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23 January, 2017

Fight #AlternateFacts with #VisualJournalism

A chart produced with an iPhone in about three minutes.

Visual journalism is a powerful weapon to combat the rise of #Alternatefacts and the good news is that journalists don't need a special graphics team or expensive laptop to produce them from the field during breaking news events.

Reporters: It is time to reporting stories more visually.
Too many stories tried to refute the #alternatefacts presented by The White House merely using the text of numbers.
The Washington Post story comparing subway ridership for recent inaugurations in DC. And a separate story that lists numbers from the Women's March protest.

The White House has installed two video displays to either side of the briefing podium in order to post visuals they hope will persuade their audiences inside and outside of the briefing room.

Readers can't easily visualize the patterns these numbers represent when reported only in text.

Important data needs to engage the right side (Literally the right side . . .) of the brain.

The visual side.

Number stories need a chart.

Any reporter can do this by using an app on their smartphone to SHOW their audience what the numbers mean in their reporting.

For example when they gather and confirm independent ridership data of how many subway rides happened on which day, those numbers can be quickly charted.

I maintain a handy list of apps for reporters to use for visual journalism and the Viz app is a simple way to show your followers the numbers that the White House presented did not match subway ridership numbers. 

You can do this in about three minutes and have a visual for any platform.
Enter the data

Format to bar chart (The correct graphics form for this kind of data set). 

Export and save to camera roll

Ready to share.

19 January, 2017

First look: Røde VideoMic Soundfield

This is a new 360° microphone from Røde and it looks like a game-changer for #MOJO video, 360° live video, DSLR sound recording, sports, music, you name it. 

A soundfield mic uses four mic capsules to record surround sound. 

It outputs these as four separate audio tracks which gives sound engineers the ability to make incredibly life like sound mixes.

The Røde VideoMic Soundfield has internal chips that will output B-format converted audio out of the 3.5mm TRS jack as a stereo signal. 

And the raw A-format four-track audio can be recorded using a dongle attached to the smaller multi-pin jack.

That's amazing flexibility. 

I talk more about recording multi-track audio in this recent post about making 360 videos.

You can use the mic to capture highly directional audio.

Or a stereo mix

or 360° ambisonic audio.

Stay tuned . . .  We'll be testing this out in the Smart Film School very soon.

18 January, 2017

Visual-first journalism at the New York Times (and everywhere)

It comes as no surprise to me that visual-first journalism is at the core of The New York Times' new digital strategy.

'Journalism That Stands Apart' is the publisher's latest report that focuses on the innovation and design-led newsroom strategies it will be undertaking in an effort to double its digital revenue by 2020, to $800 million.

Visual Storytelling and Design Thinking are a powerful combination to address. I have spent my entire journalism career exploring this frontier. Both as an editor and a professor.

So, of course, I am thrilled to see a major publisher take a bold step at this intersection.

“We need to expand the number of visual experts who work at The Times and also expand the number who are in leadership roles,” the report’s authors write; photographers, videographers, and graphics editors will “[play] the primary role covering some stories.” In their memo, Baquet and Kahn write, “We will train many, many more reporters and backfielders to think visually and incorporate visual elements into their stories.” There will be more creative directors and senior editors who are visual experts. And “roughly a dozen new visual-first journalists will be in place by the end of 2017.” 

These words from the executive editor are a strong signal for a sea change for how editorial coverage is imagined, planned, reported, edited, distributed, measured, and judged.

"Creating a more visual daily report is an enormous opportunity."

Oh yes it is, but also very achievable.  It will be exciting to watch this culture change unfold.

The key for me is to watch the leadership. 

When I visit newsrooms to lead redesigns, or to grow their social video capacity or lead design thinking workshops, I am always struck by the lack of visual literacy at the top.

For me that has always been a pain point. The top editors at the top papers simply have not risen to the top by reporting visual-first stories. 

The better ones have studied the basics of picture grammar and design language. 

Some may have had stints managing graphics or video departments, but not many chiefs have the personal background and experience, for example, to know how to find, capture, kill, edit, and share a visually-led story using just a smartphone. 

If you are scoffing at this. Let me just challenge you. Can you name 10 ways to plan a visually led story?

Every freshman journalist should be able to do this and every sophomore be able to produce all 10.

Visual reporting with a smartphone is a basic skill set for our present reality and is only now being taught in journalism schools. 

