Friday, April 28, 2006

1899: First Wireless Racing Transmission

October 1899

The Marconi wireless telegraph installed on the "Mackay-Bennett" in order to cover for the New York Herald, the international race for the America Cup.

You may have played Edison's movie on my last post of the Yacht Columbia crossing the finish line for the America's Cup in 1898. Most interesting for us wired type story tellers, the next year's race was reported by Marconi wireless telegraph on board the vessel Mackay-Bennett,the first of ship to shore radio transmissions. The radio apparatus was set up in the vessel's chartroom.

October 1899

The international yacht Cableship "Mackay-Bennett" lying near Sandy Hook lightship during the race for the America Cup.

Thomas Raddall writes in this 1951 letter:
In '99, during the international yacht
race off New York, the "Mackay-Bennett" reported the race
by wireless to the Sandy Hook lightship, which was connected
by a short cable to the shore. The idea of putting it on
the lightship was simply to get clear of the tall buildings,
electric light wires and other interference in New York
harbor itself.

The Marconi coherer which was installed in the Mackay-Bennett in 1899.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

1899 Edison Film: Yachts Columbia and Shamrock

Edison Collection, Library of Congress
As the Volvo sailors soon approach New York harbor take a look at this early Edison film from 1899 of the Yacht Columbia crossing the finish line followed closely by the Shamrock. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This race is fascinating to all of us wired folk because the cableship "Mackay-Bennett" was the first to transmit coverage of this 1899 America's Cup yacht race off New York. To read all and more than you ever want to know about international sailing races you can go to this increddiby useful page with links to sailing sites.

From Edison films catalog: The decisive moment in the great International Yacht Races is shown in this picture. Against a background of well defined clouds, the Light Boat is seen marking the finishing line in this great aquatic struggle. As the Columbia crosses the line, followed closely by the Shamrock, we see the steam from the whistle of the Light Ship announcing the well earned victory of the American yacht.

And here's another great 1903 movie by Edison you can play online from the Library of Congress, filmed by The Edison Film Company in 1903. It's a " Panorama water front and Brooklyn Bridge from the East River ".

This film depicts the East River shoreline and the piers of lower Manhattan starting at about Pier 5 (the New York Central Pier) opposite Broad Street, and extending to the Mallory Line steamship piers just south of Fulton Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. The film begins with shots of canal boats or barges (from the Erie Canal via the Hudson River) docked at and around Coenties Slip [Frame: 0106]. As the film progresses, the New York Produce Exchange located at Bowling Green, Manhattan, with its distinct tower, comes into view in the background [0346]. Between here and the Wall Street ferry, there follows in order of appearance: steam tugs [0308 and 0422], a wooden hull barkentine [1032] with box barges alongside, a docked iron hull sailing ship, probably British [1448], an ocean steamer with yards on the foremast [1748], a derrick lighter laden with barrels docked at the end of a pier [2134], and a fruit steamer [2612]. In the Wall Street Ferry slip (between Piers 15 and 16) there is a Wall St., Manhattan-to-Montague St., Brooklyn, double-ended steam commuter boat [2896]. The ferry is visible immediately before a shot of the large advertising billboards on Pier 16. The film next shows the Ward Line piers (J.E. Ward & Co., New York and Cuba Steamship Co.) [3040], a Pennsylvania Railroad tug [3190], a derrick lighter [3320], and the Mallory Line piers [3692]. A Mallory Line steamer can be seen on the south side of one of the Mallory Piers [3736]. The camera begins panning out into the East River after passing pier 20, catching the fog bell at the end of pier 21 [3922]. A car float is visible passing under the Brooklyn Bridge [4202]. The pan follows the line of the Brooklyn Bridge eastward to Brooklyn Heights, where the Hotel Margaret (tall building in background) is visible just before the end of the film [4464]. This film continues the view begun in the film Sky Scrapers of New York City From the North River. Together they comprise a sweep around the southern tip of Manhattan, from Fulton Street on the Hudson to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Steady DV Video: The Fig Rig

The Fig Rig

Most of us DV video shooters have at least three gadgets buried deep within our equipment inventory that we bought with hope it would help us take moving action shots with a tippy smallish DV video camera like the PD150. Steady Sticks, stabilizers, DV Caddies, you name it.

Check out this newest contraption, called the Fig Rig and watch the movie clip of its inventor Mike Figgis showing how it works. Once you hit the Flash intro page click " skip intro" to get to the video demos of Figgis with his rig. It's like a car's steering wheel to which you can attach a zoom controller, mics, lights etc.

The other night in fact I watched in amazement on South Street as a DV shooter used a Steadi-Cam Jr. to shoot a music rap video while on roller blades. He had a friend pull him along as he rolled in front of a gangstah rap type group. He was cursing the Steadicam Jr. at each break.

Since I can't roller blade the Fig Rig just may have to do for now. I haven't tried it out yet. But after I do I will report on it for you.

Broadcast Engineering awarded the Fig Rig five stars in 2005 along with its Pick Hits Award. Manfrotto manufactures this rig so you can order from your favorite retailer.

I don't know about you but my PD150 sure gets tippy when loaded down with the wireless receiver and Sennheiser shotgun mike I use as standard equipment. The first five seconds of each shot look rocky sometimes as I stabilize myself. Take a look at the beginning of my Nightline story where the editor included my first few seconds of shakey shooting. I asked her not to but she said that Nightline likes that " hand held look"...if it moves it grooves.

Whenever I look at this story I cringe. It looks like home movies, as if I can't hold the camera steady. When I was shooting my multimedia tale last Spring on malaria in Africa and Cambodia, I used a DV caddie as I was also doing photography at the same time. It kept the camera reasonably steady but all at the same height. That spells B.O.R.I.N.G. No one else seemed to think so. But hey I know how " moving and grooving" through the story makes it more exciting.

