Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Retracing Saigon - Episode 1 - Mom and Dad

When Tam Thi Tang died in 2007, she left behind 13 children, 9 in-laws, 18 grandchildren and one emaciated, abandoned husband. As I revisited my grandfather six months after my grandmother died, I found a man in his seventies who repeatedly said he was waiting to pass away. And he finally did earlier this month.

The head of a family dies and its members fumble for reasons to gather. The nucleus family loses its core and it becomes easier to find excuses to stay in California, Chicago, Frankfurt, Marseille or countless other places where my family members have settled. But I suppose the remaining glue keeping them together are the memories they shared. So I made it my task to gather those.

I've mostly finished reporting on my family history and will be able to spend the weekends of 2011 putting together a video-driven flash piece. I've been working on this over the past three years and have finally gathered enough footage, information and personal accounts to start smaller video segments. With this project, I hope to explore how historical events intersect with individual lives.

On a purely selfish level it's a way of exploring identity -- mostly my own. Besides, this one turned out to be a great Christmas present for my parents:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recent WSJ work: A Date with A Hairy Crab

We took out two Italian chefs for hairy crab. They were not impressed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Recent WSJ Work: The G-20 Communique

This was probably the closest I will ever get to President Barack Obama.




Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recent WSJ Work: Light and Darkness and the 5D

Sometimes it's really nice to be able to concentrate on the pretty things in life.

Two video admittedly short 'postcards' of things going on in Seoul:

The Lantern Festival

The G-20 Venue

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recent WSJ work: iPad wine list, sabering bottles and princes

I forget these sometimes. When you become a machine, a fierce machine pumping out videos, THE machine at the office, you forget about them once they're out. I've been working a lot with a very prolific blogger of ours lately and here are some results:

Partying like a prince:

And video:

A piece about an ipad winelist:

This one includes Kieran's drawing:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

B-roll sucks

Someone said to me once that I should forget about the concept of b-roll. And I really took it to heart.

In visual storytelling we often rely on our radio track to tell our stories. A voice tells us all the facts of the story. The basic print story structure often applies:

We have an anecdotal lede, or in visual language the 'beauty shot,' the most gripping footage, the friggin money shot, whatever you want to call it. Then you launch into a voice over, telling me immediately what's going on and why I should care -- in print lingo a nutgraf. All that nicely done with some b-roll plastered on top of that vaguely illustrates what you're talking about. Then throw in the first quote, like you would in an article. Continue with some context, some transitions, a kicker at the end, ideally another quote and if you don't get that then throw in a nice concluding thought. Voila, you got your general news video, often done within a few hours after an event happened if you've had staffing at the place.

What my colleague though instilled in me though was that visual story arch was just as important. Sequence shots, processes and action shots are imperative in telling a visual story that runs parallel to your radio track (the voices of interviewees, the narrator's voice). It's a visual sense of understanding the processes that constitute the story that you see in every day life: the chronology of going to the beach.

A visual sequence tells this story: First the act of packing a bag to go out, putting the towel in, the sun lotion, the sunglasses. Sitting in a car, driving to the beach, the radio blasting, then getting out of the car. Sitting on the beach, drinking a soda, eating a popsicle. Then the beach emptying at night. That's one continuous story and after the radio track that tells me about the increase in people going to the beach, I've ended up also experiencing a trip to the beach. From beginning to end.

It's easy to forget that part of video. We concentrate on getting all the shots, the signage, the cut away shot of someone's hands, maybe a few atmosphere shots, people walking...and then we forget the bigger picture. The entire story. And true, some stories are more complex. You need to jump from one location and one interviewee to another.

But then there are chapters, each of which can be a little visual story in itself and you can play around with that, play with the rhythm of the video, work in short moments, in which you visually end one chapter and start another. It's time for the radio track to release the visual experience of something and for people to stop glueing some images to words that someone says. I don't like that one dictates the other, and while they are supposed to be interdependent, I figure you should give them a bit more play, too.

I tried to do that in this video:

I think I, like many who started in photography, often looked for a shot that could tell it all. But we're not staring at something for many seconds. Video is linear, continuous and as Walter Benjamin said, it leaves you almost no time to reflect, moments are gone so soon and only the most memorable shots remain. It's not just about stimulating someone.

