There has been a great deal of protest activity surrounding the recent approval of a massive hydroelectric project in Patagonia. Hearing the crowd size numbers made me wonder how these protests compared with other massive worldwide manifestations. The largest of the protests was predicted to have 50,000 attendees. The number I had remembered reading for Tienanamen Square was 100,000 camped out in the square for more than a month. This map provides a quick way to visually compare the world’s protests.
It was suprisingly difficult to find crowd counts for the different manifestations. There were some I thought of including – the LA Riots, all of the other protests in the middle east, which I could not include because I did not have authoritative numbers. I only relyed on legacy media outlets for numbers and when there was a conflict between the organizers numbers and that of the police, I always deferred to the police.
The map itself was built by Jesús Pérez in the infographic department. Vital in the building of the map was the use of the formula put forth by Alberto Cairo in some of the sample pages of his unpublished book. It is vital to remember when using shapes to convey proportions, that it is not just the diameter that must be altered (duplicated, multiplied by 200% or something of the such), but the whole area of the item.
He gives a wonderfully useful formula for calculating the radius of a new circle based on the maximum circle size and the quantitiy it represents.
Rm is the lenth of the radius of the largest circle you want to have on the map. This will represent the largest number/quantity/value you want to express. R2 is the new radius length. The new value is the number you want to make a bubble for in relation to the largest bubble. This is all based on circle area caculations, but in a reduced, more straightforward formula. Alberto’s page has wonderful explanations with illustrations, if this was not sufficiently clear.
My La Tercera gear is a Canon Rebel 2ti with a kit lens (28-70 f3.5-5.6) with one battery and a 4gb normal speed memory card. I purchased for myself an 8gb 30mb/s card, because the video needs memory and quick memory at that. I have access to a Sony HDR-SR7 avchd (a camera available in 2007-2008).
I also have access to great Sony lav mics and not so great for what I do omnidirectional mikes, courtesy of La Tercera’s video department, 3tv. Too, from time to time, I provide my Rode mic, the one that mounts to the hot shoe discussed in an earlier post.
I’ve been experimenting with different gear set-ups and recording systems. With the barest of materials, I’ve done some day projects in the past couple of weeks.
Overtime, one finds that batteries hold less and less charge. A reason for this is that the battery has a kind of a charge memory, and if one charges it when it is not completely empty or very, very empty, over time the battery will hold less and less charge (Battery technology is way better, and most people say there’s no memory, the problem is that the battery capacity diminishes over time). I’m trying to avoid this, so I run my batteries down to their barest. My battery has a great deal of life. I’m able to go out shooting 3 or 4 times, taking video, with a single charge but that last shoot runs a risk.
Iphone Voice Memo Audio: Miley’s fanatics
My last shoot of four on the charge that fed all of the videos in this post was the fans of Miley Cyrus waiting outside of her hotel for the tiniest glimpse of their idol. About 8 broll video clips and 2 short interviews into the shoot, my battery started flashing. I turned off the the video (live view devours battery) and went to pure stills. I used my Iphone for recording audio interviews for the first time ever. The crispness and clarity of the audio is outstanding. NOTE: Iphone explorer is a great tool that allows you to navigate and extract –among other things- voice memos or photos from your Iphone in a computer where your phone is not synced, allowing you to override this problem.
The challenges to this method were twofold. First, I had difficulty of transferring the clips to my computer. My iphone is not synced to my work computer because my music is on my home computer. I didn’t know what syncing it at that point would do to the day’s recordings, so I had to, instead, email the clips to myself. Although, advised by Nacho, I started this process while still in the field, the transferring of clips took forever over 3g and I was limited to an audio length of 2 minutes, which meant I needed to cut many before sending. Messy. I had a mass of 2 minute clips, many of which were repeats because it took so long for the clips to send, I would resend them thinking I hadn’t sent them.
This contributed to the second problem, sorting out who said what, because I did not have a visual of each subject speaking. In the future, if would be wise to snap a photo of each interviewee with iphone, to have an image with an iphone time linked or write down a frame number with the name.
