Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New photoshop-like software out: Phoenix

It's an image editor that works just like Photoshop. It's got magic wands, layers, masks, blend modes: the whole enchilada.

And according to the photo-tips newsletter site Photojojo this is why we should like it:

It's web-based, so you don't have to download any software or use up space on your hard drive. You can use photos already on the web, too: Flickr, Facebook and Picasa all work.

There are 40+ free tutorials that range from beginner to advanced, so you can learn how to use all them fancy tools.

There's a very good free version, as well as a souped-up hotrod version that's actually worth paying for.

Find a demonstration here:

Reporting with two cameras dangling off your neck, pen and paper stuffed into your pockets and the line "would you put on that mic" in mind

So reporting for every format possible sucks. But what sucks more is not reporting at all. And if I gotta report in all sorts of media to get my stuff out, I will. 

Here a few things that have worked for me so far while trying to report for a package, i.e. a print article that needs video and photography as well (I'm not an expert, there are a million ways of doing this):

1.) Basic video and photo equipment: 
  • a camcorder/camera with a wireless microphone attached on top, mounted on light tripod that you can easily fold up if you need to walk a couple of steps
  • an SLR with a good zoom lens, autofocus, possibly a bounce flash attached (if dark)
  • pen and piece of paper stuffed into your pants pockets
  • a good backpack that fits all this and cushions it
2.) Reporting methods:

The interview: 
  • BEFORE: you get in take 15 mins to get broll of the building, some interiors, anything you think could help introduce the interviewee visually. Is he an architect? Find some model buildings in his office, film him working on a project on his computer, etc. 
  • DURING: I like to do the general print interview without the camera, that gives you an opportunity to warm up to the person and you can jump in when the interviewee is veering off topic/not answering your question. While the person is talking take some notes on WHAT s/he's talking about and write down a little list of things/topics/etc covered that you might need on tape to illustrate your story; THEN TURN ON THE CAMERA, by now and even before the 'print interview' you should have found your story angle. Ask questions directly related to the story, 4-5 important ones and get them to give you a succinct answer, even if they might have answered the question before (helpful: jot down the time code for that quote, that'll make editing much faster)
  • AFTER: Now that you're done with getting interview content, both for video and print, get out your list of things/topics/etc  that you wrote down while talking to the person and go on a scavenger hunt for the stuff. Back to our architect, he spoke about a certain building that s/he's working on. Ask him to show you models on his computer or even miniature models that s/he might have lying around. Get shots of those things from two different angles and three different views (wide/medium/close-up)
A few things that could also make life easier:
  • Ask people for their name, occupation and where they're from and tell them to spell their name to you on camera
  • Time codes can save you lots of time. If you can sit down while your camera is on a tripod, write down a note and the time code. That way you can get the exact quote much faster.
  • Separate video time from photo time. If you need both, get video with clean and undisturbed natural sound 
  • Use wireless mics during Man-On-The-Street assignments. You can control ambient noise much better and won't have to hold camera and stick mic at the same time. 
  • Breathe. Stop. Take your time. Video is most powerful when you have a strongly framed image in which the objects in the image are moving, not you. Shut up (very important when gathering natural sound), let the camera do its work while resting on a tripod and gather your thoughts for the next shot.

Things I'd like to have/need to buy: 
  • A fanny pack - where I can stash the wireless microphone I'm carrying around when doing a general survey among people on the street (and where I can keep my pen and paper and some business cards)
  • A mini-tripod that I can rest on tables, book shelves and even my chest
  • Small bags to organize my stuff - good batteries, empty batteries, tapes, etc. When you have 10 minutes with the CEO of some company you'd better be prepared
Anyhoo... I'm putting this out because I train reporters in this and have thought about this for quite a while. Comments much appreciated. 

In your wallet

More "wallet" videos at www.wsj.com/video. Apple vendor and Tibetan immigrant Weser Dorjee tells us why he has two wallets and what he keeps inside both. (Oct. 19)