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Category: What’s New? the Blog

Wow, this is where we’re heading for news

from point and shoot camera or iPhone in less than 30 minutes. I have seen the future!

from point and shoot camera or iPhone to the web (and perhaps to broadcast news) in less than 30 minutes. I have seen the future!

Philadelphia photojournalist and videographer Jim MacMillan has an idea to use his smartphone and his small point and shoot camera to cover breaking news and features, automatically upload them to his website and send out tweets to news stations to alert them to new material. My only problem is that his prices seem, well, a little too low .

Best part is that in the spirit of transparency, he tells you exactly how he does it. Awesome!

Storytelling with heart

“Let the story move you before you move the story”

A couple of lighting techniques videos

Deconstructing a lighting set up, by Still Motion.

Media Storm‘s Standard 3-camera set up.

Opposite Ends or the Same?

They’re both about cellphones and neither has a narrator. One is short; one is long. Both made me stop and think a very long time. That’s what web video is about.

I’ll list them in the order I saw them. The first by Werner Herzog for a large advertising agency.It scored almost 2 million view in the first week for what is basically a PSA (Public Service  Announcement)

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The other written and starring Charlene deGuzman, a young actress, has a simple narrative arc and is pretty minimal.

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I love that web video can encompass both of these projects.

A Crew of Two with a Ton of Still photos too

You’ll be doing your first assignment in a crew of two.

I’ve worked alone, in a crew of two and in a larger crew too. For me, two is the perfect number. I’d always rather work with someone else than by myself.

Here’s a nice story done by two people, with a nice reflection at the end too. (check out the backstory link below the video)

Heres hoping your story will be as tight, tidy and nice as this one.

Backstory here.

What makes a good video story?

A great video story  unfolds, in real time,  and the visuals tell a story. (The web is a visual medium, otherwise the SONY Walkman would still be the device of choice.) Also, since it’s the World Wide Web, a great video story can go viral even if you don’t speak the language if there’s a compelling story told in the visuals.

Here’s a great example: the climb to the top of a 1,768 foot transmission tower as seen through a technician’s helmet camera. You don’t need any hysterical narration here. As a matter of fact, you don”t need any narration at all (though I’d love to hear from the guy making the climb, what he thinks while he’s on his commute, etc)

And here’s another similar video with literally breath taking visuals. Ironically, I think the second camera viewpoint stat at 2.00 minutes is even scarier.

What you lookin’ at?

There’s been some discussion recently about where an interview subject should look during an on camera interview: to the left, to the right, straight into the camera?

Like so many things in storytelling, I like to look to real life as my guide. For instance, I hate when I’m at a party and the person I’m talking with is looking over my shoulder, to their left, everywhere but at me. Makes me think they’re not interested in what I’m saying.

I recently went to a preview of a documentary about a famous NY restaurant owner. My partner, a food writer, and I went over to talk with him at the press party. That man never took his eyes off of us, even though I knew there were more important people at the party. I came away feeling he was genuine (and I wanted to learn his trick of how do you look over someone’s shoulder without them seeing you do it?)

Ultimately, it’s a creative decision. What do you want your story to say to the viewer?

In this piece from Apple (which reminds me of this perhaps even more powerful piece done by Errol Morris in the same style) the subjects look right at the viewer.

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Making Boring Stories come alive with inventive visuals

A nice behind-the-scenes story and links set of films from Steffan Hacker, who is working to make boring stories interesting as a multimedia producer at Tuft’s University.

Brilliant in every way: a cool multimedia package


(These Canadians, again…)

THIS ThisLand_NationalFilmBoardCanada











[editors note: this is some of the smartest interactive storytelling in the online world today. AND it's government supported...ok, it's the Canadian Government..bob sacha]

Press Pause Play

” Now everybody is a photographer, everybody is a film maker, everybody is a writer.”

So what will set YOU apart?

take a minute, yes, just a minute and check this>

Would you pay $12.50 to see the rest of this?

Will you turn this off after 10 seconds? 60 seconds?

What things about the story makes you watch until the end of this viral web video from Nicaragua?

What lessons can you take away for your video?

Surprise in storytelling

I’m a huge fan of the TV show Breaking Bad. It’s brilliantly written and plotted, beautifully filmed and always surprising, and I’ve only watched the first three seasons.

Here’s an example of using surprise in storytelling. Up until the first minute mark, you’re not quite sure what thye’re talking about or what they’re creating in all those tubes. Is it what you expected?


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Interactive Videos

Today in class we talked about interactive videos – strangely in other languages they are called very differently: web documentaires in French and Web-Dokus in German.

If you want to check out what is going on other countries I compiled some examples in English produced elsewhere:

List of interactive videos by the French broadcaster in English


Interactive Video about the prisons in Canon Valley, in Colorado (in English)


Highrise: an interactive project about people living in highrises around the world (in English), National Film Board of Canada


The German-French broadcaster arte pushes cross-plattform narration (TV, online, mobile) to the next level in Europe. They have some excellent interactive videos. For example about the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq war. Unfortunately all the web productions as they call them only exist in German and in French.


German blog dedicatedto interactive videos and projects in German






Web videos in Germany

The US is cutting edge in online journalism and as in many other fields, web video story telling is much better here than elsewhere.

