Friday, March 30, 2007

if it was so obvious...

A nice story link via Mindy McAdams over at teaching journalism online. Matt Ericson, deputy graphics director at The New York Times, gave a presentation at Malofiej in Pamplona, Spain highlighted at the Society for Newspaper Design (SND) web site. 'The best piece of advice Matt gave was, as he said, simple in theory and difficulty in practice: Find the best way to help people understand the news.'

I couldn’t have said it better myself. News organizations, formerly newspapers, have a competitive advantage in understanding news. Now we need to help people understand the WHY. TV and the internet can provide the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE much faster, but not the context and the WHY.

Shan Carter in online graphics at is quoted as saying that he's trying to build work for 'both Bart and Lisa Simpson,' meaning that it can be surface and simple (like Bart) or deeper and thoughtful (like Lisa). It's a good way to think about making work that appeals to two very different kinds of readers.

Matt used the example, among others, of the good reporting that The Times has done at chronicling the war in Iraq in the Casualties of War interactive feature, which can be both a fast scan or a completely immersive experience. How you choose to use the data depends on your needs, and in that way it is a completely different tool than the print newspaper. Check it out to see how you can dig deep into complex data sets.

Obvious idea #2, understand who your audience might be and who your audience is and tell stories for them and to them where they are, not where you think they should be.

mk12 part trois

Ok, I am clueless. If I had explored a bit more, I would have realized that MK12 does in fact, on their site have some “Stranger Than Fiction” clips.
My bad.

So, check out their first pitch to the movie’s director.

Their second pitch.

And finally, take a look at the opening sequence that ran in the film. One or two observations. The first idea that caught my eye was the use of the nautilus shell as the 'mode' for the sequence to segue into the next shot with the previous scene rotating and getting smaller. You can see their work with this idea in Brazil Inspired: Macho Box. (Which is almost as good a name as 4D Softcore Sweater Porn.)

Secondly, their use of text and cascading letters in the second pitch is a very clever use of typography that you can only do in Flash or movies, but what a neat idea.

What also emerges in much of their work is their utilization of layering, selective focus and moving typography that moves your eye around the screen as well as anything you can do in print. Very interesting work if you really start to pull apart why they are so successful.

Like yesterday, you can over imagine or overuse many of these ideas in daily journalism; but as a stepping stone to think differently about stories, what a place to start.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

mk12 part deux

My apologies.

I had all intentions of writing more about MK12 and 'embryo' yesterday but I did not. Our web guy, what a great description, and I spent the afternoon trying to pass a variable from an html file into a Flash .swf to then reach into the variable named folder and pull out formatted photos. TRANSLATION: We are trying to automate our 'photos of the week' section of our multimedia page. Another entry for another day.

Andrew asked: 'I watched "Embryo", and I don't understand. Can you explain further?'

My big push would be for folks to rent or watch 'Stranger Than Fiction.' That being said more about 'embryo.'

There are a lot of other 'shorts' and movies on their site and I have not explored all of them yet, but I look forward to doing so.

Like RKH (Richard Koci Hernandez) I really enjoy finding other art forms that can influence how I do my own work. In the case of the movie STF and MK12: how to provide an interface for users to navigate Flash packages or 'nuggets.'

In regard to 'embryo' specifically I really enjoy the way they blend 2-d and 3-d in such interesting and different ways. This is not all transferable to journalism, but it gets me thinking 'outside the box.' How people work in different mediums can help me think about how I do things in my medium.

The segment in 'embryo' where the suitcase opens up and files move out reminds me of something I have seen in Flash somewhere and it would make a great entranceway for a complicated package. How you display information and provide ways for people to interact with it can be just as important as the story you are trying to tell.

I am a big fan of the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle but MK12 does some very interesting graphics work that could influence how you provide your GUI in your Flash package or graphically tell your story in print. More on this next entry.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

off topic, maybe

I will get back to 'Stranger Than Fiction' later.....just wanted to go off topic for a moment.

May of you who visit may want to help make the world a better place. While I try not to preach on this site, except about journalism; I have found two interesting ways that people might be able to contribute worldwide and at the personal level.

One such group that is helping provide micro loans is William Kristoff of the NYT just published a story about this in Tuesday paper. The idea is similar to the work of Muhammad Yunus who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this area.

Depending on your level of interest of desire, there is another group called globalgiving that just looks for grants or gifts.

I was reading today’s NYT about youth today who are strangling themselves for the rush and I really started to wonder about our culture and society. Alternet published a short excerpt on Bill McKibben's new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future on their site.

