Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reflections on Classmates' Projects

The first batch of projects were great; here are my comments on each (not including my own)..

Sylvia's project about the college love story was great because I didn't know what to expect after her first draft. She had some cute pictures and OK audio, but the story didn't really go anywhere in the rough draft. When she showed the final draft though, I thought her transitions were cleaner, I thought the pictures she had were much better and more interesting, I thought the audio was better to listen to and she even had a couple video clips. I thought some of her text slides had too many words to comfortably read in the time they were on screen, but other than that I thought the story came together very well and she did a great job.

With Mike's project, I had no idea what to expect because we didn't see any of his rough draft and I was never in groups with him so I didn't even know what his topic was. I was pleasantly surprised though, since his project was very cool and well put together. The best aspect of his project was definitely the video clips, in my opinion. They were great quality and looked like something you'd see on MTV, rather than something a college student had filmed. His photos were also very eye-catching in terms of color and substance. I wasn't sure what to make of the fact that we never really knew who was talking, but Mike's explanation worked for me: that the project was about the band itself and not about the members specifically. A great piece for any arts section looking for a little substantive video, I'd say.

AJ's presentation about the greeters at Pease Air Force Base was both tightly edited and an important piece of journalism. She had great segments of video, some excellent b-roll behind the soldiers walking in and plenty of good photos. The one photo that stuck out in my mind was the old lady sitting in her wheelchair with emptiness all around her; that's not an easy photo to get. I liked the way the story was introduced and moved all the way through the soldiers' arrival and finally closing with the building sign outside the base. The way AJ used lower thirds and a few well-placed text slides added a bit more substance to the project, since we didn't always know who was talking or how often these greeters would show up to see soldiers arriving. Overall, it was an impressive journalistic endeavor.

Finally came Danielle's slideshow of black and white images of the man with muscular dystrophy. She did a great job getting new pictures to throw in that included different, interesting angles of this poor guy who is basically trapped in his house. The couple photos that were almost entirely black with a bright computer screen or window to make a silhouette were amazing. Her audio was powerful, directed to a journalistic point and worked well with the photos. The really incredible aspect of her project is just how she found this guy and the courage it took to see him and spend so much time with him. I'm sure it was awkward and uncomfortable most of the time, but Danielle's project shows how much an effort like that can pay off.

I'm excited for Wednesday's presenters, although I don't have any idea how we'll have time to finish all 11 that are supposed to go. We'll need to cruise right through 'em.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It's done. After probably about 15-20 hours of editing in iMovie and driving myself crazy to the point where I almost don't want to see the video anymore (that's not true at all because I love it), the movie is finished with a 4:48 runtime.

I'm satisfied with my final product for the Multimedia presentation tomorrow, but I want to continue my work on this project when the class is over. The story could be 25 or 30 or 60 minutes, not just below five. I have so much good audio, video and still pictures that I didn't use, and I want to put all of that material into a larger version of the project to come much later.

It was very frustrating to cut everything down and get rid of some of those great audio and video clips to fit the time frame. I have an amazing clip mid-race of all the water and Gatorade cups dropping to the ground that goes perfectly with my dad talking about the sticky, nastiness of going past all those stations, but it didn't add anything to the story's arc. I wanted the story to start with a bleak outlook on the whole thing, jump into the race and slowly work through the marathon while touching on the building relationship between my dad and I. There's more that I have about injuries, training alone, post-race feelings, and even more sights and sounds from race day that I could have included, but it was too much for a five-minute video. So I slashed and cringed when parts and pieces I loved hit the cutting room floor, but I think it was for the better. I think the story, as it stands now, is a relatively short video of what it was like for my dad and I to train and run the New York City Marathon. And that's what it should be, that was the goal from the get go.