Maybe this Fig Rig will do the trick, to groove with the moves...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gary Fong's Light Dome

Gary Fong's Light Dome

I used a nifty new gadget on my flash to take a picture of the president of a 132-year old tugboat company, McAllister Towing. In my last post I showed the first photo I took with this dome, of tugboat kingpin Capt. Brian A. McAllister. This Light Sphere II Inverted Dome Diffuser, invented by Gary Fong, really does a pretty good job. It just arrived by UPS the day before taking this shot.

I held the Light-Sphere fitted flash to camera left with a remote TTL sensor on my camera's hotshoe. Then I bracketed shutter speeds to get the dramatic look I wanted.

Gary supplies an instructional DVD with every dome. He reccomends that you shoot in manual mode with the flash on TTL so the background doesn't drop out darkly.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Google Video's Gonzo Base Jumpers

Here's a video posted on Google video about gonzo basejumpers, who like lemmings jump off the edge of the world to plummet....far below...only to open their chute at the last minute. Google even thoughtfully provided me with the code to paste on tis page so that you can play this from an embedded Flash 8 player. WTG. ( way to go)

Strange but I can't find who produced this hair-raising clip. No producer credits are posted on their page. I guess they are kind of like Zen artists. Or maybe they pirated this from somewhere else. I hope not. The creators deserve their credit.

World's First Racing Crew Recruited Online

Photo ABN2

The crew on board the ABN 2 is probably the world's first racing crew ever recruited online. According to the team's site, seven sailors were chosen to race as crew on board the ABN2 in the Volvo Ocean Race from 1,800 resumes submitted through an open competition on the Web. Their website tells us,
Crew TWO is comprised of high potential sailors
younger than 31 who have yet to sail around the world,
but who have extensive sailing experience. Seven of the eleven crew members have been chosen through a very tough and careful selection process. Originally
1,800 resumes were sent in from an open web competition. Of this group, an initial 80 candidates competed in crew selections all around the world, and were finally narrowed down to these seven.

Cell Phone Hyper-Linked Narratives

Photo Guggenheim Museum
Remember Nam June Paik the Korean father of video art? At the time you never really knew where he was leading but his work was always interesting and provocative. The Guggenheim Museum says

No artist has had a greater influence in imagining and realizing the artistic potential of video and television than Korean-born Nam June Paik. Through a vast array of installations, videotapes, global television productions, films, and performances, Paik has reshaped our perceptions of the temporal image in contemporary art.

Take a look at this elegant and artful Microrama site, which uses cell phones to create abstract "mobile hyper-linked video stories," in the spirit of Paik's Fluxus collaborations, with a " commual" experience.

Once you hit the home page, click on the link for mobile-video-hyper-story. You'll see an array of nine screens before you. Each of the screens represents a different hyper-linked cell phone narrative. Then click on the letter next to the screen that catches your eye.

I chose narrative F during which we see the author's eye ball while watching red paint being rolled and hear him sing off key " I woke up this morning."

The stories on this site are pretty straight forward. But the whole project is interesting to view...

Clicking on the link from the home page for mobile photos then leads you to photo galleries created by each of the users. Nicola's Trainvistas features you guessed it...vistas from trains. Carolina's Electric Lights offers us a series snaps that use artificial light and and fixtures as subject matter.

Who are these folks? They feel kind of Dutch. I'm contacting them for a Netizen inquiry. Stay tuned for a future post.

Microrama says
MICRORAMA a space for interactive mobile communication.
As mobile-phones are made for communication, this site tries to get
people together with videos.

The stories start with 9 small videos. From there you can continue
(click on a big-letter) with the possibility of 3 different junctions.

You choose a story, you make a video with your mobile-phone and
you upload it. Each video should end in an open way to be answerable.

You can also only look at videos and see them all (if you click on
a video it stops and by doble-click it coninues).

Microrama is an experiment, a site where you can take part
and tell a small piece of a story.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Great Embedded Video Player

I have previously posted from the front lines of the video player wars. While researching the Volvo Race for an earlier post I clicked to play one of the videos on this official site hosted by National Geographic. Since my preferences are set to play Quicktime and I suspect the site's default is set a Windows Media player, nothing happened.

But here's the good news. Their embedded media player allowed me to easily click on a link for " change preferences" to Quicktime. The video quickly streamed in its full Quicktime 7 glory and there I was down below with Justin Ferris making sail repairs onboard The Black Pearl. And I was also able to download the text transcript for the video clip after.

There was no sensation of the boat's rolling or pitching however. Cross media can't do everything yet!

W.T.G. Five Star Alert

That certainly merits a Way To Go ( W.T.G.) five star alert.

Sailing Around the World Online

Join the sailors on the Volvo race ( formerly the Whitbread) online as they race around the world at the media rich site Volvo Ocean Race .

Got What It Takes to Handle the Chili?
See how you do on the Big Blue. Take the helm online the Volvo Race with this way-cool Sailing Simulator , devised by the folks at National Geographic. I just jibed when I used too heavy a drag on the mouse as we were running before the wind. Fortunately I didn't knock off any heads or capsize the boat. The simulator warned me after
You've got the wind at your back but you can't relax. It only takes a slight wind direction to send your sail swinging to the other side--possibly capsizing the boat.

If you want to see what capsize looks like click on this almost photo I took of an almost capsized boat last Fall while shooting as official photographer for the Manhattan Sailing Club. You can see some of the pix I shot last season on my website Click on the link for MYC to see the pix.

