cost?
  • And they should be able to understand css and in some cases php where appropriate
Bottom line, they're not journalists, but if they joined an outfit and the MD wanted a new website launched could they reassemble a team, cost it and know what was expected of each group- from designers to marketers with SEO knowledge.

It's some learning curve, but I can report over the years many of the onliners have gone off to manage sites or become senior editors very quickly. e.g. Amity Bacon

Some never touch CSS etc. again, but I'm told appreciated the experience; though at the time there are periods when they feel pretty downbeat.

One onliner who had a designer price her out of pocket for her own site, could now talk the designers language and know how to debug the site and where he was pulling a fast one.

" No! That javascript is available online so it should not have taken you three days to write it and in any case we did not sign off on the brief"

So here below are the students work.

They're being marked and assessed, with critical essays on 3000 word thesis and personal reports. I can't show you their briefs and essays, unless they plan to themselves.

Over the years increasingly the projects involves more video thus the students have to understand
  • The basics of video journalism
  • compression and aesthetics of video
  • flv versus all the other formats

class of 2008
Site profiling some of the UK's emerging talented pianists
If you're into anime then this tells you what and where to get the latest
Feel like tai chi, look no further
Tourism and travelogue of sorts from Male

Variety in 1 minute films - Fiminute's brand

If those sprawling three-minute YouTube clips seem to drag on forever,
Filminute, "the international one-minute film festival," might be right up your
Wired Magazine online

Glitz and celeb watching is one reason why any Network would want to screen the Oscars, a deal with Oscar permitting of course, but the prize of a global audience is an elixir not to pass over, particularly if you've been losing eye balls over the years.

So if you're an exec, here's your chance to do something. If you're a punter you too have a role to play, though if you wanted to submit a film, you've left it a teeny too late.

The Filminute: the international one-minute film festival a festival of full blown one minute films springs into its finale in September; submissions for the event have just closed and from speaking to one of the organisers Sabaa the standards this year are way high, so it should be quite a fest.

There are many 60 second film comps; I have known a few since 2000 working in Soho London, but with this executive directors John Ketchum and Sabaa Quao have amassed some admirable attention.
  • Paul Haggis,Oscar-winning director of Crash and Million Dollar Baby, is a 2008 jury member of Filminute.

  • This year they screened through 1500 films, animations, and mashups from 60 countries (an increase of 33 percent over last year, when films were submitted from 45 countries). Twenty-five films representing 16 countries land on the shortlist and the world is then invited to view and vote from September 1-30.

  • This, says Sabaa could be the biggest gala festival of its kind

  • A Tech company that was heavily involved in streaming the Olympics in China are on board.

  • Selfridges UK will be part of the fiesta with a full cinema built into the Ultralounge and a digital installation in the luxury good section of the Oxford street store.

  • They've got mentions in the New York Times,Variety, Wired and Timeout to name a few

Frankly if you're a broadcaster I'd go bite off the hands of Sabaa and John and get involved.

Sabaa's asked if I can do a few video journalism driven news shorts, which sounds fun; s0 I'll re post any updates in time.

But as a side thought a 60 second VJ piece as an entry might have got you in the final 25, which become available for you to vote a winner in September.

More from their blog and site

When metldowns go wrong - video muses

Dee Barizon from Clearly AV blog - lovley layout with rich pics- sent me this* which ties in with, among others, electioneering fever and Mark Riley out in Democrat country inside the Obama rally, but really has a broader appeal.

If you've seen your fav presenter corpse, gaff or simply fall on their face, then somewhere inside this collection will lurk that faux pas.

In all thirty to get you smaking your best friend as you belly-ache laughing or simply er drop your mug of cocoa over their lap - I guess your own gaff working here.

Njoi and thanks to Dee


Monday, August 25, 2008

Veteran Mark Riley posts from Obama convention

Veteran US broadcaster dropped this by me - insider read at the Democrat Convention.

I've always had the yips about flying. For the past couple of days, I stressed coming to Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

I told myself the nerves were about wanting to do an excellent job on the radio show. Or maybe leaving my wife and daughter (she's out of town anyway). Nope.

It was about getting on a plane. Mind you, I've flown all over the world at one time or another, but there it was again.

It's that feeling in your gut that this time will be different, this time the thing is going to crash.

It didn't. I got to Denver without incident, and began thinking about Barack Obama's choice of running mate.

I must admit to just a little disappointment Saturday morning when the news came that it was Joe Biden. Biden was, in my mind, the safe choice.

Because I've always been drawn to the edges in life, I was hoping for an edgy choice, a Kathleen Sibelius (take that, Hillary!), or even Hillary herself.

Suffice to say I've gotten over it. Joe Biden is an expert on foreign policy, shoring up an area where people see Obama as lacking. On balance, he's a smart choice.

Yeah, he can be verbose, and McCain may use some of his words attacking Obama from the primaries against him.

I guess that means McCain won't be calling on Mitt Romney to be his pick. After all, the Mittster had some pretty strong criticisms of him.

