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June 11th, 2015

Three Reasons to Go 4K

Sponsored by Samsung

Display resolutions don’t change often, but when they do, the change is momentous. When the world switched from standard to high definition, the revolution transformed both the media and electronics industries.

A similar revolution is underway again, as the world starts its trek from high definition to 4K or “ultra-high definition.”

As with any change of this sort, early adopters face a number of challenges before taking the plunge, but those who do strike early can be rewarded. Here are three reasons why now is the best time to invest in 4K.

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Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

It’s the future

The consensus among market research firms is that 4K-television adoption is a matter of “when” not “if”—and the “when” starts just about now. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that 4 million 4K TVs will be shipped this year in the United States alone, up 208 percent from 2014. Worldwide, the trend looks similarly bullish. Futuresource Consulting pegs the global market for 4K TVs at 100 million in just three years, representing more than a third of every TV sold.

As those screens find their way into homes, the race is on to fill them with content that fully takes advantage of all that resolution. It’s why streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are rapidly building up their library of 4K videos, from original programs to feature films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo have also rolled out support for 4K video as well.

Whether your video is destined to be viewed on desktop monitors or TVs, creating a 4K “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work, viewable on the highest quality displays ever built for the world’s living rooms.

It makes your HD video better

Many industries, such as wedding videography, don’t necessarily need to produce a 4K deliverable today. Even if you a client only requires an HD file, it can still make sense to shoot in 4K. All those extra pixels give you ample room to crop or reframe your video to improve image stabilization or remove extraneous detail without sacrificing resolution. You can pan across your 4K video using post-production software without rapidly running out of pixels.

Depending on how you’re shooting, a 4K-video file may also capture more than just additional pixels, but more color information as well. Armed with this additional color information, you can down-sample a 4K file to HD with improved color detail.

Screen Grabs Are Awesome

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Enhance! Zooming in on a 4K screen grab / Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

Shooting in 4K doesn’t just mean high-quality video; it can enhance your still photography, too. Isolating still images from HD video produces images that are a measly 1920×1080 pixels in size or about 2 megapixels—barely enough for a decent print.

A 4K still frame, on the other hand, is a chunkier file, either at 4096×2160 or 3840×2160 pixels in size, depending on your setting. That’s equivalent to an 8-megapixel image, ample resolution to print by.

This doesn’t just mean that stills from your video production will be higher quality (though they will be), it also means you can use 4K video as a “burst mode on steroids” for moving subjects to capture images that your camera might otherwise miss. It’s not necessarily applicable in every situation of course, but it opens up new creative possibilities that aren’t available to you when shooting in high def.

Samsung and PDN recently launched the 4K Filmmaking Challenge, giving motion shooters the opportunity to shoot a short 4K film. One grand-prize winner will receive $2,500, an NX1 and a profile in a print PDN/Samsung supplement. Check it out at 4kfilmmakingchallenge.com

March 23rd, 2015

Unique College Program Helps Environmental Orgs See Value of Photography

© Joshua See

Mammalogist Tom Horsley prepares to remove a captured bat from a high-elevation mist-net in Borneo. Joshua See made this photograph while working with the Royal Ontario Museum as a student in the Environmental Visual Communication program. © Joshua See

Conservation photographer Neil Osborne understands how important visual communication can be to environmental and conservation organizations. Photographs, videos and other forms of visual storytelling can help non-profits share their messages and the work they do with wide audiences. Visual storytelling can also serve as an effective fundraising tool. But many nonprofits spend little on photography and other communications efforts, Osborne notes.

He and his colleagues at the Environmental Visual Communication (EVC) program at Toronto’s Fleming College saw an opportunity to match students with nonprofit organizations that need photography, video and other visual communications assets. Over the past three years they’ve developed a “placement partner” system for the EVC, which gives students real-world experience (and, in some cases, payment) while putting their talents to use for good causes. Many students “publish individual and collaborative works before they even graduate,” Osborne notes. In the process of providing “communication strategy and tactics to these groups to enhance and advance their messaging,” students demonstrate to nonprofits how valuable visual storytelling and the expertise of photographers can be in helping them meet their goals. (more…)

March 18th, 2015

How I Got That Shot: Jamie Kripke’s Ski Racer GIF

© Jamie Kripke

The women’s Giant Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Championships. © Jamie Kripke

Photographer Jamie Kripke missed the deadline to apply for a media pass to the International Ski Federation Alpine World Championships at Beaver Creek, CO. He attended the event anyway. His work on a couple of previous assignments (ex. Olympic gold medalist David Wise) for ESPN involved capturing motion sequences of athletes, so he had an idea of how he could make lemonade from lemons. PDN asked him to explain his process for creating this GIF, a creative visualization of the speed in the women’s Giant Slalom event. Here’s what Kripke told us: (more…)

March 11th, 2015

Tim Matsui, TIME Win Top Prizes in 2015 World Press Multimedia Contest

Time magazine has won first prize for short documentary in the World Press Photo contest for film titled Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation With New York Police. In the long feature category, photographer Tim Matsui has won first prize for The Long Night, a documentary he produced in conjunction with MediaStorm about teenage prostitution in Seattle. Last month, Matsui won POYi’s Documentary Project of the Year for the film.

