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Video Now: The state of video journalism today – a report by the TOW Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School

By Chuck Fadely:

What’s the status of non-broadcast video journalism in 2014?

The TOW Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School released a report today on the state of video journalism. Professor Duy Linh Tu and his crew put together a multimedia report by visiting newspapers, digital media properties, and shows like Frontline and VICE.

From their description of the project: “From October 2013 until February 2014, Tow Fellow Duy Linh Tu and the Video Now film crew visited newsrooms across the United States to interview and observe reporters and editors producing video journalism. Video is an important editorial tool and a potentially large revenue source for newsrooms, but there seemed to be no consensus on how to produce or profit from it. With that in mind, Video Now, set out to answer three main questions: 1) How do news organizations define video 2) How do they produce video? 3) What is their return on investment?”

They introduced the report with a live panel discussion, archived on the video above.

There’s more on Chuck Fadely’s Newspapervideo blog.

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Posted on April 15th, 2014 by Chuck Fadely | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

281_Anti Nuke: Brit filmmaker Adrian Storey films a Japanese anti-nuclear street artist for VICE

By Newsshooter contributor Adrian Storey:

It was a few months after Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear disaster that followed in Fukushima that I started noticing the stickers of a little girl in a raincoat, scattered around the Shibuya district of Tokyo, bearing the legend “I hate ☢ rain”. I started to photograph and video them.

The months following that disaster were strange. All the lights that had been off or dimmed went back on and life in Tokyo seemed to return to normal – it was as if nothing had happened, or was continuing to happen, just a few hundred kilometres north. For me it felt like the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant seemed to be always lurking, just out beyond my peripheral vision. The daily ritual of checking every item I bought in the supermarket for its origin had become second nature, but it seemed as if the vast majority of the Japanese public had just hit the reset button and were carrying on exactly as they had before.

It was during all this that the “I hate ☢ rain” stickers really caught my attention. I had no idea if they were being put up by a Japanese or a foreign street artist. They intrigued me and gave me a sense that someone else out there also continued to feel uneasy about the behaviour of the government and power company surrounding what was very clearly a serious situation. ”Keep calm and carry on” just wasn’t working for me, and clearly not for whoever was putting up the stickers.

I continued to film and photograph the stickers for about a year, and made some attempts to find out who the artist was – but to no avail.

©Uchujin - AdrianStorey

©Uchujin – AdrianStorey

For the first anniversary of the disaster I put together a minute-long piece, using footage of the stickers that I had shot in a bid to make a statement about the ongoing situation. Shortly after posting it on my website I received an email and some tweets from someone claiming to be “281_Anti nuke”, the artist responsible for the work. He wanted to know if he could post the video on his website. Of course I was happy for him to do so – but on one condition: that he allow me to interview him for a documentary about him and his work.

I had no idea whether I would be able to get funding to make the piece, or sell it once it was finished, but this felt important. Often, some of the most rewarding filmmaking for me is personal work. These are pieces I do just because I love the subject, with no time constraints and the freedom to create something I care about deeply.

Street art and graffiti have been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. I may, or may not, have dabbled in street art myself, depending on who is asking. Although a little reticent at first, 281 agreed to let me make a film about him … then disappeared. His website went down and his Twitter feed disappeared. He basically vanished.

The stickers were still appearing around Shibuya; constantly changing designs of the little girl and slowly some additional designs criticizing Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Co.,­ the utility that operated the Daiichi plant). I knew he was still around, but how to contact him? I had become a little obsessed with meeting whoever was doing this and finding out who they were and why they were doing it. I continued to search out and film his stickers using my trusty Canon 5D mkII (Magic Lantern hacked), which I carried with me wherever I went.

I had to wait a few months until suddenly one day the Twitter feed popped back up, and after a few direct messages, 281 agreed to meet me to discuss the documentary. I was a little surprised when he told me to contact his manager to arrange it, but went ahead.

A week or two later, myself and my translator/producer Erina Suto were sitting across a table in a cafe from manager Ryan Roth and 281, a nervous looking guy in a black hooded top, dark glasses and a face mask. Many months would pass before I saw him dressed in any other way and even now I have only seen his face briefly on a few occasions. Understandably, given the illegal and inflammatory nature of what he was doing, he wanted to check me out as much as I did him. The meeting seemed to go well, and despite not being able to tell him what would ultimately happen with the film, he agreed to be interviewed and let me shoot footage of him on the street.

