Remembering the road, day 22

Day 22

Today it is much cooler and much less humid. In fact, it’s quite comfortable. I got my film photos back today and there are a few I liked. I’m thinking that beofre long, I’ll have to get a good SLR digital camera. But, the one I want is about $4,000 and that’s about 10 times more than I want to spend. Maybe in about 5 years…

After a quite day lounging around, helping with some household stuff, my brother Mark and I staged a tennis rematch. My mom and our wives joined us for some doubles before we went mono-a-mono and I exacted a tiny bit of revenge.

Then we stopped to play wiffleball with the boys. That came to an end once I lined the ball off the pitcher‘s leg… that is to say, my nephew.

That reminds me, Truman was cracking us up in Las Vegas. Whenever he spotted a surveillance camera (and he spotted plenty), he’d hold up his hand and flash the “loser” sign. I’m sure security personnel throughout Vegas were looking for that 10-year-old.

Another amusing story I forgot to mention is the use of the walkie-talkies along the trip. Nobody could understand me, claiming I was mumbling. Cynthia was having trouble too, as she held the walkie-talkie to her ear when talking and mouth when listening. I think we were both just dead from all of the miles.

Ok, one more amusing story from Vegas that I forgot to tell. One day I was walking down the hallway and someone put out their room service cart to be taken away. On the top of the cart were three delicious-looking dinner rolls. Then there were two, and it was delicious. Cynthia just found out about it today and says she’s disappointed, but the kids thought it was cool.

Anyway, we’re definitely winding this trip down. Tomorrow is my mom’s 60th birthday and we’ll go horseback riding, probably will play more tennis, and just relax.

Shooting video

Here are some quick tips for journalists for shooting successful Web video:

Put the camera on a tripod. Shaky video stinks. And, when compressing video for the web, stable video will compress much, much better.

Set up subject with microphone. Remember, 70 percent of video is audio. So, place a lav mic under your interview subject’s chin, about a hand’s length away. Make sure mic is working. (Cables are plugged in, tight, batteries are working, devices turned on, settings are correct, etc.) Always, always, always monitor your audio.

Pick a location with either no ambient sound or with relevant ambient sound (watch out for electronic hums, distracting environmental sounds). Level the shot. Keep sun at your back. Avoid placing the subject in front a bright background. This is esp. true for people with dark complexions. Look around the frame. Try to fill it with interesting information. Watch out for errant objects. Follow the rule of thirds. Compose your shot so it has depth and interesting angles. Don’t put the interview subject in the middle of the frame with the camera straight on. Too harsh and BORING.

Turn off cell phones. They interfere with audio. Also, people have a magical ability to call you in the middle of a shoot.

Set white balance. Every lighting situation is different. If you can, set your white balance.

Turn on auto focus. Zoom into subject’s eyes to focus. Turn off auto focus. Zoom out. Don’t move the camera.

Set exposure. Make sure the stuff you need to see is exposed correctly. Better to slightly underexpose that to overexpose.

Roll for 30 seconds at the beginning of the tape. Before each shot, roll for about 5 seconds, and then roll for about five seconds at the end of the shot.

Keep the shot steady. Don’t pan, don’t zoom. Let action unfold in front of you.

Monitor audio with headphones.

Ask questions that require full answers. For example, ask compound questions; requests; commands. Don’t ask yes/no questions.

Ask questions over again to get more cogent answers. Often, people will say something a second time that is more articulate than the first time they said it. Use silence to get people to talk.

Avoid conversational prompts/respones (uh huh, yeah, etc.).

Take notes while you shoot. Try to make note of timecode. Make a shot list of things to get B-roll of. If the interview subject talks about his feet, remember to shoot footage of his feet.

Vary your shots. Lots and lots of close-up/detail shots. Get action and reaction. Don’t just shoot the flames, shoot the firefighters resting, drinking water, wiping sweat from their brows. The crowd watching, people crying, etc.

Get your mic back when you’re done.

Task-oriented usage

Image representing iPhone 3G as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m constantly surprised by the frequency with which something that I have long thought/assumed/believed, but rarely considered, is articulately and cogently explained to me. This happened not long ago when a friend described how many people online are task-oriented. That is to say, people go online with a specific objective in mind and the way they engage with the Internet is tied to that objective.

More recently, I read a line that said (I’m paraphrasing), data and services, and not pages, are what’s central to the Web.

When you put those two thoughts together — task-oriented usage and the centrality of data and services — it instantly explains why some sites work so well and some are so terrible. Those that use data and services (enabled by high-quality design) to enable people to execute the task at hand are successful. Those that don’t, aren’t.

Think of some of the tasks that might drive people online:

  • I want a sports score
  • I want to know what’s happening right now
  • I want to see my fantasy league stats
  • I want to see how my money is doing
  • I want to see what the reaction to Obama’s speech was
  • I want to learn more about this “cellulosic ethanol” stuff
  • I want to see what Kanye did
  • I want to see what my friends are up to
  • I want to know what people are talking about
  • I want to find out what Apple just released
  • I want to find out what movie to see tonight and where it’s playing and buy tickets for it

Data and services do that. Pages do not. Extend that another layer into the mobile space. I’ve long been critical of the term “mobile” because for so long it didn’t serve these purposes (connecting objectives with successful outcomes). Rather, they served mobile carrier’s interests via terrible interfaces. But now, thanks to devices like the iPhone, people are now easily able to do the above kind of stuff whenever they think of it, no matter where they are at. That’s the killer app of mobile. Location awareness is a great feature, but the “now-ness” of mobile is key.

The challenge for news organizations is to a) have ideas in this space and b) orient ourselves so that we can bring them to life. Most news organizations are specifically not oriented to think and act this way. They are oriented to write stories (a.k.a, pages). See the problem?

I very much like the idea that data and services, rather than pages, are central to the Web.
That gets at one of the points I’ve heard you make, Amy, about how task-based people are… not just with the Web, but with anything.
– I want a sports score
– I want to know what’s happening right now
– I want to see my fantasy league stats
– I want to see how my money is doing
– I want to see what the reaction to Obama’s speech was
– I want to learn more about this “cellulosic ethanol” stuff
– I want to see what Kanye did
– I want to see what my friends are up to
– I want to know what people are talking about
– I want to find out what Apple just released
– I want to find out what movie to see tonight and where it’s playing and buy tickets for it
Data and services do that. Pages do not.
The thing about mobile is that it enables people to do this stuff when they think of it, no matter where they are at. That’s the success of the iPhone, in a nutshell.
The challenge for us (and others) is how to have these ideas and then bring them to life. In our case, we are not oriented to think and act this way. We are oriented to write stories (a.k.a, pages). That’s it.