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In many respects, good visuals start with seeing in a different light.

Regardless of your gear, the human eye can see a far greater range than any camera. While we can distinguish a range of about 1000:1, the range of an inexpensive digital video camera may only be 100:1.

In preparing to shoot video, the goal is to have sufficient, and relatively even, illumination. You’ll want to avoid deep shadows, but still have the subject pop out. The concepts below should help you achieve your aims within the limitations of your budget and shooting environment.

Planning for color temperature

Indoors, tungsten lighting tends to have a warm cast, while outdoors, daylight is bluer in tone. Since cameras need to be set for one or the other, it’s best to not mix these sources of illumination.

Morning and evening provide the most pleasing outside illumination. During bright parts of the day, shooting in the shade will avoid harsh contrasts and unbecoming shadows.

If shooting inside, close the curtains and turn off fluorescent overhead lights. When setting up bright, makeshift studio,  lights at a house, use outlets leading to more than one circuit so you don’t blow a fuse. An average household circuit has about 1800 watts and lights for illuminating shoots can pull more than that.

When the scene is ready, zoom in on the subject to calibrate color balance, holding a white card as close as possible to the subject.

Light kits

Producer Amy Miller of KQED’s QUEST science unit recommends a Lowel brand tungsten kit that is one step above basic, and sells for about $1,000. Since these lights get hot, she brings gloves to use when moving the lights, and face powder to keep down the sheen on subject’s faces. Her other essentials are a grip clip, voltmeter, headphones, and small sandbags for stabilizing the base of the lights. A small monitor is also great for previewing how a scene will appear on screen.

For video interviews, setting up classic three-point lighting will provide a soft, even illumination. The components and their location are:

  1. Key light – positioned about 45 degrees to one side of the subject and about 30 – 45 degrees above their head. On this bright light, use a soft box for diffusion.
  2. Fill light – goes on the other side, also about 45 degrees away, and should be half as bright. She makes hers 2 -3 stops dimmer. Moving the light back twice as far would also halve its brightness. Good choices for the fill are a V-light or broad throw light.
  3. Rim (or shoulder) light – shines from above and separates the subject from the background by defining the edge.
  4. If available, a fourth light can be used on the wall – here, an omni light would allow the angle to be adjusted.

If you do not have lights, she suggested using daylight as a key light and a reflector as a fill.

Camera position

For added definition, having the background out of focus looks best, which means setting the subject as far from the background as possible. Move the camera far away too, take it off autofocus, and zoom in.

The interviewer will sit as close as possible to the camera, so the subject’s gaze across that space will appear natural to viewers.

Framing

Have the subject positioned slightly to one side of the frame, but not all the way to the edge. This framing is more comfortable to watch than dead center, and suits both wide and narrow formats (high-definition is wider than standard). For someone watching on a cell phone, frame fairly close, with minimal space above the head.

To envision some lighting guidance, see the following online tutorials. The final installment will wrap up with tips on interviewing and audio recording.

http://www.techlearning.com/article/1162

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcMX1RcNRYA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkUqBJoxZ-I

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In lieu of an ending comment, today I’m opening with a lyric I caught the other day that indicated the digital age becoming, well, lyric – it was Peter Yorn singing, “I googled you in quotes and got no results,” which I found bemusing.

Socializing over the use of social media:

Speaking of getting energized by interaction, at the latest Social Media Breakfast – East Bay, a closing conversation about extrapolating guidance from past emerging technologies seemed to fire up the 20-plus participants present from around the bay.

Jen McClure of the Society for New Communication Research had presented results of a variety of studies about best practices among corporations (http://sncr.org/2007/12/08/research-educational-services/).

Adopting best practices seemed to leave attendees feeling somewhat uncertain about socializing the use of social media within an organization. The meeting’s co-organizer, Shel Holtz, said he particularly likes IBM’s social media guidelines (http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html).

Overall, the advice was to make employees feel safe by providing guardrails, not rules, while offering training and mentorship if desired.

I’ve always believed social media needs to be integrated into an existing communications program and serves as an extension to that – sort of like the way a car gets you somewhere quicker than walking. Ideally, you will have something of value to share! One measure would be if your posts are picked up and retweeted, or if the twitterstream is recommended by others using the #ff follow Friday tag.

Someone commented that some of the current social media issues in organizations are extrapolations of adaptation of past new technologies, such as email usage. That seemed like a good approach to lowering the barrier for making the adoption comfortable for employees and organizations.

When it comes to community moderation, I had been wondering about handling comments that are not customer-service issues. It’s been well-established that social media channels create opportunities to demonstrate responsiveness to concerns by stepping in to troubleshoot problems for customers when snafus are raised (similar to my friend’s serendipitous luck in having help finding lost luggage after she tweeted about her concern).

What about cases, say, of a Facebook fan questioning organizational directions, or hijacking the focus of the page?

