2012 Training Update

Here are some interesting multimedia training workshops I see coming up (in no particular order):

1. Santa Fe Workshops: Multimedia Storytelling with Carlan Tapp (Feb 6-10) $995
In this 5-day workshop, seasoned storyteller Carlan Tapp shares many of the inspiring and still underutilized web-based and multimedia features photographers can use as pathways to tell a narrative, a personal story, or a documentary project.

2. Santa Fe Workshops: Documentary Storytelling with Deanne Fitzmaurice (Mar 21-24) $875
In this four-day workshop, Deanne helps you venture into the Santa Fe community to create a photo essay or photo story of your own. Our goal is to document a cultural or human-interest story, one that is engaging, provocative, and told from our unique point of view. There are endless possibilities to choose from: Hispanic artisans, tattoo parlors, life at a fire station, authentic Santa Fe, or Santa Fe the “tourist town.”

3. Maine Media Workshops: Storytelling with HDSLRs with Richard Klug (Mar 11-17) $1095
Students in this workshop work directly with multimedia journalists who have first hand experience with Canon HDSLRs. Students learn the benefits and drawbacks of the camera through hands on demonstrations, lectures and daily critiques. Additionally, instructors work directly with students to help them use the camera as a means to better tell documentary stories. As a goal over the course of the week, students find, create and shoot short documentary projects. Instructors cover production workflow, file conversion, media management, and audio gathering. Students should have solid understanding of digital photography and a basic understanding of video principles.

4. Maine Media Workshops: Basic Cinematography (May 27-Jun 2) $1195
Through lectures, screenings, demonstrations, fieldwork and critique, students gain a basic understanding of how to control the motion picture image and the creative possibilities and technical characteristics of various film stocks and digital sensors. Students learn the fundamentals of lighting scenes, exposure, color theory, depth-of-field, camera angles, shot design, composition, lenses, filtration, and camera movement.

5. Maine Media Workshops: HDSLR Filmmaking for Photographers with Juan Pons (Apr 22-28) $1095
More and more Digital SLR cameras have the capability to shoot HD video, but many photographers are not familiar with the intricacies of shooting video. This workshop covers the technical aspects of working with HDSLR cameras such as menu settings, image monitoring, capturing good audio, lens choices, filters, exposure control, cine-style accessories, camera support, data management and workflow. Visual aesthetics are discussed with regard to composition, depth-of-field, shot design, camera movement, and lighting. Students shoot short projects and exercises to become familiar with the equipment and practice the art of developing a visual narrative.

6. Palm Springs Photo Festival: Demystifying DSLR Video Production (Apr 3-4) $650
This two-day workshop will serve as a serious introduction to how you can use your DSLR cameras to shoot broadcast quality motion & still projects for your clients. We’ll explore camera setup procedures, cinema lenses, stabilization choices, monitoring issues, sound options and card workflow. How and when to move the camera will be discussed as well as production strategies that optimize the budget and experience level of photographer filmmakers. Students will have an opportunity to shoot with a shoulder rig, fluid head tripod, and with a pocket dolly or slider. The workshop will also provide access to some of the latest gear and technology available for HDSLR filmmaking. Talent will be available and students will have the opportunity of shooting and directing the talent. We’ll discuss how to import your footage into Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, add sound and stills, and how basic tools in these programs can be used to edit and output projects.

7. NPPA: Northern Short Course in Photojournalism (Mar 8-10) $290 (non-NPPA member)
Ed Kashi, Benjamin Rusnak, Jeff Sedlik, Barbara Davidson, Andrew Geraci are speakers lined up to date.

8. NPPA: Advanced Storytelling Workshop (Apr 15-20) $700 ($850 after Jan 1)
During the week students will attend class and produce finished stories. There are regular assignment meetings where story ideas are evaluated and refined. Great emphasis is placed on developing a clear focus before shooting begins. Shooting, writing and editing are conducted under real world deadlines. Designed for experienced TV and newspaper photojournalist, reporters and video journalist – anyone who tells stories with pictures, sound and words.