Over the next couple of months, 281 and I met several times and I would witness him stickering around Shibuya. I was worried that filming him while he was doing his thing might cause unnecessary attention. I kept my setup very minimal: a 5D mkII with Sigma 20mm 1.8 or Canon 50mm f1.4 on a monopod – manoeuvrable, unobtrusive and stable. Sometimes I used a cheap LCD loupe I had bought off eBay to add extra stability, particularly with the 50mm. We also filmed an interview, I believe his first, at a secret location. The room was bland enough to be impossible to identify.

Shooting the first 281 interview - undisclosed location - photo courtesy Ryan Roth

Shooting the first 281 interview – undisclosed location – photo courtesy Ryan Roth

It turned out that the reason his website and Twitter feed had gone down was due to online ultra rightists in Japan attempting to find out who he was. Several very unpleasant threats and comments had been made to him. Keeping his identity secret was important to protect his physical safety.

The interview was shot on the 5D mkII with a Canon 24-70mm lens. I used 2 LED lights: One on him to give the hard shadowed look I wanted, and one on the background to give some separation. I recorded the sound with an Audio Technica lav mic running into a Zoom H1 audio recorder. In a more relaxed interview a few weeks later, in a different location, 281 showed me his laptop to illustrate how he designs the stickers. Further footage showed him cutting each individual sticker by hand.

The second interview was again filmed with the 5D mkII, this time on a Wieldy Carbon fiber stabilizer to give a more fluid movement to the shots. I also used a 60cm long slider to give higher production values that complemented the street shots.The piece was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5. Dual system audio was synced manually from the Zoom.

A lot of the early sticker footage I had collected over the year or so I shot was a little shaky – because much of it was shot on the fly, heading home after a few beverages. I knew new stickers wouldn’t last long so I had to shoot as soon as I saw them appear – handheld on the 5D. This footage was stabilized in post-production using the remarkable warp stabilizer in Adobe After Effects.

Most music used in the film was sourced from musician friends in Tokyo with whom I have ongoing relationships. They supplied tracks in exchange for help with music videos or website assistance.The exception was the track used for the opening and closing sequences by a band from Kyoto called Frying Dutchman. I wanted something unique and powerful to compliment 281′s work. A few months before I had seen “Frying Dutchman” play at an anti nuclear march in Tokyo’s Yoyogi park and a friend had put me on to an epic 20 minute song of theirs called “Human error”. The song was perfect. After a frustrating few weeks of trying to contact them via their website, I managed to get in touch with them via contacts in Kyoto. We met in Tokyo, and after a few drinks and a showing of the rough cut of the film, they agreed to sign a release for the music.

Frying dutchman performing at an anti nuclear rally, Yoyogi Park,Tokyo 16th July 2012 – ©Adrian Storey

Frying dutchman performing at an anti nuclear rally, Yoyogi Park,Tokyo 16th July 2012 – ©Adrian Storey

Erina and I rushed to edit a version of the film to make film festival deadlines, and in the haste, produced something that we were unhappy with. It felt rushed and incomplete.

Paid work took a lot of my time away, and I was forced to shelve the film for several months. During this period, 281 began to get significant foreign press attention. Articles appeared in The New Yorker, The Japan Times, on Giant Robot’s website and in other places. Significantly, several articles mentioned the original short documentary I had made and linked to the trailer.

A lull in my other duties allowed me to return to work on the film. With the help of some respected friends, I put together a new edit that I was much happier with. Add in a little colour grading in Adobe Premiere Pro (mainly using fast colour corrector and the free Power Mask plugin), some Audio sparkle from Adobe Audition, and we arrived at what I considered to be the finished film. The question now was how to release it. It felt too important to just stick on Vimeo, I wanted a wider audience for it. I felt like 281 deserved it.

It was then that I went to VICE Japan, for whom I had made another documentary. They had previously turned down the original 281 film. Upon seeing my cut, and having noticed the media attention, VICE said they were interested given a few provisos: They wanted interviews with his manager Ryan Roth; the writer of the New Yorker piece Roland Kelts; and a “graffiti” expert to round out and further legitimize the film.


My previous film for VICE Japan.

With the help of my friend Sean Bonner, I managed to secure an interview with the influential LA based graffiti artist Saber, who is perhaps most famous for the large piece he did on the bank of the Los Angeles river in 1997. The final work, measuring 250×55 feet (76×17 meters) has been called the largest graffiti painting ever. It was even visible from satellites.