So, I know that many journalists want to make a difference with their telling the stories of their subjects also want to do something outside of work; here is your chance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I finally got around to watching the movie 'Stranger than Fiction.' If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it, it is a great movie and it does some very interesting visual things as well.

The primary idea is that the main character, who may or may not have OCD (obsessive, compulsive disorder), is shown as always counting and calculating things in his head. The neat thing is that this information is displayed visually for the audience. It not only gives us insight into the character, but very cleverly displays information.

If you watch the 'extra stuff' as you know I do, there is a great section on the GUI, which is based on the graphic user interface concept. The real gem is the group MK12 that winds up doing the work: wonderful stuff, amazing work.

Check out their short 'movie' embryo and you will understand why I am very enthused by their work in the movie and the implications for the visual and digital journalist. More on this idea tomorrow.

big news

Well the big news here is that I will be 'heading west' in the soon to be future.

The Bakersfield Californian apparently does not have enough New Yorkers on staff and has subsequently hired me on as the assistant photo editor to work with Photo Director Alex Horvath.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

this american life

Check it out: a sneak preview of NPR’s This American Life (TAL) that will now be appearing on TV’s Showtime.

The preview, on, is a short interview that is animated by cartoonist John Kuramoto about school children making cameras out of boxes and how they use them and the 'cameras' influence their behavior on the playground. The short is very interesting and the animation 'feels' like TAL on radio.

As most people, I am very interested in how this particular program is 'illustrated' or conveyed visually. So much of the show is pacing, focussing on storytelling and the listener using their imagination. I wish them luck and if the show continues at this pace I think it will be successful.

You can see other TAL work here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

multimedia koan

There is a great blog entry from RKH of the San Jose Mercury News on how to enter and win a multimedia contest.

Monday, March 19, 2007

local focus

It has been a little busy of late, my apologies.

For those of you who haven’t heard the buzz, it is worth checking out the Bakersfield Californian out in, you guessed it, California.

That are doing some neat work with the usual pothole story, by creating a map that charts out bad sections of road. This was such a neat idea, a number of other papers blatantly ripped off their idea, even down to the fonts.

They are also doing some simple, yet helpful flash in the coverage of a local trial.

Note: Two of the links are from web editor Davin McHenry's web site from the ground up, also worth a visit.

Many of their writers are covering the beats and the streets with video; here is a great example of taking the 'man/person on the street' question to a fun level as well as making it interesting to watch.

Take a peek, let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Yesterday I posted a brief message and link about our latest project here, Jake Hannah’s Go Fly A Kite, which he graciously let me re-edit. Our piece builds off of (or blatantly steals/borrows) from the Richard Koci Hernandez’s (rkh) piece on the bike tour coming through town and Andrew Dolph’s On Wrestling.

What I really liked about RKH’s audio slide show was that he pushed the boundaries of what the slide show could do and how to utilize good photography. Andrew also pushed some boundaries with his piece.

One of the conclusions from their work, some thinking and our project, is how there already exists a visual vocabulary of using stills, fades and cinematic effects in the world of sports. ESPN, Monday night football, NFL films have all influenced how people 'see' sports.

The next step I think is taking some of these possibilities and translating them in documentary work or news slide shows and seeing what the confluence might produce.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

flash package

This may be considered a double-dip but what the heck.

We finished and published a project that I initially created as a demo to illustrate to upper management how we might tackle long-term stories with multimedia in the future. Unfortunately we did not have the photos to do an audio slide show or the willingness to hold the project and gather sound clips.

In general, the project was taken over by the 'word' people. None-the-less, for my budding flash designing prowess, any feedback you might be able to provide would be welcome. It is not what it could have been, sadly.

Occupational Hazard

You can also see two of our most recent flash/print packages here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

and the winners are (feb 07)

The NPPA multimedia clip contest results were posted recently. Here is the wrap up for this month.

Mike De Sisti keeps doing some great video work up at the The Post-Crescent in Appleton Wisconsin. His 'wacky weather' feature is a nice piece of work and kudos for Mike in getting the folks enjoying the unseasonable weather AND the snowmobile salesman.

The Washington Post demonstrated why they won best use of multimedia in POY with their video coverage of President Ford’s Funeral.

The San Antonio Express-News had a 'fun and irreverent' video of a recent ice storm. I am a big fan of breaking up the traditional narrative and they do a fun little piece that gives a nice take on the “man on the street’ genre. I have to point out that there are not as many controls as I would like on the package (ie, be able to skip to the end to give folks credit).

Ed Kashi and National Geographic have a great chaptered project on the Curse of the Black Gold. For those of you who might have forgotten Ed was detained for a time while shooting this project. I really admire ed’s work and much prefer this over his 'flip book project.'

