Feedback website “Finding the Frame” launches

Finding the Frame, a website dedicated to giving feedback to newspaper multimedia producers and video journalists has launched.

My post in Mastering Multimedia last month,  “Video at newspapers needs to improve,” resonated with many people. I received lots emails from producers who vented their frustration at not being able to get feedback on their multimedia stories.

After a brainstorming session over a few beers, Brian Immel, a former multimedia producer and programmer at The Spokesman-Review, graciously agreed to build a website for the sole purpose of connecting those who need feedback on their multimedia, to professionals willing to share some time and knowledge.

Here’s how it works

The plan is to have onboard as many “expert” volunteers as possible that have solid foundations in video storytelling, audio slide shows or Flash projects. This pool of reviewers will peruse the submitted links of multimedia in the “Story Pool”. If they decide to comment on a story, it will then become public on the Finding the Frame home page where anyone else is free to give added feedback.

So why do this?

While most publications have driven head first into the online world, multimedia storytelling is still in its infancy at many newspapers. Unfortunately, not all people tasked with producing multimedia received adequate training or had the financial ability to attend a multimedia storytelling workshop. Many multimedia producers are self-taught, having picked up bit and pieces of knowledge along the way.

When I judge a multimedia contest, I often get frustrated at seeing the same problems in the execution of basic video and audio production fundamentals. Many photojournalists are struggling with how to tell an effective video or audio slideshow story that is different from the traditional still picture story.

Our hope is that Finding the Frame will begin to address the need for feedback and in turn, help multimedia producers improve their storytelling. Just read some of the comments by reviewers so far–you’ll be impressed. The professionals that have signed on as reviewers are the some of the top in the industry. If they critique your story, please thank them for giving up some of their precious time to help out a fellow visual journalist.

What we need

What we need is for enough producers, multimedia editors and photojournalists who have a solid experience with multimedia storytelling to step forward and share some of their knowledge with those that are looking for constructive, honest feedback.

So if you feel you have something to offer, we would really like you to join the pool of reviewers on Finding the Frame.

So go check it out and give Brian and me some feedback. Create an account. Upload a link to a video, audio slide show or Flash project. Be patient, as it might take some time for your story to get reviewed

I am not sure how many people will upload stories, so let’s take this slow at first. It would also be helpful if non-reviewers could give some feedback to others by commenting on their work.

If you would like to be added to the reviewer pool, register your account, making sure you create a profile and upload a photo of yourself or avatar, then email me at cmulvany@findingtheframe.com with the request.

This website is for you. We would really appreciate your support and feedback.

Going old school

Yesterday, after driving 280 miles round trip to shoot a video on some maggot farmers—yes maggot farmers, I spotted a plum of smoke in the hills along Interstate 90.  It wasn’t much, but the winds had really kicked up. I called it in and by the time I got back to the newspaper twenty minutes later the small brush fire had bloomed into a raging wild fire. I had already put in 12 hours on the maggot story, but that little voice told me this wildfire was going to be big news.

Because it was so late in the day, I left my video camera at the office and just went old school with my dusty still cameras. Thank god I’ve kept the batteries charged up.  I quickly went home and changed into my fire resistant gear and headed to the front lines of the fire, which was now threatening a large sub division.  Dressed like a wild land firefighter, I pretty much walked past the police roadblocks.

The fire was about a mile walk away. I could hear the propane tanks exploding and gun ammunition popping from one of the 13 homes that burned to the ground that day.

I ran across an elderly man whose house had become a raging inferno. He was searching for his missing blind and deaf dog. I walked with him and as he approached his burning house, two firefighters ran up and asked him to leave because of the ammo was still popping off. Just then, a neighbor lady came and gently walked him back to his car. I made photos of the moment and headed back to the paper to move the pictures on deadline.

The fire had taken out several cell phone towers, which disrupted my and other photographer’s ability to transmit photos from the scene. My photo of the man and neighbor ran six columns across the front page. Today for online, I produced a Finding the Frame multimedia look at the story behind the photo.

Having long ago transitioned to doing mostly video storytelling and multimedia editing, I had almost forgotten that spot news rush, which comes from covering a rapidly developing story with still cameras. It is hard for online to compete visually with a six column monster photo on page one. Even my mother called me when she saw it. I miss seeing your photos in the paper,” she said.  My only response I could give her was, “So do I, so do I…”

Here is a link to other Finding the Frames that I have produced.

Finding the Frame

kat.jpg

Here’s another easy way to add multimedia to your newspaper website. 

Shortly after the program Soundslides came out in August of 2005, I looked for an interesting way to use this Flash-based audio slideshow tool to tell different kinds of stories. One day in the photo department, as I passed the intern’s desk, I spotted a cool print of a guy reading a fashion magazine in a coffee shop. The way the top of the subject’s head matched up with the head on the magazine cover was eye-catching.  I asked photographer Kathryn Stevens how she got the shot. She launched into this passionate narrative about seeing this great moment lining up in front of her. How she rushed up to the subject and fired off a few frames on her digital camera just before the fleeting moment passed.

That’s when the light bulb went on above my head. I asked Kathryn to come into editing cave where I sat her down and recorded her telling me the story behind her photo. I edited the audio into a thirty-second clip. I then uploaded it and the photo into Soundslides and voilà – a great little piece of multimedia that took less than one hour to produce.

I called this audio slideshow feature Finding the Frame. It got an instant response from viewers who wanted more. Since then, when I see a great photo produced by the Spokesman-Review photo staff, I whip up a Finding the Frame. They have gotten a little more advanced over time as I’ve added other photos and a .pdf of the newspaper page that the photo ran on.

My other ulterior motive for doing these was that I wanted to educate readers and viewers about the creative process that a photojournalist goes through when making an exceptional image. Too many of our readers, in this age of Photoshop, think photographers alter the pictures that appear in the paper. This is my way of helping change that perspective. Finding the frames also go a long way in helping non-visual people understand that newspaper photojournalists are not button pushers as some have called them, but skilled journalists and storytellers who have a unique view of the world around them. 

Here are some of my favorite Finding the Frames:

Looff Carrousel, Chasing a Comet, Airmen Return, Tired Fireman, Demolition