I'm pretty happy with the result, but there's still plenty more writing and multimedia editing to come because there's so much left to do; not for ENGL 721 Multimedia, but for lasting family memories. This project was perfect for this class because I was able to immerse myself in it. I don't want to make it look great for my professor or my classmates; I want it to look great for me, for my dad, for all of my family members. Of course I want Sandy and my classmates to like it too, but the point is that the grade is not the motivator. It's about the memory and what I want the project to look like. I don't think I could have picked another topic and felt the same closeness to the final product. My choice to do a non-fiction video essay instead of the feature journalism video we've watched in this class might have been a skeptical idea at first, but I'm glad it was allowed because I think it's one of the best assignments I've completed in my four years at UNH.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Continuing to see progress...

I don't have too much concrete information to share, but it should be noted I'm making big strides in my project and I'm seeing it develop into something better every minute I spend with it. The interviews with my dad are gold, and I can't wait to finish this thing and see what the final product looks like.

Right now, I'm toying with the idea of starting the whole thing slow with a journal entry. As Sandy said, it would give the whole project context in 20 seconds, and then from there I can jump into the marathon and the rest of the story. The only thing I'm struggling with is how long I can keep the journal entry going before people lose interest immediately. I'm thinking 10-15 seconds at the most because after that people might not watch the rest of it. You gotta reel 'em in early.

I'm planning to have the project in really good standing (about 90 percent done) by Thanksgiving so I can show it to family and get their feedback. Then, I'll finish it in the remaining days after vacation and present on Dec. 2.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview Success!

Last night I conducted three separate video interviews that should greatly improve my project. Two interviews were alone, one each with my dad and I telling our own stories and memories of the marathon, and then one together where you can see the chemistry between us and we talk a little bit more about running and its affect on our lives through the marathon goal set in January. I think they went very well and I can't wait to see them on screen to see how they look...fingers crossed that the tape transfers perfectly over at Parker Media Lab!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Taking the Plunge

Well I've got a little less than a day to finish up my rough draft and compile all the photos, videos and audio clips into a coherent draft of something. There's hours of work left, but I'm confident that it will all be worth it once the project is finished.

I'm blogging today not to track my progress because I'm going to delve into that full-time tonight, but I've decided that I want to try and find some old pictures of me running in middle school and (hopefully) of my dad running when he was much younger. I think it would add a different memory element to the project and I hope my parents have some photos that I can use for that purpose.

More than 500 pictures to sift through...let's do it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pictures Pictures Pictures

If pictures are worth 1,000 words, I've got a million-inch story to write. I missed blogging something on Friday (whoops!) but I spent a little time getting my project started in iMovie over the weekend and boy, do I have a ton of pictures to sift through. Good ones, bad ones and ones that don't even feel relevant anymore. So, that's going to be a problem in the next few days as I try to work my way towards a first draft of the project. I definitely wish I'd spent more time last week working on it (especially considering my underwhelming verbal score on the GREs), but it just means more work over the next couple days to finish the whole thing up.

I like all the different features in iMovie, so I plan to use that as the medium to put together my final project. The main problem I see going forward is that my audio is only OK, and the guy from the Telegraph was saying that the audio is the key part of any multimedia project. So while I have lots of amazing pictures and some great B-roll, I need to pick up some more good interview audio to keep the story moving along.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ideas on Structure

So I promised something useful today, and I figure I better deliver since the past couple days have been meaningless. I didn't do any actual physical editing on my project today, but I have been thinking more about how to structure the project so that it doesn't have to fall into the chronological format. Here's a couple things I've been considering...
  • Start with a series of images of my dad and I crossing the finish line at the NYC marathon, and soon after break into either a text slide or a piece of an interview with me talking about how I had never really run before January. I can work into the story with anecdotes from training and then finish with race day and the post-marathon stuff. It's still mostly chronological, but it could be cool to hook the audience with a "Huh? How did he do that if he never ran before January?" kind of moment. Hmm.
  • I was also thinking it would be interesting to alternate scenes and anecdotes from race day and from training. It could provide a little suspense -- will they finish it? -- and at the same time still be a cool way to set up the project. The back and forth seems to work with some popular novels and movies, so it's certainly a possibility to think about. It could also make for a great lead, if we're in the middle of the race or something as the final project starts.
Other than chronological order, those are the only two ideas I've come up with. Hopefully that constitutes "useful" and comes through on yesterday's promise because I've got nothing else. We'll see what happens this weekend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day!