Anyway, it's Denver, and the anticipation of the first day is think in the air. I've already been asked to attend a screening of a film about stem cell research, and I haven't even left the hotel yet!

People are finagling to get that all important invite to that all important party.

Pardon me if I sound a little cynical about that part of the convention.

I've been doing this since 1976, so needless to say I've been to dozens of all important parties.

The perception of the Democratic Party, it's nominees, platform, and vision for the future is what this convention is really all about.

It's a golden opportunity to right the wrongs of eight long years.

Don't blow it.

Political Pundit - insider reporting Obama

There are political pundits whom report from afar and there are those who get in close to the action.

Believe me when I say Mark Riley, a veteran broadcaster e.g. Air America, WLIB, is touch action close.

Mark has been invited to the Obama convention and since he's a good friend; his partner Kim Jack Riley is also amazing, we're going to see if its possible to get some insider reports from within the camp.

A real intimate look at things...

Here's his blog

I'll let you know

Sunday, August 24, 2008

London Olympic 2012 - Cultural leanings of British Diversity

High above London's skyline, the 25th floor to be precise, gripped by the city's awesome vista and intended sighting of London's Olympic emporium to the East, a group of us sit in an invited circle.

Jude Kelly, Chair of Arts Culture and Education Committee London 2012, with Baroness Lola Young are holding a series of think sessions.

For two hours or so, ideas ebb and flow from a venerable list of publicly known figures looking to provide entropy to London's 2012 Olympic bid.

Wouldn't it be cool I thought if 2012 devised a Sims game; build your own London Olympic Village? Goldie weighs in: "yeah yeah".

This is the first of three meet ups before London hears its ecstatic news.

Months later, moment of decision upon us, a meeting at East London University where Radio 1 DJ Nihal, of Nihal and Bobby fame talks fusion and what London means for the games.

Nihal:British, Asian, Tottenham-lovng, Radio- enthusiast, Essex-boy, presses, a potent point shared amongst 3rd generation Asians and Brits: diversity.

Classical Composer, Shirley Thompson ( Pictured) typifies cultural leanings of a British Diversity.

You only have to listen to a sprawling composition: "New Nation Rising"* - which I'll repost on to see the mesh of differences and what it yields.

*This is a shell site I created for Shirley for some new designers to remake, so it's incomplete.

For London 2012 at the meetings I attended, culture took centre stage. That's London! Games yep, but you'll come away with, to borrow South Africa's phrase: "The feeling of a world in one country"

Like the kerbillions I too watched the Olympic closing today and thought...

I thought back to those gatherings and pondered.

It's going to be frenetic from here after China's "How do you like me now?"

I'm still bursting with ideas, but you imagine with the microscopic interests it might be out of range for we-media people.

Hope not!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Raging seas and ideas

Spent a couple of days in Cornwall. Sheer Bliss!

This picture here is one of Cornwall's secluded rocky beaches, where at 6pm high tide envelopes the beach and everyone beats a hasty retreat in land.

For many years after having lived in Falmouth, I'd drive along the A-roads; window down, with no music, just driving and admiring.

So this brought back memories. This time, also I bought my super 8 mm camera. I usually associate my A1 sony with work, but my Nizo super 8 is such a joy to work.

I have since found a shop in London where I can buy cartridges and have them developed.

I found a cornfield and as the sun set with that golden yellow hue shot of two cartridges.

Each one is 3 minutes so you've really got to know what you're filming.

Anyhow I'll get the film back in a fortnight and see what I can do with it.

SWSW Vote for Video Journalism

The good people at SXSW sent me a nice email after I suggested toodling over to SXSW for some inspiration.

And while I'm at it giving a combination master class of new areas of IMVJ and some things to chew over. You know how to knock off quick professional interviews; how to go anti aesthetic or anti-realism, cutting a trailer blah.

Great they said but you'll be voted on by our patrons and fans. So I'm asking you; no I'm begging you cursor over to
and see whether it's something worth voting for. :)

I'm thinking of trying a live layering so build multiple film drawing in aspects of radio, motion graphics, dv film, video journalism and what nots.

Incidentally and I'll expand on this, but I have been away for a couple of days and really got back into radio ie pods, so we'll be tearing up some rules and digging up some radio interviews which I have dumped onto a refurbished

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hi friends and er friends

Off to sleep in the woods and look at the stars, Orion.. some much needed rnr. See you after a couple of days.

Where next for video journalism - just marvel over this

In the last write up on, where I ask what next for video journalism, I talk about investing in more high end prosumer gear, such as the EX1, some prime lenses and grading software such as magic bullet.

The Sony A1 gets the job done and with a lens rig/support ( see previous posts)or/and working the high end of the zoom for shallow depths of field you can do some nifty things such as the promo on

But if you're graduating from news to longer news features docs particularly on TV and cinema, though you'll also see improvements online with an understanding of bespoke compression, then you might want to consider something like the E1/E3 which shoots 24p - effectively as close to the subtlety of film and those amazing depths of field.

