Is there a professional camera in the House?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, with Canon EF 50m...
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News reached me (via the excellent Newspaper video group) that the season end for House was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II. According to the petapixel blog Greg Yaitanes, the director of the show answered questions on twitter about the show. Most surprising for me was the suggestion that he didn’t use any special lenses or rigging.

When I posted a link to twitter, video whirlwind David Dynkley Gyimah commented:

Arun Marsh commented:

My reply.

It’s not the only show that has used the video side of DLSR’s as part of their shooting kit. Sci-fi series Caprica sneaked in a few shots taken using a DLSR.  Notes on video waded through a number of the shows podcasts to confirm the process and highlighted a nice exchange between the shows exec-producer David Eick and director Jonas Pate:

Pate: This opening sequence was not shot in [the] three camera style, it was actually shot with a [SLR]. And we put a funky little lens on the front of it called a Lensbaby and we shot the whole thing incredibly quickly in probably…I dunno, 30 minutes. Increasingly the digital technologies are allowing camera guys to work quicker.

Eick: Well yeah, what it does is it strips any of the mystique of the so-called art of film making, which is to say that anyone listening to this could probably make their own episode of Caprica if you study these podcasts long enough. The technology really has simplified and shrunk.

I heard a little of Dave’s response in that “…strips any of the mystique of the so-called art of film making”. And it’s a familiar refrain.

The idea that low-pro/pro-sumer equipment can push out pro-quality content is an argument we are more than used to in the world of videojournalism. Give anyone a camera and they are a film maker right?

Maybe not. It still takes a story and people passionate about telling that story to make great video whether it’s House or Video journalism. Kit like the Canon makes it easier for the ‘pros’ to do their job for less and (if you delve in to the caprica podcasts) what they feel is a more liberating and creative way.

In terms of video journalism, the canon may not be the piece of kit that opens the floodgates to the amateurs. But it does show that the walls are coming down.

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The holy grail of digital media


God: What are you doing now?
King Arthur: Averting our eyes, oh Lord.
God: Well, don’t. It’s just like those miserable psalms, always so depressing. Now knock it off!

A bit of link bait that title I know. But imagine that you had followed the link and before you could read the first line of text a video ‘overlay’ appeared and covered the whole page with adverts. You could try it. Hit refresh then close your eyes and count to 30.

That’s the idea behind chief David Payne’s new venture ShortTailmedia. Beet.TV reported on the plans for this bug hitter, just out of beta

The company, an ad network of sorts,  allows publishers to insert television spots or “pre-roll” video advertising into users experience as they call up text pages to read.

So essentially its like your first click is ‘end of part one’ and then you have to watch an advert before you get to see the page and get to enjoy ‘part two’

Payne himself has called this the holy grail of digital media. But in this world of timeshift recording will it really work?

We are still having the debate about people skipping ads through when they use DVR’s. Do we really need to strong arm that part of the TV experience back in?  Do we really need something that produces ‘unit’ (their words) that  “are part of a recent movement to bring bigger, more interrupting ad units online”. More interruptions to my browsing? Oh yeah. That’ll endear me to you.

It sounds like a bit of dud to me. So it’ll probably be a huge success.

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Video bullies its way on to the updated CNN website

The new CNN homepage
The new CNN homepage

CNN have updated their website. I like the layout although I think the boxed content and the ad on the right are a little to similar and the movement of the ad is very distracting. But they aren’t going to move their ad’s around are they.

There is a shift in emphasis towards video on the site but the international version doesn’t get a link the Newspulse beta which is a shame. But few things did catch my eye with respect to video and multimedia in general.

The first thing was a neat little feature of their video player. If you drag the play head around on the video it overlays the running time . Not groundbreaking but a nice little touch.

The player overlays the running time as you drag the playhead
The player overlays the running time as you drag the playhead

On the article pages themeselve many stories now have an integrated slideshow at the top. This is nicely done but it will be interesting to see how many articles get this treatment.