I needed to hire a cameraman in LA to film the Saber footage. After reaching out on Twitter, a retweet from my friend and Newsshooter site editor Dan Chung secured someone to do it in 20 minutes! (Big thanks also to Jon Putek, who also supplied some LA b-roll at no additional cost). A similar situation arose with the Ryan Roth’s interview in Hong Kong. A colleague, Newsshooter contributor Jonas Schoenstein,  happened to be in Hong Kong and was able to record the interview.

It was the first time for me to pay other shooters to help me finish a documentary. A quick additional interview with Roland Kelts in Tokyo filmed by me on my recently acquired Canon C100 (a dream camera after working with the 5D for so long), and all the footage was ready.

I handed over my original edit of the film to VICE as an Adobe Premiere Pro file. All the additional footage was also given to VICE, who wanted to do their own edit of the piece. I agreed to pass on the editing, but it was a difficult decision. I had spent so much time on the film and felt so close to it. Thankfully, I was allowed a lot of input during the editing stages at VICE as the director.

Respect to Akira Kamitaki, who edited the final version you see here. Thanks also to Sebastian Stein (Vice Japan Production Manager) and Eiji Iwakawa (Vice Japan Post Production Supervisor) for their work on the film too.
 That said it was painful for my ego to see a producer and editor chop sections out of my film and reduce the length down to a VICE-friendly fifteen or so minutes. I kept reminding myself that by handing the film over to them, I was ensuring a much wider audience. And was at least going to make some money for all the time and effort I had put in it. Akira retained a great deal of my original edit, adding extra footage and adapting the piece to suit VICE’s in-house style.

The short is finally – 2 years later – seeing the light of day. 281 gains increasing exposure, more articles and short video slots are appearing about him, and this piece allows him to speak at greater length about his work and motivations. I would like as many people as possible to see his work and think about what he has to say.

To me, this shy, middle-aged Japanese guy has become something of a hero. I hope his work continues to make people in Japan question what their government and corporations are doing (or not doing) in their names.

He is one of the good guys.

Adrian Storey a.k.a. Uchujin – made in England in 1972. He has led an eclectic life, travelled extensively and has lived in Asia for the past 15 years. He is currently based in Tokyo, where he works as a filmmaker, camera owner/operator, editor and freelance photographer. Work ranges from documentary to music video. Adrian has worked for numerous international clients including Greenpeace, VICE Japan, The Guardian & The Sun.

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Posted on March 12th, 2014 by Uchujin | Category: Canon C100, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

VICE News goes live: What does it mean for Generation 5D ?

By Newsshooter contributer Spencer Chumbley:

vice news

Love it or loathe it, the VICE Media foray into the news world has begun. The VICE News beta website officially launched on March 3 2014, after a pre-launch period where a lucky few thousand eager viewers who had signed up early were given access. 

Media outlets like POLITICO, Fortune Magazine, Nieman Journalism Lab, and The Guardian gave our startup’s launch ample coverage with many commentators are making predictions about its impact on the news landscape. The coverage points to a news organization where “video works”, but what does the launch of VICE News mean to the community of news and documentary shooters? 

I’m a member of what could be called “Generation 5D” in the news shooter world. I’m in my late twenties and only started my career in video a few years ago. I taught myself to shoot video on DSLRs and developed my current addiction to the craft – helped in part by the low barriers to entry afforded by such cameras. 
 

Short documentary shot on the Canon C100 and Canon 5D mkIII.
 
For me, VICE News represents a new trajectory for a generation of young shooters who came of age among a world of DSLRs from Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic. It is more likely for Generation 5D to have cut our teeth via self-funded projects on YouTube or Vimeo. We have cut out the years spent at a local network affiliate, before working the way up to a national or international broadcast outlet. We use cellphone signals instead of satellite trucks. Our cameras are smaller and our backs don’t hurt quite as much.

As a producer and shooter for VICE News I do much of the same thing any independent visual journalists or documentary shooter does on an average working day – just with a bit more support. I research, pitch, produce, shoot and script nearly all my own stories. What differs is the support network. Unlike the echo of a freelancer’s empty room, I work with a team of associate producers and editors. They help keep me focused, funded, and fed when I’m on the road. When I’m not producing or researching my own stories I’m out shooting and field producing for other colleague’s projects on an ad-hoc basis. 