Begs the question why use the A1?
  • Size - Does not scream professional; incospicious enough to get what you want
  • cost - about 1500 dollars
  • and quality for what it is - for 1500 dollars it's more than adequate, even if it does have a fixed lens unless you go really pro like this below( see original post), then er, you're defeating the object of stealth.

Masters at Work

For the E1/E3 Philip Bloom, film maker , DP and editor makes the case far better than I could with this reel drawing out rich saturated colours and then speaks about the E3.

If you're going down this route there are a number of plugins et al you'll have to download for FCP to read your .mov files. Small matter really!

Now where was I? Oh yes watch and enjoy. Then 2 videos down have a look at Rob Chiu, an old mate, and see what he does with a 900 dollar DVCam.

Hillman Curtis and Tarsem are also a must if you want to see aesthetic video in play.

The point here is whilst the camera is crucial but it's the cinematography and editing skills of both Philip and Rob that puts them in a different place; that third eye being able to see things we'd probably miss.

Where next for video journalism?

It's early days, but there will come a point when onliners will become more discerning as others raised the bar, and if like me you once struggled to get a 120X90 pixel movie playing on a 28 k modem compared with full screen today, you'll get my point.

In the mean time watch and delight.

Only thing is I'm not shooting round the clock at the moment to buy one. Studies etc you see!

But one national newspaper I consult for did ask what I thought.

$6000 yep!

Reel for Sony from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Sony XDCAM EX3 review HD from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

The Ronin and Devoid of yesterday

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Writing online - what radio and TV teaches us

More so in radio than TV, presenters have a penchant for back announcing.

You've just walked into the room, become mesmerized with a report and even the reporter, then lo and behold, the presenter combs over some of the lost info.

TV stations, particularly reality programmes back anno as a matter of recapping what's gone on so far.

Again you land within the middle section of a programme and within a couple of minutes you're filled in.

The equivalent online is landing on page 2 of a 3 page item because of the tags and not making heads or tails of the report.

Thus you skip off somewhere else. Lost opportunity.

Writing online therefore could do with its own back anno.

Well you could go to page 1 of the article as well, or otherwise keep the article short to a page, but not every one's a tabloid hack able to condense ten words into one.

Writing news employs the inverted triangle principle. Relevant info at the top which becomes less important down the article.

Subs with a swift pen or key stroke in a hurry start looking to cut back that over run article from the bottom.

Yep there we go.... and another one.

If it's a longish article it simply bleeds across other pages. But there is a problem here in truncating the inverted pyramid ( fig 2).

If a "cash rich- time" poor reader lands on the page they've no anchors to help understand the piece.

So it got me thinking, yep there's a novelty.

What if each page almost back anno'd the previous.

Each page could there fore be self contained ( almost) - a miniature triangle in itself.

The benefits are for those landing on the page, but also in using key link words to indent each page.

Of course it means a different, somewhat tautological style of writing, because in print whilst we're taught to write seamlessly, here you're having to tease relevant info from the previous page to build the next.

Right, where's that whisky flask?

Net viewing doubles - news in brief

Online viewing doubles in UK according to the regulator’s annual UK Communications Market Report

Trend extrapolate to 2012 the next Olympics hosted by the UK and some interesting things could happen

Full Battle Rattle Uh!

An evacuation in order, with fake refugees and real special forces soldiers. Meanwhile just out of shot, a reporter has her walkman on oblivious to the intent of the exercise.
It's when 2 events rub against each other so incongruously that you get what might be satire and Full Battle Rattle (FBR) certainly does that.

It's bizarrely brilliantly disturbingly comedic: American military personnel undergoing combat training in a fake Iraqi village, with fake Iraqi people et al.

US military let a production team make a film that at times is as uncomfortable as having your girl friend's mum hit on you, or the dad for that matter.

Read the Director's statement to get a better sense of their motives.

But it's not so surreal after all.

In the Nato War Games exercise (pic) above I recall some equally peachy moments:

  • All the journalists pining to go on a rigid raider; a sort of flat board hovercraft and then chucking their guts out, including me, when we were out at sea.
  • One girl listening in to her walkman, and humming, during an evacuation mission
  • Another journalist breaking down crying convinced we were in grave danger when special forces approach us
  • And then a simulated fight between British and Danish military turning er, a bit, real!

I don't think I'd have it in me to parody, what we did, but FBR does provide a blanket to explore.

If I ever do cut something from the hours of footage, I might talk about , though no pics, the story around Naked bar - ( still have to pass it by our press minder).

That's what you shout apparently when you want the Brit Marines, well the lads we were with, to go in the buff during RandR.

It's all a bit of harmless fun, but a word of warning though, if you make the call, you've got to strip as well.

And yes, a woman reporter who will forever rename nameless made the call.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video Journalism Life from 1994 to 2008

Video Journalism Life - for articles read here

Video Journalism Life is a series of short snappy articles on, which in houses some rare but interesting video e.g. 10 mins clip of the doc "Birth of a Station", which tells the story of Channel One's launch.