And if visual reporting is being taught at all, it is typically offered as an elective, rather than a foundational skill like news writing 101.

There is only one journalism school I know of that requires every student to complete a proficiency in mobile video reporting and that one is in France.

Literacy in 'Visual Reporting' and 'Visual Editing' is the foundation for getting the future that the leadership wants. 

You can hire some of that from outside. You can promote some of that from within, but those steps alone will not lift the entire boat. It is simply not enough to bring the culture change that the leaders seek.

You need two more things:
  1. There needs to be a comprehensive approach to growing visual literacy for every employee in the organization.
  2. Design-thinking methods need to be used by journalists working in cross-functional teams to drive daily innovation.  
What do I mean by this? I could tell you, but wouldn't it actually make the point better if I just showed you?

This is a recent Design Thinking workshop I produced. The design challenge was "How do we grow more loyal visitors to our Web sites(s)?"

The top manager of a mid-sized publisher in Europe listens to pitches at the end of a design-thinking workshop in his newsroom. 
Each team has one journalist, one technologist, one designer and one sales expert. Each team has three minutes to make their case.
They must make a visually-led report.  

The manager gives critical feedback to the team, advances the best ideas, and immediately tasks the team to refine their ideas further so that they can be built, launched, measured and iterated on.

This is Design-Thinking. It is not graphic design.

This is strategic problem solving that yields a business result. It is a process and a habit that you can use every day. 

In addition to new ways of working, every person in their organization gets access to a bundle of certificate e-courses in visual storytelling - From simple to advanced topics. Company-wide efforts like this grow visual literacy across the enterprise and helps leaders achieve their goals.

Specifically the HR department for this publisher will work with top managers to use these materials to set goals for their 200 editorial employees throughout the year.

A bold effort like this will soon let everyone in the house to begin to speak the same language. (And to be able to name at least a few of the '10 types.')

That is what I do now as a visual journalism expert, and it is damn exciting. 

Growing literacy in visual storytelling is one of the reasons I launched Visual Editors educational network way back 2004. 

Where do we begin?

I was carrying a Nikon F3 when I first walked into a journalism school in 1986. (I was a kid looking for a free darkroom where I could develop my B&W film.) 

I was actually studying Organic Chemistry at the time, but after that visit I switched my major to journalism and have never looked back.

It was with a camera that I first reported and edited stories. My school was among the first to get Macs and use desktop publishing software to design the school newspaper and yearbook. 

So I added minors in graphic design and economics and learned how to report with infographics. And then again shifted to publication design, because that is were the jobs where in 1990 when I graduated.

That visual reporting and editing foundation has fueled my 30-year career in visual journalism. 

Imagine the plight of today's journalism school and student. How are they going to get the same opportunities?

Much of their studies are still text-centric, and the professors far too inexperienced in their ability to natively teach visual reporting and editing methods. 

As a result, visual reporting and editing courses are pushed to the side, or only offered in the third and fourth years. 

This emphasis between text and visual reporting skills needs to be flipped. Immediately.

One you first learn how to report in pictures, you then learn how to write 'to' pictures. That is the the key concept.

I have been teaching mobile reporting (MOJO) at FH Wien Journalism School in Austria for the past three years. Last year, the dean invited me to help his team put MOJO in the center of their curriculum. A process that may not start until later this year, for a semester that begins in 2018. Possibly. That pace of change is way too slow for a medium and marketplace that is moving much faster.

I predict that we will see some sweeping announcements as the top J-schools follow the shifts from leaders in the industry, like The New York Times. 

The NYTs announcement represents a seismic shift in strategic thinking, and you can bet they have the data to back up their decision. 

J-Schools everywhere will need to increase the tempo of their curriculum changes in order to keep pace.

What do think? 
  • Are you prepared to be a visual first journalist? 
  • Do you know how to build and nurture a design-led newsroom?

Your future may depend upon it.

17 January, 2017

Design Thinking for your newsroom

The CEO of a European media company being pitched by a team at the end of a design thinking workshop led by Robb Montgomery.