9. Digital Journalist: Platypus Workshop (May 19-27) $1895
You will learn how to use your DSLR, along with tips and tricks to make it an incredible tool for you in editorial, corporate and filmmaking settings. We will teach you field sound recording, cinematic storytelling, the use of lenses, tripods, multimedia applications, and Apple’s latest Final Cut Pro editing software. All in an action-packed, exciting, entertaining, and informative 9 days.

SAME Cafe – Production Notes

Per my earlier post, I’ve been working on my SAME Cafe piece in post-production. I tried to employ a technique suggested by Ed McNichol in CreativeLIVE’s online workshop “Vincent Laforet: Introduction to HDDLSR Video.” The idea is to lay down a “radio cut” that consists of audio, build the storyline based purely on audio, and then layer on top of that “radio cut” other video clips, images, and sound effects to propel the viewer/listener along.

SAME Cafe is an interesting “alternative” restuarant, opened by ex-computer consultant Brad Birky and ex-schoolteacher Libby Birky, offering high-quality food to all who come. SAME Cafe doesn’t list prices for its lunch offering. Those who can pay, pay what they feel is fair. Those who cannot pay (or who can only pay part of what would be fair) can either work at the Cafe — or even eat for free. Brad and Libby have been operating the Cafe for 5 years and are dedicated to providing high-quality food and creating a comfortable community restaurant for all to enjoy that food. It’s a very interesting idea, well-executed by the Birkys.

In editing the SAME Cafe piece, I roughed out these core concepts that I wanted to cover:

  • Origin
  • Concept
  • Goals:
  • – Quality
  • – Pricing/accessability
  • – Community
  • Financial viability
  • Movement

I built an audio track using a combination of video clips and pure audio segments, coving these points in what I thought would be an interesting sequence. I ended up shuffling the sequence a few times until I got a finished radio cut that sounded interesting and pulled the listener through the story line. I then started layering video clips over the top of the radio cut. Again, this was an iterative process that involved shuffling the video segments to try to tie them to inflections and discussion points in the underlying audio.

Here’s where I’m at: Version 2 (pending some tweeks to synch up audio to video and more interesting graphics to start and end the piece).

Mission Guatemala’s Use of Multimedia

Mission Guatemala is a nonprofit United Methodist organization helping the poor of Guatemala. I noticed that they are incorporating some photography and video on their website, so I asked Tom Heaton, who founded Mission Guatemala in 2009, for some background information on how they’re working with multimedia to communicate information about their operations.

Q1. You have a “featured video” posted on your website. Did you create that yourselves or did you work with an external videographer/photographer?

Heaton: The featured videos change. Some of the videos were produced by a friend who has some professional skills using an hd camera and I-movie. Sometimes we do simple home videos with people sharing about their mission trips here. They too are edited with I-movie. Finally, we sometimes produce slideshow type videos using a service called ANIMOTO.

Q2. If you worked with a external videographer/photographer, how did you go about defining the project?

Heaton: The more professional looking videos were shot using an HD camera. The person who shot the video was told that we wanted to convey a positive hopeful image about the work we are doing in Guatemala. We had seen too many videos of ministries working in developing countries that seemed to make the situation seem hopeless. They felt a little manipulative. We did want that. We wanted to create a positive and hopeful image of our work in hopes that people would want to be a part of that work. Many of the videos were actually edited by a University of Evansville senior majoring in radio-tv.

Q3. Were you actively involved in the production of the video?

Heaton: Yes, we were with the person who shot the video and suggested people to interview and B roll.

Q4. What prompted you to create the video?

Heaton: Well… nothing is really more powerful than telling a positive story with video.

Q5. What did you hope to achieve with the video? (And did that happen?)

Heaton: We are still in the process of editing the videos. We were hoping that it would encourage more churches to support our work. We also hoped that they could be used within congregations to share the story of the work they are helping support. We are in the process of trying to compress the videos to actually make them downloadable from our website. That would make it easier to share within the local church.

Q6. Have you seen much interest in the video? Has it sparked better understanding or increased fundraising or anything like that?

Heaton: Yes, we put them on You Tube and on our Facebook page. People love them. They help tell our story well.

Q7. Do you have plans to add additional multimedia pieces (combined photos, videos, audio and/or web graphics) to your website?

