Multimedia reporting can seem overwhelming. There's audio, video, photography and text to choose from -- and that's before you get the media back to your desk.
Here are some tips from the session I lead with Andrea Kissack on Saturday, on choosing your media for online reporting. We're with Quest, a multimedia environmental series at KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco. At the session, we discussed some of the lessons we've learned and the various strengths of different kinds of multimedia projects (listed here from easy to more resource intensive).
Acquire it - Scientists and researchers are increasingly gathering their own media. Check to see if your subject has already done some of the work for you. Video and stills increasingly common, especially in the case of field work.
In this Quest blog post, reporter Amy Standen acquired a 30 second infrared video of gas fumes emitted at the pump. Look for materials that can visually illustrate a concept central to the story.
Slideshows are easily consumed online and are a low commitment way for your audience to interact with your content. The pacing is slower than video, but that can be a good thing. Photos invite the viewer to study the image and reflect on the content.
Don't underestimate importance of the text. Keep captions short - three lines is our rule of thumb.
Here's our basic shot list for slideshows:
- Establishing Shots - Photos from a distance of the room or environment, establishing where the scene is taking place and who is in it.
- Shots of Interview Subject - Get several shots of the interviewee talking, especially if they are moving locations.
- Close ups - If the interviewee is talking about something in the room or area, an object or thing, get several shots.
- Covering action - If you're in the field covering live action (i.e. a shark being released), get as many shots as possible of the different stages of the process. Those are pieced together much like video.
- Surroundings - Make sure to get shots of the environment you're in. Are there signs? Is it a landscape? Is there lots of scientific equipment? These shots act like B-roll.
- Marquee Shot - Be sure to get a close up of the main thing the story is about.
- Behind-the-scenes Shot - Show the reporter or crew in action.
Create a Map - If you're working with place-based information in more than a few locations, a map can be a great tool. This map of green dry cleaners was created with Google My Maps as a resource to accompany a radio story.
For more advanced maps, check out Geocommons, an online tool that can use a number of different data sources.
Shoot Video on a Flip Camera - Flip cameras are small and light, though they do have some drawbacks. In this blog post, KQED's Craig Miller shot this short video about the potential site of a solar project. Notice it's just one take, so little editing is required.
Flip cameras are difficult to hold still, so the footage can be very shaky. We use a gorilla pod as a tripod or to simply wrap around our hands for more stability. Audio is also tricky, so get as close as possible to your subject for recording. Go bright and tight with your video - good lighting and get close to your subject.
More Advanced Multimedia
Audio Slideshows - We generally put audio slideshows into two categories. There are audio slideshows with reporter narration, like this one I produced about a remote wildlife refuge off the coast of San Francisco. Other slideshows can center around a strong interview subject, like this one on samon restoration.
There are also two ways of producing them. With Soundslides, the audio must be edited together before it's brought into the program. It can't be edited once you start making the slideshow. But you do save time since the final product doesn't need to be exported like video does.
The other way to approach them is with a video editing program like Final Cut Pro. Other ligher weight editing programs are iMovie (comes with a Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (comes with a PC). The benefit here is that you can edit the audio and photos at the same time.
Audio storytelling will drive the narrative, but pacing the photos is also important. Seven seconds is a long time to stare at a photo. We use 3-5 seconds per images as a general rule. Moves and zooms (aka the Ken Burns effect) can help. A slow push in or zoom out on a image will keep visual interest.
Flash Interactives - For special series or projects, Flash can be a very powerful tool for creating custom multimedia. I created this map of renewable energy in the US with Flash. This recycling quiz was also created with Flash. The downside is that Flash requires the most time and training.
For in-depth tutorials and equipment recommendations, check out the Knight Digital Media Center site.
We'd love to hear your tips and tools as well - tell us in the comments!