The integrated slideshow is a nice touch
The integrated slideshow is a nice touch

The last thing that caught my eye was the use of video embedded in the article page. Video is presented as thumbnails in the left-hand-column which ‘pushes’ everything out-of-the-way on the page when clicked.

Video bullies its way on to the screen when clicked
Video bullies its way on to the screen when clicked

I have mixed feelings about this. In one sense I’m pleased to see video in with the article but the overlay on the article feels wrong.  Many times when watching embedded video I will start it playing and listen to the content – it’s more often than not packaged content (script etc) so I can keep reading and dip back in when the video sounds interesting. (who says men can’t multitask!) This approach seems to bully its way on to the page and does little to integrate. This is made worse by the use of packaged content rather than clips with little or nothing to signpost the link between the article and the video.

I think a better option would be to go with the clickable thumbnail approach of video. Align the images more appropriately to the text and the expand your player from that point.

Still. Lots of interesting new tweaks and experiments.

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Advice on using your flip to shoot video

BERLIN - SEPTEMBER 04:  Visitors look at minia...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I’m doing a lot more video this year as part of my digital teaching. One reason for that is we have bought a boat load of Flip video recorders to play with. That means we can do video without the big camera issues.

Whilst pulling together resources for video (I’m expecting the students to do a lot of reading around the basic technical stuff) I came across the Flip video spotlight site.

Flip Video Spotlight provides steeply discounted access to selected Flip Video products to qualifying charitable organizations. To start, charitable organizations apply online to become a Participating Partner. If approved, Participating Partners join our online community and receive access to the Flip Video Spotlight storefront. For each Flip Video Ultra camcorder purchased through the storefront, Flip Video Spotlight donates a free unit.

How nice is that.

As part of the site there are basic tips on storytellingshooting, production and distribution. They also have a couple of neat videos offering guidance for using for the flip. So even if you don’t fit their criteria you can still benefit from the advice

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ireport the death of newspapers

CNN’s ireport has posed an interesting question

Faced with declining readership and a worsening economy, many newspapers are grappling with whether to stop the presses. Denver’s Rocky Mountain News recently closed its doors, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is moving to an online-only format.

How does this affect you? Do you read the newspaper every morning over coffee, or do you catch up on the news online? Is your local newspaper still around?

Put your thoughts about the newspaper industry on video and share your daily news routine. Your stories could be featured on CNN.

The views sum up the general debate. Here are a few that have made it on CNN

Interesting stuff

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BBC allow embedded video

See that video above? That’s video from the BBC website. Video from the BBC on my blog. How cool is that?

That’s right. You can now embed BBC video in to your own site with T&C’s

  • This is for use on your personal website
  • Use the supplied code and don’t edit the video or audio
  • The BBC can remove the content without notice
  • The BBC makes this content available at your own risk
  • Don’t put this content on sites that contain illegal or offensive material
  • Users accessing the video from outside the UK may see an error message
  • The embedding of BBC content is not a BBC endorsement of your website

You could say that given the whole license fee issue that it’s about time we got to use some of the content that we pay for. But, in reality, this kind of thing is never straight forward.

Here is what the BBC’s John O’Donovan had to say:

It’s taken a while because there have been a huge number of tricky little issues to sort out and most of these have been complex business issues around rights, terms and conditions, etc… But at last through the fog, a simple and subtle change finally emerges.

It’s a nice implementation as well – clean and simple.

A nice implementation of embed code on the BBC player
A nice implementation of embed code on the BBC player

The feature has been launched on the Technology section of the site, which is a smart move in itself.  Of course the next step is to see how the rest of the industry reacts to this.

What’s the betting on a negative reaction?

Thanks to @jowadsworth and @Zee for the tweet that pointed to this.

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Sell your redesign – make a commercial

I’m getting back to my roots this week with lots of video stuff including my Newspaper video survey. So it was nice to get an email from James Cuff at the South Wales Echo who gave me the heads up for a video he produced as a promo for their re-design:

Your Echo through the ages from James Cuff on Vimeo.

How cool is that.