Heaton: The animoto videos I mentioned above.

Q8. In an ideal world, what would you like multimedia to be able to do for your organization?

Heaton: Help us tell our story and our work in a compelling way.

“Splash” by Rich Halten

I really enjoyed Rich Halten’s audio story “Splash” – the story of a suicide bridge jumper who survived his ordeal. It’s well worth your time to listen to this recording, originally produced for Public Radio.

Rich was kind enough to answer some questions I posed about his work.

Q1. On your website I see 2 pieces on Vietnam and 2 pieces on Latin/Spanish themes, plus some other stuff. How do you come up with ideas for your stories and is there any underlying connection between them all?

Halten: While I always have my antenna up for stories, there aren’t that many that stick — that make my socks roll up and down. But when a story does, it usually doesn’t let go — even if it takes months or even years to complete. Usually an obsession with a story comes from a personal connection. For example, the two pieces about Viet Nam are probably due to the fact that I was in the service during the war there — though not in Nam itself (I was lucky enough to be stationed at American Forces Radio in Germany). As for the Latin/Spanish flavored pieces, that’s simply because my wife is a college prof of Spanish and I usually tag along when she travels to Spain or Latin America, using the opportunity to produce some kind of audio

Q2. It looks like it takes 6-8 months to put together an audio story. How does that break down between dreaming up a story, planning, recording and editing?

Halten: Well, all I can say is it takes as long as it takes. For example, the piece called “Splash” that was featured on the Transom site. The inspiration came in 2007 when a chum from college told me about a mutual friend who was murdered by his ex-wife. She then drove to The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, jumped and survived. I’d seen plenty of coverage of people who died jumping from that bridge, but little about those who leaped and lived to tell about it. That got me started trying to track down a small group of survivors. Zero results. I finally found one guy who would tell his story. Fortunately he told it brilliantly and with nothing held back. Then it was contacting and recording counterpoints to his story in the form of people who deal with Skyway Bridge jumpers — fire/rescue EMT’s, suicide hotline counselors and a guy who publishes a web site chronicling jumps from the bridge. Working off and on — including editing and mixing — it took three years from the initial idea to finished product.

Other stories take far less time, so there’s no real time frame to produce one.

Q3. Can you describe your production process?

Halten: I don’t start the textbook way. That is, after recording all my interviews and location ambiences, I don’t make a detailed transcript, like radio courses teach. I have pretty good memory of the interviews I’ve recorded, including the best comments and what would make a good opening or closing statement. So I just jump in, doing what I imagine a sculptor does: chipping away at the material until a shape begins to emerge. As it does, two important parts of the post production process come into play.

First, I prefer a piece to be self-narrated — meaning the characters I’ve interviewed tell the story instead of the traditional voice of a narrator. That format takes longer because you’ve got to assemble all the pieces so that it makes sense without using a narrator for transitions and to move the story along. Second, because strong sound design usually plays a big part, I spend lots of time searching for music, sound effects and archival audio that will enhance a piece.

Q4. You’ve produced work for AARP, public radio and other venues. Do you line up a place to air your work prior to beginning? Or do you produce the piece and then contact various places to see if they’re interested? (Sorry – I know nothing about radio production and how that all happens.)

Halten: Here again, I’m kind of a renegade. The traditional route for independent public radio producers is to pitch an idea to a program. If the program gives a green light to start, the producer works closely with a show’s editor right up until completion.

I’ve tried that and didn’t have much success. Which is why I just decided to produce pieces my way and then try to find an audience. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. It’s because I’m older and don’t have the time, or patience, to take baby steps up the ladder like somebody in their 20’s.

Of course, this pretty much excludes me from mainstream NPR shows. But I’d rather produce the stories I like the way I want, even if means they’re exposed to fewer ears.

Okay, in the name of full disclosure, I confess I’m able to work like this only because I’m semi-retired. And while I do make some money from work that airs, I don’t rely on it to make a living. For me, first and foremost, it’s a labor of love.

Q5. What type of gear do you use for your audio stories?

Halten: Various digital recorders with flash memory, such as the Sony PCM-10, which isn’t much bigger than a deck of cards. I put everything together using Pro Tools software on a Mac.