A film titled {The And}, which explores the dynamics of relationships between couples, won first prize for Interactive Documentary. It was written and directed by Topaz Adizes and Nathan Phillips

Runners up in the multimedia competition included The New York Times, which won second place in the short documentary category for a video by Ben C. Solomon about the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia. Carlos Spottorno won third prize for his video called At the Gates of Europe, about a wave of refugees from Africa since the Arab Spring uprisings. (more…)

February 23rd, 2015

Ed Kashi, Tim Matsui Win Top Multimedia Prizes at 2015 POYi

From "Syria's Lost Generation," by 2015 POYi Multimedia Photographer of the Year Ed Kashi. ©Ed Kashi

From “Syria’s Lost Generation,” by 2015 POYi Multimedia Photographer of the Year Ed Kashi. ©Ed Kashi

Ed Kashi has won Multimedia Photographer of the Year honors at the 2015 Pictures of the Year International competition for his project called Syria’s Lost Generation, while Tim Matsui won Documentary Project of the Year for The Long Night, a film he produced with MediaStorm about teenage prostitution.

Winners of other categories in POYi’s Visual Editing Division included Katie Falkenberg of the Los Angeles Times, who won first place in the Motion News Story category for a story about a Utah town torn apart by an FBI sting operation; Eugene Richards, winner of the Motion Feature Story prize for his project in the Arkansas delta called Red Ball of Sun Slipping Down; and Lisa Krantz and Jessica Belasco of the San Antonio Express-News, first place winners of the Motion Issue Reporting category for “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity.”

Earlier this month, during judging for POYi’s Reportage Division, Krantz won the 2015 Community Awareness Award for the obesity project.

Judging for the Visual Editing Division ended Friday. The category included a number of editing awards for magazines and newspapers.  National Geographic magazine took Best Publication honors. The Los Angeles Times won first place for Editing Portfolio-Newspaper, while Time magazine won the top prize for Editing Portfolio-Magazine.

A complete list of the 72nd annual POYi contest winners is available online. Links to galleries of the winning entries are also on the site.

Related:

Daniel Berehulak Wins Reportage Photographer of the Year at 2015 POYi Competition
Brad Vest Named Newspaper Photographer of the Year at 2015 POYi Competition
Cameron Spencer Wins POYi Sports Photographer of the Year Honors
PDN Video Pick: A Spotlight on Underage Victims of the Illegal Sex Trade

February 5th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Vincent Morisset’s Interactive “Way to Go”

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

When you travel from point A to point B, what do you see? How does the experience change when the route becomes familiar? These are questions asked in “Way to Go,” a new interactive video project funded by the National Film Board of Canada and premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program.

Part film, part game, “Way To Go” takes players through a 3D environment with a 2D character, following a predetermined path through an immersive, interactive environment. Players control a blockheaded animated figure, deciding whether to walk, run, stop, jump, fly, or investigate elements in the environment recorded on video.

“I’m really interested in the notion of space and time,” says Vincent Morisset, the project’s director, “and how we relate to our environment in real life, and if there was a way to transport or put into perspective this really universal premise of going from point A to point B.”

The visuals—art directed by Caroline Robert—are a striking mix of video footage, hand-drawn animation and live GL effects. Morisset captured the live video with a DIY pole-mounted 360-degree camera rig comprised of six GoPro cameras. He’s visible in the game as the black figure holding a pole that follows the main character everywhere through the interactive universe.

“In 2015 it’s less and less easy to get lost, we’re constantly knowing where we are,” Morisset says. “There’s something to the line and the path that resonates with how we deal with our environment.” As the character is confined to traversing the universe along a pre-determined path, the exploration is in the changing perspective—what do you run past, what do you stop and investigate?

The NFB previewed the project at a virtual reality at Sundance’s New Frontier utilizing the Oculus Rift VR headset. While the game is playable on any computer with a Web browser, the Oculus experience took full advantage of the 360-degree camera footage to provide a truly immersive experience.

Sounds are synced to the movements of the character. Composer Phillipe Lambert designed a Euclidean rhythm console so that the complex rhythms interweave seamlessly with the pace and movements of the character.