Innovation transforms the way people develop products, services, processes—and even strategy.
For the companies disrupting the market today, design is no longer just a “stage” in the business process — it is the language of business.
If you want to help jolt your company out of bad habits, the people and teams around you will need to learn to adopt the habits of true innovators. 
Innovators are people who are driven to build something 10 times better rather than something that is only 10 percent better.
For 10 years I have been teaching design thinking methods to help transform talented people into those rare leaders who can inspire lasting innovation in their organizations. 
My mantra is simple: "Design thinking is a creative process that yields a business result."
That's right. The Design Method I teach is actually a process of continuous problem-solving that can earn you more money.
Do you want to work in a company culture that invests in and rallies behind principles like design thinking? 
Then action is required. Planning, researching, and talking all matter. But they are not enough to build new visions that will captivate the marketplace.
There’s no company you can purchase or person you can hire that will transform your company into an innovative juggernaut overnight.  
The design methods like the ones I teach give you the formula that you can customize, experiment with, and learn from.
It’s time to stop talking and get busy making.
Take this Design Thinking certificate e-course and save 50% off registration with this coupon code.

The method Robb uses for this immersive video course is one he has developed over the last 10 years. It employs the best practices from GV Design Sprints, Maestro planning and the Stanford D-School model.
Guiding the teams through specific problem solving exercises are a key focus as Robb uses “How Might We” approaches to generate actionable ideas to guide teams to rapidly prototype solutions that will deliver a great customer journey with their solution. 
These are the same techniques that successful startups use.
Robb leads your team as the sprint master and you play the role of the 'Decider.'
Master the development of disruptive business models and radical insights that can drive new business.
You will learn to:
  • Identify a challenge or opportunity in your marketplace
  • Define the customer who will benefit from your solution
  • Run a productive brainstorming sessions
  • Build a roadmap and action plan with a cross-functional team
  • Plan for a great user experience from the start 
  • Rapidly draft and refine solutions that solve problems for users 
  • Validate your prototype solution
  • Build the perfect pitch deck to get your project green-lighted
What are you waiting for?  Enroll now
Design thinking can empower your business.

05 January, 2017

This free iPhone app converts Live Photos into video clips

I love the live photos feature found on the iPhone 6S and up models.

Live photos are actually video clips.

Every time you have the camera app open in 'Photo' mode, the iPhone is also secretly 'rolling' on the video side of things.

What I mean by that is that it is also recording frames before and after the still photo you are actually intending to record. 

These animated still images (called Live Photos) look magical when played back on the phone using the Photos app. So good, that you may be tempted to forget about the still and edit a reel with the short video clips.

These files are written at a lower frame rate and resolution than native video recording and lends a genuine 'Super 8' film feel to the footage. Perfect for cutting together a family vacation highlights reel while waiting in the queue for Harry Potter rides.

That is what I had in mind after filming all day with my kids at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

Throughout the day I filmed many face, reaction, pov, tracking, wide, creative, and over the shoulder shots as still images.

And then I wanted to import the video the phone also recorded using a video editing app like iMovie, or Clips. (still my fave video edit app for editing a loading up all clip material and cutting into rushes)

The trouble is I could not locate the video clips on in the Photos app. 

Oh, Apple. What have you done? I thought.

Now, within the 'Photos' view of the Photos app, it is possible to create and export an entire movie clip that the app will generate from your related material. (See above photo)

This is one way to export the video from the live photos out of 'Apple Photo Jail,' but it is a bit messy and not very intuitive.

'What would be a better workflow?' I muttered as I waited in the queue for the 'Dragon Challenge' ride.

I was starting to get frustrated and thought an inverted rollercoaster ride would dislodge some solution.

Sure enough after braving five outside loops with screaming teens . . . 

It came to me that some crafty developer would have an app that would reveal those those hidden live photo video files and a user simply copy them out of 'Apple Photo Jail' so that they can be edited and shared with the wider world.

After some digging, I found a free app called LP converter.

And it does the trick, lickety-split.

You open it up and batch select a load of live photos snaps and export them as video clips.

No water marks, no in-app purchases, and no ads.

Love it!

The app's other tricks are also handy, like the ability to export a selected freeze frame as a still image . . . 

 . . .  or save a live photo as a looping GIF animation.

Fun. Practical, and free.

I was able to cut a 4-minute reel from that day at Universal Studios and nearly all of the material was video clips from Live Photos.

And for journalists, it is very handy to have those fleeting moments automagically recorded just before and after taking a snap.

It could be really useful for getting alternate material and takes from breaking news scenes, for example. Or if something unexpected happens when you are shooting something else.

Me, before the T-Rex attack.