The Volvo sailors arrive in New York the first week of May. They will tie up at lower Manhattan's North Cove Marina which I hope to cover on this blog. One of the many hats I wear is as official photographer for the Manhattan Sailing Club, based at North Cove.

The simulator's " salty speak" says that other ways to say sailing downwind are
" running", sailing before the wind," sailing free" or even poetically " scudding." This simulator is a great way to brush up on racing skills. If only I had time to play more...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stalking Mountain Goats

Curator from The Museum of Natural History Clad in Mountain Goat Drag

Can you tell the difference between a chipmunk and a mantled ground squirrel? If not, watch the vintage silent movie video " Gettting Our Goat" at the New Dioramas Web site at the Museum of Natural History. Watch the " picket pin " squirrel (incorrectly called a gopher ) nibble nuts proffered by a early Museum naturalist in the field. Watch a scientist stalk a grouse on hands and knees while teams wth pick axes brave the snow " on over the pass" in search of elusive mountain goats. Watch another naturalist dressed up like a mountain goat trying to woo these shy beasts, as he clambers along the edge of cliff and stone, wearing horns and a cute suit that looks like Dr. Denton's pajamas.

The hand-painted dioramas at Museum of Natural History were the closest New York City children could ever get to virtual reality in pre-Internet days. On any rainy Saturday the Museum's massive halls echoed with the sound of footsteps as children held their parents' hand and stood planted in awe of lions, hippos and other beasts arrayed in front of hand-painted dioramas.
Click here to hear an audio clip of a gorilla's roar and read all about gorillas. Click on the video link and let Curator Steve Quinn lead you on a Video Tour of the Mountain Gorilla Diorama describing diorama artists at work. Watch the video Akeley In Camp on one of the Museum's most gifted diorama artists, who was part of a group of
...brilliant, passionate, and sometimes eccentric artists and naturalists who made the American Museum of Natural History's dioramas include the larger-than-life African explorer and taxidermist Carl Akeley, who survived a bull elephant charge and a leopard attack during his expeditions, which inspired some of the most extraordinary habitat groupings of African wildlife ever seen

George Petersen and James Perry Wilson on location in Wyoming.

Further down on the MNH page find this this video, narrated by Ray de Lucia, which features archival footage of James Perry Wilson at work on the Fisher and Porcupine diorama in the Hall of North American Mammals, we are told.
Richard C. Raddatz (1879-1937)
Radditz joined the staff of the AMNH in 1924,
and was trained by taxidermist Carl Akeley. Raddatz accompanied Akeley on his last expedition to Africa in 1926, collecting foreground accessories. He returned to Africa in 1937 to assist in gathering materials for the ostrich and warthog diorama, when he died of a sudden heart attack in Nairobi, Kenya (then in British East Africa), at the age of fifty-eight.

Click on to view the virtual tours of dioramas. Spin Alaskan Brown Bears and bison around with a click and drag motion of your mouse on the Museum's Quicktime "virtual dioramas".

Explore online this fascinating exhibition devoted to what was once New Yorkers' favorite virtual reality experience... visited offline... in a stately bricks and mortar environment, The Museum of Natural History.

First Photo From Mars

NASA Photo
Just in from Mars! No joke. NASA gives us the first photo taken on Mars, one day before all our taxes are due. But exactly is this "First Context Camera Image" of Mars? And how much of it is digitally enhanced?

NASA tells us:
04.13.06 This is the first image of Mars taken by the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The spacecraft began orbiting the red planet on March 10, 2006. During its 10th close approach to Mars, on March 24, it turned its cameras to view the planet's surface. Although the images acquired were about 10 times lower in resolution than will ultimately be obtained when the spacecraft has finished reshaping its orbit for the mission's primary science phase, these test images provide important confirmation of the performance of the cameras and the spacecraft.

This first image by the Context Camera includes some chaotic terrain at the east end of Mars' Valles Marineris, seen along the top (northern) edge of the image. The image has a scale of about 87 meters (285 feet) per pixel, which is 14.5 times lower resolution than will be acquired during the primary science phase. Typical images from the Context Camera acquired during that phase of the mission will have a resolution of 6 meters (20 feet) per pixel, and will cover an area about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) wide.

Note that, because these are initial, test images, there is some linear striping in the images. This results from incomplete removal of pixel-to-pixel variations in the Context Camera detector by the present calibration software. One use of the test imaging is an opportunity to fine-tune the calibrations before the primary science phase begins.

Moon Walkers Made Into Art

Which reminds me. If you live in New York drop by the hallway of the Hayden Plamatarium at The Museum of Natural History to see an exhibition of images taken by the first men on the moon. An " artist" cropped and reprinted these to make art out of science.

Audio Blog: Walt Whitman's America

Photo AP

Walt Whitman's lines from "Ontario's Blue Shores" in Leaves of Grass seem particularly relevant as we read about the national ground swell of support for immigration reform.

Click to play the audio reading of the poem as you scan the lines...

O I see flashing that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its crimes, likes, thefts, defections, are you and me,
Its Congress is you and me,
(The officers, capitols, armies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me,
The war (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth forget) was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me,
Past, present, future, are you and me.

I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America good or bad,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind,
Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the sexes,
Not to justify science, nor the march of equality,
Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved of time. . . .

And a little further on...

I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth,
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.

(Page from Walt Whitman's Notebooks, Library of Congress)

Fiskar's: The Cutting Edge in E-Commerce invites you to share your stories online and maybe sell you some of their cutting edge tools. Their marvelously inventive site hovers between the virtual and the creative life lived offline,where things are cut and pasted. What looks at first like an an artful site for user-generated content is actually an innovative e-commerce site. For that Fiskars deserves four stars for creating e-commerce " info-tainment" for those of us with that uncontrollable urge to tell stories in a media versatile manner.
What exactly is Fiskar selling online ? Basically it's selling widgets. No, not desktop software Apple and Yahoo widgets, but real tools that you handle and manipulate with your hands in the real world to get things done offline. Fiskar's products include paper cutters for scrapbooking, highly specialized garden tools, splitting axes and paper cutters that would never sell in a store. Check out these Garden Widgets.