An HM to the Northwest Herald for 'King Pin Pooch' that wasn’t a great project in my humble opinion but a great story find. How can you beat a dog who bowls at a bowling alley.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Last week on NPR’s show Day to Day, they ran a series on the Five Best Ideas in Television. Take away the term TV and the conversations about convergence and advertising sound remarkably familiar.

Check out the ideas: cbs invests in a star who doesn't watch tv, what if television ads got smarter, an old tv concept’s importance, on web tv someone is always watching and tv’s next big hit may come from the country’s fringes.

Two of the not-so-surprising ideas that emerged are 'Content is king' and the creation of content that engages people or gets them involved (also called stickiness). The idea of engaging readers/viewers with content or storytelling that brings them back, has them talking about the show outside of the event is an idea that news organizations could certainly embrace. Ron Reason talks about the idea of giving readers two things to change their life or that they should know about to talk about at work.

So why should I care about this you ask, it is about TV?

One of the interesting concepts that show like 'Heroes' and 'Lost' are utilizing are using different storytelling mediums (including and especially the internet) to broaden their show’s story line in other ways. Once again, who in the new media or news organizations (formerly newspapers) cares?

If readers/viewers are willing to log online after a TV show to vote or follow 'clues' then they are certainly willing and able to go online to find a new way to 'read' or interact with a story. Audio slide shows, flash packages, video are all ways to broaden how news organizations can tell their stories online AND INVOLVE readers/viewers.

Adjusting to the new market, thinking of news as a market, are all ideas that nimble companies are embracing and dinosaur newspapers are ignoring.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


A big shout-out to my former institution of higher learning, R*I*T.

The have a project titled Voices of Rochester that has a great opening interface. My primary observation is that while it was an admirable project, by focusing on so many people, there is almost too much information, and what is there is not as good as it could have been had people been able to take more time.

Having been through the grind in Ra-cha-cha, I understand how it happened. I just wish that the professors there, and I am not pointing any fingers, would try and propose manageable projects or dissuade students from reaching so high.

One person per subject, while it would not have been so broad, could have yielded much stronger results and then the next class could have filled in the picture better.

Overall a B for effort, C for content.


In the Sunday NYT’s PLAY magazine an interesting article written by Daniel Coyle about developing tennis prodigies yielded the following gem:

Deliberate practice means working on technique, seeking constant critical feedback and focusing ruthlessly on improving weakness.

'It feels like you are constantly stretching yourself into an uncomfortable are beyond what you can do.'
- K. Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology

I found this to be a very good summary of life in multimedia.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

not just a number

I have seen it mentioned on a number of sites today, wow. We are limited only by our imagination these days...and not even that.

Not Just a Number is an amazing look at homicides in Oakland, that is not only a community project, but also a way for people to get involved and write to their leaders. The project is a collaboration of the Oakland Tribune, and 49th parallel productions.

pushing boundaries

A colleague of mine, Andrew Dolph at the Medina Gazette, recently published a audio sound slide package about high school wrestling titled On Wrestling. If he was not directly influenced by Richard K-H over at the San Jose Mercury News I will eat my hat.

That being said, I think andrew does some interesting things to 'breakout of the box' that sound slides can easily put a photographer into mentally. As I noted with the San Jose piece, even though the progression of the show is linear, the editing does not need to be, nor do how you display the images always need to directly correspond to the frame of the program.

My primary concern is quality of the images. While many were 'grainy,' which I didn’t mind, a central repeating image, the subject against a white background seemed badly toned on my monitor (which admittedly is calibrated for our system). My 2-D professor advocated for having spotless technique when trying something different and while I appreciated Andrew’s efforts, that one frame really bothered me, especially seeing it repeatedly.

All that being said, I liked it. I thought his use of the the diptych worked quite well, although I am not sure it had to fade out the way it faded in. I liked the strip of images across the top of the infamous 'white frame' although I wondered if we needed a blank frame, then the same frame with his name and then the same frame with the sequence. I think it would have worked well as just the white frame with the sequence.

I think what San Jose did remarkably well, and Andrew to some extent, is start pushing the boundaries of what sound slides can do. Just like any other tool in our kit, a photographer/digital mojo needs to know what that instrument can do, its range and the scales before starting to play jazz.

Well done, Andrew, I like the way you are thinking.

Monday, March 5, 2007


If you have a few minutes, check out A Break in the Road.

Be patient and let the ad run, and be warned it can be addictive.
It is a really interesting way to think about sound, and yes, even
fun. (Don't tell your editor you are having any fun.)

Kudos for multimediashooter for the find.