A day off is still a day off, right?

I swear I'll have something serious to say tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothing New

I didn't work on my final project today. That's basically the gist of it. All of the same things I said yesterday are true, and they're not changing today. I don't think that means this blog post is completely unnecessary though, because it still keeps me thinking about the project and running through different situations and possibilities.

But yeah, nothing new today. I might work on it tomorrow but with my severe procrastination and the GREs inching steadily closer, the odds are good that this post will be eerily similar to tomorrow's. Hope that's not a problem for all you readers out there.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Making Up for Lost Time

Ah, so I was supposed to start these daily entries about my final multimedia project last Wednesday. Whoops. I'm a few days past the mark, but here's a quick look at what I've got so far and what I still need to put together:

What I have to work with:
  • About 500 photos from my weekend in New York City, perfect for quick transitions and showing lots of imagery in a short amount of time
  • About 15 audio clips: six or seven are voice recordings I did of past journal entries to show the slow incline in the long months of training, a couple are interviews with my dad and I and the last six or seven are all from during the actual marathon. My favorite one is a great sound byte of all the water and gatorade cups dropping on the ground as we ran through one of the 20 or so refueling stations. All of these clips will probably be early on in the project...first couple minutes or so.
  • A few video clips of my dad and I running in the marathon, but I don't have as much video as I want.
From that I think I can have two-thirds of the project finished with a couple days worth of work. While I don't know exactly how I want to set up the final product just yet (I'm still playing around with ideas in my head), if the story ends up in chronological format, I'll be able to do the pre-marathon and race-day stuff now. The only thing left is post-race and final thoughts to take away.

What I still need to get:
  • Over Thanksgiving (the next time I'll be home), I'm going to sit down and do a video interview with my dad. I'll have both of us talk through our experience with the race and discuss our future plans. Before we do that though, I want to do a short video of both of us -- one at a time -- telling the story of race day. I'm sure we both have different thoughts and different memories so it'd be great to run through that day from two perspectives and tie them together in the actual project.
  • I also need a few more photos of us running together as if we were training. I know it will be after the marathon and the photos will make it seem like it was before the marathon, but I just need pictures of us running together with the fall leaves and all that. I want a picture of my dad on the scale too because I think that could add some cool lighting and another side to it.
That's it for today. I haven't done much in terms of editing the raw materials yet, but I've continued to narrow down my focus and ideas and I should be able to start really honing in on the project after I take the GREs this weekend. For now though, that test is dominating a major portion of my time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Final Project Perceptions

Our final multimedia project is supposed to incorporate audio, video and still photography components. I have no doubt that I can do that. The task I'm having difficulty with is not coming up with different kinds of media or not finding enough of it, but exactly how to put it all together. My storyboard should help with that, but I have yet to finish it and there are still a million ideas running through my head about how to truly capture my and my dad's experience in training for and completing the New York City marathon.

The discussion in class was incredibly helpful. I was able to expand on some of my own ideas and I received plenty of feedback and new thoughts that could end up being crucial parts of my project. I think it was Amanda who told me to try and add in a taped phone conversation between my dad and I before the race (sometime this week), and I didn't realize how cool that might be if used correctly. The number of ideas and different pieces of analysis I picked up from my peers will definitely improve my final project when it's finished.

There are still some problems I foresee, like how to get a feeling of all the training I've done over the past 10 months without actually having any pictures of it. I think it will also be hard to do the project on myself, unlike most of the projects that people are doing. Attacking this assignment from a personal standpoint rather than an unbiased one could be incredible or it could be a disaster. I am very excited to have it started though. With some pictures of me running on campus and a few other random pictures, videos and audio clips that I've taken, I think I'm off to a good start. I still need a lot more pictures of my dad because the story is about the both of us, not just me, so that's something I'll need to work on in the coming weeks.

