Tag Archives: video

Ivory tower dispatch: Free online video editing

This week, amongst other things, I’m pondering video. I tried to write about some of the more contextual thinking around video in a earlier post, but it’s the practical side that’s been upfront for the last week.

In the workshops for my Digital Newsroom module I’ve tried to find open source or free resources to use over and above the resources available to the students via the uni network.  I wanted them to explore the possibilities (and limitations) of using free resources and compare the workflows to the more established stuff.  In many cases the free stuff is what the industry are using; slideshare, audioboo and soundcloud for example.

When it comes to video editing the choice of free apps is pretty limited. Most are clunky affairs with a limited range of compatibility with the range of video file formats most things are spitting out these days.

There are downloadable options. If you’re on Windows for example then you can take advantage of the feature-film-ready Lightworks.  A monster app that’s truly industry standard, but there isn’t much else. And if you’re on a mac…well….

So I went looking for online video editors. Sites that offered video editing through a web interface. The results were limited.

Youtube

Youtube has a pretty decent clipping editor as part of its standard enhancements. If all you want to do is adjust the start and end times (a top and tail) then the enhancements section of the editor is pretty good. You can also add audio. But there is very little in terms of even the basic functionality you’d expect from a video editor. This is sub-windows moviemakers stuff.

It’s more advanced video editor is a little more useful but let down by a lack of audio control.

Filelab video editor

Filelab video editor

Along with its audio editor, Filelab’s video editor looks like a really good bet. The ‘problem’ is that its windows only (and you need to install a plugin). That makes it a no-no for our network and, I’m guessing, for many corporate networks.

WeVideo

Wevideo is my current fave. It’s flash driven which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it does need a flash player above 10.2. But beyond that I think, for free, it’s pretty handy.

You can see that the user interface is pretty standard but it does offer nice touches like rubber band editing on audio levels and video transparency and there is a nice collection of open source audio and video files to add.

It plays well with most video formats ( I downloaded one of my videos from youtube and uploaded that) and a jpeg graphic created in powerpoint rendered nicely. It’s limited to 500MB max file size but for short video that’s no hardship

Exporting is pretty easy. The free version will create a watermarked standard definition 480p video file which you can send across to your youtube or vimeo accounts. You’re also limited to 15 exported images a month.  The watermark isn’t obtrusive but you could buy an HD 720p version for $4.99. You can pay $10 a month and get no watermark, higher resolution and 2 hours export a month. The plans themselves seem a little limited in that respect but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more granular offerings and the pricing plans are split across personal, education and business.

 Collaboration and mobile

One of the neatest parts of Wevideo is the option to integrate with Google Drive and the option of a mobile uploader.

Conclusions

All in all I think WeVideo is a very neat and user friendly solution to editing video in the cloud. Of course there are apps for your phone, ipad and other platforms and the flexibility of something on your desktop – FCP, Avid, Lightworks or premiere – is always going to be better. But as something to get you out of a whole, create a quick edit or tidy something up, I think it’s pretty impressive. I’ll let you know what the students think.

 

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The Ivory tower dispatch: defining multimedia journalism

This week in the ivory tower I’ve mostly been looking at multimedia.

I’ve been building on the idea that, regardless of the approach you take (the fast/slow journalism split I created last week) , chunks of multimedia are going to be you building blocks.

Of course there are the practicalities to consider, but I spent a bit of time thinking about the broader context and what that meant in terms of roles within a digital newsroom.

Something that’s become clear in my pondering and looking around is that there is a belief in two distinct forms of journalism - audio journalism and video journalism.  These are not just variations on a broadcast theme. The rhetoric being used clearly indicates a belief that they are new forms of journalism and that was all a bit worrying.

Audio Journalism

Even though a large part of the audio on the web is produced in much the same way as broadcast (a kind of pre-medium specifics is you like) proponents of Audio Journalism  identify two forms of content as core to the definition:

  • Podcasts
  • Audio Slideshows

The form of podcasts is pretty flexible and there is no one clear format – short, scripted and snappy or round table – that’s been agreed on. In fact the development of the different styles suggests that the form has outgrown it’s platform-derived title. They are different from broadcast in a number of ways not least in the business model. The big challenges now are metrics and return on investment. The battle ground is tablets where app delivered podcasts can be monitored more effectively   So, podcasts clearly provide the established framework – the mode and form – that helps set audio journalism as a definition.

