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The Creative Spark: Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist
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Reporting with the iPhone


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The Creative Spark: Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist

with Brian Kaufman

Video: Reporting with the iPhone

Today we're on Belle Isle. It's a big island in Detroit, and we're at the north end of the island. Blue Heron Lagoon, where there's a big restoration project going on, environmental restoration. And this is to get fish habitat back in, turtles, snakes, really just biodiversity in general. And so we're out here to do a little update on the progress, and see how things are progressing. I think I'm going to shoot on the iPhone, because several years ago I do a big project on the island. nature wildlife film, and I used bigger cameras and spent a lot of time on it. But this is nothing that's going to take me a lot of time. it's not going to be a big project for me.

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The Creative Spark: Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist
48m 21s Appropriate for all Jul 19, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Subjects:
Photography Documentaries Creative Spark
Author:
Brian Kaufman

Reporting with the iPhone

Today we're on Belle Isle. It's a big island in Detroit, and we're at the north end of the island. Blue Heron Lagoon, where there's a big restoration project going on, environmental restoration. And this is to get fish habitat back in, turtles, snakes, really just biodiversity in general. And so we're out here to do a little update on the progress, and see how things are progressing. I think I'm going to shoot on the iPhone, because several years ago I do a big project on the island. nature wildlife film, and I used bigger cameras and spent a lot of time on it. But this is nothing that's going to take me a lot of time. it's not going to be a big project for me.

I just want to do a quick update, so it makes sense to shoot on the iPhone because it's quicker, and easier to edit. So the procamera app I think is better than a default camera app. Because a situation like this if I want to go a shot of the sign here. What this app allows me to do is, I can set my focus point and my exposure. So by touching twice here, I have a yellow circle to give me my, my exposure. And as I move that around I can adjust exactly how bright I want this scene to be.

And then my blue square here is my focus, so in this case I'll want to focus right here, not way off there. If I was using the native camera app, it's going to set the focus however where it thinks it should set it which is probably further down the sign than I really care to see right now. It's a rainy day so there's no people out here. Typically I'd get an interview too but there's literally nobody out here. So I'm just going to get a few shots of the lagoon and use my own voice to tell a story. I'm not really concerned about getting the iPhone wet Its not going to really fail on me unless I drop it in a pile of water.

If I was shooting on expensive equipment I'd really want to have a rain shield over it or something. So to go out in a rain like this and get a few shots, yeah the iPhone's perfect. The iPhone, it shoots 1080p video, its HD video. Now the quality, the chip size its recording to is obviously not as good as some cameras but the image itself is pretty dang good. I'm really impressed with it, and the great thing about this phone is you can really focus fairly close up to things. The macro abilities it has are pretty phenomenal, so I use it for that a lot too.

Step one of this process, since we don't have any interviews, is we're just going to do some narration. So, I have notes here from a quick interview I did with the island manager yesterday about the project. I've just got to boil these down into one or two sentences of narration. The process that I usually take is laying down the narration first and then matching our visuals to the narration. Before we do that we have to lay down one piece of video. That's the way the program works, and so what we're going to lay down is actually the intro slide that the free press has.

Alright, so our video will start like this. (MUSIC). Now that I have a piece of media laid down, I can actually lay the narration. And you could use a microphone, but these the the mic's on these phones are actually pretty good in close distance, if there's no wind or anything. (SOUND). Despite spring rain, Belle Isle's Blue Heron Lagoon is in the midst of an ecological transformation. So let's make sure the front of this audio matches up with the end of the intro.

(MUSIC). Male Despite Spring rain, Bell Isle's Blue Heron Lagoon is in the midst of an ecological transformation. Male A lot of editing for me is, is just making something, making an edit, and then playing it back and seeing where it falls, and making your next edit. Male Transformation, (NOISE), the lagoon was recently opened to the Detroit (SOUND). The lagoon was recently opened to the Detroit River along. Male All right, this clip, instead of bringing the whole clip in at once, I'm going to preedit, because I know it was rolling for a long time. And I was trying to slide along one of these signs that said something about the Detroit River, which would be perfect to put there. So as we slide in we can see where the edit is, just bring in that much. Take a little right off the front end.