An initiative in Germany is now trying to push innovative videos forward by creating a prize for web videos. The Deutsche Webvideopreis is awarded in several categories from the biggest fail to the loudest laugh, from a journalistic category to the best advertising video. For journalists, the most interesting category is probably “For your Information“.

The site is mostly in German but I am happy to assist if you want to submit a video. The limitations:

  • the video has to be in German or geared towards a German audience
  • the video has to be produced for the web
  • the video has to be published between February 1 2012 and January 31 2013
  • no copyright infringements

Most videos are really bad (Unfortunately I couldn’t find a single one I liked). So if it happens that you have produced anything related to Germany, I highly recommend you to submit your videos.You can also just go and check out what video journalists in Germany are producing.

They also host a barcamp style web video conference in Duesseldorf on May 24 and 25 2013.

Getting up close and personal

Ed Ou is an incredible 23-year-old photographer who’s been experimenting more and more with video (on his 5D).

In a recent piece for the New York Times, he gets a very intimate look into the life of drug addicts in Vancouver, his home town.

In an interview for Lens, he talks about his relationship with the main subject in his story. He raises the question of much can/should you get involved with the people you portray? Where is the line? IS there a line?

Ken Burns on Story_Bob Sacha

Why should I care?

Why should I care about a backpack?

Marketing people are using emotional storytelling to sell their products. Why? Because it works!

Here are two online videos from LL Bean:

This one uses a lot of still photos. It also has a journey in a non narrated interview.

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This one also uses still photos with a more traditional narrative.

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Why should I care about a backpack? Because it’s not really about the backpack.


Using video to show something you haven’t seen before

Just a little video inspiration. Happy thanksgiving to all.

Great Stories Have a Human Connection

Really loved everything about this story, sent our way by CUNY VSW alum Mary Shell.

this story has an amazing character who is thoughtful, reflective and very well spoken and who gives us some surprisng insights into what seems like a violent sport.

The story has a visual and narrative arc, it’s beautifully captured with a ton of great closeups and it has powererful sound to put you there. Brilliant!!, as the British say!

A Great Story About an Issue

I was heading down the stairs at school the other day when someone called out “Anika‘s watching a video and she’s getting all teary eyed.”

And so Anika sent me the video. And I got teary eyed too.

To me it’s a wonderful story and an even better story about an issue for a number of reasons: it has conflict, it has change, it has emotion, it has an unfolding action and it helps me see another view on an issue.

What is doesn’t have is a reporter/narrator, no multiple talking heads (not a single talking head) it has no experts, it does not have multiple sides of the issue.

But it makes me feel something and to understand a little more through that feeling.

And the best part…it’s a true story..

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…..and it’s an web ad.

Which brings me back to Anika, who asked me: “Why aren’t more journalists telling stories this way?”

Why indeed?

Using Still Photos Creatively…Very Creatively….. in Video

Here’s a really nice piece of video cut to music that consists only of still images. Cool take on a wedding video too.

Theo Rigby, the guy behind this fun video, has directed, shot and edited another great story about an immigrant family who has both parents deported: Sin Pais One of the assignments is a story about an issue. This would count as a powerful way to tell that story.

Here’s the trailer.

More Video Inspiration

We had 3 weeks of incredible films in my class. The last 2 weeks were my favs: check out  Film Festival Two and Film Festival Three

Inspired by everyone I found a few more:

I love the energy and visual style of this romp through Bombay with two guys recording sounds as the basis for music. Notice their use of the tiny GoPro camera, which we have available! send me an email if you want to use it.


and also this powerful trailer about the storyteller’s Dad, and the line between brilliance and genius:


Visual Storytelling by David Mamet

David Mamet is an amazing writer, known for his award winning plays, screenplays, books and televisi on shows. He’s also a director and he has a quite famous rant in the form of a letter that he wrote to writers of The Unit, a TV show since cancelled.

It shows how well he understands dramatic writing (he won the Pulitzer Prize for drama) but also visual storytelling.

Here’s one of my favorite sections: (The original is , famously, in all caps.)



Take Me On A Journey

I’ve never read William Zinsser‘s classic book: On Writing Well but I clearly should. In part, it’s because one of his 5 tips on how to become a better writer is a huge central concept of how to become a better visual storyteller: take me on a journey. In video for the web in this class (and as a whole) , you need to take someone on a journey, not just give a report.

William Zinsser, a fourth-generation New Yorker, at a subway station near his office in mid-Manhattan.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent phone interview he gave to Poynter.org

 “All writing to me is a journey. It’s saying to the reader, ‘Come along with me; I’ll take you on a voyage,’ ” Zinsser said. “These writers do that by never losing sight of the fact that they are telling a story.”

Too often, Zinsser said, people become so preoccupied with writing well that they clutter their stories with unnecessary words that lead readers astray. Good writers make every word count, and they avoid abstractions.
“Nobody wants abstractions,” Zinsser said. “They want specific details that help them discover something new.”

Ahhh, details. I feel like I beat and beat and beat the concept that close-ups and extreme closeups are crucial to good visual story telling. Nice to see they’re crucial to the written version too.