Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A YouTube story two days in a row, my apologies, but this story was also covered by NPR.

Luke Johnson, a Phoenix resident, wants to see how many people will call his cell phone. So he posted a video on YouTube and started the ball rolling.

What gets my attention is that his story caught on to the point where NPR interviewed him and someone called during the interview. To date more than 11,000 people have called him.

This is an example of a simple idea, posting your phone number and seeing what happens, growing into something more. There are times when we are only limited by our imagination or fear of failing.

Luke demonstrates that an interesting story, even an off-the-wall story, can catch people’s imaginations in our world.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

in my language

It is not every day I come across a YouTube video and sit back and say 'wow.'

If you haven't seen it yet, take the time to watch silentmiaow's 'In My Language' and be patient. For those of you who can't be botheredto take the time, visit periurban's critique/response to 'In My Language.' But at least get to 3 minutes and 40 seconds or so mark.

For those doubters out there, this is one of the best pieces of web video I have seen in awhile. There is some very impressive use of perspective, sound, rhythm, and repetition that shows a remarkable understanding of what makes video and film powerful. For some, yes it is a bit 'artsy,' but really watch it and work to understand it and I think you will be surprised. I think this is the first time I have been able to experience autism from this perspective.

The use of text and the voice synthesizer are also impressive in the depth and understanding of how these parts of the whole interact and support each other.

The you add the personal and human element of silentmiaow's story and you are blown away by her way of communicating her world to us. I won't even delve into the Taoist aspects of her name alone.

Poignant, insightful and powerful are pale words compared to this piece.

It make me think back to a observation by Alex Webb that "If you see the world from a different persepctive, even a two degree change, it is a whole new world."


tuesday morning qb

Today it is the Tuesday morning quarterback’s turn to evaluate the Blizzard of '77 package.

One of the interactive concepts we considered was allowing/asking people to submit stories or photos from the event. For various time and web site related issues not related to this project we decided not to follow this route. I think in the future this is one of the ways to involve readers/viewers in the process and final product. I still think this was worth the time and effort, but it was not my call in the end.

One of the reasons I think this was a critical aspect of this project was the number of people who stopped by my desk while I was working on this project to tell me stories or talk about pictures they remember. There are certain incidents that capture people’s imaginations and memories and this was a 'biggie.'

Another unforeseen hurdle was that at least one of not two folders of negatives have been lost in the past 30 years. It is hard to really do a broad project, when you are missing at least half of the initial take. Another funny moment was realizing how far the photographers then did not stray from Washington Street. So watch your P’s and Q’s when you are making images, you never know who might be looking back. That being said, how many newspapers and news organizations are archiving images that DON”T RUN. Many of the best shots we used were out-takes.

Lesson #8: Your sound file is your biggest file, keep that and the quality of the file in mind for downlaods and preloaders.

Finally, involve your coworkers. In this instance Dave Shampine got on-board quickly once he understood what his role was. I think an earlier 'talent' deadline would have helped alleviate a number of issues we faced on deadline.

P.S. - Andrew Dolph suggested a great link to soundslide customizing. Having worked through it a bit, I am looking at calling soundslide swf’s into Flash 'shells' to customize our look further.

Monday, January 29, 2007

after action review

The dust has settled and the after action review begins (to steal a concept from the Army ). The Army is famous for doing after action reviews after almost everything, OK everything, especially when they are in the field.

Lesson #1: Keep it simple stupid (KISS), especially on deadline.

Lesson #2: Keep Flash development away from deadline productions, unless you really can’t.

Lesson #3: Stick to what you know, even if you can tell the story better in a way you have never tried before. The headaches and new hurdles are not always readily apparent when you start off on a ‘shortcut.’

Lesson #4: Add an extra day to development to allow for ‘technical’ glitches that may only arise on launch. So launch in private a day early to allow for overcoming obstacles like load time.

Lesson #5: Keep it short. Get in and get out. anything in Flash, Soundslides or otherwise gets really tricky and large after 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Believe me.

Lesson #6: Joe Weiss is a deity. IF you are trying to reinvent the wheel, don’t. Joe has done it much better than you can imagine or know.

Lesson #7: If you are designing a web AND print package, add one more day than you think you need to your schedule.

So, in general, a good time was had by all. Much was learned.

The nitty, gritty (for the hard core mojos out there.):

Compare blizzard version one with the final project. Yes, the audio is not synched to the flash, still learning how to do that. Yup, gotta fix that. The load time is close to soundslides, but it took a great deal of work to get it that close and the audio suffers in version 1. Once again Joe Weiss is a deity. Could you, I, we have accomplished much of the background texture in CSS or XHTML, probably (KISS). Other observations? Bueller? Bueller?

