Visual Journalism

GoPro: Life in 4K by Steven Johnson

I was thrilled to be able to spend the day with a good friend of mine Bill Frakes who was speaking at the UF College of Journalism and Communications, but one part of our conversation struck a particular cord. It was the need for 6K video. While most think it is overkill, he had a good point; pretty soon our 1080p video is going to look "like old news reel."

With 4K being as easy to shoot with as any other video (thanks to the new GoPro). Check out their latest promotional video on a Retina MacBook Pro. Let is load the 4K version and you'll see what he was talking about.

The nice part about where the pixel wars are evolving is with Retina Displays we are very close to having all of our displays with a high enough pixel density to hit a limit on what is actually needed to capture a high quality image and display it at a resolution that is indistinguishable from real life.

Fortunately for you gear heads, the 1080p vs. 4K vs. 6K vs. 8K battles might be over in a few years and camera manufacturers can focus on high dynamic range of sensors once we can achieve a high enough resolution to fully trick the human eye.

@UFJSchool - Tablet Publishing by Steven Johnson

Calling all University of Florida students in the College of Journalism and Communications. Are you interested in publishing on the iOS platform? Yes. Apps.

We will be offering a tablet publishing course this spring on Tuesday and Thursdays in the Innovation News Center.

Class will be periods 9-10 on Tuesday and 9 on Thursday.

The course is listed as a JOU4930 section 14CA.

Throughout the semester you will work with Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite and InDesign to create our custom iPad apps.

You will also be working on feature stories in addition to the curated content coming from the INC.

Interactive elements will also be built into the feature stories.

Contact me via email or Twitter if you have any questions.

Top 5 Stories of 2013 by Steven Johnson

Today is a day that Buzzfeed was made for - listicles.

What is a listicle? Well, put simply it is a story that's theme is based on a list.

To feed the frenzy, I will go over my top five stories of 2013 and why they stood out.

2013 was an amazing year for storytelling and far greater journalists than I have summarized why. You can find some of these here, here and here.

The five stories here were chosen because they are some of the best examples of where storytelling is evolving.

More often than ever, we are flooded with a 24/7 buzz of a breaking story, leaving us little time to reflect and educate ourselves before the next "big story" breaks and fills the news cycle.

These five stories use some of the simplest and most complex techniques to educate, entertain and inform their audience.

In no particular order:

1. Beyond the Finish Line - Jeff Bauman's Boston Marathon

This is not an innovative, new, flashy or interactive way to tell a story; it's just damn good.

Using only the voice of the subject to describe his recovery, The New York Times takes us on a journey of recovery from first steps to prosthetic fittings as Jeff Bauman recovers from a double amputation following the Boston Marathon bombings.

The photos and videos were brilliantly capture by Josh Haner.

2. Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt

Entrepreneurial journalism. If this is a confusing term, I suggest you learn quickly.

NPR's Planet Money raised $590,807 via Kickstarter - five times more than what they were seeking for their story.

They follow from seed to shirt how a T-shirt is made. Starting in the cotton fields of Mississippi and ending with thousands of posts online of their Kickstarter backers wearing their T-Shirts.

Hundreds of thousands of views later (spending up to 30 minutes on the site), NPR changed the game in entrepreneurial journalism.

This is a model that needs to be adapted and replicated in many ways to fund great storytelling.

3. What Is The Higgs?

Science has never been my strong suit. Thankfully, The New York Times has explained of one science's most complex theories - with what seems to be drawings on a napkin.

Finally, a science story that is at my level.

Visual storytelling can take many forms, and, with science stories, it often takes the form of complex info graphics.

This is not only a more accessible approach for the scientifically illiterate, but creates a lighthearted narrative on a very complex subject.

4. Finding the Quiet City

The power of the public is demonstrated in this interactive piece by The New York Times. Finding the Quiet City allows you to explore Manhattan not by the biggest sights but by the smallest sounds.

Readers have submitted their favorite quiet places in the city and combined with the work of some very quiet graphics - what looks like still photographs that are actually looping videos - The Times has now given me, and many visitors to Manhattan, a new to-do list.

Community efforts like this fuel great stories, and they don't always need to be "hard news."

What The Times has achieved in this piece is not only a great work of storytelling, but it builds an emotional connection between readers and a story. Not only does this strengthen a bond between the paper and its audience, it strengthens the audience's interest and investment in news. 

5. NSA files decoded: Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations explained

Arguably the most complex story of 2013, the NSA files released by Edward Snowden not only perplexed the U.S. Government, they perplexed almost anyone who tried to understand the scale in which this story reached - across the U.S., borders and through the infrastructure of virtually every electronic device connected to the internet.

