Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

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.


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.





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In working with interactive folks to craft Google AdWords, I saw the advantage of merging some skills. Tips from traditional media apply, combined with some added dimensions that take into account how viewers find and interact with your announcement.

Generally, it seems helpful to consider AdWords as more like a freeway billboard than a sign outside your shop. The ads are geared toward having someone stumble upon it, then decide to stick around. (This is why there’s no added benefit to naming your company in the verbiage or keywords, since you are trying to widen your net to find potential customers who don’t already know that name.)

That leads to an initial universal point of writing – consider your audience. Imagine someone, sitting at a keyboard, who wants something, and may act on what you have crafted once it appears on his or her screen.

With limited space, a second basic precept also applies, which is to get to the point – you have perhaps 30-odd characters per line (roughly) to say what you need to say. Clarity will trump cleverness here.

Using an analogy from old media, there is a standard in writing headlines in which it is important for each deck to be able to almost stand alone, or to capture a complete phrase, for ease of scanning.

The best lexicon is pithy and unambiguous, and appeals to what may capture a casual browser’s interest, while authentically representing the site.

Your promotional goal is to have viewers click the site and stick around. You ad will appear at times that search words and terms you’ve identified (and bid upon) are used. For these paid search terms, that operate like unseen tags, I believe a simple rule of thumb is to combine a common term with a specific one, to generate having the ad be likely to appear often, while narrowing that occurrence to instances in which the searcher is likely to be particularly interested in your specific content.

(As an aside, I think beyond being authentic, the AdWords don’t have as much influence on bounce rate – people backing out quickly – as does information architecture or ease of navigation.)

For being found through free keywords in the ad, working in search terms and phrases is great as long as the result is not awkward and polished.

Finally, those visible URLs provide some room for branding. Try to designate a window-dressing type display link while employing an underlying destination link, whose address may be less eye-catching or memorable.

With headlines in mind, I’ll close with a couple that have stayed in mind for either succeeding or being unwittingly confusing. Space was tight when a layout only allowed a single column width to announce a new ordinance against inebriated pedestrians. These four simple words worked:

don’t mix

Next, the following headline stayed in mind since it was initially puzzling because of its ambiguity. I misread it to mean that creatures had interned their benefactor, Diann Fossey, the slain naturalist who was profiled in Gorillas in the Mist:

Woman buried by her beloved gorillas

(It turns out she was buried beside them.)

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I’ve been busy helping an interactive agency reengineer some processes and keeping track of our evolving field.

One of the advantages of living in the Silicon Valley area is hearing from experts here. The other night I attended an event at the Computer History Museum (which, coincidentally, my friend’s in-law runs).

The invitation-only event provided a future scan, and was put on by technology recruiter Dice as it gears up a new social-network interface.

Harry McCracken, called the #1 techie-to-follow on Twitter, obligingly ran down a list of his educated hunches about what’s in store:

1) Mobile (one of my faves) – the new third-generation standard, Long Term Evolution, or LTE, is billed to allow seamless access to any multimedia content anywhere with quicker, more efficient transmission. LTE will start to matter toward the end of next year and require new devices
2) ePaper will become more flexible and interactive with improved battery life to boot.
3) 3-D is coming to TV with some channels becoming completely 3-D. Although there are no standards yet, some gaming console software is written with 3-D in mind.
4) Fuel cells may appear in conjunction with consumer electronics in five years or so. Toshiba has an external charger now. Imagine a laptop operating with on-board power for 40 hours . . .
5) Augmented reality, which overlays the real world with digital information, is also imminently spreading. For instance, Yelp, where consumers review businesses, can potentially add GPS data to overwrite the physical information in front of you. One application for layering the web over the physical world? A full-size keyboard projected from a phone.
6) The cloud – data will live online to be accessible from anywhere
7) Wireless power, like the Palm Pre uses with inductive charging. In about 10 years, perhaps a laptop inside a case near a recharging station could recharge without physical contact.
And last, #8: Voice recognition will be possible with advances in computational power, Now it requires sending the information to a server – with Nexis One, emails can be dictated . . .

Other insights for future posts!

In keeping with closing with an observation, one mixed-up usage of language I somehow recall fondly was seeing a writer inadvertently write about “fermenting” revolution instead of “fomenting”. The phrase did paint a dynamic mental picture!

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