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.
I’ve spent the past couple of days checking out the nominees for this year’s Emmy Awards, especially those in the “New Approaches to News and Documentary” categories. Wow, what a group! These nominees have provided a pretty clear vision for the future of visual journalism – a future where storytelling meets interactivity – and it is awesome!
After looking through the projects, I found some very impressive photographers, videographers and multimedia producers that I hadn’t discovered before. I posted a few Twitter handles at the end of each project to help follow some of their latest work. A lot of these projects involved large teams and I couldn’t mention everyone. Let me know if there’s anyone that I missed and I’ll add them to the list.
The first five entries were nominated in the “Current News Coverage” category. According to the entry requirements, the judges were looking for “creative and innovative approaches to the practice, presentation and delivery of news & documentary programming.” Enjoy!
Globe and Mail – A six-part multimedia series that talks with women from all walks of life about their lives in one of the most dangerous cities in Afghanistan.
Reuters – In-depth multimedia charting the year of global upheaval following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. See how lives everywhere have changed as a divergent world embarks on a new era of historic uncertainty.
Produced by MediaStorm’s Brian Storm (@BrianStorm), Alba Mora Roca (@albamoraroca), Bob Sacha (@bobsacha), Tim Klimowicz, Jacky Myint (@jmyint) and Jason Burfield (@jburfield). Also produced by Reuters VP of Pictures Ayperi Karabuda Ecer and Head of Visual Projects Jassim Ahmad (@JassimA). Reuters is on Twitter at @reuterspictures.
San Jose Mercury News – Disabled students in Vietnam find hope in an IT Training Program.
Produced by LiPo Ching.
Reuters, Red Cross and Media Storm – Combining imagery by Reuters photojournalists with eyewitness testimony and interactive graphics, Surviving the Tsunami reveals the strength of the human spirit in the face of catastrophe. These are stories of compassion and hope. The project marks the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Produced by MediaStorm’s Brian Storm (@BrianStorm), Eric Maierson (@gboy) and Tim Klimowicz. Also produced by Reuters VP of Pictures Ayperi Karabuda Ecer and Head of Visual Projects Jassim Ahmad (@JassimA). Reuters is on Twitter at @reuterspictures.
The next six projects were nominated in the documentary category. They’re all pretty awesome…
LA Times – For three years, L.A.’s Homeboy Industries, a nationally recognized gang intervention organization, has sent a select few of its members on an extraordinary pilgrimage to work with impoverished kids in Alabama Village, Prichard, Ala. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the state, the small community is rural, largely segregated, oppressed by violence and ignored by the surrounding community. Its young people have come to know their enclave as “Death Valley.”
The poverty of the children of Alabama Village is shocking — even for the Homeboys, who come from the tough inner-city streets of Los Angeles. But there is also much the Homeboys recognized; drug dealers, shootings, dead-end choices and the desperate situation of youth facing no way out.
It is in these children 2,000 miles away that the visitors from L.A.find their calling.
MediaStorm – The thriving Midwestern family farm is no longer, having been choked by industrialized agriculture and replanted with subdivisions. A shifting economy, combined with an old-fashioned lifestyle that doesn’t translate from generation to generation, is forever altering the landscape.
Carrying one camera and one lens, Danny Wilcox Frazier walks Iowa’s gravel roads, gets his feet wet in the milking barn, pulls up a stool in the small-town bar. Through black-and-white photographs, he makes a record of his own emotions as he travels through the state. What results is a complex portrait of a well-loved American landscape at a time of enormous cultural change.
NOVA – Welcome to “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers,” a web-only series that shows what happens when the lab coats come off. Meet intriguing scientists and engineers. Watch their videos. Ask them questions. Find out how their surprising secret lives fuel their work, and vice versa.
