Friday, October 24, 2008

Nikon D90 in Tibet

DSLR's like the Nikon D90 with true HD video capability are becoming widely available at an affordable price.

Here is some documentary HD footage shot in Tibet with the D90. Notice how steady all the shots are. The videographer clearly knew that the D90 must be rock solid while shooting HD. (Note to self: add D90 to next edition of Digital Video Secrets, and add some D90 footage to Digital Video Secrets extras on this website.)

Nikon D90 in Tibet from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

"You can see the finished report on the Guardian website. All footage apart from the interviews and archive stuff was shot on the D90. Interviews were done on a Sony EX-1."

Digital Video Secrets Extras

In the book Digital Video Secrets I promised my readers extra stuff on my website.

Have been sick with the flu last week or so and have not begun taping segments for extras.

Plan to put 30-90 second segments on YouTube of each of the Do's and Don'ts and embed the videos in a special DVS extras page.

Hopefully can start work in a couple days when I'm better.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wayne Wang Film Released on YouTube

Director Wayne Wang just released "The Princess of Nebraska" on YouTube. In the first 48 hours it got 50,000 views.

Contrast his other 2007 film "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" which got theatrical release. Prayers opened in theaters with an opening Wknd of $10.3K (USA) and a gross of $68.7K (USA).

A filmmaker friend comments, "If Prayers grossed 68K it lost money, didn't make any. Prints and PR etc would cost a lot more than 68K."

The "free" YouTube release might actually make *more* money than theatrical release if it results in increased DV sales.

For the next edition of Digital Video Secrets , need to expand the YouTube chapter and seek an interview with Mr. Wang.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing For Story

This week I am reading Jon Franklin's book "Writing For Story."

It is one of the most powerful books on writing that I've ever read. It feels like a "life changing" book. Franklin is making me re-think everything I thought I knew about writing nonfiction. Much of what he says I've recognized in "pieces." But he puts everything together, and gives examples of how to construct a narrative nonfiction story.

I've long believed that story telling is the same craft, whether it's nonfiction, fiction, documentary filmmaking, or narrative filmmaking. Franklin proves that, "Yes, it is."

More later. I'm about half way through the book.

I can see why Franklin won 2 Pulitzer prizes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Publisher passes on CJ

I've been talking to a publisher about a new book about online journalism. Today the publisher decided to pass on the project. 

They liked the outline, the concept, the writing--everything about it--but felt that we'd be entering the market too late. Starting in 2007 a huge number of books on this topic entered the market.  

I respect the marketing people tremendously. I know how hard it is to market a book, so if they say this is a problem, it probably is. 

Memo to self: spend more time on competitive analysis before writing book proposal, and NEVER send in a proposal without a well written sample chapter. A sample chapter that leaves the reader asking for more. A sample chapter that shows why this book is different than all the others. 

I think there's a huge story here, and one that needs to be told. Unfortunately I did not communicate this story clearly. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Support bloggers rights

EFF asks everyone to support the rights of online journalists. I think these rights are becoming increasingly important, especially to people who use video cameras. Add a note in future Digital Video Secrets book revisions?

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crash of 2008

Like everyone else, we are anxiously reading the news about the crash of 2008.

A friend said, "People are going to look back fifty, a hundred years from now at 2008-2010 and say, that is when the world changed. Things were never the same."

Meanwhile, life goes on, and any day spent above the ground is a good day.

Tom Wolfe on keenly observed details

In "The New Journalism" Tom Wolfe describes four devices that give realistic novels their immediacy and power. In the 60's journalists began to use these four devices to give their nonfiction the same immediacy and power.

1. Scene by scene construction.
2. Record the dialog in full.
3. Write from a third person point of view.
4. Record the symbolic details of people's status life.

From "The New Journalism", pages 31-32:

...By trial and error, by "instinct" rather than theory, journalists began to discover the devices that gave the realistic novel its unique power, variously known as its "immediacy," its "concrete reality," its "emotional involvement," its "gripping" or "absorbing" quality.

This extraordinary power was derived mainly from just four devices, they discovered. The basic one was scene-by-scene construction, telling the story by moving from scene to scene and resorting as little as possible to sheer historical narrative. Hence the sometimes extraordinary feats of reporting that the new journalists undertook: so that they could actually witness the scenes in other people's lives as they took place--and record the dialog in full, which was device No. 2. Magazine writers learned, like the early novelists, learned by trial and error something that has been demonstrated in academic studies: namely, that realistic dialog involves the reader more completely than any other single device. It also establishes and defines character more quickly and effectively than any other single device. (Dickens has a way of fixing a character in your mind so that you have the feeling he has described every inch of his appearance--only to go back and discover that he actually took care of the physical description in two or three sentences; the rest he has accomplished with dialog.) ...

...the third device was the so-called "third-person point of view" the technique of presenting every scene to the reader through the eyes of a particular character, giving the reader the feeling of being inside the character's mind and experiencing the emotional reality of the scene as he experiences it...

...The fourth device has always been the least understood. This is the recording of everyday gestures, habits, manners, customs, style of furniture, clothing decoration, styles of traveling, eating, keeping house, modes of behaving toward children, servants, superiors, inferiors, peers, plus the various looks, glances, poses, styles of walking and other symbolic details that might exist within a scene. Symbolic of what? Symbolic, generally, of people's status life...

The writer as trained observer

Pulitzer Prize winning writer and author Jon Franklin on the writer as a 'trained observer':

"...I consider learning to observe, that is to _see_, to be a vision issue. It requires the devotion and focus found, for example, in good priests, and it is the single most precious thing we offer our readers..."

The more I think about this, the more I think Franklin has identified something very important about writing. I don't think I've ever heard anyone else identify this so clearly. The heart of good writing, both nonfiction and fiction, is keenly observed details.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Writing clearly on a deadline

Superb advice.

Exerpted from an article by Steve Buttry, Writing Coach, Omaha World-Herald. Originally published in February 2001. Wish I'd known this before I started Digital Video Secrets.

1. If possible, write as you report.

2. Start putting the information from your last interview into story form. Even if you don't know where it will go in the story yet, start writing paragraphs that will fit somewhere.

3. Write a lede based on what you know so far.

4. Writing in chunks can lead to choppy writing. You need to fix this at some point.

5. Decide early what your minimum story is, the story that answers the basic who, what, when, where questions. This is the story that allows you to keep drawing a paycheck next week.

6. Decide early what your maximum story might be, the story that readers will be talking about at work and in coffee shops the next day, and marks you as a star.

7. Identify immediately the potential sources who could provide the information for the minimum story and get the information from them as quickly as possible. Then you zero right in on the sources who might provide the maximum story.

8. Before and after each interview, assess quickly what you still need to nail down the minimum or maximum story. Go quickly to those elements in your questioning.

9. If you don't have time to interview all the desired sources, avoid those who will waste your time with redundant information.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

CJ Links

Things I like:
Reinventing the News: The Journalism of the Web by Dan Kennedy.
"Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive," by Mark Briggs.
PressThink by Jay Rosen.
MediaShift by Marc Glaser.
Online Journalism Review
Mountain Home Magazine Vibrant community newspaper.
Gangrey Narrative journalism at it's best, inspiring.
Detours by Ben Montgomery. Superb writing.
State of the Blogosphere Technorati report. Good.
Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents from Reporters Without Borders