Publishers and editors who previously worked exclusively with still photographs are finding that multimedia pieces and photofilms/audio slideshows are indispensible storytelling vehicles, especially in the web-publishing environment. Multimedia pieces (a combination of video, audio and stills) and photofilms/audio slideshows (a combination of audio and stills) have been around for decades and are not new in the arts and theatre worlds. They are, however, new in the spectrum of photojournalism and have opened a “new space” for visual storytelling by photographers.
World Press recently announced its winners for their first ever multimedia competition, where Ed was a juror, indicating a trend in new categories for funding in contests and prizes. This summer, Ed Kashi & Julie Winokur’s “The Leaves Keep Falling,” published online by VII Magazine of VII Photo, was awarded “Environmental Preservation Short” by Artivist. In an era when hard copy magazines are behind less and less critical assignment work, these new avenues for storytelling and subsequently, for funding, are promoting genre expansiveness in the career of a photojournalist.
From a technical standpoint, it is the DSLR’s that are closing the gap between still and video. Capable now of taking HD video, cameras, like the Mark II, have changed the expectations of what data a photographer captures in the field. Photographers are finding themselves deafened by a cacophony of additional technology and equipment must-haves. The New York Times’ Lens Blog post on July 13, 2011, features staff photographer Doug Mills stacking his cameras on top of each other via a micro ball head on a hot shoe mount in order to capture both video and stills at the same time.
With the access to new funding sources and the opportunities to reach previously unattainable audiences, it is an exciting time in the field. However, the dialog does not stop there and many wonder whether the video and audio elements are elbowing out the impact of the still photograph. There are also the logistics to consider as established photojournalists alter their workflow in the studio and on the road. Does incorporating video and audio into a photojournalist’s repertoire presuppose an overall degradation in the quality of the still images they bring home? Students in photojournalism are coping not only with how to compose a well-executed and inspired still image but simultaneously feeling the pressure to perform in this trifecta environment of photo, video and audio. At Ed Kashi Studio we have compiled a cheat sheet of equipment and career questions answered by industry professionals for you.
Brian Storm from MediaStorm:
EKS: Give us your recommendation for the absolute minimum equipment list a photographer might take on the road to capture stills, video, and audio.
BS: We never rely on the in camera mic at MediaStorm and recommend that you use an XLR adapter like juicedLink DT454 with a shotgun mic and lavalier kit (we like Sennheiser). For lighting, we have found that the Lowel Rifa eX 44 kit and/or the Zylight Z90 are great on location lights, especially for interviews. Other essentials include a sturdy tripod, headphones, ND filters, memory cards, and a portable hard drive (500G). For more in depth information we have a page on our site that directly addresses equipment needs: http://mediastorm.com/train/resources/gear.
Julie Winokur from Talking Eyes Media:
EKS: What are your thoughts on the contribution still images make to your films?
JW: Photographs provide the visual anchors for many of our films. In many documentaries, photographs are an afterthought, used for archival purposes or to fill in gaps where video is missing. Our approach is the opposite, where photographs are produced in tandem with video and they are given prominence in the editing process. The beauty of photographs is that they alter time and they require the viewer to become more actively engaged. Video generates a more passive experience because the movement unfolds for you, leaving less to the imagination.
EKS: What is a useful rule of thumb ratio for the duration of captured audio and video to final edited used minutes? How do you cope with the massive storage demands on the road?
JW: It’s not unusual to have an hour of raw video for every edited minute of a film. I’d rather have excess of footage to chose from, and in interviews I like to have people re-state things so I have options. Verite shooting requires allowing the camera to roll even more since it’s impossible to know when something important will transpire. That means taking excess drive space on the road, backing everything up in duplicate, and being armed with a lot of flash cards.
Joseph W. Carey from B+H Photo:
EKS: Give us your best selling pro audio digital recorders to complement a Canon 5D or equivalent.
B+H: The most popular audio recorders right now are the Zoom H4n and the Tascam DR-100 – at least in the realm of HDSLR. At that 300’ish price point they both have amazing feature sets that can be operated by novices but also pushed by experts. Both are capable of doing great on their own – at least great compared to the built in mics on the camera’s we’re talking about. On the microphone end the most popular are the Rode NTG-2 and the Sennheiser ME66. They both provide very good sound and have a wide range of accessories to make them work in almost any setting. There is certainly an uptick in interest as people see their glorious looking video ruined by consumer grade sound.
Marshall Leaman from Ed Kashi Studio:
EKS: Give us some tips for sizing video. What is a good size to shoot in and what sizes do you recommend exporting in for use on the web? What editing programs can you absolutely not live without?
ML: You shouldn’t be shooting anything less that HD at this point, whether that’s 1080p (1920×1080) or 720p (1280×720). If you’re shooting video with a DSLR these are the standard sizes available. I recommend shooting everything at 1080p. One neat option on some of the Canon DSLR’s is the ability to overcrank and shoot slow motion. This means shooting at a frame rate higher than what you would normally shoot, and then slowing it down in post. The Canon 7D and 60D offer the option to shoot 1280p video at 60 frames/sec, which you can then use in a 30 frames/sec timeline, slowing it down 2x, or in a 24 frames/sec timeline, slowing it down 2.5x. All of the Canon DSLR’s allow you to shoot either 24 or 30 frames/sec at 1080p, which means if you want a slight slow motion effect you can shoot at 30 and drop it into a 24 frames/sec timeline, slowing it down by 80%. This can give a nice soft, barely noticeable effect.
When exporting for the web to post on YouTube or Vimeo we output h264 Quicktimes at 1080p. I don’t limit the bit rate or anything to keep the size down, because these days YouTube or Vimeo Pro will take any file size you throw at it. They do a conversion on their end, so I prefer to upload the highest quality possible. If you’re self hosting, you’ll be more than happy exporting and posting a 1280×720 (720p) frame size.
We use the Final Cut Pro suite in the studio, but I’m a firm believer that all the non-linear editors out there today (Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, even Sony Vegas) are equally powerful. They are merely tools to help you tell the story, so whichever fits your price range and ability level are what you should go for. The programs I can’t live without tend to be more utilitarian in nature, to help prep the files for editing and for processing afterwards. Most of these programs offer both PC and Mac versions. I use Mpeg Streamclip (http://www.squared5.com/) for almost all our transcoding and exporting needs. It’s a great free program that does one thing and does it well. For audio conversion I use a program called Switch (http://www.nch.com.au/switch/index.html). To pull content off of DVD screeners I use two programs depending on the situation, Handbrake (http://handbrake.fr/) and Mac the Ripper (http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/14414/mactheripper). To burn DVDs we use Burn (http://burn-osx.sourceforge.net/Pages/English/home.html) another simple and free program that does one thing very well.
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