Lambert, Robert and Morisset, along with Édouard Lanctôt (a developer and technical director), make up AATOAA, Morisset’s Montreal-based digital studio. Their commercial clients include Red Bull and Google, and they’ve produced an interactive video for Arcade Fire’s “Just a Reflektor.” “Way to Go” is the team’s second personal project; their first, “BLA BLA,” was an interactive short film exploring human communication.

To experience “Way to Go” yourself, visit a-way-to-go.com. For more on the interactive projects produced with support from the National Film Board of Canada, visit: www.nfb.ca/interactive.

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

January 28th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Acclaimed Beijing Portrait Project, Expanded with Video

With support from two clients and a creative approach to funding, photographer Sim Chi Yin has just released this video showing an old project from a new, more immersive angle. The video profiles Zhang Xi, a college graduate turned street peddler who is part of Beijing’s “Rat Tribe,” so named because they live in sub-standard apartments in the basements and former bomb shelters of the city.

Sim’s portraits of “Rat Tribe” basement dwellers, which she began making in 2010, have been widely published–and widely acclaimed. She previously produced a multimedia slideshow of the portraits. But this video expands on her earlier work by exploring how one subject ended up living in a Beijing basement, the tension it has caused with his parents, and what day-to-day life is like for him.

The video, published January 24 by Creative Time Reports (CTR) and Al Jazeera America, is also a case study in multi-source production funding. Sim says it was first “leanly funded” by CTR, a media website that commissioned the video last fall for a European conference on migration issues. For additional funding, Sim applied to the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Around the same time, Al Jazeera America asked Sim for new portraits of Beijing basement dwellers, and an updated multimedia piece. So she put CTR and Al Jazeera in touch with each other, and “they decided to work together and timed their publications to appear on the same day.”

Sim hired producer Yin Jiawei, a recent college graduate, to work as a fixer and assist with the shooting.  The video was edited by Jian Yi, a freelance Chinese filmmaker.

Related:
Picture Story: Beijing’s Basement Dwellers
PDN’s 30 2013: Sim Chi Yin

January 12th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Ed Kashi and Matt Black for The New Yorker

For PDN’s January 2015 print edition, we spoke with photographer Matt Black about the photo essay he made for The New Yorker about the drought in California’s Central Valley. Black, who lives in Exeter, California, has been documenting the valley—which produces much of the country’s food—for more than 15 years.

But the story in The New Yorker was assigned before Black ever got involved; months earlier, photographer Ed Kashi had successfully pitched a story on the drought to Whitney Johnson, the magazine’s director of photography. When it came time to shoot the story, however, Kashi realized that Black—his former assistant—was not just embedded, but invested, in the valley, and would be a perfect collaborator.

“I was thinking, I’ll never, in the week or so I have of field time, produce the body of still work that this man has produced over 15 years,” Kashi says. “So why try to reinvent the wheel?”

Kashi proposed that he would shoot motion, and Black would shoot stills, and Johnson was quickly on board. Sky Dylan-Robbins, a video producer at The New Yorker, would edit their work into the 7-minute video that ran on newyorker.com.

“It was fun,” Kashi admits. “We were like two little kids in a way, photo buddies who were just looking for visuals and trying to figure out how to put the narrative together without getting bogged down in the weeds of the issue. Because the issue of water in California is insanely complicated.”

Related:

Matt Black on Dorothea Lange

Matt Black and Ed Kashi Bring California’s Dried-Out Central Valley to The New Yorker

NewYorker.com: The Dry Land

November 21st, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Pitchfork’s Interactive Mini-Site for the 2014 Basilica Soundscape Festival

Basilica Soundscape

Pitchfork, the influential music website that has grown to include a quarterly print magazine and three art and music festivals, has launched a new mini-site to showcase videos made during September’s Basilica Soundscape Festival. The custom site, which lives at basilica.pitchfork.com, features videos of 12 artists performing at the third iteration of the annual festival, held on September 12 & 13, 2014, in Hudson, NY. Each video is a performance from the festival interspersed with meditative footage shot in the idyllic town and countryside surrounding the festival venue.

The Basilica mini-site was designed and developed by William Colby, who co-directed the videos with Jim Larson. Both are part of the in-house video team at Pitchfork.

Pitchfork has been at the vanguard of creating innovative displays of photos and videos on the Internet, as we highlighted in our feature (subscription required) on the site’s “cover stories” in late 2013.

On the Basilica site, it’s possible to watch every video without a single click, thanks to the site’s minimal design: There’s a small navigation menu at the top right of the page, but visitors can scroll down through each auto-playing video. The performances run the gamut from modern metal like White Lung and Deafheaven, to a string quartet led by the Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and a deliciously funny reading of an essay on the gender politics of authenticity by Meredith Graves, of the hardcore band Perfect Pussy.