The affordability of equipment is one of the reasons I love working in radio. I always had a fantasy of directing and editing a film. With radio I don’t need a truck full of expensive equipment, a crew and deep pockets. I can fund it and do it all myself.

Besides, I started in radio at age 16, working after school and weekends as a DJ at my hometown station. Now, after a long career in advertising, I see what I’m doing as coming full circle. A return to my radio roots.

Q6. Plans for future audio stories?

Halten: I’ve got some germs of ideas, but nothing that’s going anywhere at the moment. However, if anybody you know has had a bad experience with the prescription sleep med Ambien, please email me at ambiendreams11@gmail.com

Are You Ready?

I’m covering two high school football teams this year. Both are entering the playoffs for the Colorado state championship. Football is an amazing sport to photograph because the energy level runs so high. There’s nothing like being on the sidelines in a big game – you can almost touch the excitement and smell the passion. I tried to capture a bit of that experience in this 30-second short for one team — designed to energize the team on their journey. Good luck guys! Go Mustangs!

Ami Vitale Interview

Ami Vitale’s journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 75 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction oflife, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. I would characterize her emphasis as “covering communities that are under-reported in the mainstream press.”

Starting in 2000, she has lived in and documented life and conflict in West Africa, India, Czech Republic and Kosovo. As quoted in a 2003 interview by Susan Markisz for the Digital Journalist, Vitale’s process of living with the people she documents allows her to delve beneath the surface story. “You have to get into a culture to actually live there to understand things aren’t as sensational when you understand them in their context. I’ve jumped in, parachuted into a few places before and I didn’t like it. It’s very dangerous and I’ve felt like I wasn’t portraying things truthfully, or it was a different truth.”

Ami has recently devoted a fair amount of time to integrating video into her stories. She was kind enough to field some questions about her recent multimedia work.

Q1. Somewhere I read that you’re devoting time to develop your video skills. Almost all of your Mamtaz story is video, whereas some of your earlier multimedia work combined more stills with a bit of video. Are you moving toward video on your own, or are your clients requesting more/all video?

Vitale: The medium I work in is changing and video is now playing a much bigger role in what we do. Cameras like the one I carry can shoot HD video and it can enhance our abilities as storytellers. This is already playing a big role in my future but I don’t think I would have had the courage to take the leap into shooting video without one small exaggeration, to Nikon, when they called and asked if I knew anything about making videos. “Yes of course”, I replied instantly, knowing nothing about moving images or how to even operate the camera. I assumed I’d have time to learn before the shoot but was surprised when they sent the D300s camera only the night before my trip to India began. I frantically studied the manual on the 28 hour long journey and arrived terrified and wondering if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. The following is the film I made there, an homage to India.

If I had not had the opportunity, I probably never would have made the leap but I’m so grateful I did. In a time when media is struggling and searching for a new path, I’m finding that I am busier than ever telling meaningful stories in new ways for a variety of outlets. Last year, I went back to school to study film and created my first documentary film which just premeired at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. I also am doing a variety of short films for new clients. It’s an exciting time to be a photographer and journalist and this new skill can create more opportunity for all of us. The old models of business are in crisis, but opportunities lie ahead. We must redefine ourselves as technolgies create more opportunities. I’ve moved into video on my own and my clients are definitely excited when I can offer this. I shoot both stills and videos on most assignments.

Q2. What type of gear are you using to capture video and audio in the field?

Vitale: Nikon D7000, a couple of lenses, the 24-70 and sometimes the 24mm tilt and shift perspective lens, I use a preamp made by Juicedlink, a Rodemic and lavs for interviews. I also use a tripod and sometimes take Goalzero Solar panels since I’m often in remote places without electricity.

Q3. How rigidly are you planning out your pieces? (For example, do you map out all the stills, video & audio you need and then methodically work off this “shot list”? Or do you collect images & sounds first, and then compose them into a story based on what you’ve collected? Or some combination of both?)

Vitale: I do create a story board and make a shot list but its not rigid. If I see something in the field I had not thought of, I’ll shoot it and make changes to the final script. Its very important to know what and why you are shooting. If you approach film making like a stills photographer, it does not work.