At work in my old job for Al Jazeera with the Canon C100 with Atomos Ninja recorder

At work with the Canon C100 for Vice News

Under the VICE News banner I hope to push my work towards a higher standard of visual news journalism. The bar is set by programs like Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines. Think: current affairs programming where the level of cinematography matches the breadth and depth of reporting, paired with grit and energy of youthful correspondents. The gateway for a young shooter into the news or documentary world has diversified and VICE News epitomizes that change. While this “youth media” brand may not provide many opportunities for the older generation, we all can find solace that one more media organization is inspiring young people to pick up a camera—of any kind—and tell stories.
 
This entry represents the first of many pieces I will be writing for Newsshooter.com from the perspective a younger, greener and more budget conscious news shooter.

Spencer Chumbley is a producer and shooter for VICE News in New York City. He previously was a fellow at Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines. Follow him on Twitter at @SpencerChumbley

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Posted on March 5th, 2014 by Spencer Chumbley | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Back-up Plan: UK Channel 4 shooter Matt Jasper gets fit to shoot

Guest post by Matt Jasper:

My work often puts me in uncomfortable positions

My work often puts me in uncomfortable positions

A few months ago I read a blog post from BBC cameraman Christian Parkinson which has inspired me to share my experiences here.

The health of our bodies, and in particular our backs, is vital to being an employable camera operator. We have all at some time felt a twinge as we threw the camera over our head in a scrum, or chased someone with the camera on our shoulder, or having to shoot while wearing all sorts of protective armour.

For the last few years I have been a bit over weight. Last year I started to eat healthier, cut out beer and lost eight kilos. I am still heavier than I want to be but am working on it. Sadly losing weight didn’t equal gaining strength or increasing my fitness level.

Over the years I have had the usual back problems and anyone who knows me would have heard me whinge at some time or another. With Christian’s post in my head I went looking for something that i could do to help me get through the pain and to try and prevent it from happening in the first place. I had a few things to consider.

First I travel a lot and am often staying in hotels that don’t have gym facilities. I need to be able to exercise with very little equipment. Second, as a bureau cameraman my work schedule is unpredicatable. It can include days in front of a computer screen and then, all of a sudden, weeks shooting and editing 18 hours a day. Third, I was starting at a pretty low base. Whatever regime I chose had to be easy-ish to start with and have the ability to be upscaled when it got too easy.

One of the few things I remember from high school sports lessons is how professional athletes train. They time how often there bodies are at rest and how often they are working. Then they try and replicate these results in the gym/training. This kind of training is sometimes called interval training. For example a professional footballer might be at rest for 30% of a game so his training would consist of a 70/30 work/rest split.

Working at full capacity as camera operators we tend to work in concentrated bursts of a few minutes – whether that is having to hold a camera over your head in a scrum or running etc. Usually we have periods of rest in between the short periods of madness. Of course that is not always the case, some of you might have to carry the camera, tripod and run bag on a hike through a jungle in 39 degree heat and 90% humidity and only intensive aerobic training will prepare you for situations like that!

For me I found the seven minute workout. Phhhft, I hear you say. Remember though, that i was starting from basically nothing, wanted to use little or no gear and wanted to be able to do it anywhere. This the first article i read about the program.

The seven minute workout featured on the New York Times

The seven minute workout featured on the New York Times

It is basically 7 minutes of pain, all done in your bedroom, hotel room or wherever with only a wall, chair and the floor required. Yes it will kick your butt initially, and the best thing is that when you get used to doing it once a day, you can easily then do it twice/thrice a day or whatever, depending on your fitness level.

There are plenty of free apps out there as well for your smart phones that will lead you through it. It works most of the muscle groups in your body and also works on your aerobic (hearts/lungs) fitness and all takes less than 10 minutes a day.

Of course this isn’t for everyone and if you happen to be one of those mad camera ops who also does marathons then this is not for you.

So what changes have I noticed you may ask? Well, after doing the routine nearly every day for four weeks I haven’t lost any weight. What you say? No weight loss? Well that is because muscle weighs more than fat, so the fat that I’m losing is made up for by heavier muscle. I have lost inches though, around my stomach in particular. Other areas I have gained centimeters, mainly my thighs and upper arms, torso. I can even see the beginnings of a six pack!

I also feel stronger in my day-to-day duties, stairs are easier and so is positioning my slightly front-heavy camera rig for longer periods of time. I feel more able to carry all the gear I require for longer periods of time. The seven minute workout concentrates on your core body strength and that is what is so useful to us.

The normal seven minute workout doesn’t includes enough emphasis on biceps for my taste so I compliment it with bicep curls using a neutral grip. This more closely resembles the way we pick up the camera. This requires dumb bells so add that exercise if you have them.