The marathon is this weekend: Sunday. I'm planning to take lots of pictures of the expo on Saturday, of our quick training run that day in Central Park, of the city as we drive in, and hopefully do some pre-race interviews the night before. Maybe even a few pictures at dinner or something, to throw in a bit of a change-up. We'll see how it goes but I really want it to be as good as I picture it in my head, and I think that determination will pay off.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Try at Shooting Video

Here's the video I shot and edited for our assignment. It's not great and it's not very long, but I wasn't entirely sure whether our objective was to include interviews or to make it newsworthy or if it was just to try out shooting some video. So, here's the final product.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shooting Video

If pictures are hard, video is impossible.

With all we learned from Fred Field about taking good pictures and portraits -- including the importance of good lighting -- we didn't have nearly as much direction with video. So, it was difficult to come up with something that wasn't, well, complete crap.

I only say that because if you don't find a good subject to focus on, you're going to have trouble making the video interesting or even good quality. Zooming in and out can look amateurish, and when people walk through your shot, it looks even worse. Interviews are usually pretty good on video because the person talking can either stop and start over, or they can just nail it on the first try and you'll be good to go.

I shot a few different videos while I was in Boston for the weekend, including one of the Grand Prix Go-Kart race that they had in the middle of the city while the streets were blocked off and another of the Head of the Charles crew races between many of the nation's university teams. I don't either video came out very well and I'm hesitant to even watch it again, but that's how you practice. I didn't take enough time with my videos or nearly enough footage, and my final product will show that. It's frustrating how little you can really edit your videos (especially given how much you can edit your photos), but it's a process and I hope to get better at it as the class moves along.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Audio Slideshow on Young's Restaurant

Here's our slideshow about Young's Restaurant in Durham. I think it was a solid effort overall, although we could have used a few more pictures of students, faculty and other people eating around the restaurant though. It could definitely be improved, but for a first try I'd say it came together pretty well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Final Multimedia Project

It was tough picking out a topic for my final multimedia project, but I think I've come up with a winner. I've been training with my dad for the New York City Marathon since January, and we're going to run the 26.2 miles together through the five boroughs on Nov. 1. So, I think it would be really cool to focus my project on the 10-plus months of training, the event itself and maybe a little bit of conclusive material afterward. I'll have pictures, video and audio of me running, as well as some interviews and content of my dad, other family members and friends.

The marathon multimedia project was my first idea, but I battled with actually doing it because it will definitely become more of a multimedia creative, non-fiction essay than an actual piece of journalism. I think that can still work, but I'm not sure I can live up to what I have pictured in my mind.

I picked up the idea from a video on called "Love in the First Person," which is a very cool 11-minute video that you should watch. It has fantastic pictures that I'll never measure up to, but I hope I can take some of the basic principles used in that project to make a unique multimedia piece of my own.

I've got lots of ideas, but I'll also need help. I need some skilled photographers to take some pictures (and possibly some video) of me running around campus to make up for what will probably be pretty shoddy pics and video that I'll take while running the marathon. But, if all goes to plan, it should be a pretty cool experiment with some interesting results. All there's left to do is see how it pans out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Academic Analysis Assignment

I watched a few different videos from the One in 8 Million series by the Times and from Mediastorm, and I've picked two to look at for my assignment this week. First, a short audio slideshow in the 'One in 8 Million' series about a private detective, and second, a long piece with all still pictures about junkies living in New York City by Mediastorm. I thought it would be helpful to pick two because there's a big difference between telling a story in three minutes (the detective piece) and telling one in 13 (the junkies story).

The two stories give you a quick sense of where you are. The private investigator is in his car in New York, which you can see through pictures and through his audio interview, and the junkies story has text slides that guide you through without any confusion. With no time crunch, Mediastorm can be more explicit about the location and the five Ws of journalism through text if need be, while the 'One in 8 Million' series has a tougher challenge of doing it through imagery while still telling the story.