Q4. Do you tend to work solo or collaboratively – and which do you prefer?

Vitale: I tend to work on my own but my film on climate change was a collaboration and I was grateful for it. I prefer shooting on my own to gain intimacy and trust with my subjects but I like collaborating in the editing.

Q5. What are you finding most difficult and most interesting in multimedia?

Vitale: Audio is the most difficult piece for me and the most interesting because I have a lot to learn.

Q6. How do you want to distinguish your multimedia stories from run-of-the-mill work?

Vitale: I hope there is a sensitivity and artful sensibility that will set these films apart.

Andrew Hida Interview

In an earlier post, I profiled “The Dividing Line” by Andrew Hida, a Seattle-based multimedia producer. I tracked Andrew down and asked him some questions about his origins, style and goals.

Q1. From your website it looks like you started off doing still photography, but have moved into multimedia (incorporating stills, audio and video). What’s prompting that move into audio and motion/video?

Hida: I began taking photographs about 4-5 years ago. For about a year I was shooting film as many people moved into digital. After a trip to Cuba in 2007, I met Tim Matsui, a photojournalist from Seattle, who quickly became a mentor. He forced into my hands an Edirol audio recorder and an omni microphone, and asked me why I was still shooting film. Reluctantly, I purchased a Canon 30D and forced myself to shoot digital. In the end, I made the jump into multimedia all in one plunge, incorporating digital photography and audio to create audio slideshows.

I began to realize the potential of multimedia storytelling. I was shooting a lot of sequential frames to create the illusion of video using crossfades. Paired with audio, the stories began to jump out of the screen. I had a screening of my first audio slideshow at the Center of Contemporary Art in Seattle. It left a tremendous impression on the audience. I realized that the viewers’ interaction with still photographs, complimented by audio, and incorporated into a video, produced a visceral experience for the viewer that I could not achieve through still photography. At that point that I looked to multimedia as a medium that has continued to grow in my favor.

I still struggle to capture moments and tell stories in a single frame. My eyes see the world in motion, and my brain understands the language of video much better than stills. Personally, I see more creative freedom in video than in stills. In the end, audio becomes the backbone of any great multimedia piece. Within that audio, you can bring in any captured element to create a complete experience for the viewer, whether it’s the water dripping from a coffee maker, or a quiet cry of reflection. The audio will transport them into the subject’s world creating an intense empathetic and emotional response unique from that elicited from a still image.

Q2. How has using audio and motion/video changed your work?

Hida: Audio has transformed my storytelling from, let’s say, a 2-dimensional plane to a 3-dimensional space. Audio almost creates an interactive experience for the viewer. I can construct an experiential story for the viewer and more effectively tap into a universal emotional response.

Through video and audio I can essentially tell two stories at the same time: one through the video, and another through the audio. The audio is the backbone of any compelling multimedia story. However, as taught to me by Bruce Strong, professor at Syracuse University, the audio can take you from point A to point B, similar to that of the path of a road. However, the visuals can take a meandering path as long as it leaves from point A and ends at point B, similar to that of a winding river. Maybe that sounds new age or too abstract, though this metaphor itself has helped me tremendously in multimedia production. Multiple mediums, controlled well, can tell a multi-layered, 3-dimensional story providing visual and aural cues to the viewer otherwise absent through a still image.

Q3. Coming from a still photography background, what multimedia capabilities have you found most interesting & powerful? And what has given you the most trouble?

Hida: I find sequencing and non-linear editing as the most interesting elements of multimedia storytelling. Sequencing is a concept that I think many still photographers struggle with when they start to shoot video. As still photographers we are trained to look for single moments, and have a tendency to shoot video the same way. We have a tremendous advantage as photographers when composing, organizing, and exposing a frame for video. However, we have a tendency to hold that frame, and hold it, and keep holding it. It becomes visually boring. Photographers need to change their thought process when approaching video, and look for sequencing. Wes Pope pounded into my head the jingle, “Wide. Medium. Tight. Shoot. Move. Shoot. Move. Wide. Medium. Tight. Shoot. Move. Shoot. Move.” This is the single most important theory that every photographer should embrace, which by itself will make their video a thousand times better. If you can shoot sequences, you have the ability to push your viewer in and out of a three-dimensional space, providing visual variety, and a much more dynamic overall experience.