Camera makers these days seem not to worry as much about ergonomics as they used to – most cameras are getting more awkward to hold and operate without a heap of rods and rigging. If you, like me, are starting from a low base, want to be able to exercise anywhere using little or no equipment then I thoroughly recommend the seven minute workout.

I want to be employable for as long as possible and looking after my back is one way I plan to achieve that.

Matt Jasper is an Australian cameraman who moved to Beijing 11 years ago to work for ABC Australia. He is now the Asia cameraman/editor based in Bangkok for Channel 4 News UK. You can follow him on Twitter @matt_jasper

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Posted on February 23rd, 2014 by Matt Jasper | Category: Journalism | Permalink | Comments (1)

Better B-roll: Slavik Boyechko show how he shoots for PBS Digital Studios series “Indie Alaska”

Guest post by Slavik Boyechko:

It’s been said that the best way to learn is by teaching. Recently I made a tutorial on shooting B-roll for the public media education site transom.org – this gave me the chance to scrutinize a lot of my shooting habits and routines.

At Alaska Public Media we shoot and edit one minidoc each week for the PBS Digital Studios series “Indie Alaska”. Often we have a lot less time with the subject than we wish, and may have to go into a shoot without knowing much about the scenario – I’m betting this is true for most doc shooters.

To complicate things further I prefer to tackle B-roll first before ending the shoot with the interview. That’s because the interview can be emotional for subjects and wear them out. Sometimes we just have to shoot a ton of B-roll without knowing precisely what the story will be or what should be covered.

slavik-broll-1

This makes efficiency in shooting B-roll extremely important. The challenge is to get a variety of shots, at different angles and focal lengths, using different support rigs and camera movements – while still being prepared to shoot something important and unplanned. It is really fun but makes every doc shoot a kind of rush.

slavik-broll-2

All the tips from the video are written out in my transom.org post, but below are the highlights that I surprised even myself with – things I do, but didn’t realize until I watched myself shooting:

• Minimize lens changes – take as many wide shots as possible before moving in with your medium zoom lens.

• Anytime you frame a shot, take a moment to move out of the frame and then move back into it with a pan, tilt, rack focus, or handheld action. This makes editing much easier. Also when you’re handheld you should experiment with moving your entire body slowly to get slight movement, even from static shots.

• Avoid conversation with your subject. Shots of them talking to you (even if they’re looking elsewhere) are hard to place over their interview audio. Plus, the more they forget you’re there, the better.

• And this is something I always struggle with – if you see something happening that may not happen again, quickly focus and shoot the action at whatever imperfect exposure or focal length you might be in, at least for 5-10 seconds, before adjusting your camera settings. I can’t count the number of times I wish I had an underexposed shot that was still just about usable, over a shot where I’m stepping up aperture and ISO or fumbling with the zoom.

For the video below it took about two hours for me and my partner-in-crime Travis Gilmour to shoot all our shots and interview our subject. I later went back and shot about fifteen minutes more of the subject at a cafe, which allowed me to extend the video into an episode for “Indie Alaska.” Sometimes we doc shooters have less time, sometimes more, but the goal is always to be as efficient with B-roll shooting as possible.

Slavik Boyechko is a documentary filmmaker and Digital Media Director at Alaska Public Media, where he develops TV programs and shoots and edits the PBS Digital Studios series INDIE ALASKA. He maintains a blog at alaskavideoshooter.com and you can follow him on Twitter @akvideoshooter.

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Posted on February 16th, 2014 by slavik | Category: Canon C100, documentary, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (7)

iPhone Journalism & News gathering: Epic opportunity or catastrophic compromise?

Guest post by Glen Mulcahy:

I’ve been working in RTE, the national broadcaster of Ireland for 16 years. I started in Broadcast engineering before moving into technical resource management in News and then eventually into training and innovation. Over the last three years I’ve been researching and testing a variety of consumer technology devices to assess their potential for broadcasting and news gathering.

In 2001 I was part of the team responsible for the introduction of Video Journalism to RTE.

In 2006 I completed a BBC Train the Trainer course and I’ve been delivering training courses in VJ, DSLR Video Production, Photography and more recently Mobile Journalism.

As each of the production methods I’ve mentioned have come to the fore, there have been a series of reactions from people which seem to repeat in cycles. As a result people faced with the introduction of this new technology usually fall into one of the following categories:

The Evangelist
Sees the potential in every sense, cost savings, accessibility, production opportunities and revenue but tends to ignore the short comings in a rather obstinate way.
Catch Phrase: “Fire everyone – all we need is this and a body, any body”.

