Your photo archives can make great multimedia content

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Here’s a quick way web producers can add multimedia content to their newspaper websites. I recently teamed up with Spokesman-Review writer Jim Kershner and together we have produced a half a dozen historical multimedia videos made up of photos from our in-house photo archive. Themes such as: The Evolution of Transportation in the Inland NorthwestHobo History and  Felts Field: A High Flying History were put together with local archive photos. This is really a no-brainer when it comes to creating visual driven multimedia content for your website.

Most papers have extensive photo archives that could really be put to better use. We have so many great pictures that have not been published since the Great Depression. I have found from feedback that viewers really like these historic video slideshows. It is important to note that this type of content has a long tail. The videos continue to gather hits over time– as long as people can access them on your site.

A recent blog comment on a historic show called “Remembering the Snow,” produced by Brian Immel, our new multimedia producer here at the Spokesman summed it up nicely:

“Great video feature for us Internet readers of the Spokesman Review. It’s features and stories like this, I believe, will define the future of local Internet printed news in the future. Is there any question where the future lies for the Spokesman-Review. Keep up the good work Spokesman.”

Getting comments like these puts a smile on my face; knowing that our viewers are finally starting to notice the changes we are making in the way we deliver multimedia content.

The workflow on these video slideshows is fairly simple. Our newspaper photo archive dates back to the turn of the century. When Kershner has an historical story idea, we research the archive and select the photos he feels he can write to. If we need other photos, we’ll make a trip to a local museum that has a huge archive of regional historic photos. I use my digital camera to photocopy each print thus creating a digital file that I can tone in Photoshop. Kershner then writes a whimsical script and I record him voicing it. Total turn around is about a day or less. I produce it in Final Cut Pro, adding motion to the photos where needed. Sometimes I will add a music soundtrack.

Producing these videos is a great way to learn Final Cut Pro. Arrange your photos on the timeline, add motion to the pictures where needed, then add audio narration and music. Post it prominently on your website and watch the hits roll in.

Do You Have a Video Strategy?

Having a strong video strategy for your newspaper is important, By Defining who is going to shoot the video, who is going to edit it and ultimately, the method of how to serve it out to the viewers, you will begin to set in motion a roadmap for change in the newsroom.

There have been a lot of blogoshere conversations going on about where video fits into the new reality of web-based newspaper publishing. There are two divergent views banging around the industry. One, supported by the GateHouse Media’s, Howard Owens, puts the video cameras in the hands of mostly reporters. Viewers come to your site, as the theory goes, because there is lots of video to look at. Quality of the production is really secondary. Quick turnaround is the driving force. Hour to shoot, an hour to edit is the bar to reach here. Cheap point-and-shoot cameras, with video mode enabled, allows everyone in the newsroom, with a little training, to start producing video content.

The second web video strategy is one that I have embraced since I started my transition to video storytelling four years ago. It is driven by quality production values, with in-depth storytelling that is shot  and edited by people with strong visual sensibilities.

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Digital Juice

During my vacation last week, I found this website that consumed an entire evening of my time. At first glance, I thought the Digital Juice website was just a business selling motion graphics. After further exploration, it turned out to be so much more. Intermixed amongst the motion graphic ads are some killer video and audio production tutorials. In his Cutting Class video editing series, producer Chris Gates shows you the ins and outs of video editing. There is also a powerful series of motivational videos by Chuck Peters called Field of View.

Each of Chris’s videos is about finding the passion to do your video production right. He is a great teacher who pushes you to look beyond the equipment to tell a story right. The videos are geared mostly for the commercial video producers, but I found them to have lots of relevance to what I do with video at my newspaper. It’s all about getting it right the first time. Go back a year in the Juice archive to work your way forward. It is a good bookmark to have handy when you need a little inspiration.