Multimedia Immersion Program website up

The NPPA Multimedia Immersion Program held in the last week of May has posted the videos of it workshop participants. I was a coach again this year and I was impressed at the quality of work produced in such a short time by people with varying video and multimedia skills. Check it out here.


Failure is an option

2008 Multimedia Immersion Program

As the airliner tires leave the tarmac of the Louisville Airport, my fatigued body is too tired to sleep. My mind is ablaze with memories of the past week. I was honored to be a coach again at this year’s NPPA Multimedia Immersion Program. Over four very long days, Forty-nine students crammed a small hotel ballroom in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. What raised my eyebrow about this sold out audio slideshow and video storytelling workshop was who was in attendance. Yes the requisite photojournalists made up a good portion of the attendees. My surprise was in how many of the chairs were filled by newspaper editors, educators and freelancers–many who paid their own way. Last year’s workshop was attended mostly photojournalists who had little experience behind a video camera. This year, of five students I coached, four were already shooting video for their respective newspapers. The challenge for me was to help them sharpen the storytelling skills they already have.

With the newspaper industry wallowing in a vat of uncertainty, it was remarkable that the “Paper Doom” vibe was pretty much non-existent. This group of media professionals had a collective agenda. They all wanted to learn effective multimedia storytelling skills that they could bring back to their publications.

I was also struck by this year’s speakers at not only the Immersion Program, but at the NPPA’s companion Convergence 08 conference being held in an adjacent ballroom. UNC new-media professor Rich Beckman talked about improving not only multimedia storytelling, but advocating for visual storytellers to step it up. “There is a history of visual journalists leading the way in times of upheaval,” said Beckman. He believes in the manage up vs. manage down approach in newsrooms; where multimedia journalists with new skills help inform and enlighten management to the unique challenges of doing quality multimedia storytelling. Beckman really hit the point that if the people who manage you don’t understand what you do, how can they make informed decisions about workflow, staffing and equipment purchases?

I sat in on a presentation by Brian Storm, owner of the multimedia production studio called MediaStorm. During the Q&A, I asked him how newspapers could improve their multimedia? Slow down was Storm’s answer. He said that meaningful storytelling with strong journalism and production values will trump bad video for hits over time– every time. I mostly agree with Storm on this to a point. Still, I believe there is room for both projects and quality short form video on newsroom websites.

Finally, I think the best advice given at the Immersion workshop was from Richard Koci Hernandez, Deputy Director of Photography and Multimedia at the San Jose Mercury News. “It is ok to fail,” he told the workshop attendees. Hernandez might be on to something here. What keeps people in newsrooms from learning new  media skills? If it is fear of failure then it needs to be quickly addressed by newsroom management.

For me, failure is just a learning opportunity. Most everything I’ve learned about multimedia and photojournalism is steeped in my failures as a visual journalist. I’m ok with that. Really.

Planes landing soon and I’m ready for a good night’s sleep. 

A note to Multimedia Immersion Program participants

Beginning Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky, 50 people will be empowered to produce video for their publications websites. This is the second year that I have been a coach at the NPPA’s Multimedia Immersion Program. I’d like to take a moment to tell those lucky 50 boot campers what they can expect.

If you have never shot and edited video, this will be your chance to dive head first into the world of Final Cut Pro, HDV, audio, video sequencing, microphones, tripods, and much more. Having attended the 2005 Platypus Workshop, I know that overwhelmed feeling you will face on day one. Your senses will be blasted with so much information you’ll think your brain will explode. Long hours will be spent shooting and editing your video. You will listen to a parade of speakers who will enlighten you to different ways to tell a visual story. You will be challenged. A lot. Time is too short for egos to get in the way. Coaches will be blunt. We’ll tell you what you did wrong on your shoot so you will know what not to do the next time you pick up your video camera.

You will be given an Apple Macbook Pro and a Canon HDV camera to use. For those coming from a still photography background, the video camera will seem huge at first. But make no mistake; this is a powerful piece of storytelling technology. Spend some time with the manual; learn what each button does. Have a basic understanding of the camera before you shoot. It will prevent a lot of headaches later.

You will shoot a video story in the Louisville community. Remember, you are not shooting an epic. Keep it simple and focused. Define your story in one sentence and then shoot that story. Don’t go off on tangents.

Keep your fingers off the zoom button and try not to pan the camera unless absolutely necessary. Shoot as much as you can with a tripod. Your video will look better (professional) and will allow you to shoot rock-steady tight shots.

Planning and time management goes a long way in a workshop like this.  Storyboard your video story in your head, Think about what shots you will need. Write them down in a notebook. Remind yourself to shoot establishing wide shots. They are easily forgotten. Because your days will be long, it is best to get a good night’s sleep.

Finally, the most important thing to do is have fun. This workshop could open up a whole new world for you. Use this time wisely.

See you soon.

Get thee to Convergence ’08

Next week, I am heading to Louisville, Kentucky to be a coach at the NPPA’s Multimedia Immersion Program. This is the second year that I have participated in the four-day video boot camp. A lot has changed in the newspaper industry in the past year, and I am stoked to be able to hang with the best and brightest in the multimedia world. The Immersion Program is full, but the weekend companion program called Convergence ‘08 is still open for registrants.

Seth Gitner, who is directing the video workshop, asked me to let everyone know that this year’s Convergence ‘08 program is the bomb and if you’re a bit interested in the converging mediums of newspapers and TV news, then you best not miss it. They have a killer lineup of speakers and workshops planned May 30 and 31. This is not your daddy’s Flying Short Course, but a first class ticket to all the convergence you can handle in a weekend. If you come, track me down and say hi…