As a child Susie Cagle loved to draw, scribbling little comic books and cartoons here and there. A talent for drawing ran in the family – her father was an editorial cartoonist. But to her, these illustrations were a hobby – she didn’t want to follow in her father’s professional footsteps. She decided that she wanted to be a reporter instead and enrolled at the Columbia Journalism School to help launch her career.
She graduated in 2006 and moved to the Bay Area in hopes of finding some freelance writing gigs. Eventually, she got hired at San Francisco’s Curbed blog a week before the stock market crash of 2008. Two and a half months later, she was laid off and her career ambitions came to a halt again. She decided enough was enough; she had debts to pay and was desperate to find a new way to earn some money. She’d never considered pursuing her drawing hobby professionally, but figured that some of her non-fiction comics might work in a journalistic setting. (more…)
You may have seen their footage from protests, sporting events and the Nepal earthquake. You may have watched them whizzing around public parks and beaches. But, thanks to stringent rules set up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), drones are still a limited part of the modern journalist’s reporting arsenal.
They’re essential to any sort of multimedia editing. You usually have to pick one when you decide to export your files. New videographers often just see a string of random letters and numbers, but the concept is actually straightforward: a codec helps you resize your video, audio and other media files to the appropriate playback size.
There always seems to be a new piece of gear, a new version of editing software or a new trend on the market for videojournalists. We decided to consult the experts, Columbia’s very own video professors, on the equipment that they can’t live without. Here’s some amalgamated wisdom on what they think is essential for anyone starting out in the videojournalism industry.
If you’re dealing with photos, videos and audio on a regular basis, you probably know by now that you need to back up everything you’re working on. We’ve all heard horror stories of someone losing months of footage because their hard drive crashed. Prevent losing your magnum opus by taking good care of your external hard drives.
Last year, we published a list of great visual journalism workshops, and there are lots of lists like this out there. After looking through them, we’ve realized that the prices of these workshops are way too high for most of us journalists, especially for those who are freelancing or just starting out. So we narrowed it down; here’s a list of workshops under $1,000 (plus travel expenses) that we think are totally worth your hard-earned cash.
Professor Duy Linh Tu shows us step-by-step instructions for lighting a sit-down interview. For more information on controlling the environment for your interviews, you can read an additional tutorial here.
Lea Khayata and Elettra Fiumi met at Columbia Journalism School in 2011. They worked on their master’s project together and got along exceptionally well. When the school year ended and they started looking for jobs, they could not find anything that suited them. “Everything was very particular: only research, or only shooting, or only editing, things like that. And the way we had learned things was to do everything from beginning to end,” explained Lea. So with a little encouragement from their teacher, they decided to take the jump and create their own production company: Granny Cart Productions.
Brent McDonald was the lead videographer for the New York Times' 'Hers to Lose,' the second-prize long feature winner in the 2014 World Press Photo Multimedia awards. McDonald explains the challenges of filming a campaign that took a turn for the worse, and how he and his team got access in the first place.
A lack of experience or formal media training didn’t stop Katriina O’Kane, an environmental scientist, from producing a sophisticated multimedia web doc. Profiles from the Arctic casts a spotlight on scientific research in the Canadian North. O’Kane answered a few questions about what it was like to do a big project with little financial support, why she thinks science reporting is important and what lessons she learned while producing the series.
The impact of the social documentary “Hollow” is undeniable. But when Elaine McMillion Sheldon set out to capture the essence of a small town community in America through film, she had no idea how the final product would look. She only knew that she wanted to highlight the lives of people who came from areas of the country where the population had been decreasing over the last few decades. McDowell County, West Virginia, very near to where Sheldon grew up, is one of those places. (more…)
On March 11th, 2012, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales left his army base and allegedly killed 16 innocent civilians in the villages surrounding Kandahar, Afghanistan. While he was criminally tried in America, little has been heard from the villagers who witnessed the gruesome murders firsthand. Lela Ahmadzai, a German video and photojournalist who was born in Kabul, happened to be in Afghanistan when news of the massacre trickled out. She decided to go to Kandahar and record the firsthand accounts of those who saw their families massacred. In her multimedia piece, Silent Night, she uses photo, video and audio to showcase the stories of those directly affected by Bales’ actions. (more…)
Rick Gershon and MediaStorm did not set out to make a feature length piece when they went to Houston. Gershon was there to shoot client work for Neighborhood Centers, but then he met the Greer family. Marilyn Greer, the 58-year-old matriarch of the family, had recently been diagnosed with dementia. Gershon recognized the opportunity to turn a shorter client piece into a longer story, Swan Song, which documents the struggle of two young daughters who have to make hard choices in the face of their mother’s debilitating disorder. (more…)
Shooting from the tops of trains and attempting to evade the police (staff riding is illegal), Casino shows the adrenaline-riddled highs and the tragic lows that staff riding brings to the townships in South Africa. Now, he hopes to turn the short into part of a long-term project about the metro train system in Johannesburg. (more…)
Instagram launched in October 2010. Two years later, photographers Peter diCampo and Austin Merrill started posting, under the username @EverydayAfrica, scenes of African life happening alongside the wars, famines and other "news events" the two photographers were covering in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. As they put it on their website, “As journalists who are native to Africa, or have lived and worked on the continent for years at a time, we find the extreme not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday.”
The freelance market can be precarious, especially for those who are just starting out. Journalists complain about poor pay, unclear expectations and needy editors - a contract can help you avoid these problems. Columbia Visuals reporter Joanna Plucinska met with Bill Loundy, the Director of Talent Management at Content.ly, to discuss some of the things that every freelancer should keep in mind when drafting a contract.
Shooting a sit-down interview is all about controlling your environment. It’s not the same as shooting documentary footage; it’s about using your producing skills to make sure you capture great sound and beautiful picture in your interview. We have five ways to get you there.
What if the character in your next piece isn’t a stranger at all? What if it’s a family member? Could you interrogate your parents and get them to reveal secrets they’ve buried since before you were born? Could you delve into the personal accounts of people you’ve known your whole life? How would you even approach it?
This is exactly what documentary filmmaker, Lacey Schwartz, had to do in order to produce her documentary, Little White Lie. Recently, Columbia Visuals talked to Schwartz about the process of producing a documentary and turning the cameras on her own family.