If you're into video journalism this may interest you as you'll see how video journalism was introduced into the UK some 14 years ago.

Below is some more information about the pages and some of the build techniques behind the videos I mentioned last week.

Fig 2.

This is a broadcast from the 1st January 1996. I'm presenting and reporting is video journalist Jon Gilbert, now a network reporter for ITN.

The second report is video journalist Guy Smith, now the crime correspondent for the BBC's London News station.

Both would be using a Beta 100 camera. You'd be hard pressed to know they shot and did everything themselves.

The language is very much VJ for TV: 3 shot ratio, the camera is steady with the action controlled within the lens etc, but done extremely well with stand ups/ pieces to camera.

Advanced video journalism takes account of camera movement. That is non verbally I can intimate the feel and mood of a scene by the way I shoot you.

Last week I spoke of how VJ then moves into doc, film making; more on that in just a minute

Embedded Video
The page uses an example of embedded video but with a stronger aesthetic ( which I spoke about at the Batten Awards here at the National Press Club in Washington DC. I'm still highly indebted to those that gave me such an illustrious platform to share my thoughts.
* the video report I made at the awards is here

Click the pic and you load the FLV with controls behind. You'll need Flash CS3 to perform this function because of some of the actions scripting and once you either flag up or indicate to the reader there's video, they'll click, that is if they want to :)

Fig 3

Style over substance

This page also uses embedded video; the previous page shows a personal time line of video journalism aligned with projects I have undertaken including national and international station building projects.

Soon after Channel One's launch a filmic aesthetic, influenced by the DV film movement starts to emerge.

In 2000, Washington Post Travis Fox's piece of a construction-worker father grieving the death of his son from 911  is an indisputable strong indication of video journalism's strength at doc features.

In fact you might argue some talent have become digital film makers with a news bent.

Is that skin to video journalism? Either way does it matter.

The award winning Molly Dinnen sets up an interesting discourse. She's a film maker with the medium of film. Is she a video journalist, if she carries a DV Cam?

 I'm playing with semantics, but it's worth a moment of thought as a massive new wave of video journalists emerge.

Fig 4

No lights, a camera and plenty of action - an article from October 1994 about Video Journalism on British shores, with contributions from a range of figures e.g. Nick Pollard whom two years later would be headhunted by Sky News to become their head of news for a decade.

Fig 5
Dimitri Doganis was one of the original Channel One Video Journalists and at the time one of the youngest at 19, I think.

Today he would likely not call himself a video journalist, for he is a multiple award winning doc maker and executive producer.

His films for TV and festivals you've probably seen: The Siege of Bethlehem is one of my favourites, a film which captured a global audience.

If were to ask Dimitri how influential Video Journalism was to him, I've some idea what he would say. He'd likely say TV presented a different discipline and it helps to be around collaborative thinkers, but his overall understanding of the work flow and multiple disciplines was lit as a vj.

If like the scores of good producer/directors I know now in TV, you have a VJ background, you'll more likely to use their techniques to enhance your output. The most obvious is giving cameras to your subjects and trusting what they'll come back with.

If I were working as a producer/ Director for any outfit covering the Georgian- Russian conflict, I would be offering basic training and handing out cameras to residents.

I'd also have had engineers attach sensors to modified cams which could be offered to camera operators in the field, who could place them at strategic view points.

In the future I will look at how new technology in cameras e.g face recognition and remote cameras will strengthen video/ video journalism news.

For instance, I have recently been told that the BBC is developing a camera that can withstand extreme temperatures and be remotely controlled to film in the Antarctic etc.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good multimedia Ideas are timeless/priceless

Good ideas are good whatever the period. And casting an eye back to pre-web 2.0 one of the companies I worked for RE-ACTIVE. NET has aged really well.

The concept for this small commercial/ Ad agency was to mix video journalism and Multimedia. and the site, which garnered huge praise from the industry still reflects that.

All the credit goes to Rosalind Miller, the creative director whom in 1999/2000 would, with Hillman Curtis, make me marvel at what Flash and action scripting could do.

Simple sublime, you really must go and play with the site, if nothing else for the zen haunting bars that float around when you run over an image.

The key then as now is by mixing up different forms, we learnt from each other and came up with some interesting ideas.

A lot of what I came to appreciate, though I already had some existing Flash skills ( that's how Rosalind and I met) came from observing Rosalind at work.

The last still is commercial work from the XTP project, which is now spreading across London Underground.

What is it?

You see those new screens which play soundless ads that are replacing posters, yep.

Viacom asked if we could produce a set of ads to demonstrate how they would work with what was called 5 degrees of motion that gave clients an aesthetic as well as pricing model. Rosalind's designer aesthetic was just ......!

Design+Interactivity+VideoJournalism = commercials?? **^* $ Not so radical after all

Guns, wars and Video Journalism

Looking like something out of M*A*S*H, that's David Heathfield (2nd from right), class of 2007, now working for Nato as a video journalist.