New York Times – New York is a city of characters. The Green Thumb, whose community garden in a Brooklyn housing project shows children that eggs don’t come from eggplant. The Dictaphone Doctor, last of a dying breed. The Jury Clerk, who says ‘Good morning’ 200 times a day, and means it. The Teenage Mother. The Singing Waitress. The Blind Wine-Taster. The Tabloid Photographer. The Iraq Veteran. The Walking Miracle.
Each week in 2009, The New York Times introduced such individuals in sound and images, inviting ordinary people to tell their extraordinary stories — their passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions.
Soul of Athens – Farmer, husband, father and now widower. For 63 years, Tom Rose and his wife, Mary, built a life together on his family farm on Canaanville Road. Then last year Mary passed away, leaving Rose to face the future alone, surrounded by a lifetime of memories. Impressive work by Maisie Crow.
The Boston Globe – Affectionately called Ted or Teddy by voters and those closest to him, he was known to the public for a booming voice and occasionally boisterous — and some notoriously reckless — behavior.
If you haven’t had enough yet, here are a couple more posts that are worth checking out. Both are great blogs and filled with a lot of awesome projects!
Forty of the country’s top college journalists traveled to the Poynter Institute in May 2009 for an intensive multimedia bootcamp. During the fellowship, Greg Linch, Nic Barajas and I asked the group why they’re pursuing careers in journalism and what the future holds.
We have collected their responses and built them into a Web site to give voice to the future of journalism. The project includes perspectives from young journalists around the country who continue to pursue careers in journalism despite the industry’s struggles.
As part of the site, I also created an audio slideshow with young journalists from around the country to share their perspectives on the future of journalism. The interviews were recorded during Poynter’s 2009 College Fellowship, which I was very fortunate to attend.
Here’s an excerpt from my essay on the future of journalism:
The journalism profession is facing its own struggle for survival. Many mainstream news organizations are now counting page views in place of meaningful impressions. In better times, I would have graduated and applied for an entry-level reporting position. I could have started in a small market and worked my way through the system, but many of those opportunities are no longer available.
In August, 2009, I founded Ewen Media, a multimedia production company that uses interactive multimedia to share meaningful stories. I am definitely taking a risk by branching out on my own. In three months, my student loans will arrive in the mail and I will likely be crushed by financial burden. However, I am prepared to move forward knowing that I am a fighter, willing to take big risks and make bold decisions, in a desperate attempt to protect the profession that I love.
The future of journalism will be strong because thousands of young journalists are willing to follow their hearts and pursue a profession much greater than themselves. 20 years from now, I am proud to know that my colleagues and I will be the ones who ran toward the industry while all others were running out. Together, we will form a “profession of the passionate” and forever change the world.
The Minnesota News Photographers Association held their 2010 convention this weekend highlighting some of the best in photojournalism. The convention has always been an interesting place to reflect on some of the changes in visual journalism with many of the attendees coming from a traditional newspaper background.
For the final presentation at this year’s conference, the organization hosted a panel with three of the finest storytellers in their respective forms. I wanted to share some of their collective thoughts on the future of storytelling as the various mediums converge into one.
Creating an ‘audio illusion’
Sasha Aslanian, Youth Radio Series and special projects producer for Minnesota Public Radio, represented the radio producers on the panel. Aslanian argued that radio was the most visual medium because of the elements that you cannot see in a story. She used a couple examples to demonstrate how effective audio can create stronger visual stories.
Aslanian described the two most important elements of storytelling to be the story’s scene and characters, which were highlighted by the previous two clips. The biggest takeaway was making sure that audio does not take your listener away from the experience. Every bad edit reminds the audience that they are listening to the radio, rather than becoming part of the illusion.
Strong audio is about creating an illusion, she said, and one bad edit can pull listeners out of the illusion. If you limit those mistakes, it will help carry people to the end of your story and make audio storytelling a much more visual experience.
Building the story
Kare11’s Jonathan Malat, who is one of the most talented news videographers in the country, represented the TV perspective on the panel. Malat focused on the importance of storytelling to engage users with a particular story.