How did he do it. In a nice piece of cross-promotion for the video James told

“I filmed several of our journalists, who feature both in print and online, in our new green-screen studio before animating the elements in After Effects and editing the final video to a soundtrack.”

Green screen! After effects! Well, James does have a multimedia degree. But to have that kind of production skill in house is a coup for the paper. It shows through in James’ other video work.

Now my advice would be to take advantage of the advertising downspend and get some prime TV space for the ad whilst it’s cheap. Really get that disruptive strategy working

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Video workload survey

A twitter tag cloud of newspaper video (generated using
A twitter tag cloud of newspaper video (generated using

It’s grim times out there for video at the moment. The tag cloud above, generated from twitter, tells a familiar story.

As Colin Mulvany recently put it

Newspaper produced video is at a crossroads. As many U.S. publications turn inward to focus on their traditional print products, many online producers are wondering if they should continue to invest the extra time it takes to shoot and edit video. It’s such a crazy time to be a visual journalist. Newspaper photo staffs are being slashed and devalued, as publishers try to protect what’s left of their bottom lines.

If anyone is qualified to ask if video will survive it’s Colin. But I’m interested to find out whether video is still on the agenda and how it’s being done.

I’ve asked this question before when I conducted a survey of the who, what and how of video in 2007. The results of that little survey are still up and, according to my stats, get a regular look.  So I thought I would try the survey again and see how things have changed.

So if you are involved with producing video for the web,  I’d really appreciate you taking the time to complete the survey. It’s short and easy so won’t take too much time and I’ll share the results as I did last time.

You can take the survey on this blog at

or(if the scripting is playing up) at

Feel free to share the link. The more the merrier.

Making your stills camera look more like a video camera

I’m holed up in the Middlesbrough Central Travelodge and getting some kind of insight in to what living in halls must be like. To say the room is basic is,well, to give it more credit then it deserves. But hey, at least I have great stuff like this to look at.

Oooh look a mic on a stills cam
Oooh look a mic on a stills cam

From a practical stand point it would be a bit like constantly shooting as if you are behind Tina Turners head. But I bet you never thought you’d see the day that a still’s camera had a mic on it.

The picture is from a very informative article over at B&H on getting the best sound from your Canon 5D

Hat tip to the Mediastorm blog for the link

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The ethics of direction in video

Videographers flocked to catch a glimpse of a running story
Videographers flocked to catch a glimpse of a running story – picture from

Tracy Boyer has an interesting post about the ethics of staging and directing contributors when shooting video. She sets out her stall in the intro

Allowing videographers to stage scenes, situations and/or actions is NOT journalism. We are here to document what we see, not recreate what we missed. If you missed the poignant kiss, that is your fault. How is it that journalism ethics can vary so greatly from print to broadcast?

I agree. It isn’t journalism. But I would go one step further. It has nothing to do with journalism. It has everything to do with the form, but nothing to do with journalism.

Or it could be about  that tired old argument trying to define the difference in the way ‘ethical’ videographers work compared to the “TV personality and videographer” who “bombard the scene and tell the subject what they want them to say”.  But we got past that TV is bad thing a while back didn’t we?

The journalism is in telling the story not the skill of being around long enough for the story to drift past your lens.

The ‘no retakes’ ethical position must also, logically,  require that you would never edit, that you never use lights and you never ask any questions. You may as well set up a hide and stalk your contributors like a wildlife documentary maker.

Every time a shot is framed or a cut made their is an editorial hand at play. In any time based media you cannot claim the purity of the scene when you play with the relationship of the scenes with each other over time.  When you cut out camera movements or slip wildtrack over an edit, in my view,  you have broken the same ethical code. Shoot a cut-away and edit that in… you get the idea.

What we have always focused on is the meaning and in that sense there is no difference here between print and online. We play with copy, editing quotes or using reported speech to tell the story. Asking someone to walk through a door again because we missed the shot is no different.

Of course we  use lights, we pick lenses, we edit to tell the story. We ask questions and guide. That’s what the form requires.

That we always present a fair, accurate and balanced view of the story is what journalism demands.

UPDATE: Angela Grant has responded to my view

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