While we face the humdrum of city life, David's busily staying away from snipers and the rest.

He's an incredibly nice guy and deserves all the success that comes his way.

David's is one of many students whom over the years has taken advantage of the Nato-War Games programme we run at the University, where up to eight students fly into a simulated war in one of the Nordic countries to report.

In David, and Tamer a correspondent in Gaza for Al Jazeera, they're right at the Front Line. I have an exit interview with Tamer, shot by David which I'll post sometime.

He had very good VJ skills, but was always pushing. In his last email he tells me how his style has completely alterted; it's more robust in his present job.

We wish him the very very best.

video journalism - Lost advocates, techniques and some.

Channel One TV was a 24 hour video journalism driven station. 30 VJs drove the station, 12 working on any one day making a host of programmes from cars, cookery, fashion, politics, travel and it was done rather well.

I found some archive and you'll be hard pressed to determine whether its crew-made or VJ- made.

On the news desk, 6 VJs per day, like Rachel Ellison ( now an MBE) filed stories, sometimes two/three times a day.

Each had a pool car, a beta 100, vinten tripod, senheiser, lapel, night spot lights (deedos), scrim and an assortment of gadgets in the back.

The beauty of the betas back then compared to the not so resolution-ready hi-8s is that you learnt everything you needed to know about bending light, back focus, blacks and whites, to get a good image off.

Bad thing, they weighed a ton.

Often the newsdesk rang in otherwise you had your own feature you'd convinced your editor you were working on.

The station ran a revolutionary video jukebox, which a producer had access to build a programme and news wheel.

Though as a viewer you thought you were watching a live show, presenter links were made minutes, sometime seconds, before the wheel's timing caught up with real time.

This gave the producer greater flexibility in creating a programme schedule. It also meant you'd never see a clanger (mother of all mistakes) on Channel One.

Because we were NOT scheduled to hit specific news hours, we introduced some novel, in fact innovatory ways of working.

How a news package was worked
Take a new item on hospital bugs at the time - a salmonella outbreak.

The news desk were looking for a news package - anything from 2-5 minutes.

  • I'd go to the hospital for an interview with the Chief Executive. This would be a Qand A with me IV (in-vision). Remember one of the basic element of a news package is the interview, but it's also the news package in itself, but will only visually sustain interest if the mis en scene changes ie cuts between you and your interviewee, with where appropriate drop-in shots.
  • e.g. this is an interview with blogger/ journalist Rachel North. There are 3 basic angle shots from here and six if you're a VJ you can work through. And there's a host of shots you could float in.
  • Rule 17 working network news, know when to float pictures over GVs to lift the package.
  • Given the plethora of news stations it was important to have you, the reporter, in shot. Effectively you were branding your item.
  • NB: if you're going out and out with VJism and you abandon this, you're cutting your nose off to spite your new media face. This technique works well and there's a contemporary way of doing this like "Bourne" in the edit to make it look really slick, particularly when you shoot loose.
  • I'd then do a "Track and Rushes". From the interview I knew my entry point using GVs/b-roll from my interviewee and had an outro as well, so I could put my voice over on tape. If you're writing to pictures, rather than the other way around, you'll get a stronger intro/package. The newsroom would then send a bike, or we'd go to a parked sat truck park or in the latter stages of C1 head for a designated T1 and ASDL ports. Today its the Net and a sat pack.
  • I'd continue with the package, finding an affected party, a pressure group and a department of health interviewee.
  • The newsdesk would put my initial Q and A on air. Today you'd be looking to prompt greater viewer comments than we did.
  • As I'm pulling elements of the package I'm gauging how much info it adds to the next cut i'm planning. If a government spokesman gave me an interview, that gets added to the Q and A. Sometimes I could ring into the show to break the pre-recorded news cycle. Today we'd use a any number of software to go live.
  • Because I had an idea of some of the packages my colleagues were doing, I could call one or two up working on the other side of London for them to work an answer for me. A package looks much better if there are a broad range of voices and locations.
  • I'd be back at the office for around 11 and within 40 mins to an hour and a half the package would be ready for air and I'd be getting ready to go out again.
  • Most often if it were a running story, I might still be looking to see how I can build on the morning package, whilst working on a new subject entirely.
In one year it was not uncommon to clock up 500 news packages.

Innovatory working practice
Why was this working practice innovatory?

Because a small team could keep the news ticking over and had developed a system that enabled them to build up a story during the day, whilst releasing elements as the day matured.

The year was 1994. The Internet had just arrived carrying data at the sonic speed of 28k/s

And whilst it was easy to hurumph stating well Satellite TV was doing that. Channel One TV operated below any margins any station could work on, with smaller staff.

Later today I'll be posting on some of the working habits of the lost records of Channel One TV.

In today's broadband environment the blue print of Channel One would be unquestionable.

Here's a piece from 1994, which was worked through the day and then picked up at night. This final piece for the day is a feature, the day stuff which I have not ben able to locate was the Q and As package with different parties.

