Tuesday, March 6, 2007

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.


Andrew said...

Thanks for the review. As much as I would love for you to eat yer' hat ;), I readily admit to being partially influenced by some of what is being done at the San Jose Mercury News. However, multiple images within one "slide" is something I've been sketching out in my journal for quite some time. I knew that eventually there would be a time and place for that type of graphical treatment. Originally, I wanted to implement that type of multiple image sequencing for the story on Brenda and Richard, the homeless couple I had covered in the fall of '06. Because of poor planning for the production of that show, it just didn't work out. That's where the influence of Richard and Dai's work over at the Merc comes into play.

Planning multimedia production is now a key element in my workflow, and I don't mean planning in the sense of a step by step process from toning images to mixing audio, etc ... Planning is what I consider a previsualization of the event I'm going to cover, and deciding on how to best go about telling a story with the freedom to let it take it's natural course.

With the "On Wrestling" piece, I wasn't scheduled to cover that particular tournament. In fact, I wasn't supposed to even work that day. However, I decided to go, because I just couldn't sit around the house, and felt the need to provide "backup" for the assigned photographer, and more importantly, because I felt the desire and need to tell a story — plain and simple. I knew a little about the Foore brother's history, and even less about the coach, but still felt that there was a component to their stories that wasn't being seen or heard by the general public.

In the end, having the freedom to move around is really what made the story for me on a visual level. I couldn't have made 90% of those images if I would have been locked in to the tournament action as the primary shooter, and that's the real difference. Furthermore, knowing that audio capture would be difficult at best within a large gymnasium, I committed to gathering interviews post-tournament, and mixing "B Roll" from the crowd to provide a sense of place. Little did I know that the wrestling room would also be a rather noisy environment! I think it worked though — and all with a cheapo RadioShack condenser microphone.

Finally, this was a huge hurtle that I just crossed, and that's something that you wouldn't know from looking at the show. So, I want to thank Mike, and Richard for their continual support.

Oh, and before I forget ... I'm toning on a brand new, calibrated 17" MacBookPro laptop screen. The image of Danny Foore standing, with his eyes closed is a cutout, toned with channel mixer for a specific black and white feel to mimic the rest of the images, and set at 30% opacity. I tested the show on a wide variety of displays throughout the newsroom, and it looked fine in terms of technical quality. As for aesthetics, well ... that will forever be a subjective issue.

As for viewer response, we had a spike in the web numbers, which always happens with anything sports-related. What can I say? Sports sells.


- Andrew

Ryan said...

Nice find.

I liked the blown-out white frame -- it made me feel like we were watching the kid get ready for the match it was intercut with, going over in his head what his coach had told him earlier.

M_Fagans said...

Just to clarify two points.

I like the negative space with the blown out frame, and I think it worked VERY well with the sequence above his head. I am just not sure I needed to see it three times...ie. intro, then with his name and then with the sequence. To me it is kind o like showing a trick before it actually arrives. The dramatic aspect of that usage was not as dramatic for me because I had seen it before. Just my opinion.

Secondly, the toning on him did not resemble the rest of the piece, that is why it also stuck out for me.

Regarding Andrew’s elaboration on how he got that...I will leave that alone for now. I wonder how busy the wall was behind him, if there was another way to get the negative space for the package.

As shooters we need to think and be more cognizant of what we can do with the things we shoot on these projects.

Once again, I really like what Andrew did and I applaud him for that; but I don’t think we move things forward as fast as we can if we are not critical of our own work and others. Andrew has come a long way in the last year, and I expect him to continue to grow.

Andrew said...

I'm headed out the door to go to Rochester, and then on to Warwick, Rhode Island. I'll post the original image from which I obtained the cutout, on my Flickr page when I get a chance, because I think it serves as a good point of discussion. I knew Mike would bring it up ... More soon.