Photography Training and Doing More with Less in El Paso
BERKELEY, CALIF. — It’s now Day 3 in the marathon week-long multimedia boot camp at UC Berkeley run by the Knight Digital Media Center. We have broken into groups to create various multimedia stories, and later today we’ll go out to do our primary interviews and video shoots. My group will be meeting with Robert Full, a professor who studies robotics based on animal movements.
Today’s training includes sessions on audio recording, photography, Mac computers, and Photoshop.
In the morning, Jeremy Rue, a lecturer at UC Berkeley in the Graduate School of Journalism, showed us the basics of audio recording with a Marantz PMD660. Later, Rue turned to the basics of photography.
Jeremy Rue: Advanced point and shoot cameras are between an SLR and point and shoot. They have a non-removable lens, shorter shutter lag, manual focus, and generally high quality.
Even if you can get a good deal on a camera, you still get hit with huge costs on accessories, which include:
> Lens filter
> Camera bag
> Additional rechargeable batteries (go with name brand)
> Memory cards
> Card readers
> Extra lenses
> Software (Photoshop)
Lots of jargon with digital cameras, such as:
Megapixels: only refers to output image; not necessary to be more than 2 or 3 megapixels for the web.
IS: image stabilizer. Prevents blur from hand movement.
Optical vs. digital zoom: Digital zoom crops the image and is terrible quality — you don’t want that.
ISO: Refers to sensitivity of sensor. Higher number = better for low light. Don’t go past 1600 ISO or quality will be degraded. But 1600 is good for very low light situation, but very grainy.
CMOS vs. CCD: CMOS is cheaper sensor and has lower power consumption, but it is a lower quality censor.
RAW: Great for print, but not necessary for the web. One photog in the group says he hasn’t shot in RAW mode for two years, and only does it for something that will be blown up into a poster.
Video FPS: Frames per second. 30 fps is a good quality for video.
Techniques for Shooting to Make Slide Shows
Jeremy Rue: Photographers have been trained to go out and get one image, but now that there are more online narratives, they need to shoot more photos. Here are some main tips for shooting for slide shows:
> Form a narrative, with a beginning, middle and end.
> Take lots of pictures.
> Don’t be so literal — let the audio “tell” the story. Images convey moments, emotion.
> Matching photos to words isn’t always necessary. Photos can tell you more than the audio.
> Domument with images, narrate with sound.
Rue: As journalists we learn this craft of telling stories, so it’s much more effective having someone else tell the story — and not having it ambiguous. It’s a straightforward way of doing the story.
Paul Grabowicz: I wouldn’t have someone else do the entire narration. It’s good to have differing voices in a story. It’s good to save the people talking to times when they are emotional. TV has moved away from narration, and on the web, there are people talking without narration. I think we’ll go back to having more narration and variety of voices. The web is about personalities, and that might be hard for print reporters, because we’re not supposed to be part of the story.
(Rue plays example of audio slide show on San Francisco Chronicle site told entirely by the subjects.)
Rachael Myrow: It’s about the emotional honesty of the voiceover. Even if your voice isn’t perfect for radio, it still works if you are engaged with the story. The problem is when reporters sound like they are dragged into a sound booth and don’t really want to do it.
Jeremy Rue: You can always just do your own narration if the subject doesn’t do a very good job of that.
After lunch today, there was a speaker, Jay Koester, online editor for the El Paso Times, with a talk titled, “Looking Big on a Small Budget.” Koester would tell us how his staff could do more with less — with a lot of wit and humor.
Jay Koester: Circulation is 60,000, we’re a fairly small paper. It’s a small staff covering a city of 750,000. Eighty percent of our efforts are with breaking news. It’s the most important thing. Databases are important, our readers love them. We had a popular one from the health inspector ratings of all the restaurants.
Everything I will show you was done by one person on one shift. It will help you learn what’s possible. We’re shooting video on a camera that’s worse than what you shoot your kids with. It is a cheap $300 camera but it has an external mic, which is important. We bought four of them.
We don’t take much breaking news video, because there are four local TV stations in town. We can’t really compete with them.
(Shows video report on border crossing and how it’s angering people who are stuck in hours of traffic.)
We have a music blogger on staff, and she’s been getting us to put up music videos on the site, taken from live shows.
I know I’m not supposed to use a “TV guy voice” on web video, that’s what you’re taught in the Knight training. But in this case, I was doing a promo for a live show we were putting on, and I think it works in this case.
(Shows video promo where he uses a slick TV voice to hype the music show.)
For another shot, we didn’t have a light on the camera, so someone said he’d bring a flashlight. [lots of laughter] When I got back to the studio, it was dark, no matter what I did. I finally used two different effects that made it watchable. Then everyone said, ‘Hey look at this cool artsy video.’ The strobe effect, though, didn’t work every well.
(Shows video of Sun Bowl fans for South Florida and Oregon. Burning question: “Who would win a fight between a duck and a bull?” Follow-up: “What if the duck had a gun?” Correct answer: “Ducks can’t hold guns; they have webbed feet.”)
We do podcasts on sports, on UTEP and high school sports. One thing I thought would be awesome was to have people call in and record their calls in audio for the podcast. But only one guy called. It just didn’t work.
As for blogs, I had been doing a blog about politics in El Paso, and didn’t write it under my own name. I was just on the copy desk at the paper, and my editor knew I was doing the blog and told me to stop writing about politics as it might reflect badly on the paper. As time went on, I wasn’t writing about politics, but we had an editorial writer doing that. He kept asking me to write about politics, and eventually I started blogging about politics again. Before the paper, had asked me not to get into personal opinions about politics, and now they were telling me to do it — it’s interesting to see the way their attitude about blogging has changed.
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