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What Speed Racer taught me about multimedia journalism

I finally got a chance to watch Speed Racer after foregoing the movie’s initial release to see Iron Man instead (bad move on my part). While watching the film, I couldn’t help but appreciate how some of its concepts and effects applied to multimedia journalism.

Ads and content can coexist harmoniously

The racetracks on which the titular character races are filled with Day-Glo colored ads as far as the eye can see — sort of like a hyperreal Times Square. But because the adverts blend in with the action, one can catch a glimpse of an ad for Puma or Yokohama Tires without being distracted from the main content. Often in the journalism sphere, news is on the right hand and advertising is on the left and neither knows what each other is doing. But when the two blend together correctly, it can create a great user experience while still maintaining a strong click-through rate.

News is more than one language

In most sports films, there are one or two announcers that chronicle the action, but in Speed Racer there are a herd of them, all speaking different languages. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the news being produced in the English-speaking, Western world that many, including I, forget that there is a whole world out there whose only barrier is language. Imagine the many more perspectives we’d gain on the news and the industry itself if we opened our eyes to the goings-on of the rest of the world.

A little animation goes a long way

A signature visual element in Speed Racer is the use of talking heads gliding smoothly across the screen to illustrate a back story or heighten emotion. The effect is similar to how producers use Flash or Soundslides to animate and intensify photos. However, like in the movie, if animated effects are used too often it becomes a drain and actually takes away from the effect of the photos. Animation and visual effects are great and are the cornerstone of multimedia production, but be careful not to create too much of a good thing.

Flash and fancy doesn’t beat great content

Hometown hero Speed Racer’s competitors equipped their high-end cars with the latest gadgets and slick-looking exteriors but (spoiler alert!) Speed ultimately prevails because he is simply a better driver. You can create stunning Flash animations or add the Ken Burns effect until the cows come home, but unless the content is substantial, then the multimedia project will never excel. Concentrate on reporting the news as well as possible and your multimedia project/website will race into the finish line as well.

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