It seemed to me the pre-existing analogies could be a public speaker’s need to handle a heckler, as well as dialogue between executives and employees within an organization, that serves to clarify decisions and hear concerns.

A pseudo-heckler, in the two-sided nature of discussion online, has about an equal voice to the speaker sponsoring the page. For handling vocal detractors, a couple of approaches come to mind. Communities tend to self-police, so another community member may chide the person. The analogy there might be someone shushing a loudmouth at the same table during a live performance. Or, a simple acknowledgement, such as during public comments at a local government meeting, could suffice to keep lines of communication open while not veering far off-topic.

Borrowing from an internal communications perspective, pointing a vocal online community member to resources that explain the organization’s stance could be compared to responding to an employee comment at a workplaceTown Hall-style meeting.

The important point of course is to join the conversation and have something thoughtful and respectful to share – building relationships by keeping the energy of interaction flowing.

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I was speaking the other day to representatives of a public agency that intends to increase its social media engagement by moving judiciously into this arena. Going in, there seemed to be considerations about perception and resources.

My recommendation to this research organization, whose activities are distributed throughout a region, is to build a presence with the future in mind – including mobile platforms and geolocation services.

A phased approach seems best. Ramping up would entail identifying likely internal participants and establishing systems. Having clear processes and expectations facilitates targeting time and resources to provide frequent updates required by social media. A gradual approach would support researchers’ interests in retaining the estimation of their peers and limiting time on non-research demands.

In this example, an early phase would involve sharing, listening and guiding. Those aspects of establishing a toehold  are described below.

Share: A simple place to start would be to create a Twitter identity, or extend an existing one, and use that channel to send updates about new publications and related announcements. A sensible place to start following groups would be to begin with organizations in the same sector.

What happens then? Chances are many of the organizations will reciprocate and follow back, as well as forward along updates through retweets.

Some of their followers are likely to notice and expand their network by adding this newcomer to streams they follow. Other audiences will find these new posts through keyword and hashtag search.

Listen: Set up Hootsuite or a related monitoring dashboard to track mentions of the organization and/or issues that matter. Listen to what is being said and concerns. Use that knowledge to tune outreach topics or approches.

Promote your Twitter presence in existing media – for instance, send employees a recommended email signature file that includes this information. Add a follow button and/or other social media tagging and sharing widgets to existing web pages. Place the Twitter ID on news releases and other relevant printed material.

Guide: Draft an initial social media policy that encourages employees to act as ambassadors and offers resources (training or answers). Once the policy has been reviewed, approved and issued, keep it a living document that can be updated and refined.

In the middle phase, actively welcome participation. Below are thoughts on doing that through inviting, modeling, extending, building, tracking and reporting.

Invite: Suggest to researchers and others that they might share content, such as photos (might they be placed on Flickr, with a Creative Commons license to publish with attribution?). This spreads the reach farther. Images are already available for use there from public institutions, such as the military! Again, offer coaching/logistical support if needed.

Model: If respected individuals or agencies are already employing some social media practices, passing along those tidbits helps with acceptance of new approaches. Other public institutions, such as the Executive branch or Congress, could set the tone for the types of social media activity and outreach that is deemed appropriate or desirable.

Extend: The new social media program should extend and build on outreach already taking place through existing newsletters, announcements or events. Here’s an example – if a news release results in coverage, send a tweet with a link to the news article. Or, if a partner makes a discovery that creates a big splash, such as finding unusual wayward wildlife, offer additional multimedia and background resources in an online news page.

Share links with related organizations where appropriate – this boosts search ratings. Determine where the people you want to reach are interacting, and consider if there are any downsides to reaching out to engage with them there on occasion by commenting or participating.

Identify a small team within the organization that can provide backup for daily responsibilities and resolve issues raised through social media interactions, such as customer service questions.

Build community: Invite fans to add their photos to an organized Flickr community, started with researcher’s images. Moderate comments, but welcome them to foster a greater sense of involvement. Periodically remind audiences about this presence, via tweets or other outgoing messages.

Track & Report: Tools on YouTube and elsewhere allow providers to see who is accessing their content. Let internal stakeholders know how the effort is going through periodic summaries of tone, impact and measurement.

A mature program incorporates content creation and strong community interaction. Capturing presentations through recording and sharing can be straightforward to execute. With some coordination, additional material can be made available online for sharing, too. What to pick? Consider the needs of the audience, and factor in proactively fashioning opportunities to reach out with relevant information through events linked to online follow-up, or by creating and following an editorial calendar for fresh content.

As the program matures, there may be a small group that closely follows the organization and may function informally as ambassadors. Remote employees or trusted external supporters and advocates may serve as reporters or frequent commentators whose contributions help build community.

Meanwhile, new technologies will continue to evolve and be added to the mix. Below are thoughts on this phase.

Record and share: If resources exist, social media is excellent for sharing slides, podcasts, or other content from presentations that are already being given. The talks can be uploaded and commenting enabled and monitored.

