Meld – Taking digital journalism to the next level

Another event of interest to everyone involved in digital storytelling

The Department of Journalism at Uclan is about to launch MELD

MELD is an ideas-generation and development workshop bringing together journalists and interactive designers to tell stories in ways we haven’t thought of yet

Selected journalists will be paid to join new media practitioners at a five-day residential lab. There they will learn the skills for success in the connected world

The lab will be held on 10-14 December in Preston

Teams will work on real briefs from Industry partners, including some from Simon Bucks, Associate Editor, Sky News Online with the resources to make the ideas into reality

This is a unique opportunity for freelance journalists and interaction designers based in the North of England

Evening launch events

10th October: MANCHESTER EXCHANGE SQ. Selfridges Moet Bar
15th October:LEEDS Boutique Bar

For more information mail info@meldonline.org or phone 0114 221 0454

Flash Tutorials: The Voice of Mindy

Now you can put a voice to the name and face. Mindy McAdams has posted three 10 minute screencasts/tutorials that give you an overview of the basics of flash.

If you are asking ‘who’s Mindy McAdams’ then shame on you. When it comes to flash for journalists. she wrote the book – literally. It’s called Flash Journalism.

Great stuff Mindy. Thanks
Go and check them out at Mindy’s Blog.

Newspaper video: Types of video online

I have been kicking around some ways of describing the different kinds of video that I come across on line. Part of me thinks that it may be an over developed need for categorisation and organisation, but those who have seen my desk know different.

The seed of the idea came from a comment on a post about the use of video by UK newspapers. Neil McIntosh, head of editorial development at Guardian Unlimited, commented that I must have missed some of the stuff that they where doing.

I didn’t consider that video as much as multimedia, and reflecting on that I began to form some ideas about what the different uses of video where.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Disruptive video

Update – Howard Owens suggests Attached Video video may be a better title .

This is short, eyewitness style video, taken fast (and cheap) and presented with very little editing other than a top and tail. It is generally (and should be) presented within the body of the story.

It’s a clip of a short interview with a key player in the story or showing the event being covered that users can click and view without leaving the story page. And that’s the key thing here – it should be part of the story.

When thinking about this, I thought of calling it embedded video, but that has too many technical connotations. So I thought disruptive fitted as it reflects the use of disruptive technology and techniques – an approach that Howard Owens encapsulates nicely in this post.

This content is generally and, in my view, should be delivered using an embedded flash player as the file has often be converted for the web using a third party or online service – taking that disruptive technology idea through the process.

Channel Video
There is a debate at the moment that hangs around the question of online video being like TV. Regardless of the right or wrongs put forward in the discussion, many newspaper video outfits are taking the ‘more like TV’ approach.

Channel video has recognizable elements of a TV package in its production techniques and is often longer and more polished in its presentation. But the key to this definition is more in its delivery than its production.

In contrast to disruptive video, this kind of video is often separated from the print based output of a site. Hence the Channel idea – following the link to video on the site is almost like switching channels from newspaper to TV.

This content is often delivered in a purpose built player, pushing the analogy even further, with a main display section and a menu of stories down the side – like a TV screen and channel selector. Some players even have separate channels. These are generally flash based, to enable the interactivity for selection, but this is by no means a standard.

The channel approach commonly means that the video is relegated to an embedded windows. media file in a single page with no linkage. In most cases this is due to the lack of flexibility in the Content management system used.

One result of this is that many channel based video efforts in newspapers are house off the main site. Video teams will use blogging software that has video presentation plug-ins available to make the process less technically taxing. Disruptive technology sneaks in there somewhere!

Multimedia Video

Multimedia video generally contained within a broader flash presentation, either directly as embedded content within the flash file, or as stand alone files that are only accessible from links within a flash presentation.

The video can take the form or packages or clips – perhaps with the same kind of production values that we would associate with channel or disruptive video – but will always be delivered as flash.

So that’s where I’m up to at the moment.

It isn’t really the intention to make value judgments about which is best or not – all have their pro’s and con’s. I’m just trying to get some language straight.

Creating a slideshow using Windows Movie Maker

There is a post over at Mindy McAdams’ blog about converting Soundslides to video. The comments make for interesting reading too, especially the tips on Flash and Myspace. But the overriding question seems to be ‘why would you want to do this?’

My answer to that question is ‘you never know’.

Although Flash is getting close to 90% penetration in some markets,you would still have to question it’s efficacy at streaming video. Besides, why alienate some of your audience. If they want QuickTime then let them have it. Especially as someone has done the hard work for you.

I have lost count of the number of times I have surfed round the web looking for a little app that will convert, repackage or open some arcane file format. So I think little widgets like this are really useful; or should that be ‘will be’ really useful?

Moviemaker logoWindows MovieMaker

Still, reading the post got me motivated enough to post something I have been meaning to comment on for a while – Microsoft Movie Maker. I know. A Microsoft app! And there’s me a confirmed macademic and everything. But stick with me.

In the UK most large organizations rely on a Windows base for their IT provision and whilst things like Soundslides and flash are available for all platforms I think it’s a shame to ignore this little app, especially as it comes for free.

It will import a number of formats:

  • Video files: .asf, .avi, .wmv
  • Movie files: MPEG1, .mpeg, .mpg, .m1v, .mp2
  • Audio files: .wav, .snd, .au, .aif, .aifc, .aiff
  • Windows Media files: .asf, .wm, .wma, .wmv
  • Still images: .bmp, .jpg, .jpeg, .jpe, .jfif, .gif
  • MP3 format audio: .mp3

MovieMaker only outputs WMV and AVI files which some see as a limitation but file conversion is a fact of life these days. . You can if you wish output to a ‘full-res’ DV-AVI file which will run through any conversion app to make it QuickTime. (Rivavx is just one of them) That’s a process you would follow anyway if you where working on the output of an edit suite so I don’t see that as too much of a downside.

I’m not doing a hard sell here. I know it isn’t going to be the right solution for everyone.But it seems to me that there is a flexible, free and relatively easy to use package sitting on your machine. Why not give it a try.

Here are a few flash movies that outline the start of creating a sound/image slideshow with moviemaker.

Importing Images in to Moviemaker(Flash)

Changing the duration of images (Flash)

Adding fades to the images(Flash)

Adding movement to images(Flash)

Exporting to a movie file(Flash)