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Video Reporting: Images With Sound and Motion
Photographers and reporters are mastering a multitude of skills to create online projects that reach readers in new ways.

Miami Herald photographer Chuck Fadely edits video in Final Cut Pro.
Photo by Battle Vaughan/The Miami Herald

Writers also trying video
The allure is pulling reporters into the mix, too. At the Duluth News Tribune, education reporter Jake Weyer shot a young poet’s performance, a pow wow at a local school and students playing old, worn-out musical instruments that the school district was planning to replace after years of neglect. Weyer learned the art the University of Minnesota, where, as editor-in-chief of the college’s paper, he started an audio video department.

“Readers, especially in my generation, like to see news happen,” said Weyer, who graduated last year. “Video adds a greater sense of reality to a story. Reporters need to start thinking not just visually, but in motion.”

Weyer thinks multimedia is essential for the survival of newspapers. “Readers’ needs – and readers themselves – are changing and papers need to evolve to serve the new audience,” he said. “I don’t think reporters need to shoot videos all the time, but it is important for them to know how to use the equipment. The possibilities are endless.”

Video journalism is still in its infancy. With experimentation come mistakes and awkward moments. Many photographers are just now getting a feel for how to create pieces worth watching, especially for today’s savvy audiences.

“Many newspapers are doing video that is just horrendous,” said Fadely. “There’s a learning curve, but you have to be professional.”

Linsenmayer worries that enthusiasm in newsrooms is creating a frantic demand with little regard for content or quality. “Requiring a certain number of video submissions doesn’t lead to more creative use of the medium,” Linsenmayer said. “It results in lots of dull motion pictures that no one wastes time watching.”

This is not TV
Not all stories make good video. Who wants to watch a school board meeting, for instance? Compelling stories need action, short sound bites and a central character with star power.

“Right now, videos have that new-toy factor – ‘Oh wow, we can do video. Let’s just do it,’ ” said San Jose’s Hernandez. “As an industry, we shouldn’t try to imitate broadcast news. We can do something more exciting, like shooting stories in a way that resemble more independent film or art-house pieces.”

One of Hernandez’s favorite projects was an essay put together after record-setting rains. He shot off and on for a week, including driving a car on the freeway in a downpour and reflections in downtown puddles. Then he set the moving images to a music track he created using Apple’s GarageBand software, which comes with royalty-free musical loops.

The best videos on the Internet are “a little looser, a little funnier,” says Hernandez, who convinced fellow photographer Gary Reyes to report first-person on covering the winter Olympics. The quirky videos Reyes sent back showed everything from what it was like traveling on the media bus to getting through security checkpoints and eating in Turin.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram staffers rigged a remote lens on a sheep-herding dog – a new angle for covering the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

Want to shoot a better home video?
Here are tips from Knight Ridder photojournalists:
• Keep it steady: If you don’t have a tripod or monopod, use a chair or some other prop before you start shooting or your film will look like The Blair Witch Project.
• Less zoom: Zooming once in awhile for effect is interesting, but keep it to a minimum. It’s almost always better to pick a focal length and stay there.
• Hold the shot: If shooting detail, hold the shot for about 10 seconds. If you cut away sooner, it’s difficult to edit later.
• Lighting: Sunlight is the best. Seek out window light. Turn off fluorescent lights if possible; they can add green highlights.
• Keep your mouth shut: Other than intros, stay away from voiceovers. Let the subjects do most of the talking.
• Editing software: Apple’s iMovie or Final Cut Pro are great for beginners with a Macintosh computer. Final Cut Express is an inexpensive home-use version of Final Cut Pro for amateurs.
• More is better: If you have good material, shoot for a long time. You can always edit some out later.
• Short and sweet: However, if you’re filming an event, in general spend about 10 to 15 seconds on one subject then move on to other people or activities.

A cost-effective balancing act
A typical video camera, such as the Canon Elura 90, starts at about $300. Fadely estimates it takes about $20,000 to initially outfit a newspaper’s photo department.

San Jose’s photographers now sport Sony HVR-Z1U high-definition camcorders, which cost about $3,800, not much more than a professional still camera. “One camera captures high-definition video, professional quality audio and you can grab stills from the video that are good enough to publish in the newspaper,” Hernandez said “One of these cameras and a few accessories is cheaper than outfitting a still photographer. I have $15,000 worth of equipment in my trunk – several bodies and lenses – and here’s this camera that does it all.”

In the end, though, most photographers see videos as complementing stills, not replacing them. Just as color photos never totally knocked black-and-white images from the pages, still photographs will always have a place in newspapers.

“I want this to be a separate-but-equal way to cover a story,” said Friedberg.

“Still photography isn’t going to die,” said Stephenson. “There’s an art to the still photograph, and video isn’t going to kill it. There are going to be some people who do video and some who do stills and instances where they pull stills from video. Then we’re going to have to figure out where to go from there.” ><

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