In camera Canon Rebel Mic: Student protesters
This project documents a student march in pursuit of greater resources for public universities and better scholarships, we have an example of straight, off the camera audio. I put the camera as close as I could to the people I was interviewing. When background noise was subtle, the results were great. When there was a heap of noise, I worked to make the source of the noise clear (protestors).
You’ll notice that the background noise increases through the video as the excitement of the protest grows. I think it works, and it was more comfortable than fumbling with the rode mic doing interviews with the camera bobbling and me trying to make eye contact and encourage responses.
Sony Lav Mic’s on Sony HDR-SR7: Law for seatbelts on intercity buses
In this project/story about a change to the law requiring intercity bus passengers to wear seatbelts or face fines, I brought both cameras, a tripod and used the sony lavs to record sound. As with every city’s bus station I’ve ever visited, the bus station in Santiago is on the dodgier side and I had to be cautious. I kept the lav in my pocket, set the camera on a tripod next to me and sent only the microphone to the user. Bus stations can be very noisy. Certainly there is background noise, but I am not unhappy with the outcome.
Shotgun Rode mic on Canon Rebel: Problems with Santiago bus service
The final day project example I have is a video about problems with bus service in Santiago (the group of bus service providers known as Transantiago.) Here I did the Rode mic juggling, trying to get the mic as close to the mouth as possible while holding the camera, or alternately, with the microphone mounted on the hot shoe.
Neither holding the Rode in hand or mounting it gave outstanding results when the unavoidable street noise was present (I was conducting interviews at bus stops). I find the example of the student protests with the in-camera mic preferable. There, I was working next to one of the largest traffic circles in Santiago (Plaza Italia) and it sounds better than the more minor streets where I spoke to bus users. This is probably because I am able to hold the camera closer than I am the mic while also holding the camera, but the clarity stands.
NOTE from Nacho
Since this post I’ve been working with a couple of Newspapers on implementing a workflow for quick coverage on the field.
The most successful has been by using Evernote. It’s a simple app, available for Iphone, Android, Blackberry, Mac and PC. Evernote allows you to take notes, audio and photos and sync them online with the tap of a button. Just have your reporters in the field share a folder with you and then make them write, take photos or audio with it, hit sync and it’ll magically be in your desktop, thus allowing the editor to combine all the elements into a story.
The limit on the files is 25mb I think, much better than native Iphone recorder. Best of all, the content lives in the cloud and any desktop where that folder has been shared.
This project was a heap of documents 2 inches high. Each piece of paper was a report – one article about something that had happened in these waves of protests/revolutions in different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In most circumstances, I only used the articles that were published in the print edition of La Tercera. To me, this signified that it was of higher importance (that someone would take an initially published internet report and put it in print), as well, it gave the story time to develop over the course of the day before it was published.
A limitation to this kind of filtering was that, in the early days of the revolution, no one knew how important someone immolating himself, and the subsequent demonstrations in a small North African country, thus there was little coverage in the print edition. Likewise, toward the most recent events, I would find that I was aware of the happens, perhaps more in depth, than what was necessary to the Chilean audience, thus I used outside sources, like Al Jazeera or the New York Times to research. I would write a Spanish description, which Patricia would rewrite into better Spanish.
All of the important events were entered into an excel spreadsheet, with the date, title of the article, a description, the reporter’s name, and a link to the original reporting. Patricia Alejandra Morales Toro then created clearer summaries of the events. Although it created an additional step from directing imputing facts into Flash, it allowed us to edit it separately, and, when things like the links failed on two occasions, I was easily able to find them again the in the spreadsheets.
As is immediately apparent, the idea for this type of presentation came from a Guardian multimedia project, The Path of Protest, which divided events by country and date and allows one to navigate from the first events in Tunisia to the present. I do like, that in my project one can easily flow through events in one country, but the use of depth in the Path of Protest is a fantastic means to manage space constraints and still be able to show a tremendous amount of information.