Saturday, January 27, 2007



Whew. Check out The Blizzard of '77 and let me know what you think.

I learned a lot on these last two projects. More on that next week.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

hard at work

Sorry for the delay, I have been working on two projects, one of which is posted right now, Temporal Hues. The other I hope to finish by the end of the week. So back to work. More later.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I know, not a very glamorous topic, you might not even get this far.

That being said, the importance of establishing a workflow for multimedia and editing oversight becomes important as a group moves from introduction to establishment. We are in the process of negotiating who check off on what, when they do it, who is responsible for what, who decides when something launches.

There is an interesting dynamic between the ‘artistic’ side who want to tweak projects and improve them and the once it is published it is done crowd. There is also a side debate about if it is published with errors what does that say about us and the message we are trying to convey.

So, a workflow already exists for writers’ copy, photographers’ work, paginators’ pages, so who is in charge of oversight of multimedia? How many cooks should be in the kitchen cooking, who should be plating and who is the head chef ( to extend a metaphor too far )? Seriously though, workflow has evolved over time into what is established at newspapers, so start thinking about your own process before organized chaos becomes the norm.

goodbye art

Ring another one up for the New York Times.

They have a great sequence of video for Art Buchwald’s obit. Of course, when you have subject matter like him.... It is worth watching just for Art’s great declaration, ‘Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I just died!’

Thursday, January 18, 2007

magnum's multimedia m*a*s*h triage

A number of people have highlighted the Magnum Photos In Motion M*A*S*H (the TV show ) audio slideshow. After thought and consideration I offer up a few observations.

Not unlike, I wonder how and if they got permission to use the M*A*S*H clips. There is the idea, and then getting Hollywood to sign off on the use of the show. With this cloud hanging over the project I can’t give it a big thumbs up, yet.

In general, the project falls prey to what many of us observe in our own work and other’s work, a tighter edit. [ I think that is my next common thread, #6. ] The slide show would benefit by losing repetitive images as well as the photos that don’t live up to Magnum standards.

While I like some of the sound, there is not enough of it, and the 'TV snow' sound got annoying after awhile. In one sense this seemed like padding out a bad to average assignment by jazzing up in multimedia. I think L.A. Times staff photographer Rick Loomis and James Nachtwey both did better jobs on service men and women doing hospital work in Iraq.

All that being said, I liked the fact that Magnum pushed the boundaries with this project. There are many things I liked about it; including some of the transitions, the strong use of text, using essentially an antiwar show in tandem with the obvious medical coverage. In one sense, pairing the 'every day' war reportage with M*A*S*H might have been stronger and more meaningful.

As I have noted before, you have to appreciate people taking chances and pushing the boundaries. Kudos to Magnum; but now everyone should think over what worked and what didn’t work and why not.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

common threads

My father has joked a number of times in his life that he should have a set series of 'message #one,' 'message #two,' that he could just say out loud instead of the entire message. For example, instead of saying 'don’t forget to make your bed in the morning,' he could simply say 'message #one.'

This thought reverberated in my mind yesterday as I was writing my last entry. Perhaps I should come up with my own commentary 'threads' that I keep returning too, expounding on, thinking about and exploring. So, a short list:

Thread #1: It is about the story, keep it simple stupid (KISS) and focus on the story.

Thread #2: Technology is good, embrace technology and the storytelling power it provides you the journalist.

Thread #3: Keeping in mind Thread 2, don’t exclude ‘older’ versions of technology to tell a story if they do it better. Don’t love technology simply because it being cool and new, think about what it enables you to do.

Thread #4: Media and journalism is converging, accept it and move on.

Thread #5: Push boundaries, but do not be afraid to recognize when you have pushed too far. The 'box' as we know it is expanding, but journalistic ethics should help people navigate this new area and era of freedom.

I am sure this list will expand with time. I close with my favorite restaurant motto from Zebb’s Bar and Grill: 'Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.' Journalism is increasingly becoming uncertain, enjoy it and tell some good stories.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

more than the gas

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been hard at work in Flash, and having a REALLY good time! (A long story for another day.)

Mindy McAdams had a great post on the Newark’s The Star-Ledger and their new site. Rather than paraphrase badly, check out Mindy’s column. What I really like about their project is that they are YouTube enabling their video, very cool, and fits into the broadening and sharing concept of the future of journalism.

Mindy’s post and Ryan Sholin’s post on newspaper video 'Who is shooting it and how they do it' really get me back to one of my themes: how do you best tell your subject’s story.

The temptation is there to embrace technology and do what you can instead of how the story should be told, how the story is telling you, the journalist to tell the story. Once again Mindy has a great post about how 'It's about stories...which stories? and why?' Note: I'd like to think my last entry and post on her blog prompted this entry, but probably not.