The Champion
Has a balanced approach to new technology, sees possibilities and shortcomings but is willing to try and test to its limits then evaluate and decide on use models. If potential exists will seek to exploit it but based on clearly defined limits.
Catch Phrase: “Its another tool in my toolbox – has strengths and weaknesses – that’s OK”.

The Pragmatist
Realises resources and revenue are constrained and looks to the potential from a mainly cost-saving perspective versus the need and demand for content. Will quickly abandon if alternative is provided.
Catch Phrase: “I’ll use it if I have to-but only if I have to”.

The Nonchalant
Sees new tech as an additional responsibility, not a tool with potential. Feels they are busy and efficient enough already – they don’t need the distraction of new skills and responsibilities and certainly won’t propose themselves for the training.
Catch Phrase: “More workload, more responsibility – nothing back. Why bother?”.

The Purist
Believes consumer technology is eroding and devaluing the professional industry. Thinks idealists who embrace this new consumer technology are in fact overpaid morons who don’t understand the craft and excellence of professional broadcast.
Catch Phrase:“Don’t be stupid – of course its not the same, it’s amateur crap as usual”.

The Nay-Sayer
Believes that the way things are created now, the structures, hierarchies, workflows and systems are complete and anything that challenges them should be eradicated through direct debunking and criticism and/or aggressive union action.
Catch Phrase:”Over my dead body -C’mon lads lets sort this out”.

There may well be other categories that I have yet to encounter, but if you have suggestions then let me know. Irrespective of which (if any) you feel inclined towards, video journalism is still an everyday fact in newsrooms all over the globe – and in most cases it co-exists (often in harmony) with the traditional roles of ENG and EFP cameramen. It, as with every production method, has its strengths and weaknesses and, though I absolutely accept the “two people are better than one” argument, I still strongly believe every production method has its place and more importantly it should not be at the expense of other methods.

Mobile is, to a certain extent, the new kid on the block. Its only in the last 3-4 years that smartphones, networks and device penetration have reached a point of ubiquity to drive mobile journalism forward. In my experience “mobile” is now a hotly debated topic in many newsrooms. Part of this is that everyone is scrambling to get a slice of the growing mobile viewing audience who use YouTube, VOD, player services and social media video to consume content while on the move. But that’s just part of the equation: the content delivery side. There is another area of mobile which is a source of huge potential for news-gathering and also one of the most underestimated resources, one which I have sought to tap into in the last two years.

I started the RTE mobile journalism project by testing Apps and Hardware accessories to see what you could to do augment the basic facilities on the smartphone. I tested a HTC Desire (Android) and an iPhone 4 at the time. It became apparent quite quickly that a lack of pro-grade Apps was a substantial handicap for Android. Market fragmentation, the fact that Android is open and can be customised by each device manufacturer means there are a lot of “flavours”. Add into that equation the fact that there are over 11,000 Android devices, including Smartphones, Phablets and Tablets and that makes it extremely difficult for an App developer who intends to leverage hardware like the camera and CPU to guarantee their App will work across a broad range of devices.

iOS on the other hand had quite a number of interesting Apps with Pro-grade features. This applied not only to photography Apps, but also to Audio recording and editing, Video recording and video editing. During the project I tested in excess of 1000 Apps! I then whittled the list down to my favourites and shortlisted it to my essentials:

Photography Cameras and Editing:
Camera+
Snapseed
Photoshop Express
Afterfocus
iLapse
Tadaa SLR
ProCam
Diptic
Photogene
645 Pro MkII
ActionShot
360 Panorama

Audio Recording and Editing:
Voice Record Pro
Rode Rec
Twisted Wave
Pocket wavepad
Hindenburg
LuciLive
Garageband

Video Recording and Editing:
FilMicPro
Vyclone
SloPro
VideoPro
Video Compressor
VideoGrade
iMovie
Splice
8mm Vintage Camera
ReverseCam
Dollycam
Pinnacle Studio (iPad)

Once I had identified my preferred Apps I then set about testing a wide range of accessories. After 6 months of field trials and real-world testing I selected the following hardware accessories for the project.

MOJO-GRABBAG.001

iPhone4 Mobile Journalist Workflow from Glen Mulcahy on Vimeo.