To sell these tools that cut things Fiskars has created a virtual community of scrapbookers, gardeners and knitters who do the real thing offline. And they keep their branding down. Thanks guys.

Niching Content With Knitting Needles

Are gardeners just mucking around or waxing spiritually as they scatter seed across the ground? Debbie Anderson of Concord, North Carolina, a gardener, treats us to a cartoon of aliens in a spaceship and asks, “Who says the rows must be straight?” When “In my garden, my hair is red and my daddy’s name is Warbucks, ” says Anderson.

The results are fun to view. Pages from participants' journals are displayed on the site along with Fiskars's queries or instructions.

John Jordan of
Granville, Ohio, created this page in his journal in response to Fiskars' directions to
Draw a line across the middle of the page. On the top half, express how you feel when you are doing chores that have to be done (cleaning, bills, grocery shopping, etc.). On the bottom, express how you feel when you are scrapping/crafting.

Following Fiskar's directions to draw a scenario of what the world would be like if everyone took up sewing and/or quilting, Kate Mikkelsen of Chicago, Illinois pasted a close-up shot of a knitted scarf in her journal that becomes a landscape. Underneath the picture she hand=writes: "Oh we would be so well scarved," telling us that her passion is
Finding the perfect color combination, in just the right yarn for a pattern you’ve been itching to do - well, that’s just the best.

Is this niche content or what? Who would ever think that knitters could be so passionate about what they do with needles and yarn?

Stitching Together a New E-Commerce Model?

For the community journal project, Fiskars' site tells us
We invited gardeners, papercrafters, sewers and quilters to share their stories with us. We provided them blank journals to use to express their feelings about the things they love to do. We've selected just a few of the insightful, funny and unintentionally brilliant pages we received and posted them in this creative community. And, in each category, you'll find a Featured Journal packed with lots of extra pages and stories to explore.

Do U Crave a Tactile High Offline?

After spending hours glued to your computer's keyboard do you lust for real materials like thread and colorful cloth material? Anne Cale of Reston, Virginia advises us, Start quilting. It will help you understand your part in the cycle of life.

Project Orange Thumb

Fiskars also created Project Orange ThumbSM to support community garden groups with tools and materials.
we see community garden groups as innovators in their communities. We believe it's important to support the people who make communities better places to live.

The comany's ingenius marketing honchos named Project Orange Thumb in honor of the orange handles on their extremly ergometric scissors.

I know them. I own a pair. Some mornings in a caffeinated rush I zip through the NY Times, madly clipping articles which never get mailed for friends to read, turning yellow on my coffee table instead. It's a great tradition in my family. "

Warm Fuzzy Branding For ARTSY EARTHY Folk

You can bet that Fiskars is creating an incredibly loyal bunch of users who will rally to their orange brand with warm and fuzzy feelings created by the interactive site.

Way to go.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Talk Among Yourselves

Here's another interesting widgit. I'll ask the question and you start the discussion.

GPS & Mapping Photos:Time & Place - everywhere

GPS Assisted Content: the Appalachian Trail

Read this post and dream about the near future when we all can post GPS assisted travelogues on our blogs, perhaps even linked to Google maps which readers can use to zoom in on your location from the comfort of their desktop. Talk about Armchair travelogues.

Actually the future is here. But I have been too busy to check if Google and Flickr's co-venture works for me, the daffy non-techinal techie. Maybe you have more time on your hands than I do today to check out this video tutorial Geotagging Flickr photos with Google Earth Flickrmap tells us:

Google Earth is by far the best source of geographic information on the web. Combined with the Flickrmap Geotagger you can easily add geographic information or "geotags" to your own Flickr photos. Adding geotags allows you to use various web scripts and applications designed by the Flickr community.

Kentaro Toyama has this fascinating post on experiments using metadata and GPS positions to help create location-specific content and
...browse photos by time and location. As you navigate in the map panel to different parts of the globe and set the timeline to a particular time interval, the photos in the thumbnail panel show only those photos which were taken somewhere on the visible map and between the dates you selected.

Check out Kodak's E-Story about one hiker's journey along the Appalachian Trail that was created with GPS data. To be honest Kodak's story of " Sneetch" hike is kind of boring. But the navigation is not if you think how it will soon be available for all to use routinely. Maybe even coupled with Google's Maps?

Kodak tells us,
Sneetch is our hiker's trail name. She's a young, married woman with an engineering background. She's taken a six-month leave of absence from her job, and with her husband, Scott's support and encouragement, is pursuing her goal of hiking the A.T.

After purchasing a GPS device, says Toyama, carry it on your person whenever you shoot photos. Handheld GPS units typically store a time-stamped record of where they've been, so it's possible to transfer the location data stored on the GPS device onto a photo by matching time stamps.

After downloading the Media eXchange Client you can begin to tag your not only with exposure data and a time stamp, but also with the GPS data. Later on that data can be utilized to help build a site such as Kodak did on the Appalachian Trail. The GPS locations are the literal links for navigation for the posts.

Once your photos are time-stamped and location-stamped, software allows you to take advantage of this information in a variety of ways. Software that can make sense of location-stamped photos is just now beginning to appear on the mainstream market. An experimental research project, The World Wide Media Exchange (wwmx) is an example of one *type* of software.

Liberated Digital Photography

The future of Memories By Dane Howard

At Webmonkey , Dane Howard writes about how shooting digital " disposable photographs" makes us all better photographers, how empowered by instant feedback via the LCD screen, we keep shooting to get a better shot. He says we become liberated.