Related to sequencing is a style of editing, which I have come to enjoy and find tremendously powerful. I tend to shoot for and edit for matched action. For example, if the subject is smoking a cigarette, the sequence may start with a wide shot of him smoking in his house to establish the scene. Once he moves his hand from his mouth to the ashtray, the sequence will cut to a tight shot of his hand entering the frame and ashing his cigarette into the ashtray, and then resolve on a medium shot of his hand in the same position hovering over the ashtray. Matched action is challenging to shoot, but so rewarding to edit. If you are able to edit a sequence in such a way that the viewer doesn’t notice the cuts, then you have succeeded both behind the lens and in front of the monitor.

Some of the greatest challenges that I have overcome in the past year are the logistical difficulties of shooting video with these fancy-shmancy HDSLRs. The image produced by these cameras are hands-down, without question, BEAUTIFUL! The cameras are affordable, but the issues are daunting. Audio recording is a disaster. Recording time limits are frustrating. Ergonomics are painful. And interface can be a challenge. With that said, there are many solutions out there such as dual-audio recording and the plethora of support systems. So why do we go through the pain of shooting video with these cameras? I think it’s because we’re familiar with the format. It doesn’t intimidate us, and we already have the lenses. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re immune to the millions of bells and whistles necessary to make the car move.

Q4. It looks like you spent the better part of 2008 working on the “Slow Healing” project. What was the origin of that project and why did you devote so much time to it?

Hida: I took a documentary photography class at the Photographic Center Northwest; my first foray into documentary photography or photojournalism. As part of the class we were to execute a documentary project, which I decided would be an exploration of the visually impaired community in Seattle. I reached out to many organizations only to be shut down by most, except by the Visually Impaired Services Team at the Puget Sound VA Hospital. I connected with a woman, who will remain anonymous, who was so passionately involved with the care of her clients that she immediately introduced me to two OIF and OEF veterans who had both lost eyes as a result of the wars. I started first by taking portraits of the two soldiers and soon hit a wall. I lost my direction, and had no idea how to proceed. I was dealing with personal issues like access, compassion, and sensitivity to these soldiers’ lives, and had no idea how to overcome these obstacles. I let the project rest for a while, until it dawned upon me that the real story wasn’t the loss of their vision, but rather the impact of traumatic brain injuries on returning soldiers. As a result, I returned to the project, which evolved into Slow Healing.

The project took so long to develop most likely because I approached it with little guidance, which resulted in a lot of stumbling, fumbling, and mistakes in the field. But, how else do you learn? Coincidentally, at the same time I had applied to a number of grants–my first foray into grant writing–and to my surprised received a large grant from the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs to fund the production of this project. I then had one year to complete it in Washington, and travelled to Wisconsin and Hawaii to work with two other subjects. In the end, I realized that as a first project, I had set my sights too high. The responsibilities on my end were tremendous, beyond the scope of just shooting the stories. I was on the administrative, marketing, financial, and creative sides all at the same time. It was taxing, and as a result took much more than a year to complete.

Q5. In the Slow Healing project you managed to capture very intimate conversations with your subjects (e.g., Jason). How did you gain that access?

Hida: My girlfriend recently told me that I’m a good reporter (she’s a magazine writer). I had no idea what she meant. I don’t know what reporters do. I never learned reporting skills. I don’t even know if I follow the ethical guidelines. I’m not saying I fabricate my reporting, or anything like that, but I do accept meals from my subjects, and I do nurture personal relationships with them. I remember an assignment for the Oregonian, where I was teamed up with a writer. She would refuse to eat even a cashew that was offered to her because it would compromise policy. Maybe it’s internal policy of her company, but I just remember thinking how odd that was. I usually gauge the rapport between my subject and I by an invitation to a meal. If they invite me to dinner, or ask me to put the camera down and sit down for lunch with them, then I know that we are developing the type of relationship that will allow me to capture very intimate moments that otherwise are inaccessible.