“TV used to be the only place where you could get this visual news and we were very spoiled for many years. Whatever crap we would put in the box for you – you would watch. There’s a lot of people putting crap in a box now… so we’ve had to up our game.” – Jonathan Malat
Malat stressed the importance of “staying in the moment” with news stories. That means using material from the scene to help limit distractions and allow viewers to feel like they are there. To highlight his point, Malat showed the piece he produced with Kare11 reporter Boyd Huppert during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
(Also, here’s a link to the live interview with Jonathan Malat shortly after he was released from police custody.)
Rather than using sound from public officials and breaking up the story, the sound bytes reacted to the current situation. Adding interviews from police officers after the fact would have broken up the story. By keeping the story active, it kept viewers in the moment and provided a much more rewarding experience.
Second, Malat emphasized the importance of keeping stories the appropriate length. Most television packages are under two minutes, but he said having longer stories doesn’t necessarily make them better stories. He used this as a criticism for all video, not just online video, which could be shortened to make for stronger stories.
“You have all this stuff and you feel like you need to use it… but sometimes less is more,” he said.
Malat helps produce the 10,000 Stories series, which is consistently some of the best feature reporting in the country. To do so, he stressed the importance of vision and focus with his work, rather than collecting a “bunch of stuff,” and how he constantly thinks about story structure to make for a complete story.
“We talk about the public’s right to know, but as storytellers, it’s the public’s right to know when I tell you so.”
Lastly, Malat highlighted the importance of rewarding viewers by adding surprises along the way. He described a lot of video stories as having “Fred Flintstone feet” because the subject keeps running and story doesn’t go anywhere. “You say the same thing 20 different ways and that isn’t rewarding to the viewer,” he said.
One of my favorite examples of story structure was “Crash for Clunkers” by Joe Fryer, which won the feature category for NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism. Malat didn’t show this story, but I wanted to include it because it’s full of awesome and exciting surprises. When I watched this story, I immediately thought about how other mediums would try to tell this story. It’s simply not the same story without the narration setting it up.
Waiting for the moment
Star Tribune photographer Jim Gehrz has a unique ability to capture human emotion. He was previously named NPPA’s Photographer of the Year and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Gehrz showed three audio slideshows during his presentation, including The Wonder of Flight, Locked in Limbo and A Prayer for Father Tim (pictured below). I have worked with Gehrz at the Star Tribune and always admired his ability to photograph intimate moments in people’s lives.
There were several notable things about Gehrz’s presentation that can be applied directly to other mediums. To begin with, Gehrz said this is one of the most exciting times of his career because of the new opportunities to tell stronger stories. He can use new storytelling tools, such as the Canon 5D, to experiment with new storytelling techniques that he had never tried before.
“After being in still photography all of my life, it’s now like I’ve opened the window,” – Jim Gehrz.
Gehrz said the new technology has also led to an added level of intimation for journalists and their subjects. He recalled a story earlier in his career where he put a wireless mic on a subject and asked for permission to visit a different part of the exhibit. When the subject asked permission from her supervisor, she added, “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” She was right, Gehrz said. The added technology destroyed his rapport and ability to work with them. As a still photographer, he would never have had a problem, he said.
Gehrz had one comment that I found particularly interesting:
“As we get more and more into these new mediums, these stories are really a process of discovery. I don’t know what the story’s going to be. [The story] is kind of telling itself. If you leave yourself open and try not to go in with preconceived notions, some pretty amazing things can happen.”
I found the comment interesting in contrast to Malat’s comments from earlier in the presentation where he was always thinking about story structure as a means to focus the story in a particular direction. It was a very subtle difference, but I think it leads to an interesting discussion about the direction of visual journalism.
To produce packages like Kare11′s Crash for Clunkers, there is a certain level of involvement from the reporter and photographer that is necessary to shape the story. Certain questions have to be asked to push the piece in a particular direction. That involvement can be great for storytelling as long as the journalist does not shape the story into something it is not.