I am not awesome in Flash. I can do amazing things with button states and gotoandPlay, but I get lost in movie clips and var’s have always escaped me. For this project, I utilized a timeline I had utilized for my project about the Chilean show Los 80’s which originally had been built by Vicky Martinez for a timeline showing the events in Chile over the past 200 years. Both Vicky and I had assistance from Paula Tala to make everything work. I did lots of duplicating of movie clips. The coding, at sight, made sense, so I was able to make things to my liking. When it didn’t, Paula was always nice enough to show me.
Whenever I build anything in Flash, I feel guilty. I know it is not device accessible. I think of all the restaurants whose addresses I have not been able to find with my iphone because their sites are built in flash. I’ve tested Wallaby – it does not read actionscript. It is made for banner ads. Thus one has the problem of how to deal with those devices. On the other hand, according to huge sampling of a recent project, mobile devices, including Ipad, represent less than 1.6% of all traffic. 1.51%, to be exact, and that includes some devices that do have flash. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty. Or, maybe this is what all those publishers said, when the internet came. It’s only 1%. We’ll just throw the pdf’s up and give away the ads.
The above is from the project I referenced before about the damage to Chile’s architectural heritage. It is set to be live today. Marcelo Bravo, an architect with the University of Chile, pauses to bless himself with holy water, as he passes the sanctuary during his inspection of Santa Filomena in the Patronato neighborhood of Santiago, Chile.
Compression is important. It’s how one gets video on the web without the use of intermediaries like Youtube or Vimeo. It tends to be a theme on which little time is spent in the classroom. Typically, in projects, someone who knows a lot gives you some settings that you plug into a given program. Or, even more likely, you hand off your full MOV to someone else, who compresses it for you.
This situation, however wonderful, becomes rarer and rarer in that real world. Here, I present you a simple series of steps to compress in the easiest (and least expensive) program I’ve used – QuicktimePro. This same thing can be done directly from Final Cut, but as it’s a good idea to always have a full res version of your finished projects for future exports, and because sometimes Final Cut gets screwy and takes eons to compress, I like to do it in Quicktime.
Note, there are other programs that do this. Squeeze, to my knowledge, is the best. It’s also roughly $5000 $799 (thanks for the correction @phildaquila). It is using the same set of variables, but has somewhat better programming which produce more refined results. We used Squeeze in Andaman Rising and Powering a Nation. The results are a little less shiny and nice in quicktime, but entirely reasonable.
What you are doing is making an flv – a Flash video, which is how most of the video in the web is encoded. This is likely to change in the coming years to mp4 with the adoption across browsers to HTML5, as Apple is refusing to allow the Flash plugin necessary on either the ipad or iphone. For now, as only Safari is ready for HTML5, we’ve got some time to go with Flash video.
What you’re doing is trying to create a balance between a refined, beautiful video and file size. The bigger the file, the more difficult it is for people to see it due to the slowness of their internet connection. When in doubt, err on the side of smaller file size. I’ve been hovering around 8mb per minute, for my La Tercera work, it seems to work well. People leave sites whose videos don’t play. (81% of web users will leave a web page if the video starts buffering midstream.)
Open your video in Quicktime. In quicktime, select file>export.
In the export dialog, choose movie to Flash Video (flv).
Go into your options. Go to video settings.
Video codec should be On2 VP6. Make sure deinterlace is checked if you used a camera with interlacing (1080i60, for example – the i is for interlace.) Data rate, frame rate and key frame intervals are the ones you can play with. You can see from our screen shot what we’ve been using. Data rate will be the first one you’ll want to raise for better quality.
Go to audio settings. Put audio – 80kbps
Crop and Resize – whatever size you need. Make sure to have maintain aspect ration checked.
That’s it. Hit ok. Hit export. Depending on the length of your original video and your computer’s processor, in 20 minutes to an hour, you will have a flash video. A little box will tell you how much time remains.