I tend to agree. I have become a much better photographer since going digital.

Check out his online version of The Future of Memories. He includes free narrative photo templates for slide shows created by different designers. I will be testing these out and posting the results for you to evaluate.

Dane writes at Webmonkey:

When you start shooting with a digital camera, your mentality begins to change. You change from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality. You begin to realize that you can shoot hundreds of pictures on a memory card and not worry about wasting film or money. This was very liberating for me — and I have a photography background! I can't say enough about what the digital camera has done for my willingness to take pictures. I found myself using it more often and more liberally. I would experiment with the settings and take advantage of the immediate feedback. If I didn't like the picture I saw, I erased it on the spot.

Dane Howard, The Future of Memories

Typepad Photo Album

Click here to see photo album hosted by Typepad

I am trying out different blog providers having outgrown Blogger. Each has its merits. I will share with you what I discover along the trek...

Here's a photo album I easily created with Typepad, filled with photos I took during the blizzard.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Working Alone: Kevin Sites

In a previous post , I wrote about Kevin Sites and his talented reporting in three mediums as a one a person team for his content " channel" at Yahoo, called " Hot Zone." Halfway into the year of reporting the world's war zones as a one person team, Hot Zone at Yahoo, Kevin Sites reflects on working alone:

Working alone: tough, but worth it
I work by myself for a couple reasons. Number one, you have more mobility. Normally when you go into a place and you have a crew and you have a boom mic and a big camera, people tend to change. They're not as comfortable on camera.

So, I like to mitigate that situation with just having me and the person there. And, I hold my camera just about chest level. I talk to them. I maintain eye contact. That's very important while I'm doing these interviews because I want them to feel comfortable. I don't want the dynamics of the interview to change.

When I was out in the field I was reporting from 8 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night. By the time you get back, you are very tired from just reporting. And then you have to write your story. You're doing about a 1,000 word-dispatch every night. You've got to input your pictures into the computer and the video. I would actually do a rough cut of the video I had.

So I'm working in three different mediums. And I have to transmit this all through the satellite modem. So, the first month that I was in Africa I thought, "This is crazy."

We started to develop a rhythm. We started to see that maybe, let's focus on the print story first. Let's make sure that we have the notes, and that that story is well told. Then we'll add the photographs and then we're going to add the video. Once we figured out that rhythm, I think things became a bit smoother.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Christos Gates and Video Encoding

How to encode video ? Yikes so many not always delicious options. It makes you wish that all these competitors in the player wars would decide like in that 60's song,to try " to smile on your brothers," and " get along with each other right now," with one set of specs. But hey, Woodstock's peace and love wavey gravy days are long past as the player wars heat up. Sigh says this aging hippie trying to adjust.

Full Disclosure

A full disclosure is maybe in order here. I sang Kumbaya but didn't do drugs.

Christo's Gates Encoded for Quicktime using reference movies

Above you'll see a " Streaming Message" (TM) clip I produced last year in a few hours after seeing Christo's Gates in the snow up in Harlem. I compressed it for three bandwidths and then created a reference script. I guess how it works is it pings your computer to see your bandwidth before playing. It doesn't seem to work if you have a Firewall however. And it looks funky in places. Tonight I will re-encode the clip using QT 7 and post the results for you to compare.

iTunes:One Billionth Download

Suddenly there's money in the arena of downloaded content. When big bucks are at stake the kids in the sandbox start duke it out in earnest rather than share toys. They're looking at Apple which announced that music fans to their iTunes Music Store

" have legally downloaded one billion songs from the iTunes Music Store since it launched less than three years ago. The billionth song “Speed of Sound” was purchased as part of Coldplay’s “X&Y” album by Alex Ostrovsky from West Bloomfield, Michigan."

Encode For All Three Players?

For the moment, I believe the short answer is " encode for all three" players...Flash, QT and Windows Media if you want to reach the largest number of folks. Take a look at this player skin Aquent uses for messages from one of its recruiters. They have encoded for Flash, Windows & Flash.

I like to compress my Quicktime movies using Flip 4 Mac so it can play on Windows Media players. Granted the video doesn't look as great as Quicktime but you can bet more people will play it and you will reach the largest amount of users with your video content. On my website the clip is encoded for both players and the Windows users far out number the QT users. In fact after looking at Aquent's player skin here, I have decided this is the way to go, all three.

Some say Flash indeed is the way to go, even if perhaps it's not as great as QT. I'll write about that later.

Ken McCarthy Weighs In
I opened up Ken McCarthy's always informative newsletter next. He was trying to answer this query. I had asked him the same question earlier, as have others in what he calls a real " horse race"...

Every format has enthusiastic fans who claim their way is THE way to encode video for the Internet.

If only it were that simple.

Flash and Apple have made impressive strides, but according to Jan Ozer, the author of a recent detailed study comparing online video formats, "rumors of the demise of other codecs have been greatly exaggerated. Here's his answer Jan Ozer's Press Release for Streaming Video Report

You can subscribe to Ken's great newsletter " Looking at Video On the Web" at his blog.

Yahoo's Hot Content Zone Left to Simmer

Photo Copyright Kevin Sites

When Yahoo's media group announced last summer their plan to launch media-rich original programming online, digital story-tellers chortled with glee. We rubbed our hands together in keen anticipation of a bright new era for content producers.

Lloyd Braun, the former chief of ABC Entertainment, was the uber-producer behind this ambitious endeavour. With clarion calls blasting, Yahoo's media group announced plans to produce original TV-like programming for the Internet including sitcoms and talk shows. Braun, the newly appointed chief of Yahoo's media group, launched Yahoo's first venture in original programming, "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone", devoted to the coverage of war and conflict by this exceptionally talented multi-tasking Duracel Bunny who reports as a one-person team in almost real time from the field.