The difference between black and white photographs and color photographs in the two pieces (the Times story was all B&W and the Mediastorm was mostly color) is interesting because the private investigator story is almost secretive in itself, so the black and white works well. But with the junkies, you want to see what their skin looks like, what they're wearing and that their teeth are yellowing and gross. The color makes the images much more realistic and jarring, but the black and white photographs draw you in with a sense of mystery.

The photos in the detective story are also very close to the person. The majority of them are taken inside his car, so the entire time you feel as though you're riding with him and listening to him tell you all these things about his job. It's very interesting and intriguing and the story is over before you know it. I learned a lot about private investigators just through watching that three-minute segment, and it sounds to me like they aren't all that different from the guys who play them in movies. It's just an odd job.

Meanwhile, in the junkies story, the photographs are often graphic or hard to look at. Whether it's a collection of scars from needles or the emotion on the subject's face, the pictures in the junkies story are stomach churning. You can definitely see the three full years of hard work that this journalist put in to make this story. It really makes you wonder how she earned the trust of these junkies because they are portrayed as anything but saints in this project.

The two multimedia projects are linked in that they use still photographs to convey a strong message and tell the story of another human being. The photographic talent is clearly present because even in a setting where you are handed emotion, it's not always easy to capture it, and the audio is well edited so that nothing jumps out at you or rubs you the wrong way. It's all cut down to an easy flow, so that the viewers lose themselves in the story.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Before and After Portraits

Today, we had a great photojournalist come into the class and talk about how to take great pictures. We tried taking a portrait at the beginning of class and then use what we learned to take another at the end of class. Here's how mine and Steve's came out:

Steve, before the lecture:

Steve, after the lecture:

Cam, before the lecture:

Cam, after the lecture:

Pretty neat, huh? I think the after pictures are clearly better...especially since we didn't hide our faces behind all sorts of trees.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Second Audio Project

Andy, an anonymous University of New Hampshire student, had just picked up a 30-rack from a 21-year-old friend on campus Saturday night when an undercover UNH police officer emerged from the Strafford woods.

“We got beer and I was like, we’ll go back to my apartment, it’s probably safer to do it there,” he said. “So we go back to my apartment and this undercover cop comes out of the woods as I’m walking up to my apartment. This kid’s carrying the beer; I’m just getting out of my car, getting my stuff out of my car, and the undercover cop comes out of the woods and is like, ‘Hey, drop the beer, let me see your IDs.’”

Andy, 19, knew he was in trouble, but it wasn’t the first time, or even the second.

“The first time I didn’t really realize what was going on,” he said. “Second time, when they called me and were like, ‘Hey, come down to the station,’ my heart just sank; I was sick to my stomach. The third time I was just kind of like whatever, this is getting old.”

Andy was arrested twice his freshman year, with charges ranging from resisting arrest to littering to trespassing – but this past arrest was something he never thought would happen.

“I guess I had kind of heard of cops, but I figured I’d see it on like Madbury or something, like cops would come out of the bushes or uniform cops but I never expected to see an undercover cop, ever,” he said.

The Durham, Lee and UNH police departments were given a grant of $6,000 this year in a hope to decrease underage alcohol consumption, both in the area and specifically on campus. The United Way of Seacoast Resolution, which was passed on March 16, allowed for further coordination among the departments.

The Seacoast Alcohol Task Force Grant, which was given to the Durham and UNH police departments several years ago, coupled with the new grant provides funding for extra coverage on campus and in town to deal with alcohol related issues, said UNH police officer Joseph Morganella.

“The state and federal government actually pay for us to enforce alcohol laws,” Morganella said. “We get grant money to work together and take care of all the alcohol offenses.”

Although the local police departments were hopeful of making more arrests, the beginning of the 2009 academic school year was slower than in past years.

“Last year, the first weekend, we had 12 arrests, and seven of them were drug related,” Morganella said. “This weekend we had maybe three arrests in the first weekend. So the start of the year was a little milder than last year. But as we progress through the year it seems to be getting pretty busy so I would say we are on a par with last year or possibly a little busier than last year already.”