What’s nice is that quicktime does remember your most recent settings. You can return and return, and keep using the same export settings. I am happy to discuss further what some of the options in the video dialog mean, but, I’ve found that for most, it’s not relevant to most people. Results, not explanations.
The above photos are from a project I did about the beginning of school in Santiago – how both children and parents are coping. It has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but is fulfilling our always visuals rule. The post itself talks about an unpublished piece, which will not appear in the blog until the publishing. The only hint on the visuals of that piece is the thumbnail.
So the other night, it was getting late and I was needing some music for a piece. I was working on a story about the damage to the Chile’s cultural heritage by the earthquake that occurred Feb. 27.
Music creates an internal conflict for me. I have been trying to steer away from music, as I tend to collect an abundance of ambient audio, and it makes me feel like less of a journalist to use music. I have heard that its use is forbidden in serious papers like the Washington Post and maybe even the New York Times. On the other hand, music can be wonderful. It’s nice to watch things with music. We’re accustomed to seeing it in television and movies. On the other, other hand, in Chile, they even play it in their broadcast news. I heard Sarah McLachlan playing during the reporting of the death and funeral of a young boy who had rejected a heart transplant. As well, the early entries to this year’s Project Report nearly all had heavy, narrative drowning emotional music. Blah. I don’t want to be a music user like that.
But, this piece needed it. I was using a combination of images from my own shooting, the work of other staff photographers at La Tercera and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales. I was the only one who recorded any ambient. Plus, the piece was long. These days, I don’t like to go over 2, 2 and a half minutes. I feel like it’s discourteous to the viewer. I dislike being bored. I don’t want to do the same to others. Additionally, the piece was full of buildings. It’s hard to connect with a building, even if it is pretty and old.
As I said, it was late. Or maybe early. I’ve been trading in my late nights for early mornings. It’s arguably more productive. My interview track was set. Nearly all of the images were in place. I went to the free soundtrackpro first but I couldn’t commit to it as I feel that as a source, it’s kind of tapped. I moved to Jamendo. I like the site because although the search isn’t super, it’s inexpensive, you don’t have to deal with a customer rep, and you can download and try all of their music free in the normal (as opposed to pro) section.
The story was for the Bicentenario (200th anniversary of Chile’s independence or declaration of independence more accurately). I felt like I should use something traditional, but I don’t know very much about traditional Chilean music. There is the cueca, a large, kind of complex, percussion heavy music. There were a number of reasons not to use the cueca. Firstly, it would have dominated my piece. Secondly, I was looking for something with the precise mixture of sadness and hopefulness – building were destroyed, but Chile’s strength is in her people. I doubted I would be able to find such a cueca. Finally, even if I did find the cueca that could convey these things, it was not going to be on Jamendo. Licensing some obscure cueca band would provide a whole new series of challenges.
It came to four songs. I found a song with something of a folk sounding theme, done by a Chilean group, although to my ear, it sounded more Caribbean than Chilean (Catalina Parra). Other searches gave me: one very bold, march sounding tune by a Spanish group (Quisiera ser Sol para iluminar) one simple, quasi classical piano tune, and finally (Hope), one electronic song, that captured the emotion but I was doubtful it would fit with the theme of bicentenario that my editors sought (Exponential Tears).
The Spanish, with their big, 18th century military march type song, was ruled out quickly, as it was the Spanish the Chileans were fighting. Although I might be the only one who would know, it still seemed inappropriate.
With the last three I struggled. Hope was what you expect to hear in a multimedia piece – simple piano playing. Catalina Parra hinted at the folk past of Chile. Exponential Tears, I just liked. It was edgier, more modern. It did not hint at the past, but emotionally, it conveyed what I was looking for without being heavy handed.
So, struggling, and struggling, I listened to the songs over and over again. Each time I heard a particular song, I thought, “this one, definitely this one.” Then I’d return to listen to another, with a repeat of “this one, definitely this one.”