Yahoo's Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone
" Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone" is a model that most of us cross-media producers are dying to follow our bliss on great stories, working as what Sites calls " SoJo's", solo journalists, reporting from the field with text, video and photography, within a blog-like context. Last February Kevin Sites won WIRED's Rave Award reported Boing Boing.

You can read Sites' latest cross-media report posted 15 hours ago from Besland, Russia in Chechnya where he reports a stirring tale Grief Without End, in cross-media on on a mother whose son, " Amzat was one of 331 people killed — half were children — after a hostage situation at a Beslan school ended in chaos and tragedy." He includes a photo essay with an eloquent story in text.

How Does Kevin Do it All Alone?
When it was launched, Kevin Sites' venture seemed the logical next step in what has been a slow crawl for venues to develop for SoJos. Those of us trained by VNI/NYTImes TV ten years ago to report alone as videojournalists with Hi-8 cameras were heartened. You can see Sites' photo essay on how a "sojo" (solo journalist) files a live report from the field (or doesn't) here. You can also find Sites' original pre-Yahoo multi-tasked reporting at the blog he created as the first of its kind.

Kevin Sites Multi-Tasking as a Sojo ( solo journalist) Photo Kevin Sites

Lost Mojo @ Yahoo?

The boys in the garage who created Yahoo still have their edge, we thought last Fall while following Sites' multimedia reports. How daring and bold. Yahoo is positioning themselves as pathfinders again, reviving the company's early mojo to create something new, daring and different.

Today's New York Times reports that the company has now decided to scale back their plan to produce original cross-media programming generated by pros. Yahoo now says it will concentrate instead on content acquired from other media companies or generated by users instead. And why not? User generated content is free.

Would 60 Minutes have survived at Yahoo as a start-up?


Original Content Placed on Back Burner by Yahoo

With Google nipping at his heels, Yahoo Chief Terry S. Siemel has apparently clashed with Lloyd Braun, the head of Yahoo Media, as Braun tried to implement this new business model, " to make the Internet look like television," writes the New York Times. Reports of Braun's demise at Yahoo have been greatly exaggerated says Lloyd Braun who seems to have changed the tone of the tune he was previously singing. See previous post on birds who sing too much The NYT quotes a more chastened Braun now saying, " Original content is the salt and pepper on the meal. It is certainly not the engine driving us. "

Although the public will ultimately suffer as Yahoo decides to dumb down, the company's shareholders will benefit from the projected increase in revenue from advertising. Yahoo says users stay in Yahoo's space longer while creating and sharing their content in sites such as Flickr, devoted to photo-sharing. The longer the company is able to keep users in Yahoo space, the more advertising Yahoo is able to sell.

Yahoo says although it is placing plans to produce original media-rich programming on the back burner for now, it will not cancel "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. " Showered with kudos and highly admired by media pros, " Kevin Sites In the Hot Zone" had only 791,000 users in January, what some might say is a respectable audience but
" marginal for Yahoo with more than 400 million users, " writes Saul Hansell.

Today's New York Times quotes Lloyd Braun,

"I now get excited about under-generated content the way I used to get excited about thinking about what television shows would work,"he said.

Mr. Braun insisted that Yahoo would would not abandon its efforts to have original material, but he said it would embark on only a handful of new ventures this year, not the dozens he had been promising last year.

-The New York Times, Saul Hansell, March 2, 2006

How Much longer will Hot Zone Continue?
The header for Kevin Sites In the Hot Zone reads: "One Man. One Year. A World of Conflict."

Has Sites and his " Hot Zone" become a little too for Yahoo to handle? Will they pull the plug soon? Because this reporter with a soul and passion doesn't report " Bang Bang " stories which consist of familiar stories on the Boys With Big Toys in Iraq. Google his name and check out what conservative bloggers are saying about Kevin Sites. But it will certainly be no surprise for Sites if he wakes up one morning to find that the plug has been pulled.

In April of 2003 Susan Mernit reported at USC's Online Journalism Review, on "CNN's decision to force war correspondent Kevin Sites to stop posting items to the popular blog he created while on assignment in northern Iraq," which touched off "an ongoing debate on blogging as a legitimate form of journalism."

Will Kevin's contract be renewed? I hope so.

Or maybe not, for Kevin's sake. He must be exhausted.

And Kevin, if you are reading this post, please do take care. You are covering a beat where PTS is as endemic for journalists as bullets, buzzards and death. Do stop to consider the sad story of Keith Carter , the South African photojournalist featured in the new short doc, screened at the IDA's DocuNYC on Saturday.

Bon Courage.

( Full disclosure: Although I am a big Kevin Sites fan I did not lift the title for my cross-media project on malaria called "Fever Zone" from him. I chose it two years ago.)

-Stephenie Hollyman, New York City

Monday, April 10, 2006

Audio Post: "I, Too" by Langston Hughes

This afternoon New York's immigrants marched down lower Broadway chanting " si se puede" ( We can do it). I joined in too. After all my great grandfather arrived her as Irish immigrant. A poster handed out by the Hospital Workers Union reminded me of this poem by Langston Hughes.
US Postal Service Stamp

You can hear me read "I, Too" on the audioblog. You can set up your account to audioblog.> Then telephone 415-856-0205.
Here me read I, Too as an audio post - click to play

Why not? April is Poetry Month. But don't ask me who decided THAT...

I, Too

I, too sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes,
edited by Arnold Rampersad
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 46.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Trans-Species Dog Pencil Goes Bollywood

Pencil Goes Bollywood

What blogger worth their weight neglects to bring a dog into their posts?