The mini-site is visually compelling, and is yet another example of Pitchfork’s commitment to experiment with new ways to deliver images to its readers.

 

 

October 2nd, 2014

“How Come This Stuff Isn’t Animated?” The Story of Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott's S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott’s S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF for Milk Made

Mr. GIF wants to animate the Internet. The creative duo has made photographing and illustrating GIFs—the 27-year-old bitmap image format that supports crude animation—their calling card. They’re the team that Marc Ecko, Evian and Transamerica tap when they need to quickly make strong, easily shareable moving images for whatever they’re selling. In just a few short years, they evolved from a pair of daydreaming MTV plebes to shooting Miley Cyrus and 2Chainz backstage at fashion week. To them, still images that move were obviously taylor-made for the Internet and its thousands of screens. But can you really make a career of making GIFs?

The duo, Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo, are college buddies. They studied advertising design together at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Their studies were almost irrelevant—Portillo didn’t even finish—but the renowned art and design school is where the two would meet. Less than seven years later, they would quit their jobs to make GIFs—the full-time for clients like and others. Even an insurance company.

Having gone their separate ways after school, Repeat and Portillo reconnected under the umbrella of Viacom, at MTV’s “Geek” vertical, which covers cartoons, comics and videogames. Doing research for work, they devoured the same comics, but were struck by the format’s limitations.

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

“We were like, ‘How come this stuff isn’t animated yet?’” Portillo remembers. “We read Akira and we were like, “If this background was giving me seizures, it would be so much better.’”

So they dreamed up a GIF comic over smoke breaks outside Viacom’s Times Square HQ, and quickly learned why animation was so expensive (it’s a lot of work!). They abandoned the book idea, throwing the frames they’d finished up on Tumblr. But they were having fun. Illustrations gave way to photos, and a thought: “How is the GIF better than the JPEG?”

“We saw the potential,” Repeat says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a screen.”

As relative neophytes—Repeat especially—they were intrigued by the technology of photography. They experimented with odd cameras well-suited to the medium; at first, digital models like the Fujifilm FinePix Real3D W3, but they would later become obsessed with the aesthetics of analog. Toy cameras like Lomography’s Pop 9 (a nine-lens camera that makes nine exposures at once) and ActionSampler (four lenses, four consecutive frames), even 3D film cameras like the Nimslo 3D. The multi-exposure cameras helped streamline their workflow—helpful, as they had to develop and scan each frame to animate their GIFs. They found creative ways to merge digital and analog, using a DSLR to make time-lapse clips of instant film as it developed. They have a lot of cameras.

Marc Ecko, founder of Eckō Enterprises, Mr. GIF’s first big client. © Mr. GIF

They spent their nights and weekends making GIFs and posting them to Tumblr for free. It wasn’t long before Mark Ecko came calling (tweeting, actually) with their first paid gig, animating his upcoming TEDx presentation. They powered through it in three days. “I think we made 200-300 GIFs in one night,” Portillo says. “It was intense.”

“That was the beginning of the end for our day jobs,” Repeat says. “Like, ‘Oh, this is what a good client’s like?” Ecko dug the work, and they started to get more gigs. They GIF’d the U.S. Open for Evian, and fashion week for Tumblr. By 2013, they had quit MTV, and would soon score a huge project: a year-long Tumblr promoting the San Francisco-based insurance company Transamerica’s “Transform Tomorrow” campaign.

The pair convinced Transamerica to send them across the country making GIFs of America’s cities. They flew drones over rooftop gardens in Detroit, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and, of course, San Francisco and the iconic Transamerica building. They booked a room at a luxury hotel with the perfect view for a 24-hour time-lapse of the skyline. Transamerica was skeptical of the format—until they saw the popularity of the first clip they posted. Now, when you go to www.transformtomorrow.com, their fancy hotel view of San Francisco graces the background, the current time of day reflected by the time of day in the 24-hour time-lapse they made.

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

Now certified pros, they’re still almost instinctively inventive with their resources. When a client that was supposed to fly them out and put them up in Austin, TX, to shoot a SXSW panel told them that they had to pay their own way, they got their drive down to Texas sponsored. Their friends at Tumblr would connect them with Transamerica, but it was the GIFs they shot on the trip to Austin that would help them land the gig. When a job for St. Ives took them to Hawaii, they stayed an extra week and shot Honolulu for Transamerica. Since they like to shoot film (which is expensive to buy and process), rather than go to a professional processing house, they trained the local CVS employees how to prep and cut their negatives, adding a healthy tip for their trouble.

One thing they learned early on is that new work leads to new work. They needed to show clients they could make the work, so before they had paid work to show, they just did it for free, and for fun. The fun shows up in the work, and it works.