Teaching Examples

Your very first Flash package
June 28, 2007, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Flash, graphics, interactive, journalism, photojournalism, tools

It takes me eight weeks to teach Flash to undergraduate journalism students. That’s starting from zero. If they do all the homework and study all the examples, they can be very good at the end of eight weeks. Mostly it takes time and dedication, rather than any special talent or computer aptitude.

When I do training for professional journalists, I don’t have eight weeks. So I always face this dilemma: Do I begin at zero, and just get them started? Or do I begin at a later point, assuming they already know certain things? (Usually I have only three to four hours in a training session!)

The trouble with running a beginner session: At the end, the attendees still can’t really make anything on their own. The trouble with running an intermediate session: Too many people in the room don’t yet understand some of the key techniques.

Yesterday I did half a day of Flash training at a newspaper, and I developed a new teaching tool for the occasion. It’s called Simple Flash Project: Single SWF and the point is for you, the student, to download the FLA and use it as a learning tool. (Go ahead, look at the SWF and then download the FLA.)

I deliberately built the SWF to leave out everything that I consider “post-beginner” in Flash authoring. So it includes NO MOVIE CLIPS. No scenes. No externally loaded assets of any kind. It also includes nothing that was drawn — the graphics are all photos.

There are three separate segments, as any news graphic might have. The SWF is only 73 KB. The entire Timeline is 80 frames long.

There are three different animations, using photographs.

Most important, there are buttons and frame labels. You’ve got to have those if you are going to create separate parts in the package. People often ask me, “How to you make it skip from one section to another?” Buttons and frame labels. That’s how.

Here’s a list of beginner Flash journalism skills. These are the skills you have to nail down before you can build a journalism package.

  1. Simple animation, both tweened and frame-by-frame (Graphic symbols)
  2. Importing photos and other bitmaps
  3. Use of layers
  4. Use of keyframes
  5. Buttons — both making them and scripting them (Button symbols)
  6. Use of frame labels
  7. ActionScript: stop();
  8. ActionScript: gotoAndPlay(“framelabel”);

Now, I will be the very first to admit that not everyone in the newsroom needs to learn Flash. But somebody in your newsroom should learn it! Ideally, I would say that all your news graphic artists should know everything listed above. Then, also ideally, there should be one person — artist, photojournalist, online producer — who goes beyond the list and learns how to develop more sophisticated interactive graphics.

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Aussie daily rocks with slideshows
June 26, 2007, 1:17 pm
Filed under: news, newspapers, photojournalism, slideshows

Andrew Meares, chief photographer at The Sydney Morning Herald, reports that slideshows have become very popular with online site visitors — more so than video.

Total Soundslides pageviews to date are 1,214,918 (since October 2006). Our video team pop the champagne with 5000+ views, our top text stories of the week rate 80,000+.

The biggest hitters:

Pasha Bulker (129,646): Photos of the huge bulk ship aground on a Newcastle city beach (June 2007) — includes photos sent in by readers.

Golden Globes fashion (108,720) SMH fashion writer picks apart what beautiful celebrities wore to the Golden Globes. Well done — I can imagine that lots of people e-mailed this link to friends.

Danish baby princess (70,168): Handout photos from the Danish palace of the new baby princess (“Australian mum,” Meares noted). This is really interesting (I mean, the fact that it was so popular) — there’s no audio, just baby pics — and of course, a nice shot of Mum.

Hunter floods (54,063): Flooding in the Hunter region, narrated by a reporter on the ground.

* Adaminaby (46,428): Drought causes Adaminaby’s old town ruins to emerge from Lake Jindabyne. This one is a very good piece of visual news reporting.

“We have also sent Soundslides via sat phone from the middle of the ocean during a yacht race, and we are doing weekly shows with our foreign correspondents like this one,” Meares wrote in e-mail. The latter, from Lebanon, combines photos from various wire services with the voice of the Australian reporter in-country.

Thanks, Andrew! I really appreciated the chance to see how a photo department embraced multimedia in such a short time span.

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New — Soundslides Plus
June 15, 2007, 1:32 pm
Filed under: audio, journalism, photojournalism, slideshows, tools

The fabulously popular Soundslides program is now available in two flavors: regular and Plus.

The regular product is still $40. The Plus version is $70. Both flavors are available in Windows and Mac versions.

Plus provides a bunch of extra visual features that photographers have been clamoring for, but which beginners probably do not need. If you’re an educator buying Soundslides for 100 workstations, for example, you might be okay with the regular version. (Make sure you contact Joe for education pricing if you’re buying that many licenses!)

