#turbovideo storms through Delaware

Back in early 2012, I wrote about Gannett’s plan to give all of its reporters and photographers iPhones and have them make the pieces of technology a part of their daily workflow. As expected, due to lack of training and equipment (most notably, audio equipment) adoption within the newsroom was mixed.

I’ve had my fun with the iPhone initiative in the past but, fast forward a year later, and Gannett has sent out some of its best multimedia journalists to train newsrooms and evangelize the multimedia mindset in what they are calling #turbovideo training. As with anything, there was initial skepticism. Those that had been around for the previous Gannett-wide video training pointed out how quickly those directives fell by the wayside. This was different though. This wasn’t trying to get a reporter/photographer to shoot on an A1U and edit on Avid. The iPhones were small enough and simple enough for even the least tech-savvy to be able to knock out a video package.

Of course, the training wasn’t perfect. As talented as the instructors were, the reality at their workplaces (and their resulting ideas of how video should be done) didn’t always mesh well with the realities at The News Journal. For example, lead instructor Brian Kaufman showcased his year-long project on an abandoned Packard plant in Detroit. Of course, examples such as this are meant to inspire more than anything, and on that front he more than succeeded. But he was quick to admit that, when on a video assignment, his editors do not expect him to shoot stills. On top of that, he will typically have only one assignment a day. Contrast that with our normal days, where shooting stills and video on two assignments, then editing five reporter/photographer videos is not considered abnormal.

Without a doubt, the focus of the training was on reporters just based on their numbers in the newsrooms, and to that end the training was a success. Since #turbovideo training, we have been getting a constant stream of reporter video, and they have been more willing to collaborate with the visual staff both in the field and back in the newsroom. There was a time, not too long ago, that I could easily say that I got more help from competing tv stations in the field than from my own coworkers. Now, they are doing standups, flagging me down before interviews start and just have a better understanding of what we do in the field. It also hasn’t hurt that some of our recent reporter video has been some of our most watched, including a 100k+ views reporter video featuring female arm wrestlers and a 30k+ views reporter video about a wallet with 800 dollars returned after three years.

I’ve attached a few examples of our more successful reporter/photographer video below. No, they aren’t perfect, but they are videos that would never have been shot prior to the training.

Streamlining reporter iPhone video with Dropbox

We are always looking for new ways to use our iPhones. Earlier, I wrote about how News Journal photographer Suchat Pederson started to use his iPhone, paired with an Eye-Fi card, to send images directly into our photo server without the use of a laptop.

While this has worked well for our photographers, one of the major draws to adopting iPhones in the newsroom was the prospect of reporters shooting videos of breaking news and interviews when videographers and photographers can’t make it there. While this has been met with varying degrees of success, the biggest hurdle remains transmission.

Reporters would email video from their camera roll, severely compressing the file to the point where a 100+MB file would come in under 10MB. While these clips were still viewable … and viewers are often more forgiving of visual quality when watching clips on the Web, they stood out like a sore thumb next to footage from our Sony HXR-NX5U’s or Canon 7D’s.

When we looked at the majority of our reporter video, we saw that most of it was from our sports reporters as well as from our reporters downstate, where we have only one photographer and no videographers. These were reporters who had easy access to a Wi-Fi connection, either in the press box, or back at their home after an assignment.

Our solution to this transmission issue was to have all of these reporters create Dropbox accounts and join one shared folder. The main account received storage bonuses for each new account that signed up, allowing it to handle the influx of video. Sending in video through Dropbox, as opposed to mailing it in to an address that goes to ten different people, also has made it easier for video editors to be able to tell when something has been grabbed, as it will disappear from the shared folder. Of course, the greatest benefit to this process is that reporter video now gets to editors in full HD, as opposed to compressed beyond recognition (we did try Google Drive, but those videos came through compressed as well).

Below is the video we made to show reporters how to set up and use their Dropbox accounts.

Year two at The News Journal

It feels like only yesterday that I was writing about my first year here at The News Journal. My second year here has definitely been a year of change. Our website switched to a metered paywall model, we lost two photographers to buyouts/retirement (and are soon to have a third out for an extended period do to medical leave) and, whereas I was adjusting to shooting video in my first year, my second year had me shooting stills on a regular basis along with my usual video work.

Anything Once: Delaware Mud Run from Daniel Sato on Vimeo.

I had the fortune to work on a number of projects, including ones on climate change, prescription drug abuse and repeat offenders, and earned my second Best in Show award from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, this time for a series with Mike Chalmers and Esteban Parra on crime in Wilmington, Del. I also learned how to play with some new tools, the iPhone and the GoPro.

Outside of work, I made it a point to learn more about building custom WordPress themes, and have created two photo themes to date.

No doubt, a redesign of this blog is next on tap.

#iphoneonly

To some photographers, the simple thought of Instagram brings about a look of disgust. When I let them know that I’ve reposted one of their photos on our staff Instagram account, I am treated to a roll of the eye and a scoff. Now I know, my iPhone will never replace my DSLR or my HD video camera, but I ALWAYS have it on me … and it has led to some fun pictures that I would never have shot otherwise.

Below are a few of my favorite images shot with and edited on my iPhone.