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Archives: April 2009

Composite photography: A new twist to an old medium

A picture is worth a thousand words, but what about multiple photos that have been merged together?

The above photo of New York’s Times Square by photographer Peter Funch is a stunning example of composite photography, or multiple photos take over time that have been digitally stitched together.

Equally fascinating photos have been created by (from top to bottom) Tom Mason, Ben Zvan and Ho-Yeol Ryu.

The above photo of a series of planes taking off from a single runway is arresting and like many similar photographs in the genre, was likely created with a good dose of Photoshop.

Composite photography mirrors panoramic imagery in which a series of photos is stitched together to give a wider perspective. Both types of photography can be created digitally, the former by combining a series of photos shot in one location to merge time. A similar effect can be created using multiple exposure or combination printing, both of which are explained in detail here. The result is a single image that more accurately represents the vibrancy of and goings-on at a single location.

The same principles of composite photography can be applied to motion photography as shown in the video below. To illustrate the difficulty of one level of the video game Mario World, 134 attempts to best the round were merged into a single video. The result is both unique and telling and the complex juju required to create the video, a full explanation of which can be found here, is worth a read.

One example of composite photography’s place in the newsroom is this David Bergman’s photo of the recent presidential inauguration. The technique can also be used to enhance sports/action photography, as evidenced in the photo below by wootang71 (more sequence photos can be found here).

It is essential to note that composite photography skirts the line between photograph and illustration and in a news context should be labeled as the latter. However, this shouldn’t discourage photographers from trying the technique and adding a new dimension to their work.


Also on 10,000 Words:

21 Free online photo editing tools
6 Creative approaches to photography
Essential resources for panoramic photography
4 Sites for viewing panoramas (and 3 ways to create them)
12 Creative uses of time-lapse photography (and 4 ways to create it)
Create brilliant multimedia projects from the mundane

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Museums as Inspiration

The original series focused on how innovative technology has been incorporated into modern museums, using three institutions as examples. Click the links below to read each post.

Museums as Inspiration: California Science Center
Museums as Inspiration: Museum of Modern Art
Museums as Inspiration: Brooklyn Museum

Also be sure to check out the rest of the stellar content at 10,000 Words by clicking any of the tags in the sidebar.

How to shoot great video quickly and efficiently

Shooting great video doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. By streamlining your workflow and limiting the chance for mistakes, you can reduce the time needed to shoot and edit your masterpiece.

Pre-production

When breaking news hits, the videographer is tasked with grabbing the camera and running out of the door with little preparation and often a vague idea of what needs to be filmed. But for those video projects for which prep time is available, it is a good idea to brainstorm what the video should look like before you go out to shoot.

Take a minute to consider and jot down the various setups, interviews and shots you’d like to capture. For example, if the story is about a bake sale, consider interviews with the bakers, including shots of the baked goods, people eating them, etc. If you are so inclined, draw a storyboard but leave it open-ended as news videography is often subject to unforeseeable change. The story itself shouldn’t be planned ahead, but at least by brainstorming, you’ll have an ideas of what the shoot will entail.

For novice videographers, a good portion of the time wasted in the field is experimenting with the video camera’s various settings. Before going on a shoot, become familiar with the camera and know how to quickly access essential features like white balance and focus.

Once you and the camera have become best friends, remember to bring its buddies along: a good set of headphones, the appropriate microphone(s) for your shooting situation and extra tapes and batteries just in case. Nothing drags down video production like having to run back to grab a missing piece of equipment.


In the field

Before you begin shooting, limit the amount of unusable video by testing your audio levels beforehand. Prior to an interview, have the subject speak naturally into the microphone for as long as it takes to determine that the audio quality is perfect. Audio meters can give you an idea if sound is indeed being recorded, but use headphones to be doubly sure and, if possible, keep them on for the duration of the shoot.

Cut down on the time spent in the edit room by only shooting what you need. Before you hit the record button ask yourself “Is this necessary for the end product or am I just bored or antsy?” An itchy trigger finger will result in loads of necessary film. On the other hand, shooting B-roll, or video footage used to supplement the main idea, is necessary to give the video some flavor and break up lengthy interviews. Just be cautious not to overshoot.

For those shots you do need, capture each one in close up, medium, and wide angle so you will have options when you finally begin editing. Additionally, be sure to hold each shot for at least 10 seconds to ensure the shot is usable. There is nothing worse than having a great shot that is rendered useless because it is too short. If the video is intended exclusively for the web, concentrate on close ups as it is harder to make out important details on a relatively small computer screen.