The next phase then was to create a training programme to show journalists how to leverage their iPhones for content creation. To date Over 120 RTE staff have completed the one day introduction course, and as recently as last week the first batch of mobile journalism “champions” completed the first four day Mojo masterclass. Two of the participants from the masterclass were current VJs – Philip Bromwell shot the video Viking House at the start of this blog post. He also the Dublin Dockers piece below. Both were shot on iPhone and edited on Avid Media Composer

What I have found interesting over the last 2 years is the various mobile acquisition strategies adopted by different broadcasters. Some have chosen to focus on the “camera in your pocket” / breaking news / “run-and-gun” model where they encourage journalists to shoot some short clips and send them back to base for editing and online, usually with the use of little or no accessories.

Others, like RTE have adopted both this and a more advanced methodology which allows journalists to perfect their skills and really learn to leverage the full potential of the device. Interestingly a recent twitter discussion about the merits and limits of mojo highlighted the dynamic set of views and opinions about this tech. Unlike Video Journalism, the workflows and usage for Mojo are relatively easy and intuitive- making it more accessible to “non-technical” staff. My opinion is if a journalist can create a story that is of high enough quality so the audience cannot tell its shot on a smartphone then they have reached a rubicon which makes the run-and-gun stuff or multimedia stories easy by comparison.

RTE have been using LuciLive for Radio lives for over two years now. The next Phase of the project is to move into live video streaming from the iPhone. Quicklink Ltd, a company in Wales have provided our IP delivery and streaming solution for ENG crews in the field for the last 5 years. They also have a dedicated iPhone app called Quicklink LNG which will stream to a server in our station and send return IFB over the same path. We have been testing for months but we decided to wait until the roll out of 4G mobile networks in order to avail of the greater throughput speeds. 4G is now officially launched and the amount of sites upgraded is growing relatively rapidly. As a result RTE will start a structured testing phase for iPhone live crosses in the very near future. SkyNews and BBC to give them credit have been active in this space for the last few months and you can see some good examples of use on the DejeroLabs YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/DejeroLabs

Is the iPhone, or any mobile device a suitable replacement for an ENG crew? In short: NO. But it can offer another content creation method and with a few cheap accessories it can create high quality stories, particularly in the hands of skilled journalists. News and the way it is consumed is changing rapidly – social media is a direct competitor for online news sites and both are slowly cannibalising the market share for linear over-the-air broadcasts.

The opportunity we have as broadcast news organisations is to participate in that new dialogue with our audience, to embrace change and to engage using the unique attributes we have: quality, credibility, integrity, trust and verification. How we create content and how we deliver it for that matter is up for grabs, but I give strong credence to the thrust of Kevin Spacey’s keynote at the Edinburgh Television Festival. “Let the audience decide”…who, what, when, where, how – “just give it to them”.

Glen Mulcahy is Innovation Lead with RTE. He blogs about technology at http://tvvj.wordpress.com

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Posted on February 14th, 2014 by Glen Mulcahy | Category: IPhone, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (2)

Is the DSLR dead for Online Video? A World Press Photo Connected Learning discussion

Guest post by DJ Clark:

The schoolchildren check out the 550D

Is DSLR video a thing of the past?

In 2007, no one could have predicted the impact the Canon 5D mkII would have on online video journalism; not even Canon. But five years on, many multimedia journalists are questioning whether the DSLR is still the best tool.

In the second part of my Gear Guide for the World Press Photo Connected Learning Multimedia course, I host an online discussion with Dan Chung and Matt Ford to talk about the DSLR as a video tool. We debate the pros and cons of the three emerging camera types multimedia journalists are using for video – the DSLR, the dedicated large sensor video camera and the ever-impressive compact mirrorless cameras – and consider if the DSLR is still the best way forward for people just starting out in multimedia journalism.

“I honestly think we are beyond the DSLR now,” Dan argues, as dedicated large sensor video cameras and compact mirrorless alternatives have come in to replace the slightly awkward DSLR.

“If you are going for a well-paid TV job you are going to use a camera that is dedicated to that and then [for online multimedia work] the compact camera systems are arguably a better tool than the DSLR as they are cheaper, smaller, lighter and more likely to have the right video functions.”

Dan sees cameras such as the Panasonic GH3 or Sony A7 as being well-suited to students looking for a camera with both good stills and video capabilities on a modest budget.

Not everyone has given up on the DSLR for video. On a recent assignment for National Geographic Online in the south of Egypt, Matt Ford went with the Canon 5D mkIII for his video: “I go for the DSLR because if I am going on a shoot and I already have a lot of lenses and bodies that I am using for still photography, if my primary camera goes down, I still have a lot of backups.”

Matt is not alone. The majority of students I see attending multimedia courses still arrive equipped with Canon DSLR cameras and lenses and would be reluctant to change.