And then, inspiration. It began with Papyrus. I thought, if the folksy song were to be any font, it would be Papyrus – very obvious, and not necessarily speaking to the actual moment. Then, bam, if Catalina Parra is the Papyrus choice for this project, Hope would be Times New Roman. Just blah. Functional and not in your face, but nothing that will spark anything up. OK, so then, Exponential Tears would have to be Interstate – modern and sleek, but no so much so that it is irritating. A font elegant for it’s simplicity, but beyond the basic Helvetica. A font, were this video to be a website, I’d be proud to use. And so, I chose Interstate, ie Exponential Tears.
Some links, for exploration…
On fonts – Nacho found this really fun chart the other day. Each time I look at it, I find something new to make me chuckle.
On music – MediaStorm has written a guide to choosing and working with music.
Nicolás Alcalde, from my second presidential project, and I met at the paper at 7, and arrived at the bus stop at 7.30. We began to search for someone going from there to the end of the future metro. We found an individual to follow fairly quickly – a middle aged woman. However, upon reaching the second leg of the travel, the woman informed us that she was actually going to see family in the other direction, and later proceeding onto the proscribed destination.
At this point our option was to find someone else or return to the beginning. We decided to find someone else as returning to the beginning would leave us at the short end of rush hour. We found a woman traveling from nearly where we began, to past our proscribed final stop. She was amiable and the bus was full, full, full. I photographed her and decided that she could be a subject, if we needed, although she did not fit the image I imagined. She’s not exactly from the area of the first stop, and prefers the bus to the metro, plus she didn’t have time for an interview. We took her number and I think of her as a reserve.
I decide to go out again. This time, I am going with Paula Tala, an infographic artist and designer from La Tercera. Any graphic artist worth their salt will tell you that they should see and experience the route/object that they are creating a graphic about. Paula is going to be creating the graphical elements for this project. I wanted, she wanted, Jorge wanted, that she accompany me.
This time I got permission from the metro although contingent on this permission was that we could not shoot before nine. We went to the metro at 8.30 to confirm the station manager knew we were allowed to shoot. We didn’t want to start following someone only to be stopped upon reaching the metro, and then be forced to start again.
Confirmation of this permission took an hour, and we reached the starting bus stop at 10. No one was going where we wanted them to. No one. We waited for an hour, asking roughly 30 people (everyone who came to the stop.) And then, we decided to just take the route ourselves and capture what we find.
An earlier concern was that the video would be too distracting for someone to watch and pay attention to the graphics. I’d been thinking of going the super visual route anyway. On this second trip, I tried to pay attention to what one notices while riding a train, what one looks at. I stuck to mostly photo, using my video camera only to capture ambient. Video in vehicles is tough stuff (without an awesome suction cup like this bad boy, which figured heavily in my Powering a Nation “Down the Lines,” and I didn’t see how I’d go about using it in the public transport.) I decided to shoot lots of timelapses. These samples here aren’t perfected, but that will come later. I just wish final cut had an onion skin option.
I investigated and planned, discovered that in the field my earlier plans didn’t work so well, all the while thinking that I needed something incredibly visual. I feel like I’ve found an accidental success. We’ll see how it all turns out, and I’m still on the hunt for someone who can talk about his or her experience, but I think this flipbook video experience might be best for working with the quantity of information I want to convey.
These sequences here are just mockups. I will be making the actual flipbooks with Final Cut If you are wondering what I used to do these above, first I did a quick raw process to jpeg. I named the photos in a sequence, then when to quicktime, where I opened an image sequence (it’s in the file menu). You have a choice of frames per second. I used 2 fps for the girls and 6 fps for the others. An important thing to remember is that quicktime is used to dealing with square pixels, whereas video are rectangular. Thus, it gets elongated in quicktime, and to counter this, I exported at the true dimensions (3/2). Basically, this is the inverse of what you need to do to convert a freeze frame from a video into a pure still. You can see Tracy Boyer’s instructions here.