The human brain is by nature forgetful so while you are shooting, create a log of your shots which will reduce the time spent looking for them later. Feel free to note whether a shot was good or bad and if it should be included in the final product. Once finished, label your tapes so they can be easily located.

The edit room

It’s tempting to walk away from the edit bay as your video is being imported, but depending on its length, it is good idea to keep an eye on what has been shot, even if you have kept a detailed log. This will help in quickly identifying whether a shot turned out good or bad and will serve as a reminder of the sequence of events.

Most experts agree that online video should be at the most 4 to 5 minutes in length to ensure that it is watched from beginning to end by finicky web viewers. When editing, include succinct soundbites and be sure that interviewees are not repeating the same points. Avoid time spent selecting fancy transitions and wipes by just omitting them altogether. Include only what is absolutely necessary to tell the story and makes for compelling video.

Thanks to @danielday for suggesting today’s post.


Also on 10,000 Words:

How to edit your video online for free or cheap
Newspapers on YouTube: Dos and Don’ts
9 Telltale signs of amateur video
What if YouTube died tomorrow?: The alternatives you need to know

How to turn online social networking into real-life relationships

I have a confession: I used to be painfully shy in unfamiliar situations, especially when it came to networking. A room full of people chatting away for me felt like walking through a minefield…obviously not a good trait for a journalist.

I eventually learned to suck it up and jump in the fray, but in today’s internet age, making meaningful connections is much easier. The following tips for expanding your network and contacts in a digital environment will help you translate those online connections into lasting real-world relationships.

Find a niche social network

The first step to building relationships online is joining social networks that appeal to you. For digital journos, the place to be is Wired Journalists, the social network where writers, producers and editors share job-related tips and events. Similar social networks exist for every conceivable profession, hobby or interest. Finding the right one is as easy as searching sites like Find a Social Network or Go2Web20′s community page. There will you find networks populated by others with similar interests, which is highly favorable over broader social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Blog

If you have a niche blog, you already have an established place to network. Kibitz with those leaving comments on your blog, find more about them and who they are beyond the online username. Blogging is also a great way to establish oneself as a player in a particular field or profession and attract others to you. More tips on blogging can be found at this previous post.

If you don’t have a blog, start one and begin leaving comments and interacting with other fellow bloggers. You won’t have a following overnight, but over time your network will grow. And because you’re sitting behind a computer, networking becomes less of a daunting task.

Tweet!

It’s no secret that Twitter is the social network du jour for finding like-minded individuals. For 10,000 Words that means interacting with the many journalists on Twitter, but by doing a simple search you can find others who share the same interests or career as you do.

Because the end goal of all this networking is to establish real-life relationships, consider searching for Twitter users near you. Third-party sites like TwitterLocal, localtweeps, and Twellow make searching by zip code easy, thus increasing the chances of an offline relationship. If you haven’t signed up for Twitter already, do it now, write a few relevant tweets and be sure not to fall for the common mistakes made by Twitter newbies.

Have an online portfolio

When meeting others, you have mere seconds to show them your personality and make a good impression, something that is easier said than done. If your end goal for social networking is to get a job or further your career, it is essential to create an online portfolio that is a representation of who you are. It doesn’t have to be fancy — just a representation of or links to your work — but it should showcase your personality and what sets you apart from others. Your online portfolio should also include your updated résumé, contact information, and — if you’re up to it — a photo of yourself.

The disadvantage of professional social networking sites like LinkedIn is it is difficult to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression. When you do start establishing relationships, it is better to have something personal to send people to rather than a staid fact sheet. For a list of great online portfolios that are unique and full of personality, click here.

Revamp your business card

Before you start meeting people in real life, you’ve got to have a great business card that, like your online portfolio, sets you apart from others. A company-issued, black-text-on-white-card-stock piece of paper won’t cut it anymore. Like the unique business cards on this list, your business card to should use bold colors and fonts to make it come alive. It should list your email, online portfolio, blog, Twitter name, LinkedIn name, Flickr account…everywhere you can be found online (that you don’t mind other people seeing). For an example, check out my personal business card below.