My girlfriend later explained to me what she meant by a good reporter. She said that I have the unique ability to make people relaxed and very comfortable with my presence. One of the first things I always do when I arrive at a subject’s house for the first time is ask for a cup of water, or ask to use the restroom. It’s a small act like this that helps to put the subject at ease. I think it communicates to them that ultimately I’m just as much human as they are. Working with subjects in sensitive settings requires a certain amount of trust building. I always make myself vulnerable to their questioning, and share equally intimate details of my life as I hope they will share with me. Breaking down those barriers and being myself opens doors that otherwise will never open. Half of this work is relationship building, from which I have developed great friendships over the years with subjects who to this day I still remain in contact with.

Q6. What gear do you use for your productions?

Hida: I shoot with a Canon 5D MKII for both stills and video.

I always record on a dual-audio system: recording externally on a Marantz PMD620 and feeding that audio track into my camera using a Sescom LN2MIC-PMD620 attenuation cable (it is very important to use an attenuation cable to feed any audio signals into the 5D MKII so you don’t fry the internal audio circuitry). I use a Rode VideoMicPro mounted in my hot shoe, fed into the right channel of a y-splitter cable that feeds into my audio recorder. I then feed in the audio signal of a Sennheiser ew100 G1 wireless lavalier microphone. I will then set the recording level of my Marantz to fall between -12 and -6 db, and set my internal recording level of the 5D MKII to mimic the exact same levels as my audio recorder. This results in very clean audio in the recorder, and a clean audio signal to the camera. However, bear in mind that the audio signal of the 5D MKII will inevitably have more hiss than that of your external recorder given the internal circuitry of the camera. In post production, when necessary (eg. for clean interview audio), I will sync the audio track from the recorder with the footage from the camera using PluralEyes. I also use a Rode NTG-2 microphone to collect ambient audio when necessary (using the same Marantz recorder), and to boom my interviews.

As far as rigging is concerned, I have bought a couple of solutions over the past year, including the Jag35 DSLR cage, and a Cavision shoulder rig (the cheapest shoulder rig I could find on the market). I would recommend playing around with a variety of rigging solutions in order to find something that works for you. It all depends on the style of your shooting, and in most cases one solution will not be the end-all-be-all solution. Luckily, all support systems are standard across the industry, which allows for interchangeability of parts between systems. In my case, I’ve disassembled both of those rigs to create my own low-profile rig that allows me to attach all of the equipment onto a single mount without a shoulder stock. I like to carry as little equipment with me as possible, and also prefer to shoot hand-held most of the time even though it yields less-than-steady results. However, I’ve come to embrace this style of shooting and found ways to brace myself and steady the camera. My workhorse lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, which has image stabilization that provides additional stabilization necessary without the shoulder rig. I also use a Glidetrack LCDVF viewfinder, which adds an additional point of contact and stabilization of the camera.

Finally, I use the 755 XB Manfrotto tripod with a 701 HDV head, which is probably the the best tripod ever made for video. The head is smooth as butter, but the greatest feature is the leveling head built into the tripod.

Q7. Have you developed your multimedia capabilities on your own – or have you tapped into any particularly good training resources?

Hida: I would love to say that I’ve developed my multimedia skills all by myself, but that would be a blatant lie. Tim Matsui introduced me to the audio tools and the digital realm. Video technique, sequencing, and editing was learned through a lot of practice in grad school at Syracuse University. Professor Bruce Strong is probably the most gifted teacher in visual journalism, and has been a tremendous influence and resource to help me build this skill set.

Visually, just watch TV, look at Vimeo, and learn from your peers and colleagues who are kicking butt. Learn to light by doing it. Learn to sequence, and edit by watching TV. There are definitely some set rules in traditional film making to follow (such as the 180 rule, and jump cuts) that can be learned from books. However, there is always a time and a place to break these rules.

I have been fortunate in grad school to be presented with a multitude of opportunities that have provided me with the chance to produce, produce, and produce. I easily become obsessive with my work, dedicating countless days, weeks, and months to shooting. But without this kind of determination and discipline, you will never push yourself to succeed. If you ever reach the point where you are satisfied with your work, you have reached a very dangerous tipping point in your career.

