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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.

September 3rd, 2014

Photojournalists Launch “Selfie Against the Death Penalty” Campaign

Documentary photographer Marc Asnin and VII Association, a non-profit organization founded by VII Photo Agency, have launched a social media campaign that advocates for the abolition of the death penalty.

The “Photographers Selfie Against the Death Penalty” campaign is part of a collaboration between Asnin’s Neverland Publications and VII Association on Final Words, a book and traveling exhibition that presents the final statements of 515 inmates executed in Texas since 1982. The aim of the project is to focus on “the humanity at the center of the death penalty in America,” the organizers said in a statement.

To participate, photographers are being asked to upload an image to the Final Words site, and to finish the statement “I stand against the death penalty because….” Among the photographers who have participated so far are Larry Fink, Rudy Archuleta, Anthony Barboza, Sim Chi Yin, and several members of the VII Photo Agency.

For full instructions for how to participate in the campaign, visit the Final Words site here.

June 6th, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Making Beautiful, Dramatic Video Portraits

At several Washington, DC schools, kids are interacting with infants as part of an innovative anti-bullying program, and Washington Post multimedia producer Brad Horn recently visited Maury Elementary school to shoot a story about it. Instead of approaching it as “a standard news story” with bright TV lighting and talking head administrators, Horn combined intimate interviews of kids talking about their own experiences with bullying and rich, out-of-the-ordinary video portraits.

Horn, whose work and advice we featured in our article “Create Smooth Video Tracking Shots on the Fly (And On a Budget),” talked to PDN about some of the lighting and tracking techniques he used to create the Maury School video.

PDN: How did you do the tracking shots?
BH: I used a [Kessler] Pocket Jib.

PDN: Did you operate it yourself?
BH: As a one-man band, I did. But they’re big and heavy. You have to be really strong and kind of crazy to do this by yourself. It took all my strength to move the jib around the school once I got it set up.  I had to carry everything up three flights of stairs. Then there was set-up time, and I had no idea how to use it. I was having to watch YouTube videos right there in the classroom to figure it out.

PDN: You’d never used a jib? Why did you suddenly decide to use it for this job?
BH: I like to spice things up. I love portraiture. if I want to marry portraiture and video portraiture–video portraits can be kind of static. After a while, you want to try something new. A lot of people use sliders, but they’re getting to be cliche–maybe not cliche, but they’re so common. I wanted to try something a little different, something cutting edge, and get people to notice.

PDN: What tips do you have for making good video portraits?
BH: You want to get far away with a long lens, to shorten depth of field and blow out the background. Also, pull the subject away from the background. Lighting is key, though. A lot of people are trained to do TV-style lighting: three lights, with even light across the face. It makes people too brightly lit, and it’s not cinematic, so I like to do Rembrandt-style lighting.

One of Brad Horn's video portrait set-ups at Maury Elementary school.

One of Brad Horn’s video portrait set-ups at Maury Elementary school. Photo by Carolyne Albert-Garvey

 

PDN: How do you achieve that?
BH: I use a Lowel Rifa-Lite eX88, which is pretty big. It’s a softbox. Then I have an egg crate that goes over [the] top of it [to control light spill]. I just use one light, and light subjects from the side, so there’s a  dramatic fall-off of light across the subject’s face. One side is noticeably darker.

PDN: The light and color have a rich, dark quality throughout the video in general. How did you get that?
BH: Mostly with the softbox. What took me probably too long to realize was not to mix daylight and tungsten. The tungsten lights are very warm. The trick is to use daylight-balanced bulbs. Then I mess around a lot with saturation: desaturating the dark colors, and saturating the light colors. I also increase the contrast. I’ll mess around with color balance as well. A lot of people tend to warm things up, but sometimes I make things cooler. So [the look] is the interplay of a lot of things.

PDN: Were there any other challenges to making this video that aren’t obvious from watching it?
BH: There was a whole sausage factory aspect to it. Bringing the Pocket Jib into the classroom, bringing a boy into a bathroom to film him. I had to explain a lot–that boy was bullied in the bathroom. The setting was important– but they’re still like, “You’re a grown man, bringing a kid into a bathroom.” When you have a strong vision, you’re going to get raised eyebrows. You just have to fight through it, and get to the heart of the story–in this case, the pain of being a kid.