Also, if resources exist to create or gather this content, strong outreach includes sharing multimedia materials with reporters, bloggers, educators, government officials, and event partners. The capability of adding multimedia through a “social media” release on PitchEngine is among the possibilities. The National Science Foundation is very active in encouraging contributions to its channels, such as Science360 – some of its offerings are not limited to research receiving NSF funding.

Serve their needs: An organization’s supporters and constituents may appreciate content that provides safety advice, how-to tips, or educational content. A publicly funded entity can also consider operating as a conduit for information to be made available in an even-handed fashion about policy and programs that may be subject to a diversity of views.

Consider new vehicles: There may be a time in which it makes sense to devote the time and resources to create new outlets – say, partnering on an education outreach event. There, organizers may capture email from attendees and send out an invitation to sign up for an RSS feed or to otherwise invite attendees to turn to the organization as a resource for information or activities.

One new-content-creation approach would be to create short biosketches of featured researchers, and build an annual editorial calendar to rotate periodically among each of them, creating updates about work in progress, research interests, or even a favorite factoid. Post these online, add related links to visuals or video/audio, and announce via social media channels. The goal is to personalize investigations a little and make the research interests generally accessible and engaging for non-specialists. The online posting could be a WordPress site linked off the traditional website – updating content on that blogging platform could be slightly simpler and more straightforward than altering the website itself.

Also, as more and more people participate in Facebook to the point that it is no longer considered a questionable diversion, it may make sense to have a fan page there, or possibly a company page on LinkedIn.

A Facebook thumbnail image could brand the organization’s outreach through using a pre-existing logo. Interactions on fan pages (and demographic breakdowns) are automatically tracked and reported to page owners each week. Employee ambassadors could become fans whose participation could informally influence keeping posted comments on point. Appropriate photos can be posted to generate excitement about the research thrusts, as well as links to more multimedia content.

Mobile is increasingly becoming a favored platform for accessing content, so traditional web pages should be built for clear display in small segments. Geolocation services, such as digital maps and social media tools, offer good possibilities for an organization with widespread activities to publicize.

Down the road, providing contextual information through augmented reality may be feasible and desirable too.

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Tips on care and feeding of local media when your news is time-sensitive

  • Basically . . . the view from the trenches is, the easier you can make a harried news assignment editor’s job, the better. Keep content focused and make it ready to roll ASAP.

I used to feel my role as a journalist was like creating order out of chaos. Imagine a blender with a keyboard attached. Pour torn-up bits of paper describing facts in top, and out through the keyboard will flow a perfectly organized, 700-word story, on deadline, framing the issue at hand.

Managing that volume of information is even more challenging with smaller newsroom staffs and a greater expectation of immediacy (as if all reporters feel like they are producing 24-hour news radio), but Denver CBS-TV’s KCNC assignment editor Misty Montano shares a couple of pointers about the helpfulness of spoon-feeding in her recent blog about social media and mainstream journalism.

First, she would love to see immediate online news release postings and running updates from agencies when there is breaking news (more below). Second, she is serving as a valuable resource by trying to act as a centralized clearinghouse for community information, knowing people seldom navigate directly to every organization’s home page for information (see her explanation below):

“What I can do though is share your information on Twitter and Facebook.  When I get releases on events or info I know people want to know about, I Tweet.  People follow and friend me and the station because they want to know what we’re doing, what we’re covering, what we’re finding out.  They won’t take the time to look up individual organizations to find out what’s happening, but they do turn to the news station to tell them about it.

I share as much information as I can, but I don’t have time to make it all fit in 140 characters.  What I do have time for is to slap a tease or headline on the information and share a link.  More often than not I receive the press release without a link, not even to an events calendar.

. . . I’m going to take a slight tangent and make a plea with PR or PIO’s that deal with the media during breaking news situations. Please, if you have the capability, put updates online as you get them.”

Basically . . . the view from the trenches is,  the easier you can make a harried news assignment editor’s job, the better. Keep content focused and make it ready to roll ASAP.

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For those like me who worry about the effect of new media undermining journalism, here’s a blog award from the Society for Professional Journalists that promotes high quality content and execution:

NEW! BLOGS
Honors originality, stylish writing, timeliness, unique perspective and accuracy. Awards will be based on a body of work that includes at least five samples, with extra value placed on the writer’s ablity to break news as well as analyze it.
Entry specifications: Submit up to five posts.
Categories: Online.

I say: One way to drive positive change . . . and acknowledge how much investment, effort and skill valuable content takes! Hope for the sake of the Fourth Estate that news-oriented folks will feel additionally inspired to aim to those standards as they prepare posts.

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As kids my sister and I used to pitch twigs from one side of a footbridge and race them underneath, on the current, to the other (inspired perhaps by a similar feat in Pooh stories — but still fun).twig-pencil

Pitching news also has a somewhat unpredictable course . . . as I wondered the other day, more so now the channels are fragmenting. However, below are some indications of directions to head. (more…)

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