Santiago’s Metro is expanding. The government opened three new stations (conveniently, days before a tight presidential election) and announced about a week and a half ago that they would begin building an entirely new line, which will connect a heavily working class area of the city with a heavily middle and upper class section.
I was given the assignment of doing a story on someone whose life would change as a result of this new metro line. As the transportation system exists now, those taking public transit take a twenty-minute bus ride to a metro station on an existing line, then taking that metro practically to the other end. One can also take a bus, but the bus follows the same route.
Firstly, Nacho suggested to me that we add a clock to the experience that shows time ticking by. And I agree that’s an awesome idea, and I decided to add a locator map too, that shows the progress. I realize that what’s important is the comparison of time between the current route and the route that will be finished in 2014. So with Jorge Cortés, subeditor of the infographic department at La Tercera, I decide to add another moving map and timer. (Originally I had thought to do an overlay when the actual timer and map stopped.)
The question then becomes how it will look and what program to use. I want that when someone moves the timeline on the scrubber, the map and clock will move correspondingly. I talk with Vicky Martinez, (Infographics and Design at La Tercera) about how this should all be laid out. It’s a lot of elements in a small space, with the true time and map needing to be clearly related to the video, but yet the two maps and clocks needing to be easily visually compared. We look at the Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst and Climbing Kilimanjaro. Although Vicky has concerns about the quantity of information, I say that the video will not require alsolute attention. I intend to have an interview track, but I say that the video will be far more visual than anything and as the other elements are simple, one should easily be able to glance between them.
Initially, we talk of using Flash. It is what most of their interactive graphics are made in. Myself, I don’t know flash programming well enough to know how one can link all of these elements. If we use separate SWFs for different elements, then I am certain they can be coordinated to start simultaneously, but I’m not certain they will move unified all the time. Putting the video as frames in a SWF would take forever to load, she warns. (this is the way I would know how to do it, but the infographics team is going is planning to put this together for me.)
The final rough mock-up by myself with Vicky's advice.
After some thinking pause time, she suggests After Effects. After Effects is new to the newsroom. Everyone I’ve encountered wants to know it, but I think only a couple have a grasp of it. I have some experience with it. I’ve done two projects with it (the second will be posted sometime this week.
“That should work, right,” she asks.
My mind begins to run possible scenarios. “It should,” I say. “I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t. I’m almost positive it will.”
And the more I thought about it and the more I dove into the second After Effects project (a presentation for the UAndes Communications Department,) the more I am certain it will.
I have a new project published in La Tercera. It is part two in my exploration of issues in the presidential elections in Chile. In this part, I examined access for people with disabilities, public transportation and access to affordable housing (vivienda). All of these stories were done with the production help of my collegue Nicolás Alcalde.
An interesting fact about Chilean elections is the candidates can put their signs wherever they want. Whoever gets to a pole or a spot, gets that position. My story for the first topic featured Francisca Mardones, a champion wheelchair tennis player, who finds it difficult to navigate Santiago due to poor accessibility. She showed me around her neighborhood, pointing out many of the points where access is difficult, particularly for someone who is not as strong as her. You will see in many of the photos of her, signs with candidates’ faces in the background. The other curious component to this is that a certain number of days before the elections all of the candidates must remover their signs or face fines. Thus, for four days before the elections, there was no advertising of the candidates. This is to insure that the candidates remove their signs because the lawmakers suspect that if they are required to do it after losing an election, no one will clean them up.
For the topic of vivienda, I spoke with two women who had or were living in a campamento. The first woman, Ema Uribe, the woman whose interview drives the narrative, had lived in a campamento for nearly 30 years. She arrived there as many do. She was young. She moved to the city from the countryside and first lived with relatives. However, after a short period of time, they could not afford to keep her and she moved to a campamento. Her children and grandchildren were born into it.