Q8. Where are you going from here?

Hida: Once I finish up my graduate work in December, I will be moving to New York City. My dream and goal for the past 4 years is to intern at Mediastorm. I have my sights set on this, though understand the competitive nature of this internship. Mediastorm, in my eyes, is defining multimedia storytelling in its practice, product, and viability as a business. However, if this does not work out, I will be looking to other positions both internships and jobs, where I can work for a smaller production house as a content gatherer and/or an editor. I hope to continue working on documentary work to tell compelling stories through–as best described by Mediastorm–cinematic narratives.

SAME Cafe – Project Notes

I’m starting a project to profile two owners of SAME Cafe in Denver, Colorado. SAME Cafe stands for “So All May Eat”, and offers high-quality, nutritious food on a “pay what you can” basis. Brad and Libby started SAME Cafe 5 years ago and are passionate about their restaurant and the community that they’ve built around that restaurant.

Jennifer at my day job lead me to the SAME Cafe when I enquired about interesting people working in the non-profit sector who might be interested in posing for a photographic portrait. Jennfier told me a little about SAME Cafe and suggested that I contact the owners. Brad and Libby were very accessible and willing to pose for a portrait; we had a great time one afternoon punching out a couple of versions where I could test some strobe lights.

I was intrigued enough with Brad and Libby’s restaurant to contact them again to see if they’d be up for a “video portrait”. I want to try out some editing techniques that Ed McNichol outlined in CreativeLIVE’s online workshop “Vincent Laforet: Introduction to HDDLSR Video.” Doing a quick profile of the SAME Cafe sounded like a good subject for that test. McNichol has developed a methodology to efficiently edit an interview video. I’ll describe the process in more detail in a later post, but basically it involves first building a “radio cut” of video sequences, focusing exclusively on the audio storyline, flow and pace, and then overlaying visuals on top of that audio foundation to build up the visual quality of the final production.

Step one was to record some interview segments. I scheduled an appointment with Brad and Libby to record audio and video interviews about the origins and motive behind setting up SAME Cafe. I used my Canon T2i to capture video (I was really only looking for an introductory head shot to introduce both Brad and Libby as narrators), and my Marantz PD661 with a lav mic to record separate audio. In this first session I recorded about 35 minutes total audio recording.

I’ve just submitted the transcription job out for bid on Elance. Although transcribing 30 minutes of recorded audio wouldn’t take too long, it would be just another thing to do. I also want to line up a transcriber who can help with future jobs and take that element off my plate.

Next up: Ed McNichol’s approach to building a “radio cut” as an audio foundation.

Todd Heisler: The Moment Before, and After

Todd Heisler presents an interesting piece for the Columbia Center for Oral History on the impact of 9/11. I’ll be honest – I’m not 100% on this. But Heisler’s work is unique and worth viewing. He does some things very, very well. His visual treatment, in particular, struck me. Architectural elements, reflections, flashes of light, video clips and snapshots — rather than “direct” photos of narrators — play across the screen as narrators recall some horrific experiences and sights from 9/11. The indirectness and loneliness of Heisler’s New York images are very striking.

There’s also a weird audio hum that underlies the video, almost a sacred audio intonation or modern-day fugue.

Pascal Garnier: Putting His Canon T2i Through Paces

How ‘Bout that Canon T2i? Last year Pascal Garnier shot his 45-minute documentary Hasta La Vista in Spain, France and Belgium on a Canon T2i. This film is in Dutch and French, without subtitles, but the footage is amazing. Remember: the Canon T2i runs less than $800.

Garnier could bring limited filmmaking gear for this project as he needed to travel between locations throughout Europe. He slapped a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 lens on the T2i for most “run & gun” shots. He used a 55mm 1.4 Mamiya-Sekor lens on the T2i for interviews, b-roll footage and close ups of people. He recorded sound with a Rode Video mic piped directly into the T2i; for interviews he used an Audio Technica lav mic piped into a Zoom H2 recorder.

Garnier reports that he rarely used his small tripod, mainly relying on his Manfrotto monopod or a small foldable shouldermount.