Related article:
Frames Per Second: Create Smooth Video and Tracking Shots on the Fly (and On a Budget)

March 24th, 2014

World Press Photo Multimedia 2014 Honors New York Times, National Film Board of Canada, Marco Casino

HighriseThe National Film Board of Canada and The New York Times share first prize for Interactive Documentary in the World Press Photo 2014 Multimedia contest for their collaborative multimedia piece, “A Short History of the Highrise.” The World Press Multimedia awards, now in their fourth year, honor documentary work in three categories: interactive documentaries, short and long features. The winners were announced this morning in Amsterdam.

“A Short History of the Highrise” tells the story of vertical living and the construction of skyscrapers through four short films, photos, text and microgames.

First prize for best short feature was awarded to “Staff Rider,” a video about kids in South Africa who “surf” atop trains. Photographer Marco Casino recorded photos, video and sound for the story. First prize for long feature went to “Witnessing Gezi,” directed by photojournalist Emin Ozmen and Baris Koca, who documented the protests against the development of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park and civil resistance in Turkey.

The first place winner in each category will be awarded a cash award of 1,500 euros.

The full list of winners, and credits for editing, sound design and more, can be found at www.worldpressphoto.org/2014-multimedia-contest/winners-list.

The winners were selected from 373 entrants. The chair of the jury, Jassim Ahmad, global head of multimedia innovation at Reuters, said in a statement, “Interactive teams are employing a variety of visual tools and techniques. We looked for examples that are designed for the medium to explain more and bring you closer.” He also noted, “We agreed innovation could not be at the expense of clarity. Communication is the essence of journalism.”

Other jury members were Gabriel Dance, interactive editor, Guardian US; Liza Faktor, co-founder of Screen; photographer Ed Kashi of the VII Photo Agency; Marianne Lévy-Leblond, head of web productions and transmedia projects at Arte France; Grant Scott, senior lecturer on photography at the University of Gloucestershire and founder and editor Unitednationsofphotography.com; and photographer Luis Weinstein. Alan Stoga, president of Zemi Communications, was the jury secretary.

Related articles
Sinclair, Dimmock Win World Press Multimedia Contest

Jurying the World Press Photo Multimedia Contest (for PDN Subscribers)

The Next Generation of Online Storytelling: Bear 71 (by National Film Board of Canada)

March 6th, 2014

PDN Video Pick: Making an Award-Winning Story of One Woman’s Resilience

Sensei from ora on Vimeo.

Ora DeKornfeld, a communications major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won first prize for her video “Sensei” in the Multimedia Feature category of the 2014 Pictures of the Year International competition. Brilliantly shot and edited, DeKornfeld’s video tells the powerful story of a rape victim’s survival, resilience and determination. DeKornfeld explains how she won her subject’s trust, found a way to portray events in the past through evocative imagery, and produced a tight, dramatic narrative.

PDN: What was this project was for? How did it get started?
Ora DeKornfeld: That project was made as a final documentary piece for a journalism class. The assignment was to make a vérité documentary. It was a challenge for us to [record] something actually happening, instead of fully relying on B-roll over interview audio. My professor [Chad Stevens] assigned the project knowing that was unrealistic, so this project deviated greatly from that initial assignment, but that’s how it started.

PDN: How did you find this subject, and how get her to open up?
OD: I went to this neighborhood in Durham (North Carolina)–a pretty dynamic low-income neighborhood, and I saw a flyer for self-defense classes and that’s something I have always been personally interested in, and I wanted to do a piece that touched on women’s issues. So I called the number and ended up talking to Brenda, the subject, and she was immediately open. She told me that the reason she got into martial arts was because she was a victim of a violent crime. I didn’t push that at the time, but it was an immediate indicator that she had a real deep experience that motivated her. So I said, would it be OK if I made a documentary about you? She was really open to it.
I went to her karate class on Tuesday and Saturday for two weeks, then I asked if I could come to her house, meet her family and start hanging out with her there. And I kind of just stayed until she said, “OK, Ora, you need to get out of my house.” But through that experience we bonded. (more…)