The Guardian used 2013's favorite technique for storytelling - scrolling. But, thankfully, not in a distracting way that many others have thrown together to jump on the scrolling bandwagon.

Through simple interviews, visual cues and the actual documents leaked, The Guardian walks you through the woven complexity that is the NSA's efforts to spy on persons of interest.

A fresh look to those "year in review" videos by Steven Johnson

We are at that time of year where "best of" lists and "biggest moments" recap videos, posts and articles will be hitting our browsers by the thousands.

The Orlando Sentinel has done something a little different at recapping a very busy news year for their market with a unique video to tell their best stores in 2013.

“This was a big jump by going video-centric,” said Tom Burton, director of photography and video at the paper. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this unless we had a staff that was fully capable of doing video.”

One of the many headlines used in the video to recap a busy 2013 for The Orlando Sentinel.

One of the many headlines used in the video to recap a busy 2013 for The Orlando Sentinel.

Their video is more than just a chronological montage of news events, arbitrary lists or a mind-numbing photo gallery. It doesn't rely music or some overarching theme song for the year to keep the audience's attention, but more on the coverage by the paper.

Sean Pitts, a staff videographer at the paper, edited it to be as chronological as possible but said there were certain periods of slow news he had to work around.

“Newspapers do video,” said Burton after their year in review videos have traditionally been audio slideshows.

Besides showing the important events in Orlando, the video presents them in a way that pays homage to newspaper design - something that is often overlooked when translated to the digital world.

“I was not a newspaper person, so I found a lot newspaper stuff kind of magical," said Pitts. "It’s something that is obviously uniques to us.”

The video, edited by Pitts on Final Cut Pro, took more than 18 hours to complete - a relatively short amount of time compared to other recap videos in years past according to Burton.

Pitts used a relatively simple process to imbed the video into the newspaper's design by scaling a cropping clips over the converted PDFs of the layouts. He then created sub clips in Final Cut Pro to add the motion over the entire layout imbedded with video.

2013 was an impressive year for video with the paper. They ran front page stories with images that were screen grabs from DSLR videos, sent GoPro cameras in cages with lizards, underwater with manatees and, in some months, tripled their video web traffic. All of this pointing to a new advertising structure that the paper and it's "competitors" are using to not only promoter their own work, but share it with others.

Burton explained that it is less of a competition to beat other newspapers and more about strategically sharing content to promote hits that benefit both organizations with advertising revenue.

“You have to have this open-sourced mentality when it comes to video,” said Burton. “Newspapers are getting better at it, but we’re in a culture that needs to be shared.”

 

In an age where media's relevance is constantly in question, this short video shows just how much has been covered in the Orlando market and the work of the staff at the paper to bring it to their audience in print and online.

“I just hope that people want to watch it again," said Pitts. "Because you can miss things. Everything I included was there for a reason."

- Follow The Orlando Sentinel's photo department on Twitter at @OSPhoto.

Making a ripple in online education by Steven Johnson

My location 150 feet above the UF campus for my first lecture.

My location 150 feet above the UF campus for my first lecture.

Making a wave in online education is a monumental task. Academia has a historically slow pace at adopting new practices. So we work with what we have.

In my case, it is a one-credit multimedia journalism course at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. 

I've been tasked to update the course to work with newer practices in news gathering and to better work within our curriculum. 

This is both an exciting and daunting task. The previous course was meticulously designed by one of our best journalism professors, but it was designed for a much smaller class.

So like most companies, we are trying to do more with less. In this case, more students and less instructors. Sometimes this is immediately associated with poor education. 

I disagree. 

This is a tremendous opportunity to work with the every changing curriculum that is communications and try new ways to engage with our students and professionals.

Experimenting with Apple Motion in creating a virtual desk where my notes can be shown, videos played on the virtual iPhone and examples shown on the virtual iPad.

Experimenting with Apple Motion in creating a virtual desk where my notes can be shown, videos played on the virtual iPhone and examples shown on the virtual iPad.

So, throughout this semester I will be blogging updates with my adventures trying out shorter lectures (5 - 10 min.) from locations across the country (Gainesville, New York, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and Lexington to name a few). 

The idea is that if I want my students to be true mobile journalists - shouldn't I be a mobile educator?

My students will be learning the basics of multimedia journalism - audio gathering and editing, photography and video editing. These elements will complement their stories they work on in their reporting class and submit to WUFT.org for possible publication. 

Wish me luck.