A campamento is what people of the US would think of as a favela, although the images of constant violence, as in City of God, are not accurate here. They are informal living structures build on a piece of unutilized land, typically in urban areas. The houses tend to have access to electricity, although this can be cut. They do not have running water. Water is trucked in, and stored in any available container. Uribe did not speak of crime – which is frequently cited, but she did speak of garbage and filth. As well, she spoke of the kinship amongst the inhabitants. “You are never alone,” she said, whenever you need something, everyone runs [to help you]” What she spent the most attention on was stigma attached to those who lived in the campamento. She knew of a woman whose daughter was to celebrate her birthday, but didn’t invite any friends. When asked why, she said it was because no one would want to come to the campamento.
Uribe, with the help of Un Techo Para Chile, has been relocated to a house whose construction she planned and oversaw. Rosa Reyes, the second person I met for this story, is in the beginning of this process. She has been transferred to a smaller campamento, with the assistance of Un Techo Para Chile, and is planning for her own home. She has two adolescent children and a bright personality. She showed me how they cope without water and, with pride, the little store she has opened since her move to this campamento.
For the story of transportation, Nicolás Alcalde and I interviewed a city bus driver. He spoke of the changes he’s seen, the importance of the system, and how for him, driving a car is more nerve-wracking than driving a bus. This is the story with which I have the most reservations. I wonder whether it could have been done more dynamically. It shows the bus system, which has many problems, but perhaps I should have spoken more with the users.
Initially, I had planned to give the video camera to Nicolás and have him ask people what they thought of the public transportation system, but, upon boarding the bus, I realized that the noise was horrible and movement doubly so when the bus was moving. I worked for a while trying to capture the perfect footage of a person boarding the bus, and passing their bip card by the sensor to pay. In one instance, after taking footage, I explained to a woman that I was working for La Tercera, looking at the public transportation system. She asked me what I wanted to know. I asked her what she thought about it. She gave me a very lovely answer, that was all but unusable with the noise, and decided I would stick with a single subject.
I find that I have the noise issue often. I was taught by one of the multimedia greats, Jim Seida, the importance of absolute silence. He described the tactics of Brian Storm who goes as far as to unplug refrigerators. I know the rules – rooms with soft surfaces, no ticking clocks, no televisions, no radio, no traffic noise, avoid tables, rolling chairs are a nightmare (so are chairs that squeak), no air conditioners, etc. And, if it’s on video, make it look beautiful. Enforcing these in the field, I’ve found, can be a bit more challenging, particularly finding the balance between beauty and silence.
The photo is from the third story in my next La Tercera series. The story is about living conditions or housing. This was taken in a small campamento in an area of Santiago called Renca. I will discuss the campamento and the story in a later post. Today I am interested in discussing titles and work.
I get asked frequently here whether I am a journalist or a photographer. This distinction unfailingly confuses me. It’s like I’ve been suddenly transported back to photojournalism’s predawn, with all those camera chimps running around, creating illustrations for articles. I always say that my degree is in journalism (true) and that I tell the stories with images – whether still and moving (also true).
Often this question is posed by fellow journalists. I can’t fault them. It’s a different way of conceiving of the use and creator of the image. My understanding is that in Chile photographers are trained as photographers, and they may find their livelihood in newspapers, or elsewhere. If anyone has any further information on this, I would love to hear it.
Clifton Edom coined the term photojournalism. It was meant to describe the marriage of words and images that could tell a story in itself, in the same way written journalists used text. He held the pursuit of truth to be the absolute goal and rule of photojournalism. Even through the 70’s, photojournalists in the US were still battling to be called photojournalists, a name they felt was more accurate and gave them and their mission greater respect. I think it’s an important term, that I plan to work on importing.
But, I’m not just a photojournalist either. It’s rare that I take only still images. I use video. I use audio. Both of which add a world of additional technical details from levels to compression. I am expected to know some programming. These days I am reading mashable and copyblogger like they’re going out of style. I want my work to be seen and social media promotion is an added value Nacho and I can offer to work we produce. Facebook is the second most checked site in Chile. Youtube is the fourth. I’m aware that I’m not an expert, but I know more than most people in general industry, I know where to find information, and I have more time than many.