In that sense podcasts are the solid, practical output. So it would all be a little technologically deterministic if it wasn’t for the intellectual weight that Audio slideshows  add to the definition.

Benjamin Chesterton’s take on Audio slideshows (as reported by Kevin Marsh) in response to the question “Why would you choose a slideshow when you could use video?”

with moving video, the viewers eye is centred – broadly, locked to the framing of the video camera. With still images, the eye roams. It stops and moves and stops and moves. Frozen gestures and expressions kick off a cognitive process – thinking – that moving images simply never do.

 

Something similar is true of good audio. The best audio blends reportage (‘being me, being here’) with the kind of aural cues that make audiences think and wander off down their own pathways while still engaging with the sound.

Put the two together – great audio documentary and great still images – and you have something that is potentially MORE than great storytelling.

It works on a whole different cognitive level to video.

It’s a take on audio slideshows that I’ve seen echoed around the audio journalism community. The claim of a more cerebral and deeply cognitive experience is quite seductive and calls on much of the deeply long-lived and traditional practices of photojournalism and image editors; the power of an image. But am I being cynical in seeing a reading of video as shallow and surface? Are we seeing a similar rhetoric to the slow/longform journalism? Video is surface and temporal. Pictures are deep and connected.

It’s a hard position for me to feel any real affinity for and one that often feels laboured (not by duckrabbit I might add). When I see advice on the five shots that make great slideshows I see a version of the 5 shots you need to make a good video package. In my view neither is better or worse, but with more in common than the broad demarcations suggest.

The discourse that’s used to define audio journalism is one that’s familiar to me as someone who has had more than a passing interest in online video.

Video Journalism

I’ve watched the concept of video journalism shift from a technical revelation, a rush to embrace a new platform, all the way through a new business model, via snake oil, to be a kind of new wave of film making.  It’s clear that it’s supporters feel it’s something different from broadcast.

The films are often authored, they are commonly open about a bias or particular viewpoint, they often cover stories away from the mainstream. But in form they are often best defined by their difference from standard broadcast fair than any general innovation.

That’s not to say there isn’t some compelling, editorially excellent, important and often, downright beautiful stuff going on out there. But beyond experiments with the form – none linear narratives and presentation – there’s little innovation. Maybe a good deal of disruption, but not innovation; using afterFX in a documentary is not innovative. It makes the claim for a new form of journalism a little hollow especially when a lot of it reflects such good journalism.

I know that the biggest regret of many VJ’s (unless your selling the dream not living it) seems to be that it isn’t taken seriously by broadcast journalism. I can see their point. The shocking lack of strands for documentary has pushed the good stuff online – it was only a matter of time.

Things are changing for VJ’s in that respect; without mainstream broadcast (which is their loss). But in my travels I still found pockets of identity crisis and concerns about a lack of recognition – why is that so important if there is a new (and better) form of video journalism I wonder.

Multimedia journalism

The concern over recognition is one that spreads beyond audio and video to those who prefer the title multimedia journalist (they chose the title rather than it being their job description).I was genuinely saddened to read Mark Kelly’s blog about his experiences of trying to do video in a newspaper context, bemoaning the ‘sea of crap’ he has to work with

I believe we’re about to see a huge surge in mobile phone footage shot by print journalists. And we all know what happens next, multimedia producers like you and I get given the footage and asked to turn it into something usable. But you can’t polish a turd can you?

It’s clear Mark has a deep commitment to producing quality stuff, but In another post he explains the exit route and maybe reveals the problem all in one:

Interestingly the majority of multimedia journalists are actually broadcast journalists who’ve ve set their sights on a future in TV and are working for online platforms as a way of gaining experience, a good plan given the growing number of channels and the lack of quality content available.

I suppose there’s nothing worse than being a frustrated broadcast journalist having to lower yourself to working with newspapers, apart from maybe being the newspaper journalist in that equation.