Male The lagoon was recently opened to the Detroit River. Male One of the downfalls about iMovie in my opinion is that when you bring in video clips, they all come in with a default crosses all between them. That's in my profession, in my opinion not real professional to have crosses all between everything. And they're really unnecessary, so one thing you have to do is double tap each one and go to none. Male Recently opened to the Detroit River, allowing more than a dozen fish species access to the shel. Male We'll bring in our Free Press slide, again. And I'm going to let the crosses all happen on this one, the very last shot. So, we can fade into the Outro slide, and as a matter of fact maybe I'll do that on the first shot too.

Now the last thing I have to do to this project is, it was very windy today and so you can hear as we play this. Male Bell Isle's Blue Heron Lagoon is in the midst of an ecological transformation. Male Especially there, the sound on my B roll footage is way too loud. It's really covering up my voice and so, we need to go into each of these and take the audio on the clip itself way down probably all of them. Blue Heron Lagoon is in the midst of an ecological transformation. The lagoon was. Definitely that one.

This one I'm just going to take down a little, because the rain noise and the water lapping the shoreline is kind of nice. (SOUND). Male More than a dozen fish species access to the shallow water habitat. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative All right, so we're ready to export. You have to approach an edit assuming that your audience knows nothing about the situation or the location you're in. And so, then a lot of situations you really want to make your, your first shot establish where you're at. (MUSIC).

Male Despite spring rain, Belle Isle. Male And the first shot here I mean Blue Heron Lagoon this is kind of our establishing shot. And logically after we see something that says Blue Heron Lagoon we want to see the lagoon. So my second shot was. Male Spring rain, Belle Isle's, Blue Heron Lagoon is in the midst of an ecological transformation. The lagoon was recently opened to the. Male That shot worked out well. A lagoon was recently opened to the Detroit River, and so I have a nice panning shot here. Well, not really a panning shot, the camera was actually moving on my beanbag, sliding across the side.

(CROSSTALK), at home in the Detroit River. Male Allowing more than a dozen fish species. Male More than a dozen fish species, so we don't have fish, I don't have an underwater camera. So I'm just shooting the artwork that's already provided for us. Male Species, access to the shallow water habitat. Male Access to the shallow water habitat. You can see right down here the water's lapping at the shoreline, it's fairly shallow there's rocks. So that shot works out really well there. (SOUND). Male The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project is res. Male And for this, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project, ideally I'd have people actually out working, and you could show people working and doing it.

But it's a rainy day, people aren't working today. So, this was probably what I consider probably my most successful shot in terms of just visual aesthetic quality. I got real low on the ground. Shot back up towards the Blue Heron Lagoon sign, but framed a flower in front of the whole things. So the focus really is the flower not so much the sign in the background. Male Responsible for these improvements, which will add more long term fishing opportunities to Detroit's largest park. Male And this is kind of a filler shot, it's an ender shot. Ideally, again we'd have somebody actually casting a line off into the lagoon and fishing but, rainy day we don't have that, and we're going to get done.

Male For the Detroit Free Press, I'm Brian Kauffman. (MUSIC). Male And there's our Outro slide. So pretty quick video. It's, it's 37 seconds, 40 seconds and for somebody who's on deadline, also writing stories and doing a lot of other things. You wouldn't want to to spend much more time than we just did doing this. And we're ready to send it, what we would do is, just go back to the main project and actually export it. We'll send it to our Camera Roll. in this situation, we have many options to choose from. And so, you have to imagine especially in situations where there's a lot of cell phone action going on. Sporting events, places where people are on their phones a lot. It's going to be hard to send a big HD movie through the, through the telephone service provided to you unless you're on a WiFi service. In this situation rather than sending, exporting a big HD quality movie, if I want to get this back to the newspaper, I might just choose large here. It's going to keep the file size down.

And you're losing quality, of course, but you're also going to the web where you're not going to be showing HD quality video anyways. Alright, that was successful. The last step in the process would be actually sending the video to our web desk. We do that through this mobile upload app through BrightCove. I would sign here, send it, send them an e-mail, and the whole process would be done, I could go on with my day. I don't know if iPhones will be the end all solution for newspaper video. They're the solution right now, but technology changes so quickly. It was inconceivable to have iPhones even a year or two ago. And so I think what won't change is the need for video. And for breaking news events, especially quick video, video you can get up very fast.

And so there's always going to be some way to get video back whether it's an iPhone or some other device. Right now, it makes sense to use the iPhone because all, all the tools you need are in one camera. But the video is not giving away, and giving people access to shoot video means that you have to give them a fairly small camera. Unless you're a photographer and you have lots of cameras. So the fact that everything is so small and compact is really going to be key to the future of newspaper radio.

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