Health and Safety:

This is the night shoot. Though it's not mentioned much night shoots come with particular risks for VJs and as I recall I had a stand off with youths unconnected to this scheme wanting my gear on returning to my car.

Channel One swiftly abandoned night shoots ( 8 pm - 9 am) when it was deemed too much of a risk particularly for women video journalists.

p.s reason it's so dark in places, compression messes with your gammas

Saturday, August 09, 2008

M2V - Videojournalism for anti-conformists

More than a little earnest for many of today's matter-of-facters, but Cicero on history:

"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity." Cicero


But then this VJ evolution, I'm in the midst of completing a couple of pages on viewmagazine that pieces together some contemporary historical going-ons that as a VJ, exec, or academic you may find useful.

Less about what it is... grief, done that. But the pitfalls, work-to-rule, quelling staff revolts (oh yes!) and really what next, when the sheen dulls.

In line with that I'll be bashing together a feature M2V which will be a sequel to Digital Diversity.

The video shot of the Telegraph ( top) and its multimedia studio, will be accompanied by some interesting thoughts from managers and the Telegraph's new super journalists.

Why no one else is doing this is interesting, but imagine 12 lucky young graduates put through their paces over the course of a year to learn everything there is to know about this new journalism.

Some investment huh?

For the first time you'll hear their views, plus some original archive from Channel One TV's broadcast, with an interview with ex Sky TV's head of News and former Managing Director of Channel One TV, Nick Pollard.

Channel One TV was the first and only VJ station in the UK in the mid 90s.

See you Monday

Friday, August 08, 2008

Clamouring to be a crack reporter

An ex-student, James, emailed me on something many ambitious journalists/ new journalists will recognise.

James in the last year has filmed in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, currently the area which has brought Georgia and Russia into conflict.

James, 24, speaks fluent Russian and knows a thing or two about the area and would very much want to report from the area.

To be precise, he would very much want a broadcaster to take him on.

I talk to a fair number of interested parties about this. Once the director of Studies at Chatham House whom I knew had his nephew contact me about breaking into foreign reportage. Then South America was the big news spot to be.

Here's what I usually say:

1. News editors are highly unlikely to send a reporter they do not know to a region in conflict - even if you know the president , well.... but

* a) the insurance is too much
* b) there's a slew of in-house reporters craving to get the next plane out.

2. What they are likely to want is your contacts, fixing skills working with a correspondent or your feeds if you're already in the region and sound reliable.
James Britain, a friend and a reporter based in South Africa in 92 for South Africa's Sunday Times got his break by becoming firstly the fixer of ITN's Southern Africa correspondent's Mark Austin. Then he would later become a producer and continued a highly successful career back in London with ITN.
3. Broadcasters are more inclined to take your eye witness reports if you are in a region.
In the 90s I thought I knew everything there was about South Africa, but for love or money no one would listen to me. It was only after I relocated to South Africa, going into hot zones in the townships; being shot at and getting copy on the BBC World Service that anyone started to listen.
But you can pay a high price, sometimes with your life, so if you're considering such a move talk to friends and family.
4. Your best bet also is firing a wad of emails/calls to specialist programmes (that's what I did) e.g. Outlook World Service, Woman's Hour, Newsbeat (BBC) Newsround, More4.

5. Easier, trawl some of the more credible web sites and offer your footage/copy e.g., UNTV, etc. Didn't have those in my time, but it would have been an extra resource.

6. If you're planning on relocating, get a good sense of how newsworthy the material will be for broadcasters. It's about understanding the news agenda.

Trouble is you're in catch 22 land in trying to do such a big story. If you don't have any cred, they won't take anything, but how do you get cred?

And if you do make it, clamouring to be a crack reporter, many a journalists have gone on to bag awards for their endeavors.

Good luck, but be safe. At 20 something, with the adrenalin rush of war it's difficult not to think you're invincible.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Video Journalism and online design - missing a few tricks

ShortList Magazine - one of the most exciting magazines in layout and design in London
Where do we get our ideas from?

Well everywhere and anywhere, but I know exactly what inspired me in video journalism and online design.

For online design for it was Newsweek, but then if ShortList Magazine was around in 2003 I most certainly would have deconstructed it for online publications.

Like Newsweek it's clean, with striking photography, great articles and innovative layout, reminiscent of how The Face broke new ground in the 80s and sets itself up brilliantly for how embedded video should work aesthetically.

Which allows me to make a sideways point, which is, in the recent dash for embeds, most online publications missed an aesthetic trick.

Embeds really do the trick; more recent feedback from Online News Association colleagues is that those using embed increase their traffic many fold.

Here the BBC is reporting its pre-eminence in trials.

The most eye catching use of embeds comes from a scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruises character is flashed onto an electronic newspaper.

It's not a video to start with but a pic, which animates into video.

I tried the same thing for view, which worked pretty well: a frame from a video, which when clicked changes its state.