My portfolio stills need to be updated and videos as well. This means compression, basic html, and wordpress. I need to change the name of this blog – domain purchase, registration and possibly migration. I worked on another set of stories for La Tercera. While I had a great deal of help with the programming of the first collection, the woman I worked with is quite busy and I am going to try this week to manipulate menus and make clean html – Dreamweaver and Flash.
To call myself a multimedia journalist brings in the trouble with the definition multimedia. Is it just video or photo or is it graphics and design too? Sometimes I use visual journalist, but it’s not exactly a common term and I doubt the translation would be recognized in Spanish as an entity.
I need to know heaps of things, and as I learn these new things, I start to feel spread thin. I went into UNC wanting to study photojournalism. I was quickly introduced to the world of multimedia narrative storytelling, which I love. I love the way a narrative (when edited properly and tightly) makes visuals come alive. A few weeks ago, I was watching a series by the LA Times about gang violence. The first few stories had audio tracks. Then I entered slideshow land – no audio. It was just so terribly flat, after having heard initially the voices of the community. I love multimedia storytelling. (I do not love multimedia storytelling with a narrator, a trend I am going to discuss in a further post.)
Everything I learn, seems to require that I learn something else. Early on in my Master’s career, I had to make a choice between programming and storytelling. I chose storytelling because I like being in the field and telling stories. I’ve heard stories of people who only shoot video and others edit it for them. I don’t know that I would want that but I don’t feel like I know enough now. Maybe what I want is 2 more years of university so I can do and understand absolutely everything. Or maybe I just wish I was a glorified chimp with a camera shooting on film.
I am doing another series on issues in the upcoming presidential elections. This time, the issues are people with disabilities(Nacho’s killer photo from yesterday,) living conditions, and transportation. Today I went to a bus depot at the far end of town. With a colleague, Nicolás Alcalde, I interviewed a bus driver. Then we rode with him on part of his route.
In Santiago, I’ve had to rethink the gear I bring with me or how I bring it. I am in the safest city in South America. Yet, I hear stories, constantly of theft. People walking down the street in central have gold chains ripped off their necks. A colleague’s brother had his headphones stolen on a bus while they were on his head. I don’t bring Nacho’s 5D MarkII with me if we are not together, going to a known location. I carry only one body. It’s heaps harder to grab something when it’s in one’s hands. I only bring my 70-200 if I’m certain I’ll be in a situation where I can use it. I’ve ripped the Canon logo off my backpack and taped over the brand and spec markings on my video camera. A piece of advice I got from a photojournalist with La Tercera was stick with the crowd of photojournalists when you’re shooting. But the things I am covering don’t have crowds of photojournalists covering them.
I honestly don’t know how dangerous it is. But, I’m not at a point where I can afford to lose any of my gear and I’m not going to take unnecessary risks. Today, I traveled light. I brought the Canon 5D with a 16-35, my Sony Handicam (HDR-SR11), a gorilla pod, a set of headphones, and a stick mic, in an old blue, Iberian Airlines small messenger size bag. I didn’t even bring my phone. I didn’t know where I was going to be. In fact, the bus was traveling through one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the city. When I would focus on stills, Nicolas would kindly offer to stash the other camera. When we departed with crowds all around, he said that I should put the cameras away. But, I needed some images of the crowds at the bus stop. So I took it the footage I needed and then stashed the goods.
I don’t shoot with a 16-35 often. I worry that this makes me a bad photographer. It does have to be admitted that the 16-35 on a 5D is full frame wide. I began shooting in Patagonia with Nacho’s 24-70, and I find this more comfortable. I have greater reach and I’m able to give my subjects more personal space. Knowing that I’d be on the bus, I decided to use the 16-35. It was 100% the right choice, as most of the time, the people were packed in and I was standing on assorted bus ledges. I also really enjoyed the look. I think I’ll be revisiting it in the future soon.