My wife reminded me about a comment I made many years ago when I went inside to pay for gasoline instead of paying at the pump. I said to her, 'It is about more than the gas.' Sometimes, ALWAYS, that human connection is important, ESPECIALLY in journalism. The technology should merely help us better tell stories, period.

Friday, January 12, 2007

the reason why

My original idea, yesterday, before I get swept into the current project I am working on, was to discuss Don Hazen's review of Jeffrey Chester's new book 'Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy' on

One of his best paragraphs gets to the core of things:
But to really stay up-to-speed, you might also need a bunch of RSS feeds, social network updates; hourly checks of Technorati top blogs; Google alerts for breaking headlines; an instant messenger that logs into AOL, Yahoo, GoogleTalk and MSN simultaneously; and some widgets for your friends' Web sites to spread the word about what you think is important. And, of course, you will need a Crackberry so you don't miss any of it while you're driving to work in the morning.

I was checking in on Mindy McAdams page after coming up for air today and I read her entry on 'Getting (and keeping) a job in journalism. She writes about the general shift of news to the internet and how some newspapers and organization are and aren’t dealing with the paradigm shift. Amen sister.

Both Mindy and Don highlight some of the major currents in today’s society. But I come back, after working for a few days in Flash, to remembering why I became a journalist in the first place: people. We might be able to surf the web, but if we are not out in the 'biomass' telling stories and listening then something is missing. If there is a danger of some becoming iPod People™ while others have no access to the internet and news, then what have we accomplished?

So, get up to speed, but don’t forget to get your feet wet with humanity.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


OK, this is really the last time, for awhile, that I will talk about film.

As I was putting the finishing touches on the 'fight' sequence at the end of Gym Dreams, I remembered an interview on NPR with Thelma Schoonmaker who was Martin Scorsese's favorite editor and won an Oscar for her editing work on Raging Bull.

At one point in the interview she talks about how she put a frame or a short sequence of frames in upside down in their fight sequence. Her answer to the question ‘Why’ was simply that it worked.

When I was working on my own sequence, I found that occasionally things worked in order, but more often than not, mixing up the images independent of how they were captured ‘worked better.’

In general, this is something I see in many people’s early narratives in their audio slide shows. They arrange things in order they took them, the flow of a day, to match the audio. What I don’t see, more often than not, is that they don’t order the images together in a way that flows together visually.

Just food for thought.

convergence continues

If you haven’t seen it yet, iPhone is arriving. Disclaimer: I must admit that my brother works for Apple, although I will also disclose that he DID NOT let me know this was coming.

Seriously though, you could see the technology making this very possible and desirable. Not too long newspapers and web news organizations will have to be designing for such handhelds seriously. Yes, I know you can do it in CSS, but how many sites currently are?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

reinventing the wheel

Yesterday’s entry about Gym Dreams started me thinking further about using the 'language of cinema' in audio slideshows. Richard Koci-Hernandez mentions being influenced by movies on his new site multimediashooter, so I don’t feel alone in this approach.

As I noted yesterday, the remix trailer for 'Take the Lead' really inspired me to think differently about rhythm and pace within packages. Taking that a step further, I should disclose that my brother and his family got me a copy of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' for Christmas.

I can’t help listening to the commentary sections of movies because I never know what I might learn or find out. One time director Robert Rodriguez of El Mariachi fame recommended the book 'Art and Fear,' which I would second for any photographer, journalist or mojo to read. It is a wonderful, short book about the fear almost every artist faces in creating or capturing their work.

What I discovered watching 'Pirates' with the commentary on, is that the sound is cut back and I start to notice how cinematographers tell their stories. There was one sequence that pulled pulled back to reveal a central character and then because you focused on one action, when they pulled back from the detail shot to reveal a change in location, your mind filled in an entire series of events.

The reason I bring all of this up, is that I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel in regard to audio visual shows. We just have to be open and borrow, or steal, techniques from Hollywood that work in our medium. We quite happily do the same thing within photography, we just have to now broaden our idea of what our field is and use techniques that work in other subsections and use them in multimedia.

I am sure I will continue this line of thinking and illustrating.

Monday, January 8, 2007

gym dreams

I tried something a little different this time. I am starting to get tired of the formulaic way many audio slide shows have a person introduce themselves and tell the story, so I went with multiple people this time. Gym Dreams, I hope, gives you a flavor of the people who workout and love boxing in Watertown.

What is interesting for me is that in asking them all the same questions, many of their replies were similar, but the differences highlighted personality and approach. It was a fun mental exercise to edit and keep what was fun, fascinating and insightful without going too long. In one sense the audio moves along at a good clip, but I tried to pace the audio as well as the pace of the images.