I understand there's been a renaissance for the photograph, which now often employed in an audio-slideshow gives room to reflect. And that is one way of gripping someone emotionally. But I think there's still the power of visual sequencing and the continuity of video that I'd like to embrace.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recent WSJ work: Japanese Employees Learning English

Not the kind of stuff I would generally post, but a nice collaborative, long-distance production between a reporter, a shooter and me as a script and video editor.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peng Chau Island

'It's important to get out of Hong Kong sometimes,' multiple people have said to me.
'You'll see. You need to,' they echoed each other.

It's strange to have a collective experience of a place. People tell you how you will feel and what you will think about this place and you feel and think that way. There's the claustrophobia on the streets, the cliched pangs of gweilo loneliness, the amusement over the ridiculous details of life in this city.

Taking a ferry to one of the islands surrounding Hong Kong island can be a light version of 'getting out,' I guess. There were open spaces, there was less noise, there were dogs, big dogs, many of them and most of them weird ones. There was a family on the beach, bathing in their shorts and shirts and carving off mussels from a few rocks with a hammer and sickle. And there were old Chinese men, snotting and coughing while conversing in plastic chairs in public areas.

But you don't want to be stuck on an island where you have no place to stay. There's a hammock outside a French bar there with sniffing pugs and labradors swarm around its dozing users. But you couldn't really feel comfortable in there and the owners of the bar would probably have shooed you away soon after closing. So you have the ferry schedule in the back of your mind as it's getting darker and darker. You finish your water, your beer and your sandwich. You walk up to the pier.

The you beep your way through the railing with an electronic ticket, aptly named an octopus card, and walk onto the rocking, air-conditioned ferry. You can't decide whether to feel sick or sleepy.

Outside it was still hot. Humid, too, of course.

Maersk, big ship
Getting there, we encountered the Maersk. Big ole ship.


An announcement

tiny crab
Crab... too small to eat.




Tuesday, August 3, 2010

80 billion guys

Kieran made a film that will be shown on a rooftop in New York City. I'm sad we won't make it, but you should.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Moleskin

I was always a tedious note taker.
I like highlighters in different colors, red pens that I alternate with black pens. I like .75 ball pens because it's more fun to write with them than with the .50 ones.

Bullet points were a great way for me to think about subjects, even essays. I always called it my German urge for order.

It's kind of funny to think that that is how I process the death of first my grandmother and now the imminent exitus of my grandfather.

I'm making it into a project, a step-by-step visualization of what started out as an essay about my granny's funeral and is now a clumsy attempt to understand my identity via genealogy.

I've sent out an excel sheet for my family to fill out and it fills me with joy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


A quick two-day trip to Shanghai. Had a chill day walking around and found this really colorful wet market.

shanghai wet market

shanghai wet market

shanghai wet market

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Peaches concert in Beijing

My last night in Beijing. Well spent.

Peaches in Beijing

Peaches in Beijing

Peaches in Beijing

Peaches in Beijing


Photos from a week-long trip to Beijing.

hot pot street

you looking at me?!

Tianjialing - on the outskirts of Beijing:


This one looks like a little adult, firing you for always being tardy.




Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kings of Convenience concert

I almost didn't go, but the lovely lady in the second picture snuck me in.

Erlend Oye

Rina post-KOC

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recent WSJ work: Dim Sum Masters at Work

Grease under my feet as I'm stumbling through a slippery kitchen, 3000 USD worth of equipment in my hands.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Houston Rodeo Gorging

So my brother, two of my cousins and I spent a night at the Rodeo... though we ended missing most of the actual rodeo show because we were too busy eating batter-fried bacon and other goodies soaked in fat.

Edible heart attack

We also saw a lot of life stock, which exposed me to all sorts of bacteria and potential diseases a few days before a transatlantic flight... something I'm sure border control in Hong Kong wouldn't have been too thrilled about had they known. But how can you resist an Alpaca in a petting zoo when it creeps up behind you for a cuddle or a hard push?

It's been so long since I've been to the Rodeo. The last time I went I saw a dangly Bob Dylan croak country songs, strumming his guitar on a stage where a few moments before a man rode a bull. At the time, I felt very misplaced -- I had no idea who ZZ Top was. I pronounced the number π (pi) as "pee" because that's how you said it in German. I was a European teenager who was used to having all the freedom in the world and who was suddenly confronted with cops grazing highways after midnight for underaged kids. It took a while but in time I learned to appreciate Texan life: the enormity of everything from houses and people to food portions, the way that Texans always found a way to butcher my name and the long drives at night.

Texas will always have a special place in my heart - even if just in form of hardened gew in my arteries.

The fair:

Rodeo in Houston, TX

Rodeo fair

The life stock:
Rodeo in Houston, TX

Newly hatched