If this is all new to you, here are some great examples of what the regular old Soundslides can do (my current favorites):

  • Guitar Lessons at the Central Area Senior Center: An 81-year-old Seattle woman loves taking guitar lessons. No narration, nice story, several interviews skillfully edited together.
  • Cockfighting in Puerto Rico: Awesome photos, wonderful audio that puts you at the scene.
  • Nutcracker: A fresh photojournalism grad tells us the story of a production of the Nutcracker ballet. She produced this while on an internship at The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. Notice the variety in shots, scenes, lenses, etc. Notice too the excellent editing of the pictures to match the content of the audio.
  • After the Riots: A Soundslides about the housing projects in Paris, by the British newspaper The Guardian. Exceptional storytelling and great use of sound.

Some people will tell you that Soundslides are boring. I offer these four examples to prove that it’s all in the storytelling.

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Photojournalists support charity effort
June 12, 2007, 2:12 pm
Filed under: online, photojournalism

This just showed up in my e-mail: 20 remarkable works of photojournalism are up for auction at an online fund-raising site called cMarket.

All the photographs are SIGNED museum-quality 24-by-18-inch prints (!) on silver rag by Crane, on 100 percent fiber paper. Printing has been provided at cost by Broadway Digital Prints.

Bidding via the online auction closes at midnight EDT on July 1, 2007.

The mission of Operation Azra:

… to raise money for female victims of acid burning and to raise awareness about a fate inflicted on many women in Pakistan. Marked with dishonor, their harsh disfigurement often forces them to live in the shadows of every-day life — excluded by family and society.

According to an e-mail from Stephanie Sinclair, a fantastic photojournalist who graduated from my university (Go Gators!):

… the main thing you should know is that this whole thing got started when Azra said to me, “Everyone photographs me but no one helps.”

I find this a very interesting combination of journalism and the capabilities people have, through the Internet, to connect across borders and oceans.

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NPPA Multimedia Immersion
May 31, 2007, 7:40 pm
Filed under: multimedia, photojournalism

Everyone except me is at the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Summit. Good stuff there. Go look.

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Photojournalism: A tough job getting tougher
May 29, 2007, 12:54 pm
Filed under: future, photojournalism

An article in the May/June issue of Digital Photo Pro magazine discusses changes in working life for photojournalists (pp. 118-126). Not only are audiences for print vehicles decreasing — even the top names in the business aren’t getting nearly as many freelance assignments as they used to.

The answer? Photojournalists must adapt.

The advice comes from Ed Kashi, who certainly could be put forth as a good example of adaptation.

What I learned from the article:

  • Most paid freelance work isn’t photojournalism; it’s shooting portraits.
  • The same magazine shooters who used to be able to count on $80,000 a year in fees would be lucky to pull in $30,000 today doing the same work (that’s from Dirck Halstead). This is partly because the photographer bears more of the costs of production — in time spent as well as software and equipment — in the digital world.
  • Brian Storm sees educating the buyers as “a big part of our job” at MediaStorm. Syndication online plays a key role, because online multimedia projects cost a lot to produce. The buyer gets limited exclusive rights to host a project; syndication revenues are split 50-50 between MediaStorm and the photographer.

Kashi remains hopeful and positive:

As editorial budgets and revenues shrink for print publications, Ed Kashi thinks, at some point, publishers are going to wake up and realize more people are looking at their Websites than their printed editions. Not that print is going to disappear, but as this shift continues, publications will have to redesign their infrastructure, including ad revenue and subscriptions.

“Once that happens, and it’s already happening,” Kashi says, “then hopefully I’d love to see the day when more publications are calling me, saying, ‘Hey, we’d love you to do this story or we’d love you to propose an idea, and multimedia is the main component of it. And, oh, yeah, we’ll also have a print part of it as well.'”

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It’s here! Soundslides Plus
May 24, 2007, 6:13 pm
Filed under: audio, photojournalism, slideshows, tools

Joe Weiss posted this about two hours ago:

It’s not just an update, it’s an entirely new version of Soundslides — the long planned pro version. New features include image movement (pan & zoom), built-in lowerthirds, thumbnail menus and the ability to create traditional (non-audio) slide shows.

Even though it will cost more than plain Soundslides, that’s okay, because the plain version “will continue to exist,” Joe wrote.

There’s a new 1.6 update on the way for the plain version. It will include individual transition control. W00t!

This announcement is a wee bit premature because you can’t actually get it yet … but almost, says Joe.

Update (May 25): Download here! This link is good only until sometime in mid-June.

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