Part of the influence for this approach was the video for the Antonio Banderas film Take the Lead that I mentioned last year, and the other major influence was my 2-D design professor who had us do a project on tempo and pace using thickness of lines in a space.

I am still trying to edit down the images, possibly the sound, but I am fairly happy where things stand.

I believe that telling successful multimedia stories comes down to asking the same question of yourself (or team): how do I (we) best tell this story?

Friday, January 5, 2007

dec. nppa multimedia

The NPPA multimedia clip wins are in for December. Here are my notable winners:

Susanna Frohman of the Mercury News for her 'One Little Wish.' A fun, interesting story.

Mike De Sisti, photojournalist at The Post-Crescent, for his leaf raking adventures. Perhaps the best video at a newspaper I have seen yet.

David Gordon for his 'House that Brian Built.' A well told story.

Jennifer Podis, Gary Coronado and William Sullivan of The Palm Beach Post for their 'Train Jumping.' Great work!

David Hobby of the Baltimore Sun for his fun fall flash piece.

boring... boring.....!

Howard Owens and Michael Bazeley are bored with photographers using Soundslides to create still image with audio in Flash. Howard Owens writes that, 'Most of the time, when I watch a slideshow, I can’t help but think — for all the time put into this, why not just shoot video?' An interesting question, especially for newspapers.

Howard Owens and I do agree on a few things, particularly when he says, 'but it’s important to think about your audience and how best to spend your time in service of the audience.' Amen. Not only is important to think about your audience, but how to best tell the story.

We part ways when he writes, 'There is a depth of personality that just a voice and picture can’t capture./ There are some times I would agree with this statement. In a video interviews for news programs, other times a poignant sound clip with a great image tells the story even better than video. It is time, place and story dependent.

He continues, 'The danger of planning a static slideshow is that if any of these elements are sub par, you wind up with boring multimedia. Whereas, video, for the same subject, effort and talent (again, all things being equal) is more forgiving.' STOP. While video may be more forgiving, I think the audience is equally annoyed at average or bad storytelling. I would prefer to use the multimedia because I can 'zip' through the images. I watch bad video on our local TV news almost every night, and that is excruciating.

Howard Owens demonstrates some ignorance of the multimedia medium when he states that 'if a still photographer wants to bring his or her photos to life, fine — do the slideshow and add the audio, but make the pictures move. Use the iMovie “Ken Burns Effect” or learn how to simulate this in Movie Maker or your other video tool.' Aaaarrrggghhhh. The KBE, like any other tool in your tool kit can be overdone or become more annoying than just still images. If it is done for a reason, if there is a payoff, then the KBE can work; if not, I get nauseous just thinking about it.

Mr. Owens wraps up with 'Slideshows don’t need to be boring. Photographers need to learn to do them better, or start shooting video.' We agree, slideshows don’t have to be boring. Every day, as I see better and interesting video, I am slowly being converted to adding video to my storytelling arsenal. However, that being said, a really good audio slideshow, in my humble opinion, can do things better than average video.

I think we as 'animals,' Homo erectus, still think in still images, or still images are better processed by our brains. Think back to the major 'moments' of history, as you catalogue them, and they are almost all still images, except for perhaps the Zapruder film. I am sure that part of it is that video looks like ordinary life, it moves like we do, whereas a still image freezes time for us. Until we start thinking differently, I believe the power of the still image will remain.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

catch up

I am still trying to get up to speed here this year. I have been working on a project that I hope to finish up by the end of this week. The work in progress, a local boxing club that meets in the second floor of a warehouse can be seen at the Watertown Daily, Gym Dreams.

Another great use of video by a newspaper can be seen at WWII Trench shot by Bernard Weil of the Toronto Star. I am slowly getting convinced that video can supplement and be the lead medium for newspapers, if it is done well.

My shooting coach from the Mountain Workshops, Rick Loomis of the LA Times, just had his multimedia/print project highlighted in PDN and you can see his work at Ocean Series.

Another Zen moment of the day was a photo a day’s Best of 2006. Ahhhh....aaauuuummmmmm.

last entry for 2006

This was meant to be my last 2006 entry...

In my last entry for the year I draw your attention to two sources of inspiration from outside the world of journalism.

The first is a quirky and fun site called VidLit that has numerous Flash animated stories. All too often Flash projects at newspapers tend to look similar. Here are some 'well told' stories from 'outside the box.'

The second is an art site by Gregory Colbert from his installation and series entitled "ashes and snow." What really captures my imagination is the way that the site allows you to explore his art as well as being a unified piece of work on its own. This is the kind of site that I wish the newspaper world emulated, even in small ways.


Sorry for the lapse...Blogger left Beta and locked me out for a time.