I sent this press release via e-mail to my stoic friends last Winter. I had taken my ten year old mutt for a walk by the South Street Seaport Museum where an Indian film crew was shooting the last scene of a Bollywood epic.

I asked the director if he wanted to include Pencil in the shot. That moment the stars were whirling in a Bangala dervish as a camera on tracks spun around them, guided by a focus puller along a set of tracks. He tilted his head and looked over Pencil quickly with his keen and seasoned eye.

"This is the last location we're shooting," he told me. Maybe we can work the two lovers walking your dog into this scene."

Pencil perked up and hopefully began twirling the two whiskers that make him look like a catfish into a handlebar mustache. After all this was a Sikh production.

But it was just not meant to be. So I wrote this press release when we returned home.

I am sure some of my friends thought " Why doesn't she just go get a life?"

Maybe they do have a point.


Pencil Hollyman appeared dapper today in a silk scarf
as he returned from retirement to make a brief cameo
appearence in the Bollywood epic film Kabhi Aluida Na
Kenna, being filmed at the South Street Seaport . The
cast includes the renowned Hindi stars Shamrukm Khan
and Rani Mukerji. The reclusive aging canine star
refused to answer any questions, after a brief photo
session, and nipped the heels of A New York Post
reporter who tried to follow him back to his trailer.

" I'm so sorry that Pencil doesn't suffer fools
gladly, " Pencil's publicist and owner Stephenie
Hollyman, told the star's disappointed fans who had
waited in the cold since early morning for a glimpse
of the eminent and grizzled actor, " but as you know
he truly has a heart of gold. So please forgive him. "

Why Not Christiane Amanpour For CBS Anchor?

In my previous post you heard from Netizen Jill Geisler, at The Poynter Institute. Let's now pursue another line of inquiry. Does a woman have to be a "looker"...or just plain "perky", to succeed in the rough and tumble world of network TV?

Let's hope not.

A case in point is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, who risked her life daily to report from Bosnia. She wore one of two striped shirts for each of her standups. When she was cold she donned a battered ski parka trimmed with fake fur, that had a hole burned into it by acid that leaked from a battery, she once told Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes. Standing before the camera she leveled her eyes straight at the audience, her feet firmly planted on the ground, clad in Dr. Marten boots, not high-heels. Occasionally she wore a scarf to soften her look.

For those of us starting out here was a real life role model for us to follow along a less-traveled and higher road.

But is Amanpour possibly the exception to network TV's unspoken "Golden Rule" ? Men can look grizzled and tired but women on air must be blonde and petite?

Well I do have to admit that if there were any advice I would offer Amanpour, it would be "Ditch your 60 Minutes safari jackets!"( Did you know that during the Vietnam War Hong Kong tailors called them TV suits? ) Otherwise Amanpour's "look" suits me just fine. But what some embrace as authentic and real, network suits may shrug off as " rough" or not " telegenic" enough for an anchor.

That Leads to My Next Question .

So why wasn't this ground-breaking dean of bang-bang journalism offered the vaunted chair at CBS instead of Katie?

Could it be that this bullet-dodging reporter looks too serious for a woman ? Did the number-crunching wonks at CBS read the recent study that says beauty often comes before brains when women are judged by others?

The New York Times reports today that two economists, Markus M. Mobius of Harvard and Tanya S. Rosenblat of Wesleyan University, ...reported on an experiment they ran that tried to undercover the root causes of the so-called beauty premium.
A prepublication version of their paper "Why Beauty Matters," was published in the March 2006 Economic Review.

A Lady Who's Paid Her Dues in Spades
This much is sure. Packed with integrity, Amanpour has worked her way to the top with solid hard work and bravery. She began graduating summa cum laude from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor of arts in journalism, where she was friends with John Kennedy Jr.

Kindly Correct These Myths If They Are Wrong

After that, Amanpour toiled in obscurity as an assistant as one of the numerous minions at CNN's International desk in Atlanta, beginning in 1983, for some long time. One of her booses denied her repeated requests to get out in the field. So I was once told by an editor in Atlanta.

If I err use the e-mail link to the right to set me straight. I don't want to create an urban legend. The link column for this blog only shows up if you are using Firefox or Safari for your browser.

...Back to Amanpour

While on vacation in Europe, taking a break from her desk job, Amanpour rushed to Berlin just as Germans began to pull the Wall down. When Amanpour phoned her bosses at CNN from the scene they really had no other choice but to assign her to the story. There were no other CNN correspondents around. So I have been told.

Little Foot Grows Bigger

All the rest is broadcast history as this obscure news desk assistant...a " little foot" who was at the right place at the right time... quickly became a mighty and courageous " Big Foot" who risked crossing snipers' free firing zones in Sarejevo to get the story right.

A Guy's Guy?
Some pundits call Amanpour "a guy's guy." Say what? Not this gutsy and talented reporter...Amanpour clearly remembers from whence she came and feels the responsibility to bring others along.

Sure, she swears like a trooper along with the best of the guys. And get this! She often carries the sticks ( tripod) to assist her camera operator . Does that make her a man?

I hope not.

I am told Amanpour toils with her crew in a true spirit of solidarity. She's no " bully broad". For sure she's not Leslie Stahl. In fact, in Bosnia, Amanpour often worked with an all- female crew. It works for her.

Don't believe me? Try to get somebody to say something bad about Amanpour.

No chance.

Heard From the Pulpit: For Women Only

See what I mean? Doing and being the right thing works. Especially if you're a woman.

When you're fighting for a story use your elbows to compete along with the best in the heated fray. But after, stepping from down out of the ring, do remember to take off the gloves. As you wipe the sweat off of your brow there may be a sist'ah standing next to you whom you elbowed while inside the ring, trying to get the big story.