With the new grant and the notorious first few weekends back at school, where alcohol consumption is at its peak, the police presence in Durham has been more noticeable than in past years.

“It’s hard to say, the first couple weeks back are always pretty nuts, but yeah, this past Saturday night I noticed there were cops everywhere,” Andy said. “You go home for the summer and like you don’t party that much, like you do, but you don’t really, not on the same scale, but I guess the first couple weeks when you come back from school you kind of go wild.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Project: Audio Recording

Keeley, Brittney and I had a lot of fun working on this project. While we experienced some technical difficulties (my digital voice recorder only worked on a PC and we could only download the audio recordings with the installation disc, which I had priority mailed to me from home by my parents), we really liked how the project came out and John Steere, the student bus driver we interviewed, was a great subject.

It was difficult to fit all that we wanted to fit into a 3-minute segment since we had about 20 minutes of audio, but the transitions between B-roll and Steere talking came out well. He had some great stuff to show why bus drivers "make this campus work" as the assignment dictated, but he also had some hilarious stories to tell us about the job. We could only fit one of those stories in, but we feel it was the best part of our audio project.

Our teamwork was good; Brittney volunteered to ride around on the bus and take audio for our B-roll, and then all three of us sat down to interview Steere and ask whatever questions came to mind. Everyone had different perspectives and ideas to ask him about the job so we came out with a ton of choices for the final project. I was the only one in our group who had ever used Audacity as an audio editor, but Brittney and Keeley both watched over my shoulder as I worked and taught them the basics of cutting and using effects to come out with a good finished product.

I definitely enjoyed this project because radio is a thing of the past and there are so many stories, like those that we listened to on NPR and This American Life, that can be eye-opening even without a visual. I'm very happy with the finished version of our audio file and I think it tells the story of a student bus driver pretty well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Expectations for English 721

I forfeited a chance to take the perfect last class to complete my Spanish minor with my favorite Spanish teacher to jump on Sandy's ship and sign up for Multimedia. Why? Partly because it's not being offered next semester and partly because I think video and online media outlets are going to be the most important answers to solving the problems journalism faces now.

There's a reason why YouTube grew so rapidly in popularity: videos are quick, fun and often carry a much heavier meaning than anything people can write nowadays. There are some exceptions, of course, but video certainly plays an equalizing role in that regard. I'd rather watch a three-minute video with a powerful message than read a beautifully written, three-page article, and I'd guess that most people would agree.

So, how does this all tie in to my expectations for English 721, Multimedia? Well, I want to learn more and practice, practice, practice. I know my way around all sorts of design and editing software, but I want to spend class time expanding my knowledge and coming out with a finished product that I can show with my portfolio and resume upon graduating.

The day of the old, grouchy journalist who's been reporting for 40 years is done; newspapers are looking more and more for young college students who know their way around Final Cut and have the ability to tell amazing stories through audio, video and pictures. While I don't think print newspapers are going away anytime soon or maybe ever, the balance of power has shifted in favor of the Internet and iPhones, so we too as students need to get with the program and learn as much as we can about multimedia before walking out into the real world. That's my plan and that's exactly why I took this class.

TNH talks with RJ Toman

Here's another video I edited and worked on with the UNH football team's quarterback, R.J. Toman, for The New Hampshire's first-ever student profile.

Feature Writing Project Spring 2009

This is project I finished about my old high school and the transition to their new building. I focused my audio slideshow on how the nine towns that feed into the school became more of a community and why the new building has been such an important part of North Conway in the past two years.

Semester Recap, Fall '08

Here's another slideshow I made just because I felt like it with the highly inferior Windows Movie Maker. PCs are just so awful compared to Macs it's not even funny. I'll never go back.

Productive heartbreak

Here's a slideshow I made in some odd bout of masochism, as my beloved Wolverines finished 3-9 and had their worst record ever in the history of the program.