I managed four different states: a rollover triggering sound, which would also animate or cause my picture* to stop moving, and then once pressed the picture pulled in video.

Until recently I had to embed the video as a .swf on the timeline. That all changed with .FLV and the ability to stream from the server with controls attached.

Hence if you navigate viewmagazine, quite a few videos do not have controls. Now that I'm aware of the code I'll be changing all that.

I mentioned in some case the pics would animate.

Hillman Curtis who's recently changed the appearance of his site, was one of the first in the new media age to use video as if it were a still. A young child standing still stares into a camera, but it's only after a couple of seconds that you see the child blink.

Aesthetically brilliant!

Another technique is to have the image sequence on a loop as in this video here from the Mayfair Club.

Now back to ShortList. The freebie mag in its short time span has won many awards. However, and its such a shame their web site, though clean and well laid out, is less risk-taking than its hard copy magazine, and the use of Youtube video really lets down the look and feel.

Shortlist is definitely a magazine that could do with Video journalism and no doubt do it well enough given their in-house talent, to replicate their formidable success in print.

I'm going to post and example of embedded vid aesthetic on viewmagazine, with archive footage from Channel One TV circa 1996.

Watch out for three reporters ( not me) who are now household TV names, and also you'll See Dan at the start of the programme doing gonzo hand held stand up/ piece to camera.

Take into consideration a couple of things. It's 1996 and Dan's using a hi8 cam with no viewfinder to gauge his position in the lens.

* I believe the modern day new media/ video art equivalent of the still photo is an animated one, along the which would allow for multiple entry points into the story. Here's an example without the multiple hot spots

I was going to post on video art but have spiked that for the mo.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

After a Career in Video Journalism Part III - The Crunch

Make no bones about it the Video Journalism crunch will appear some time.

The market place has simply expanded too fast, exploded beyond anyone's perception that the pro (paying) sector of this new industry will need a "correction".

In part market forces will play a role as newspapers start to level out costs.

Those making video because their rivals are will find reasons to trim back; something's got to give.

The advertising cake will only allow for so many cuts.

So whilst the 90s held to an arcane system, the TV industry treating VJs as lepers: "They didn't understand TV enough" one ITNer said, today the concept is welcomed with open arms.

On the one hand creating a new tier of news makers is a mightily good thing, on the other hand it could quite easily create a false sense of our own worth.

VJ: "Yeah I'm a VJ"
EXEC:"So how much do you bench?"
VJ:"4 minutes average, 40 views"

Furthermore, what's the point of producing a new breed of journalists, if their modus operandi and news agenda coverage mirrors that of old.

Regional newspaper publisher Northcliffe takes the above point in attacking the BBC for its pending launch of hyper regional online TV, claiming the BBC will not add any new value to what existing newspapers are already doing online.

The greatest travesty to video journalism is how narrowly it's being used to chase what might be construed as traditional stories or that it's used to produce material in a tried, yet tired format.

One of the most powerful yet overlooked models for video reportage would be to marry Pew Centers late 90s discursive insight into news gathering in Civic Journalism with Video Journalism.

Le Crunch
The VJ crunch will get managers thinking in different ways.

While TV does Mipcom and Vegas selling formats, only a few newspapers focusing on cross content, will sleep well knowing their product has legs: the triple play, Online, TV and mobile.

What happens when you launch your piece? If it's not exactly peripatetic, well...

The badge of video journalism, should be one of the most envious from other professionals and in the 90s it held that ambivalent monocle.

Journalists might ridicule it, but quite a few envied the format's independence.

Where else would a journalist have so much power to craft a piece from start to finish.

Standing on the college green, next to the Houses of Parliament interviewing politicians, one news maker openly remarked how envious he was that we could pick and choose who we wanted to shoot without the wait.

Video journalists, by default, are the decathletes of modern media. That's not a boast for supremacy, just as a decathlete would deem to be no more superior than a 100m sprinter.

It's comparing apples and pears. But the myriad skillset is a pre-requisite to doing extraordinary things.

Rather tongue in cheek if you could apply the talents of a decathlete in a survival game: run, hurdle, long jump that river, pole vault that fence, visualise that escape route, that would be something.

Similarly, a VJ should be able to read this: "Entry into Guantanamo Bay has been allowed, but you will not be able to interview detainee and many areas will be off limits" and see the film unfold.

This was the basis of Bachenheimer's award winning report

Better still, as the visual theme for your film starts to go belly up because the authorities aren't being so cooperative when you get there, plan B, C, D and so on should kick in.

There's no opportunity here to ring up the programme producer; the director; or camera operator and ask for help.

Small wonder that some of the best Video Journalist's I have come to know, also shoot long format, commercials and docs.

The Channel One trait
Inset pic VJ Julius Ceaser, 1994, now a top Ecomomics presenters at the BBC
The new crop of VJs that sprang onto the market in 1994 attempted to buck the notion that you could be a jack of all trades and master of all.

But short termism almost got in the way. Many of the VJs from Channel One could have done away with the hierarchy of TV making, but then had to eat pie.