On the other hand, the multimedia from newspaper photographers often has a raw feel like there was no journalist involvement at all. Subjects can take the story in any direction, but it becomes much more difficult to advance the story without the narrative track. If the story is not moving forward, especially online, then viewers are not going to stay.
The three panelists helped highlight some very significant differences between the mediums. However, at the core, everyone appeared to agree on the importance of basic elements of storytelling. Stories need a beginning, middle and end. They need characters, conflict and surprises. Most importantly, they need to move forward and reward the viewer along the way. These elements, regardless of their format, can turn any medium into a powerful story.
1) Target Field opening day time lapse
2) World Series time lapse
Robert Caplin – Freelance Photographer
This is a time-lapse compilation of over 5,000 images taken from dozens of locations inside and outside of Yankees Stadium during Game 6 of the 2009 World Series between The New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Read more about this time lapse on Caplin’s blog.
3) Target Field: Opening day in 3 minutes
4) Baseball game, fireworks time-lapse
WCCO-TV started building a local news network on Thursday with its launch of The Wire, an interactive Web application that allows users to follow news stories as they develop throughout the day.
The Wire includes a linear timeline of local news that tracks breaking news in real time. The timeline drives traffic to wcco.com using posts from WCCO reporters and aggregates content from social networks. Users can sort the timeline by news, buzz (the “fun” stuff) and events. Most importantly, the application also aggregates the best local news coverage and allows users to submit their own content as well.
Here’s an introduction to the application by WCCO Web producer Karna Bergstrom:
Also, check out Jason DeRusha’s video on the site’s launch. Pretty funny stuff.
By developing the site, WCCO has created a local news network that provides fresh coverage throughout the day. The site uses existing WCCO content and aggregates feeds from other organizations, including MinnPost, Minnesota Public Radio, Kare 11, Fox 9, WCCO Radio and the Pioneer Press. The Star Tribune and KSTP didn’t make the cut because their feeds are run by robots.
The Wire includes some impressive multimedia integration. The video player is embedded within the individual posts and can pull feeds from YouTube or wcco.com (users still cannot share or embed the video). The multimedia content is connected to each post and does a nice job highlighting the station’s strong video content.
The linear timeline seems like a weird way to access local news. There’s a lot of information condensed into a small space and most developing stories require some previous understanding to make them work. This problem is not unique to The Wire and it will be interesting to see how this tool will be used in the future. It does include a search function to follow specific topics and that could be a great tool to follow stories over time. For example, a search of “health care” could help follow the health care debate, even though stories are currently limited to a three-day window.
The most promising part of the project comes from the “list view.” Does it look familiar? It’s pretty much a mini Twitter feed. By doing this, WCCO becomes a much more attractive source for local news because of its willingness filter local content and link to outside sources. In addition, the live feed allows users to access information in real time, but without the human filter of Bring Me The News to recommend related content or the strongest stories.
The Wire is not currently sending updates through Twitter or RSS. WCCO’s digital media director, John Daenzer, said those updates will be coming soon. In addition, WCCO also plans to roll out a mobile site (sometime next week) that will include a layout similar to the “list view.”
The most promising part of the application is its development of a local news network. WCCO is the first news organization to start aggregating coverage in real time and this could have some very interesting implications. Right now, the list view is pretty much a fire hose of local content. However, if The Wire could become a filter of local content and update users based on their individual interests, then I think it could become a very powerful tool. For example, I could use the application to request information about local politics, Gophers basketball and health care, and receive those updates through a Facebook application or RSS feed. In addition, I could use an advanced search to track a local story, such as R.T. Rybak’s run for governor, to provide context for an on-going event.
The first local news organization who can find a way to aggregate and filter local coverage based on user preferences is going to be very successful. After WCCO’s development of The Wire, it’s only a matter of time.