One commentator thinks the world of broadcast will have more respect for his skills:

Fortunately I’m leaving newspapers for the world of broadcast. There, they seem to recognise the breadth of talent, creativity and man hours that go into something worth watching. Maybe newspapers will learn that one day too.

The people who march under the video journalism banner would maybe have some different advice for them.

Conclusions

So why was all that worrying. For me it’s encapsulated in the plight of multimedia journalists. In trying to define themselves as different from the (traditional) norm they exclude themselves from all the groups. Perhaps it’s the environment that doesn’t respect the skills that pushes that banding together – maybe one day there will be a union!

But mostly all of the debates and definitions around multimedia (and you can use what term you like here – audio, video, multimedia, visual journalist) reminded me a lot of a section from Life of Brian (some bad language here)


 

 

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Newspaper video: Time to reconsider your video strategy?

A few issues have popped up in my reading round the web that make me think that if online video has fallen off your agenda then it may be worth thinking again. A few things make me think that.

Engagement with HTML5 by publishers means that the idea of cross platform (web, tablet etc) video becomes a reality. The recent announcement by FT that they were moving away from the apple fold to deliver their apps from a web base shows a certain maturity in that area. It may not be universal but those publishers who engaged with apps with half an eye to html5 and associated tech are starting to see the benefit. They also have an exit route from Apple’s walled garden.

The announcement that the WSJ is upping it’s online video would, on the surface, seem to be a simple illustration of the point. But theres a bit more to it:

The Journal has expanded its video content in spite of its contract with CNBC, the leading business news network on television, and in spite of the fact that The Journal’s parent has its own business network, Fox Business.  The CNBC contract expires in about 15 months, but already Journal reporters tend to appear more often on Fox than on CNBC.

The shifting approaches of print in particular to the challenge of keeping your voice in a spreading market, often rests on the idea of impartiality. An alignment to Fox is as blunt a move to prove the point as you can get. But if you want to establish a ‘voice’ then video can be a key part of that changing ‘brand’.

Newsless broadcast

But there is also a shift on the other side of that relationship. There is a very clear by broadcasters towards product and not a service focus. That will leave a gap that print will have to backfill. Yes there is a big investment in online delivery services but the commercial driver is very much a product proposition. Most of the large broadcasters are seeing a real benefit in exclusive and value-added programming online. The ‘watch again’ of the iplayer-like channels, the webisodes and web exclusive episodes are all examples of how broadcast has ‘finally’ found its feet online.

I think that news is low on the agenda in a broadcasters strategy. For broadcasters, news is very much a service. It’s often something they have to do as a requirement to a license or a sop to public service. It’s easier to advertise around the x-factor than it is news at ten and that’s where the money will go. Non-broadcast providers will pay the price for that.

If you buy in your video from a third party, expect the prices to go up and the quality, range and relevance to go down. 

LocalTV

Here in the UK, we also have the looming Spector of localTV. There is obviously a new market to explore there. I’m skeptical about the range, depth and return that market will have for journalism but, hey, it never hurts to consider it.

So video gives you a good opportunity to extend your identity and cut free those ties with an increasingly newsless broadcast sector. Just invest a little in understanding the technology underlying the new platforms.In the long run it might be a better investment than simply paying to be on those platforms.

 

Findingtheframe.com: Multimedia review site

News reaches me via the newspaper video group about  me about an excellent new project called Findingtheframe by  Colin Mulvany,  multimedia producer at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington.

According to Colin the site was set up as a website

for the sole purpose of connecting those who need feedback on their multimedia, to professionals willing to share some time and knowledge.

It came off the back of a post on his (excellent) blog Mastering Multimedia where he voiced his disappointment at the quality of the video being submitted to the NPPA Best of Photojournalism Multimedia Contest

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 theFinding the Frame home page where anyone else is free to give added feedback.

The site has already drawn in some great content and some lively debate. Well worth a look and if you are in that game then sign up to help review.

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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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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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Video workload survey

A twitter tag cloud of newspaper video (generated using cloud.li)
A twitter tag cloud of newspaper video (generated using cloud.li)

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 http://www.andydickinson.net/video-workload-survey-2009

or(if the scripting is playing up) at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/111809/newspaper-video-2009

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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