Introduce yourself

The one crucial step to shifting online contacts to offline associates is introducing yourself personally. For casual relationships, a simple “Hey my name is (blank) and I saw your comment/post/tweet about (blank) I’d like to chat with you some time about it.” A small compliment goes a long way, as does a sunny disposition.

Invite the person for lunch at a inexpensive restaurant or a chat over a cup of coffee. Meeting at a nearby coffee shop is a great way to introduce yourself without being overzealous. Most importantly, don’t be overbearing. You don’t want the other party to think you are a stalker, a spammer or that you are needy or desperate. If they decline, simply move on and resist the urge to send follow-up emails or phone calls.

Go where the community is

So you’ve established online connections…it’s time to put them to use. Find upcoming mixers, conferences or tweetups near you where you will find those with similar interests or career paths. Learn who will attend ahead of time and employ the aforementioned techniques so that when you arrive at the event you’ll already know a few people there. Be sure to hand them your business card, which — if it is as unique as this post advises — should be a great conversation starter and possibly the beginning of a lasting relationship.

Thanks to costa_kout for answering the call and suggesting today’s post. Got something you want to see on 10,000 Words? Send a tweet to @10000Words. Flickr photo by cybertoad.


Also on 10,000 Words:

Essential social networks for journalists
Pump up your portfolio via mobile or video
The 20 Essential RSS Feeds for Multimedia Journalists
Classifieds 2.0: Social networks for brides and the deceased
How to make the most of your journalism internship

Why journalists should learn to code (and why some shouldn't bother)

In this era of new media and technology, journalists are being asked to acquire skills beyond reporting and writing, probably the most daunting of which is learning basic computer programming. Some argue that coding skills are an essential part of working in a new media environment, while many traditional journalists balk at the idea, saying computer programming is not why they signed up for the profession.

Both sides have valid arguments: learning basic HTML, CSS or other programming languages helps journalists create their own online content and understand the parameters of technical journalism. On the other hand, refusing to learn coding may be more than just stubbornness or old media thinking.

Being both a journalist and a programmer/coder requires use of both sides of the brain. The left brain, which relies on logic and analysis, is more apt for synthesizing computer processes; the right brain relies more on intuition and creative thought, essential skills for a successful journalist. Because journalists are more likely to be right-brain thinkers, asking a writer to code is basically asking someone to rethink the way they think (To find out what kind of thinker you are, take this short quiz).

This is why such skills are at odds with each other and learning coding is not as easy as just picking up a book. One must tap into both hemispheres of the brain and think both analytically and intuitively to thrive in the new era of journalism.

So why should journalists bother to learn coding? If anything, learning how to build online and interactive stories gives journos a greater understanding of how web-based journalism is created and how they can enhance traditional print or broadcast stories. As with all multimedia skills, journos are more likely to be invested in the technical process if they have an idea of what’s possible.

Also, learning computer skills makes journalists less dispensable and, for the unemployed, more marketable for future employment, which — let’s be honest — can’t hurt in the industry’s current tumultuous state. Many journalism jobs now require someone who has both coding skills and writing experience, the latter of which many traditional computer programmers lack. Because many coders and developers aren’t exactly rushing out to learn about inverted pyramids and cutlines, this gives the coding journalist an advantage.

There are many working journalists/programmers, some of whom are more fluent in one side or the other, and with computer programming being taught in J-Schools, even more should emerge in the coming years.

Learning HTML/CSS is useful for building web-based projects and knowledge of ActionScript is necessary for working in Flash environments. But unless you’re planning a career as a developer, a deep understanding of Django, PHP or Ruby on Rails is not required.

It’s encouraging to see participants at the Knight Digital Media Center training workshops and other similar efforts take the basic web design skills they pick up and go on to create their own online stories or web-based projects.

For those interested in learning basic computer programming, start with the online tutorials at W3Schools or any of the books in the For Dummies series. Additional online tutorials can be found at lynda.com, News University or any of the sites listed in this previous post.

There are journalists whose prowess remains in the written word and they shouldn’t be admonished for sticking to what they know. Those who choose to adhere to long-standing forms of print or broadcast journalism shouldn’t fret, but know that there will come a time when basic coding will become an integral part of a journalist’s duties. It’s better to jump on the bandwagon now than to be left in the dust later on.


Also on 10,000 Words:

Essential multimedia tutorials and resources for do-it-yourself training
What is…? A handy guide for the new media novice
Journalists: Change starts with you
Multimedia Picker: Choose the right medium for your message
Why J-Schools matter

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