Teaching Examples


Online video quality vs. quantity
November 15, 2006, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Given the big discussion going on here (since Nov. 13), it seems these questions need to be explored:

  1. Should print reporters shoot video?
  2. Can journalists accept the low video quality produced by ultra-cheap ($129) video cameras?
  3. Should the video be edited, or posted “raw”?
  4. Does the popularity of YouTube video (most of it very low quality) indicate that the content is more important than the poor image and sound quality?
  5. Does the popularity of YouTube video indicate anything at all about journalistic online video?
  6. What should be the content of reporter-shot video? E.g., is a talking head okay?
  7. Is doing it, and doing lots of it, more important right now? That is, will we learn more about what works best if we produce a large quantity of video (vs. tinkering away to make it sound and look better)?

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7 Comments so far
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I have seen a lot of articles about YouTube and MSN video and all the qualititave issues. As long as it’s decent quality for the consumer market, it’s fine. But when online video is designed for corporations, quality becomes more of an issue. In terms of using online video for PR and journalistic approaches, quality is essential.

Comment by Anonymous

We can do better.

If it’s on-the-spot breaking news coverage of a car crash, natural disaster, or some other scene of newsworthy destruction, bring on the point-n-shoot or mobile phone video footage.

Otherwise, we don’t need grainy video of every quote from every city council member.

Use video for something different than local tv uses it for. Tell a story. Bring us inside someone’s world. Don’t try to out-broadcast the broadcasters.

But, think about aggregating community video – give readers a place to upload or link to their own videos, and link to it from news stories when appropriate.

Comment by Ryan Sholin

Thanks for moderating this discussion!

1. Absolutely, print reporters can shoot video. But editors need to understand producing quality video takes a lot of time, both in the field and in the office. Don’t expect a reporter to just casually shoot good video in addition to normal job duties. It won’t be worth watching.

2. In the hands of a properly-trained person, video from cheap cameras can be okay. I don’t know about the audio though. If there’s absolutely no other choice, I guess a site is better off with that than no video at all…I definitely would not feel proud of a product shot with such equipment.

3. Definitely edited! Unless it’s some serious breaking news event…Twin towers falling, Rodney King etc. But if you’re going for storytelling…Editing is mandatory.

4. Some popularity of YouTube is content, but a lot of it is the concept. Social networking, being able to peer in on other people’s lives. So the quality isn’t as important. Also, most people posting on YouTube are amateur videographers, and they’re not held to the same quality standards as a professional journalist should be.

I think content is really important. If you don’t have good content, your video will suck no matter how good or bad the quality is. But if you have good content + good quality, it’ll beat out a bad quality video any time. That’s what we need to go for–good content + good quality.

5. I don’t think journalism should aim to be like YouTube just because it’s popular. The popularity of YouTube shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether quality is important in journalistic videos. What is the purpose of YouTube? How is that different from the purpose of journalism?

6. Reporters should be shooting video in order to tell a story visually. They should be SHOWING something, not just TELLING. I don’t video of a talking head adds much to a story…I’d rather just read the words.

But I can think of some times when talking heads are okay…I’ve done a few interactive packages where you can click a question, and watch a video of a person answering that question.

7. You can’t learn video without doing video. It’s okay and even important to experiment and make mistakes. But I think it’s necessary to give new videographers good training, equipment, and enough time. Otherwise you’re setting them up to fail. You’re setting them up to produce a poor quality product.

Comment by Angela Grant

I’ve posted my answers on my site.

In the other thread, I mentioned three books of recommended reading … I need to add a fourth, critical to this whole debate — The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.

Comment by Howard Owens

I suspect that online video-by-newspaper is still at the dog-walking-on-its-hind-legs stage. That is, the point isn’t how well it does it, but the surprise that it _can_ do it at all.*

Some (WashingtonPost.com) do it very well. Some don’t. Video blogs are doing something that is not “television,” and that makes no apologies for existing in a four-inch window on a computer screen.
(See http://rocketboom.com and http://www.zefrank.com/theshow — not page one, but more “journalism” than the comics page or a “local TV news” weight-watcher menu segment)

Are there good journalistic uses of fairly low-res video? Sure. Should news organizations buy every reporter a camera? Personally, I’d rather buy reporters more time to do their jobs (i.e., hire more reporters). Or, if they have cameras, buy them more time to learn how to use them well, so that when they do see that Martian spacecraft land they’ll know how to get the picture and upload it before the heat-ray strikes.
–bob in knoxville
http://stepno.com

*walking-dog: not an original line; paraphrasing the sexist Dr. Johnson on women preachers, I think.

Comment by Bob

I guess I’ll wade back into this one. Training is good. Good equipment is good. But there’s also a place for low-quality video.

We wanted to catch some people in line this morning buying PS3s. For me this works with this story. I think it meets the “good enough” test. If business writers (or in this case an assistant business editor) are willing to go out and do this, go, go now. The turnout time can be extremely quick.

Yesterday, this video got better traffic than the word story. It was No. 4 on our list of top “stories.” Did it meet the audience’s good enough test?

Both were shot with a $129 cmaera you can buy at your local Target.

Could it be done better? Sure. Is the sound an issue? Sure. Would I consider using a slightly more expensive, but still reasonably priced camera? Sure. We’re just experimenting.

We’ll see where it goes, but I do know one of the most popular videos on our site year is this user-submitted cell phone video. It told the story and it didn’t take a highly trained videographer.

Comment by Jack Lail

1. Should print reporters shoot video?

(A qualified) yes.. If video is right for the story and the print publication has an online presence and they don’t have committed online staff.

2. Can journalists accept the low video quality produced by ultra-cheap ($129) video cameras?

Yes, but I would always advocate acquiring footage at the highest quality. We have to be aware of the upward mobility of our content as well as the obvious outputs. If we get great footage of an event that our local cable or news outlet misses, what’s wrong with selling the footage on?

3. Should the video be edited, or posted “raw”?

Edited – even if that’s just to top and tail the piece and add a graphic at the start and end to identify the source.

4. Does the popularity of YouTube video (most of it very low quality) indicate that the content is more important than the poor image and sound quality?

In the UK the technical quality threshold on news content has always been lower. The idea that the impact and importance of the content in news terms outweighs any technical gripes.

In years gone by studies where done to see if people where put off by the sound delay from satellite pictures. Result – no. They understood that this stuff was being beamed from space. Now we have, subjectively, awful looking pictures from sat phones. Do people mind? Generally no. They realise the limitations of the medium and value the content.

5. Does the popularity of YouTube video indicate anything at all about journalistic online video?

Only that the good journalistic stuff will appear on you tube.

6. What should be the content of reporter-shot video? E.g., is a talking head okay?

This, to me, is the real question. Everything up until this point has been debate about how we staff, manage or breakdown the process of making video on a new distribution platform. As a distribution platform it puts technical and practical limitations in our way that mean we have to think about what it is we are working with and how we develop it along with the other forms of storytelling at our disposal.

So…

7. Is doing it, and doing lots of it, more important right now? That is, will we learn more about what works best if we produce a large quantity of video (vs. tinkering away to make it sound and look better)?

More and more. We need to make lots of it. Bad and good. I am definitely a fan of the “learn more about what works best if we produce a large quantity of video”

Broadcasters have had years to get it right. Let’s learn from them but lets also give ourselves enough time to develop it.

Comment by Andy Dickinson




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