Do you think DSLR is dead as a multimedia tool? I would love to hear your views.

D J Clark is a Beijing-based multimedia journalist currently working with The Economist, and Assignment Asia, a new CCTV News short documentary program.

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Posted on February 9th, 2014 by D J Clark | Category: DSLR video news, Journalism | Permalink | Comments (2)

The $5000 question: What kit made our Essential Gear Guide?

Guest post by D J Clark:

Worthy contenders to be in the $5000 multimedia kit?

Worthy contenders to be in the $5000 multimedia kit?

Last week I asked Newsshooter.com contributors and readers to help recommend a $5,000 kit list for shooters undertaking the free World Press Photo Connected Learning Multimedia Course.

Among those to respond were Newsshooter’s technical editor Matt Allard, site editor Dan Chung and several other readers.

It’s a tough ask to include computer, camera and lenses as well as accessories within the $5K limit, and expect them to produce a professional quality video and photography output. But with some creative lateral thinking there are workable solutions. Here is a quick summary:

For the camera, Matt went for the Sony RX10 with integrated zoom lens, while Dan opted for the versatile Panasonic Lumix GH3 with a variety of Nikon interchangeable lenses. Commenter Peter Roise also chose the GH3 but preferred to use native Lumix lenses as the main optics, while another user called Heri suggested the Olympus EM-1

Both small format cameras are great for keeping a low profile yet still incorporate many of the professional features you find in high-end models. Importantly, both have a mic input and headphone monitoring as well as full manual controls. They also both feature an integral electronic viewfinder with peaking and exposure aids that lessen the need for an external finder or monitor.

Audio level meters on the Sony RX10

Audio level meters on the Sony RX10

Surprisingly, Canon – by far the most used cameras amongst my students in this field – did not get a mention from any of the responders, but that is likely because of the lack of audio connections in their cheaper models.

Dan’s choice of a Metabones Speedbooster to make Nikon lenses fit to the GH3 is also interesting. It gives a close-to-APS-C-sensor look to a Micro 4/3 camera and can be used with old and new Nikon glass. It does, however, mean that autofocus is lost, which may be a problem for stills shooting.

Matt’s choice of the RX10 has an excellent Zeiss constant aperture f2.8 zoom coupled to a 1-inch sensor. The sensor is not as large as the GH3 or a regular DSLR and so the imagery doesn’t have super-shallow depth of field. It does have a built-in Neutral Density filter which the GH3 doesn’t. What it allows is a bright and reasonably long lens all-in-one solution that beginners should find approachable while still offering full-manual control when needed.

Their recommended sound set-ups are also different. Matt kept things simple by spending big on the Sony XLR-K1M adaptor that plugs into the RX10 and then adding a single Rode Reporter Mic to cover interviews and vox pops. Dan chose a Rode Videomic going directly into the camera for on-camera sound, with a extension cable for interviews.

Peter Roise recommended the Tascam DR-05 audio recorder paired with the Rode Videomic and Azden EX503 lavalier mic.

Matt and Dan both also included the $60 Rode Smartlav as an improvised wireless option connecting to the reporter’s smartphone and relying on the inbuilt recorder. Dan went further by adding an iPod Touch to act as the sound recorder, second video camera, stills camera and general production tool.

For computer power and software Matt and Dan both chose the Apple 13” Macbook Air with the excellent value Final Cut Pro X editing package. Peter Roise suggested a HP DV7 PC instead running Windows.

HP DV6

They all added a video tripod, LED lights with stands, spare batteries and memory cards on the shopping list but managed to stay near the $5,000 limit. I imagine most people taking the course will already have a camera and computer to start off with so I hope the actual spend will be less.

You can see the full list of recommendations at the bottom of the original post.

I recently put together an updated version of my own gear guide for Multimedia students. This looks at budget choices as well as some more expensive options. You can download the guide here.

You can also watch my discussion with fellow World Press Photo Multimedia Connected Learning tutor Matt Ford below where we demonstrate own basic Multimedia kits:

Next week I will be looking at the pros and cons of using a DSLR versus a dedicated video camera for multimedia journalism work.

Please let me know you thoughts @djclark on Twitter or in the comments below.

D J Clark is a Beijing-based multimedia journalist currently working with The Economist, and Assignment Asia, a new CCTV News short documentary program.

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Posted on February 1st, 2014 by D J Clark | Category: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, Journalism, Panasonic GH3, Sony | Permalink | Comments (0)

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