At Channel One's demise, many went into television.

Few of us would practise VJ any more.

If VJ had given anything it was was a lingua franca to speak to different sectors of the production process.

Could you pull focus? Could you L cut that and crush the blacks? Your inflexion stress is on the wrong word.

Editors, camera operators, and reporters, now had a singular interpreter that could translate geek speak for everyone to understand.


In turn, Channel One's ex VJs got back into the hub of mixing ideas, exchanging views and learning from others.

The editor's editor, the producer's producer, the reporter's reporter, if any became your friends you knew you were strengthening your hand.

If you got to work with Charles Wheeler, Bruce Goodison or Paul Greengrass and scores of other talent, Christmas had arrived.
Note: (Paul Greengrass ( Bourne films) was a Producer on ITV's World In Action - an incredible current affairs show. Bruce Goodison is one of the UK's most talented documentary/film directors and the Late Charles Wheeler, a reporter was unsurpassable)
That's not to say as a VJ you need TV for validation, but you did, I felt and still do, need somewhere to replenish and swap ideas.

Video Journalism's current overlooked problem is it's become a one-size-fits-all.

You can be a VJ in the US, the UK or in Australia with altogether differing standards but hold firm views as a master video maker, though other territories might think you're pants.

If you "cross the line" in the UK, you'll get slated in the US. Nice huh!

In the UK if you're picture rather than chronological, eyebrows are raised.

These two observations are generalisations, but they show how TV's umbilical chord is nurturing video journalism. Good thing... bad thing?

Curiously communities of film makers, amateur or otherwise see creativity as integral to the script. Perhaps it's because film is working a more matured language.

As yet there are not nearly enough evangelists, though Rosenblum, Halstead, Streich, are up there.

And if I have unintentionally left your name out, apologies, but do correct me, the above list is a snap shot of those who have contributed by organising awards.

Also, something that perhaps needs looking at, there is no professional bodies safeguarding the interests of the movement, if that's what it is - a movement - and why should there be you might argue.

TV may have it's director and camera's guild, but VJ's, well don't be stoopid.

It's not serious news making is it?

But that's the rub.

How can Video Journalism begin to measure it's own success?


Yes! So when the ONA says it's setting up a VJ award that should be applauded.

When concentra hold their yearly VJ bash, we should all celebrate and when Sabine Streich dares to be the first to want to celebrate this new art form as she did in 2002 with her now acclaimed Video Journalism award, throw her own medal.

Awards at very least expose strengths and weaknesses.

It makes us privy to different genre, varying attitudes which in turn should lead to a healthy debate amongst practitioners.

So when Michael Rosenblum attempts to build an agency along the lines of Magnum for VJs, throw him a medal too.

Video Journalism where next?
Moby, a one-man band experimental musician, much like video journalism interviewed by David in Washington.
Surely we can have no idea of the potential of Video journalism, it's only a toddler or to the first wave, a teenager.

It may suffice as status quo video news.

And just as the front page photograph is bold and arresting, embedded video - though I had my own take at the Batten Awards - may become a standard, but it's the content of the film and its execution which will lead us to consider video journalism is a killer app.

Truth, though Vjism was a the moment it hit the market.

Video Motionists
If you've been shooting for more than you care to remember you possibly occupy this rarefied ecosystem of seeing sequences unfold before you.

Human movement becomes particle physics.

You've probably acquired that sixth sense of marrying film, light, music and dialogue that makes you the Kitano Takeshi of Video Journalism.

Japanese multi talented film maker Takeshi is renowned for shooting three times as many scenes as other film makers, because he works so fast and often shoots one take.

Video journalism is in fact a misnomer, because at some point you're a DV film maker, a latter day Dogme.

But for the genre to push it needs to be allowed to be creative, make mistakes, test shoot, reinvent itself, do to for video what film makers do for film or the Moby, with his multiple synthesisers does for music.

It needs a coming together of idea sharing; it needs a mixing of different formats and it requires stake holders, distributors, young people to take ownership.

When video journalism first arrived on British shores in 94, courtesy of Rosenblum it had ambitious ideas.

It was not television, but at every turn executives tried to make it so.

Video journalism is the spoken word of TV or to pad out that analogy, it's the language e.g. English you'd learn from native speakers and not from a book.

Chinese visitor with English translation book: "Very nice to meet you. Please indicate how I get to Harrods edifice"?
Spoken word translation: "Hello there, where's Harrods?"

Video journalism is contemporary parlance that organically develops and it's still developing.

Maybe, it actually needs a crunch to sort that out.

Tomorrow, Video Journalism's new Art

David started his career for the BBC in 1987 before turning to Vjsm in 94. Years later he went back into TV: Channel 4 News, BBC Breakfast News and Politics programme PowerHouse, and then returned to Vjism with a passion.

If you'd like to to book David for talks, drinks, reminiscence- damn it - about them days, email him before he gets really boring.

Versions of the last post with video are on