Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist
Video: Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist(SOUND). I've been thinking a lot lately about this concept of storytelling, and what it means. No amount of great technology is going to tell a great story. It's a learned process over many years. And especially journalistic storytelling. The state of the newspaper industry is not very healthy. We're obviously in a transitionary period as print tends to subside and web is more and more of the focus. For video, that's a good thing.
- Shooting a Then and Now
- Compositing a Then and Now
- Reporting with the iPhone
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Like the automotive industry, newspapers are struggling to stay healthy and relevant in a world of rapid technological advances. Part of newspapers'
success will be determined by storytellers like Brian Kaufman, a visual journalist for the Detroit Free Press. When Brian first moved to Detroit, Michigan, he visited the abandoned Packard Plant, a 40-acre complex once considered the epitome of innovation in the automotive world, but since come to represent Detroit's long fall from grace. The plant has slowly been gutted and collapsed into ruin, but to Brian, it represents a chance to re-engage the community in Detroit's rich history and create riveting visual content for the newspaper's website.
Follow along as Brian explains his process for creating long-form video features and how he uses the iPhone to capture and instantly publish breaking news in the field. We also take a look at his Then and Now comparison series, where he maps old images of the Packard Plant over new ones, which the newspaper then turns into interactive experiences for its web audience.
Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist
(SOUND). I've been thinking a lot lately about this concept of storytelling, and what it means. No amount of great technology is going to tell a great story. It's a learned process over many years. And especially journalistic storytelling. The state of the newspaper industry is not very healthy. We're obviously in a transitionary period as print tends to subside and web is more and more of the focus. For video, that's a good thing.
People now realize that video is a very engaging medium that's going to become an important part of what we do from here on out. (MUSIC). Journalism seemed more natural to me, it seemed more authentic. To tell real stories as opposed to fictional stories, somewhat intrigued me. I pursue video more so than still photography because I've always enjoyed the storytelling potential of video.
What you decide to show people is what people will remember, and with photography, it's more subtle. The free press has been awesome. I mean, the fact that we're pursuing long-form storytelling at a newspaper and really doing in-depth work is something that's pretty unique and special in the country right now. They were doing video when I got here but it was the infancy of it. There was no expectations as to what video should be. We weren't held to those same constraints that television news had. And so, in a lot of ways there was a lot creativity to do whatever you wanted, to tell stories in new ways.
And we made a lot of mistakes along the way but we also learned a lot. And so, the creativity part and expanding into broader means of storytelling is interesting. At the core, newspapers are about storytelling, and great storytelling. And so, great video storytelling should be a part of that. (MUSIC). My interest in Packard started shortly after I moved here. I think it was in 2008, a friend and I went over there just out of curiosity, and it was midwinter and we saw some smoke rising from one of the floors.
We went up there and there's this big bonfire burning, pallets just burning. Nothing happens at that fire, but it was so intriguing that there's just this big, massive fire burning in an empty warehouse and nobody responded to it. That's where it got captivated. Male Soon the kids would descend on these lifeless houses, gloved and scarved on their way to school with tin boxes and sandwiches. They would slide on the ice and steal each other's foolish hats and laugh, while they still could. Their breath pushing out into the morning air in little trumpets of steel. Male For a film like The Packard Plant, it's an opportunity to maybe present our audience with something they would never expect from a newspaper. And so, by working on a film like this, we're able to get community engagement. People would come recognize the fact that we're doing films and short videos and the whole range of video work.
is really important. (MUSIC). I think one of the things that makes video interesting is seeing things change over time. Whether you're following characters and you're seeing characters involved. Or in this case, the character is the Packard Plant, you're seeing the Packard plant evolve and collapse and change through scrapping and graffiti and everything else. (MUSIC). On any online presentation is not just video and stories. There's opportunity to do a lot of different things, and I think that's where the then and now idea came from.
What else can we give our audience to intrigue them? Give them more what were they coming here to see? The then and now comparison photos started with a trip to a local library, Detroit Library. My boss and I went and we were looking at the automotive history collection and just saw this stack of Packard of photos about this deep. And we started going through these and realizing there was some incredible photography there.
And a lot of these places as I'm going through these pictures I'm saying, I know that spot, I know that spot. And the idea popped in my head pretty suddenly to try to take these pictures to the plant and match them up and show people what it looks like now. I believe it was shot in this building, we're in building 92. I could be wrong but these round pillars right here and the hexagonal shape of the concrete at the top makes me think that it was in here because I don't know any other buildings that have these type of construction figures. I essentially supply those images to our graphics department and that's where the magic happened.
They took a PSD file, a Photoshop file, with two layers, the new and the old. And they created a way to as you move your mouse across and fade from old to new. (MUSIC). And it's a way where the audience can experience a scene like they maybe never have. Or never could if they're just seeing these two pictures side by side. Because when you can opacity fade, you see parts of the new image overlapped against partially old image. You say, oh wow, that person was standing right there, right there. Right now, there's a hole int he floor and you can really see things within the images that you wouldn't be able to see if you're necessarily comparing them side by side.
So, it's a very interesting way to experience the plant. (MUSIC). There's a big question, not just in my company, but probably across the industry to have journalists have access to phones. The iPhone is obviously an important tool for a lot of different reasons. The video reason is becoming more important for journalists because for most people, it's the only camera you have. Unless you're a photographer, and you have equipment, you're out on the streets you maybe have a phone and a notepad and a pencil or a pen, and that's it.
And the fact that you can shoot a video on an iPhone and edit on the iPhone, and ship it from the field really quickly is pretty powerful. I think that Smart phones and tablet have made video a bigger part of what media and journalist do. I think that's only going to continue. I don't know where the newspaper industry will go in the future.
I have no insights on that. I think if we can continue to produce high quality work we'll continue to have readership. I mean, people want quality journalism. And there's enough of the very quick hit fast breaking news type journalism through a lot of different other outlets that I think newspapers still have the market on really in depth journalism stories with our own communities. The technology is incredible, it's changing, it's making our jobs a lot more fun and in some respects easier. But in the end, it is about storytelling, and just because you have the way to sketch it doesn't mean you're going to tell the best story.
In a lot of ways, storytelling comes first, the gadget comes second. I would much rather be a great storyteller with a camera that's ten years old, than have the latest camera that came out yesterday and know nothing about storytelling.
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