News Journal staffers have had company iPhones for five months now, and have moved from viewing them as a novelty to finding out how the best utilize them when gathering news. Reporters that never shot video are now shooting video, photographers I didn’t expect to use Instagram are using Instagram and developers are working to create apps for various special projects.
Personally, I have used my iPhone to tweet photos and information from assignments, tethered it to my computer to transmit images and have used it to shoot video when out of memory in either my Canon or Sony.
Out of all of the uses for the iPhones so far, my favorite has to go to our chief photographer, Suchat Pederson. Shooting with a Canon Mark III, Suchat has paired his Eye-Fi SD card with his iPhone, which he hangs around his neck. Every photo that Suchat tags in-camera is automatically transferred to the camera roll in his iPhone (by default, the Eye-Fi will transfer every photo taken, but you can change it to every tagged photo using the Eye-Fi app). From there, you can bring your photos into an app like Photogene2, which lets you batch apply IPTC information and then send the photos in via FTP, email or a variety of other methods.
Using this method, a photographer is able to transmit professional quality images directly from the scene, as opposed to relying on your iPhone camera for up-to-the-minute web content. Already, Suchat has used it to transmit images from accidents and sporting events, allowing our website to have a gallery up before he is even back in the office.
Okay, technically it is a child theme of the popular TwentyTen theme, but, as you can see from the before and after above, they bear little resemblance to each other. Creating a photoblog here at The News Journal has been on the to-do list for myself, the assistant new media editor Andre Smith and our photo editor Suchat Pederson for some time now, but it wasn’t until the new iPhone initiative came through that Andre and Ashley Barnas brainstormed the format as seen above (previous iterations all took the form of a more traditional photoblog, similar to The Big Picture).
While a typical photoblog would have been nice, because we lack a traditional photo editor (Suchat does far more shooting than photo editing, and would not have the time to scour the wire to put together photo packages) and with the increasing focus on breaking news and sending images from the field, we decided to create a frontpage that displayed the latest photographs from all of our photographers. To make things easier, each photographers is his/her own category, and thumbnails are automatically created from images inserted into a post, for use on the frontpage, archives and category pages. While most photographers will update their images once they are done with a shoot and back in the office, the blog is set up in a way that it can receive images via email from a smartphone (that they will all now have) or pull in from Flickr directly to the appropriate category (the first, thanks to Postie, and the latter thanks to ifttt).
In keeping with the focus on social media, photographers will all have a Twitter follow button next to their name. On posts and category pages, custom sidebars feature content for each photographer … a headshot, short bio, set of thumbnails (currently set to random, but possible latest), latest tweets, etc. Some of this content is hard-coded to “photographer proof” it, but below the hard-coded area is a widgetized sidebar that each photograph can personalize. Also, because we have a strong focus on video, if the most recent post in a category is a YouTube video, it will be playable on the front. When it moves from that latest post spot to the recent post on the front (there are three smaller thumbnails below each main image) it reverts to a thumbnail. Initially, I had that playable as well, but it just seemed too small to be worthwhile. If the embedded video isn’t from YouTube, it will still create a thumbnail for use in both the main and secondary slots on the frontpage.
As with anything I’ve done on my own time, from my first Vuvox timeline of Drake basketball to the small jQuery project I worked on in November, I have no idea where this will end up. If anything, it was good practice and gave me a better understanding of what makes up a WordPress theme and how to manipulate it. What do you think? Not bad for a first effort? What features would you look for in a newspaper photoblog?
Recently, After Effects has become one of my favorite programs to play around in. I admit, I am pretty much in love with typography and infographics, so becoming enamored with AE was the next logical step. However, the majority of tutorials out there are focused on special effects for film or title screens. Here are some of my favorite tutorials that I believe could have some sort of journalism applications.
I doubt you are going to be filming a golf video anytime soon, but motion tracking comes in handy for a number of things, from effects like this (if you were profiling an athlete for an all-state prep sports feature) to using it for image stabilization.
Twixtor (a $300 plugin for After Effects) takes video shot at 60fps and slows it down to 1000 or even 2000 fps. The tutorial gives some guidelines on how best to shoot prior to importing into After Effects, and then what settings are recommended once you are using the plugin. There also exists a built-in plugin called Time Warp, though I read that its algorithms are not as sophisticated and result in more artifacting when video is slowed down.
This tutorial reminds me of the sort of movements seen in the RJD2 music video for 1976 on MediaStorm … or perhaps of those NBA Where Amazing Happens commercials. It involves cutting up a still image into different layers and having them move at different speeds in relation to each other.
The past few days have seen me try to learn as much as I can about creating custom maps as possible. There are plenty of ways to go, from the simple My Maps, to more elaborate, yet still code-free sites, such as ZeeMaps, Wayfaring and Platial, all the way to learning to manage your own databases and work with the Google Maps API. This is my first attempt at a user-populated map, which would potentially feature garage sales in Garden City, Kansas.
Below, you will find a map I created on mapalist.com, which I have since linked to a spreadsheet. It is set to update automatically, though I do not know how often it refreshes. Currently, the balloons on the map vary depending upon the date. I only wish you had the option of turning various dates on or off while browsing the map. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a start.