But you're not in the ring now. So take a deep breath.

Try to be friendly. And if the sis'tah is just beginning in the biz take a deep look into her heart and try to decide if she's worthy of mentoring. Stop for a few minutes to chat and maybe offer advice. Hopefully there's enough of good things to go around.

And back in the newsoom just try to remember that one woman's promotion is not your loss. Jealousy and back biting get you nowhere.

But if the sis'tah is really a wolf in woman's clothing, just slide on by.

Do not engage. Believe me. This advice comes from hard-won experience.

Netizen Jill Geisler Replies About Katie

1977: Jill Geisler with Co-Anchor Zimmerman and Portrait of Walter Cronkite

I contacted Netizen Jill Geisler, Group Leader, Leadership and Management Programs at The Poynter Institute, last night, after posting a link to a memo she facetiously posted at Poynter online for Katie Couric to read. I asked Jill to respond to my previous post in which I discussed " gravitas" and Cronkite's contention that women's higher registers make their voice less suitable for voice-over narration. Would Katie ( not Katherine), a former high school cheerleader, have the mojo to command Cronkite's former pulpit I queried ? Can a voice fueled by emotion, not testosterone, carry weight for viewers?

Jill sent me two pictures of herself, the one above, that she wrote me,
...should make you chuckle. It is a copy of an ad that my station ran in 1977 when I was named co-anchor of the 6pm news. We were a CBS affiliate and the news followed Cronkite. And yes, we had a puppet named Albert the Alleycat on the weather.

Today, having pioneered as one among few women anchors, Geisler tells us that things hopefully have changed for the better, that Couric,no wilting lily, should do just fine.

I agree. Remember when Couric ambushed President Bush Sr. while she was onstensibly reporting a " softie" tour of the Whitehouse with Barbara Bush as her guide some long time ago? President Bush Sr. wandered onto the scene for an orchestrated cameo and probably regretted his decision to do so after Couric peppered him with hardball questions instead of puffballs.

Jill Geisler wrote me last last night in a mellow mood, telling me that things indeed have changed and that
I'm not really concerned about Katie's vocal tones. She's managed to communicate effectively on the Today Show to this point. I don't think she needs a voice transplant to do the Evening News.

What people of a certain generation (mine) need to remember is that people
40 and under in this country have grown up surrounded by women in positions
of authority - teachers, doctors, attorneys, their bosses. Katie's ascension to the anchor chair at CBS is no culture shock to them.

Ms. Geisler concludes: Perhaps you can see why, nearly 30 years later, I sent congratulations to Katie Couric for moving into Cronkite's chair.

Thanks Netizen Jill Geisner, for taking the time to answer my query and for your thoughtful and informative response. And your picture, as they say, " is worth a thousand words," bringing us back to 1977.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Top Picture Searches

If you see tear-stains on this page they're mine after reading that says these are the top five picture searches for March:

  • 50 Cent
  • Eminem
  • Green Day
  • Jessica Simpson
  • Hilary Duff
  • Lindsay Lohan

What's a dedicated photojournalist to do?

Develop cross-media skills to report media-rich stories.

Will they make a living doing so?

I don't know.

But it's worth a try. It sure beats covering Jessca Simpson.

A Woman's Voice: Katie Couric

"After listening to my heart and gut," Katie Couric tells us she has decided to leave the Today Show to don the CBS anchor crown for a one-year probationary trial. David Shedden, the director of The Poynter Institute's library, just posted this interesting history of network anchors. Jill Geisler, also at Poynter, writes this open memo to Couric:

Good going, Katie.
The chair you'll occupy can be a pulpit.
What's your sermon?
Countless women in journalism hope your message is simple: news leadership isn't gender-limited. Old boys’ networks improve with estrogen therapy. And charisma and intellect aren't mutually exclusive.

Stay strong, Katie.
The chair you’ll occupy can be a target.
How will you dodge the snipers?
Speak truth to power, prudently but fearlessly, although messenger-killing is a sport these days. Be exacting about accuracy in a world steeped in speed. Be an ambassador for ethics, a voice for journalistic values.

Well well well. What's an anchor with a woman's voice to do in what Geisler calls
" an estrogen-charged environment?"

Earlier today The NY Times reported that the father of broadcast journalism, Walter Cronkite, ate salt and bread and spoke the truth and was bitten after for having done so. He said that men's voice's were better for voice-overs than those of women. Why? He said that we women speak in a higher register.

I don't think Cronkite said this out of malice towards women or jealousy over Couric assuming his legendery seat. I think he was referring to that thing called
" gravitas" that emerges best from voices that reach from the lower register. Because of hormones men speak lower.


Gravitas? Think of the time when when you heard " This is CNN..." in the old days, mouthed by the Darth Vader in the very lowest register that a male voice can utter. Now THAT is gravitas.

As a woman do I take umbrage with Walter? No way. My voice ain't the best. Check it out here by clicking on the broadband video version of a multimedia story I did for UNICEF in October working for a few days at their HQ cross-purposing video from the field for online usage. (I wrote the script after looking at the B-Roll and then tracked the narrative and followed up with a text story.) Or click to play the post with my Nightline story.

If you listen to my voice it's rather " thin", lacking gravitas. But it works OK. When I'm tired, my voice even cracks. So I've learned to compensate by going soft..kind of like speaking for NPR. Should I take steriods to lower my voice or slug back whiskey and smoke cigarettes to lower my voice? No way.

Will you ever hear me on the Discovery Channel? Probably not.

But for crossmedia and breaking news stories my voice works just fine.

And for CBS Katie Couric's voice is perfect.

More later in another post...