Monday, July 25, 2005


Avid Bloggeristes have figgered out a way to do a video blog using entirely free online services. They make a video and compress it. Then they use Blogger for the basic blog site, paste a poster frame from the video in as a link to another location on the web (OurMedia at the Internet Archive) and voila: free, personal video narrowcasting.

The whole process is documented at

A good example of the emerging medium may be found at Josh Leo's Blog at

Of course a lot of this space (vblogsphere?) is going to be filled with garbage, and as the NYT of today has observed, it already resembles television because it faces the perpetual problem, what do you do for content? it may not be too long before we see some artistic and industrial use of the medium, just as we've seen with blogging.

Friday, July 22, 2005

First Big HDV Venture

We shot 18 hours of action in Scout Camps in California and New York this past few weeks, and the results are pretty impressive. I'd had a bit of experience with a 2-day indoor shoot in Indianapolis in late June, but this was the big one for the summer.

Shooter Steve McWilliams aggressively maneuvered the new Sony pro camcorder on a monopod for a lot of the material, and we went to sticks for twenty or so "standup" interviews with Scouts and Scouters. Most of the latter we shot direct to camera with the mini Eyeliner.

Some quick thoughts:

We shot with what was essentially a two-man crew, backed up by a PA and a coordinator. The run-and gun nature of the shoot made use of a tech monitor irrelevant, but we do think that a third, strong PA/grip would be a requirement the next time around.

HDV rocks. We couldn't believe the format's adaptability and picture quality. The 16X9 frame opens things up compositionally, well-suited to dynamic shots. It's still video of course, and the latitude still does not compare with film, but this will be a very suitable medium for us, particularly in documentary-style work, for years to come. This particular camera has its drawbacks. Steve found the menu-based controls more of a bother than a help, and the optics of the integral lens give you virtually unlimited depth of field, requiring a lot of care in keeping the lens clean. For 6 grand, however, it's a bargain, and it clearly points the way to future cameras. The HDV dream cam might have interchangeable lenses, a ruggedized body, and an onboard hard drive that would store a day's worth of material uncompressed.

Content is king again. Here's a camera you can poke right into the action, as we often did, inches from the talent's faces. You can move it around on a stick, and shoot off-eye shots as long as you want with minimal physical effort (see Steve above with the low-tech "steviecam" in action. You can take it in a car, or hide under your raincoat in a subway. It's a less intimidating way to do interviews because it's so small and "un-professional" looking, and you can practically shoot in the dark.

Now, on the post side of the event, we're thinking about transferring all the footage directly into a series of hard drives via our FCP-HD application, once it's set up. This will give us access to the MPEG-4 assets within our post application. The camera tapes go on the shelf, there to be pulled for emergencies only. In the meantime, we have DVD's with and without timecode burn-in, a decent source of MPEG-2 video for web-and CD ROM-quality video.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Podcasts for work?

Why not produce short "radio" pieces with training content and make them available for download, either via RSS or simple menu-based means? The initial list might be drawn from the existing professional briefings series, going back some 15 years.

Pretend this guy is holding an iPod
Those were all Relationships pieces, such as "working with Catholic parishes", containing the basic protocols within that church or organization and some step-by-step advice lifted from classic field operations literature. We scripted some as dialogues, some as essays. The rational for a renewed effort at audio is that podcasting has been spawned by the wide availability of MP3 players.

Podcasts are easy enough to produce. Just identify your content and hire a writer. To make them listenable, however, we should strive for NPR style and production values (such a book is available from NPR and on Amazon). We have enormous interview assets in the AV library going back for 20 years. We now have Garage Band to add an acoustic environment at little cost, and we'd do the editing at Scotch (or even cut them ourselves with several Mac-based audio editing solutions already in hand).

What will be the driver for use? Recently, as I toured the country doing LFL material, I've re-appredciated how much time our DE's and Exec's spend in thier cars. Podcasts that are listenable, relevant and easy to acquire might have real utility. And that's just the professionals. Volunteers might be the ultimate audience. They are as time-pressed as anyone, and with the right promotion, we could reach audiences in the tens of thousands. Clients for the new wave of audio might be found at Relationships and HR (these limited to professionals), but training under the big three program areas would be the big fish. If Council Services is ever ressurected, they might be ready for a pitch. Health and Safety titles might be found of interest too.