South High: Fighting against the Odds – Watch the full video on StarTribune.com.
The South High Tigers weren’t an obvious target. They were an average team in the Minneapolis City Conference. However, there were two important elements that made the story great – access and characters. We knew the head coach, Lenny Sedlock, would be a great character from day one. His motivational speech on the first day of practice was straight out of a movie. More importantly, the school was willing to give us unrestricted access to the football program. Access made the story. We didn’t know what we were going to get, but we knew there would be a story.
We spent about three months with the team. Most of our shooting came on game days, but occasionally we would walk with the kids to school or attend one of their classes. I ended up shooting on 12 different days, which resulted in 577 gb of raw video and just under 15 hours of footage. I often shot multiple situations on the same day. There were some very long days.
I was incredibly impressed with the maturity of the students and their ability to work with us. I expected it to be much more difficult to catch any real moments. I also expected the camera to be much more of a distraction. Overall, the students handled it really well and were comfortable with us being there.
Read the stories and view photo galleries from the season at http://www.startribune.com/southfootball.
From a storytelling standpoint, my primary focus throughout the video was keeping every situation in the moment and allowing the story to tell itself. I tried to talk with subjects before, during and/or after any action, whether it was a conversation with the athletic director about grades or the sophomore quarterback’s first touchdown on varsity. I tried to keep the interviews active, meaning while they were doing another activity, and worked to avoid any sit down interview shots unless the speaker was revealing an important part of the story.
I used a Canon 5D mark III with a Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic for natural sound. I also used a Tascam DR100 audio recorder with a wireless mic for interviews. I wanted to make my rig as small and unobtrusive as possible. Most of the video was shot with two lenses, a Canon 24-105 f/4L IS or Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS. I actually used significantly less gear than on a normal assignment.
The most interesting moment from the project came during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the South High practice field. Biden was in Minneapolis for a campaign event while I was on the South High practice field. The head coach kept changing the practice time so we knew something funny was going on, but we didn’t know what. While I was shooting, I saw three or four Secret Service agents walking around the field. Shortly after, the Vice President walked out of his car and onto the field. Jerry Holt, the still photographer on the project, was covering his downtown event and just happened to be in the VP’s motorcade as the pool photographer. Neither of us had any idea that we was going to be there.
The traveling press was restricted to a specific part of the field as Biden addressed the team. I continued to shoot video in the huddle and ended up with the best access of the day. I was curious why the White House press staff hadn’t kicked me out or made me stand with the rest of the credentialed media. Shortly after, I found out that the campaign staff thought I was a student at South High and shooting practice highlights for the team. My youth and inexperience finally paid off!
The editing took five days for this story. My biggest concern was making sure that a 15-minute video would hold up online, especially on a newspaper website. Most of our videos are 90 seconds or less. My other concern was making sure that it made sense. I didn’t want the viewer to get lost in a story with a bunch of great visuals. I wanted to make sure they knew exactly what was going on the entire time.
My first step was to log each day of shooting and transcribe the interviews. I managed both of these using Google docs. I included notes about who was in the video, the type of shot (wide, medium or tight) and described the action. This allowed me to look back at my footage and make sure that I didn’t miss anything. It also made it easier to focus the story because I knew what footage we had from each of the characters. Next, I divided the story into segments and started writing a rough script. This allowed me to build multiple timelines without becoming completely disorganized. Once the segment was done, I imported the partial timeline into a master timeline. This allowed me to organize my final video without having to break it apart. (I stole this idea from the Compound Clips function in Final Cut Pro X). I eventually merged the project back into one final timeline once I liked the order of the clips. I don’t know if this is the best way to approach the post-production process, but this allowed me to quickly organize my timeline, change the order of clips and make the edit more manageable under deadline.
We published the project at StarTribune.com/SouthFootball. The story ran in print on Tuesday, October 23 with a promo to the website.
I wanted to share this workflow to compare with others who are doing similar types of work. In addition, I’d love to know if you have any suggestions how how to make it better. Feel free to post away in the comments. Thank you for your time, and I appreciate you checking it out!
McKenna Ewen was featured on the front page of the Murphy Reporter, the University of Minnesota’s alumni magazine, in the fall of 2011. The article interviewed several journalism school alumni who are finding new ways to share stories. A link to the story is available here.
Almost every day I come across a brilliant time-lapse video that I haven’t seen before. Just when I think they can’t get any better, I find an even better one in another beautiful location. One of my personal favorites was shot by photographer Terje Sorgjerd in Norway near the Russian border. The Gladiator soundtrack doesn’t hurt.
Less than a month later, Sorgjerd produced a second video from El Teide, one of Spain’s highest mountains, near the Teide Observatories. Beautiful once again.
After watching these brilliant videos, I started to wonder about the use of time-lapse photography as a storytelling technique. Sure, it’s great for showcasing the passage of time and capturing breathtaking images, but how can the tool be used for journalistic storytelling?
Using time as a storytelling tool
Every multimedia journalist should become comfortable using time-lapse photography as a tool for covering news events. Most events do not require a timelapse and I’ve seen plenty examples where they’ve failed. I’ve jokingly commented that all newspaper video lately has been either a timelapse or shot in slow motion. However, pulling off a successful timelapse is a skill that every multimedia journalist should have to cover events that occur over an extended period of time (especially in states with crazy weather!)
1) Crazy Weather
Are you about to get several feet of snow or have a tidal wave hit your shores? If so, it’s time to set up a timelapse!
2) Provide context for large events
NASA satellites captured images in the Gulf of Mexico to show the aftermath of the BP oil spill. The oil slick appears grayish-beige in the image and changes due to changing weather, currents and use of oil dispersing chemicals. It would be very difficult to show the scale of this event without this perspective.
3) Make the viewer feel small
Dan Chung used the combination of slow motion and time-lapse photography to document the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The result, a video capable of showcasing the size, scale and beauty of an historic event without relying on a narrative track to articulate its significance. The slow motion video was shot with a Canon 7D at 60fps.
4) Show how things work
Sean Stiegemeier used time-lapse photography to document the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010. In the description, Stiegemeier said, “I saw all of these mediocre pictures… so I figured I should go and do better.” As a result, Stiegemeier’s time-lapse video showcased the intricacies of the volcanic eruption in a way that many news stories could only hope.
5) Highlight details over time
We’re used to seeing time-lapse videos of huge events and beautiful locations, but what about minor changes over time? The Sydney Morning Herald used photos from a 12-month period to show the aging of President Barack Obama during his first year in office.
6) Document everything
If the previous projects aren’t large enough, how about shooting with 14 time-lapse cameras for eight years to document the construction at ground zero? It’s offiically the world’s largest time-lapse project. This way, if anything happens, you’re sure to have it covered.
7) Create a timelapse of a timelapse
This wouldn’t be a complete blog post unless I found a gorgeous time-lapse video of a time-lapse video. So here it is!
If you enjoyed these videos, you can also check out my previous on the art of baseball time-lapse video. Please add your personal favorites in the comments as well.