Register for the webinar

If you have not done so already, please register for this webinar:

It’s a two-hour session, with one hour on Tuesday, Oct. 22, and the second hour on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

We have two chances to watch the hour on each day: at noon, or at 4 p.m.

To prepare for the webinar, visit the Reynolds Center’s Webinar Help Page IN ADVANCE:

This webinar will kick off our unit about data journalism.


Data intro: Some notes and links

The link from class today: < (this was updated Wednesday)

Your mission this week is to research and write the assigned blog post, and work through Yau’s example exercise, pp. 27–38. Use the airport code and year assigned to you (see the link from class).

If you modify and run the Python script successfully, you will have a text file named wunder-data.txt — it will be a plain-text file with exactly 365 lines, as I showed you in class. Bring that file and your MacBook to class next week, and we will use the file in Excel to produce a data graphic showing a year’s worth of high temperatures for your city.

Now, there are two things in Yau’s example that might cause you a little confusion.


The first is his example with images, first_image, and image[0]. There’s a common object in programming called an array. What the BeautifulSoup library does, behind the scenes, is stuff one entire Web page into an ordered collection of all the coded parts of the page. Then you can call out an array of all images (img), or all spans, or all hrefs — those are HTML tags. Once you have called out that array, you can ask for the first image — image[0] — or the second image — image[1] — etc., etc. BeautifulSoup handles most of this for you.

If I had a small array of girls’ names, it might look like this:

girlnames = (“Ann”, “Christina”, “Elizabeth”, “Maria”)

If I needed to write a script to get the fourth name in the array called girlnames, I would use this:


That would bring me the name Maria. When computers count, they start with 0 (not with 1).

In Yau’s example exercise, you’ll be using code similar to that to grab — not a girl’s name from a list of names, but a numeral (a temperature) from a list of spans-that-have-the-class-nobr.

Where You Are When You Use Terminal

Another thing that might be confusing is how to find a file you created while using Python.

By default, you’re at the top of your home directory when you are using Terminal (see an illustration).

If you stay right there and don’t change anything, when you run your Python script and generate a new file, the file will also be there, at the top of your home directory. So to find that new file, just double-click the little house, and you’ll find the file.

Remember that Terminal and Python Are Not the Same

Python has commands that only work in Python — they do not work in Terminal alone.

In Terminal, you can use all kinds of normal Linux commands. One of these is ls (short for “list”). If you type ls and press Return, you’ll see a compact list of everything in the folder (directory) where you are. (See more about that.)

Wrapping up a very interesting year

This has been quite a journey for me as a teacher, and I’d like to thank my students for their enthusiasm and their patience.

I think the students’ blog posts about the spring semester, in which we focused primarily on video, were very fair and helpful.

Brittany wrote:

I’d like more experience covering actual news this way, not necessarily an issue story, but a news story. Not that they couldn’t be both. But at times, I felt I was seeking the documentary story, and not the news story, which is hard for a journalist and a little confusing. I like the challenge of telling a news story in a way, a visual way, that might not be expected, or in the normal reality of a standard news publication.

Curt wrote:

Now, the best part of the course was, I believe, the time I was able to spend with my hands on a video camera or editing tool. The worst part of the course was, I believe, the (lack of) time I was able to spend with my hands on a video camera or editing tool. While I understand the structure of telling a story, telling that story through video took me well out of my comfort zone.

Kecia wrote:

Out of al the things I learned, I think I am most confident about telling a story and making sure I have a variety of interesting shots and audio. I wasn’t as creative with shot angles and ideas in the first video I shot for class, but now I’ve become more comfortable with thinking about how the angles, sequences and pacing of shots can add visual interest. Now, I also know how to use the tripod appropriately for interviewing and also for controlled movements like panning, tilting and dollying.

Cher wrote:

I feel like there were many practices in this class that were not reflective of regular newsroom practice, and I am not sure how helpful they will be in producing short news videos for web packages for a newspaper. I am not sure that the emphasis on documentary film making and broadcast news styles will serve online journalists. I simply do not think the documentary film making methods is appropriate for producing news.

Eisa wrote:

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with video … back then I thought I was doing a great a job.

The first day we experimented with the camera in class, however, changed that thought right away. The 5-shot technique along with the 10 second rule of shooting opened my eyes to that art of video and film. I have already made two videos that I am really proud of, and I am pretty sure that I will continue producing more video projects.

Laura wrote:

I have enjoyed our class’ exploration of longer films to help us gain perspective about storytelling in shorter formats, which is what I will do the most as a journalist. As much as I loathed doing it the first time, I now see how making a log of shots before capturing the video from the tape is beneficial. The same goes for writing a script. It can be tedious, but it does make the rest of the editing process easier. And, I think the more I edit video, the better I will become at identifying the best shots and writing a script that really facilitates the storytelling process.

Iñigo wrote:

The important issue is that Toolkit II is about how to create journalistic stories and learning how to tell them using a video camera, a bunch of cables, and a microphone. I think that is the real goal of the class. And it is not easy at all.

Shifen wrote:

Shooting video footage, a task that demands extensive visual work and creative thinking, offers me a chance to develop my storytelling skills. It is always a thrill to find a lead, dig the story and present it creatively. In comparison to last [semester’s] Soundslides, video storytelling has been a greater challenge for me, as it is difficult to effectively calibrate details such as view angles and lighting. I believe that a great video narrator must be a careful observer in daily life. I am glad to have spend time learning how to edit video footage, a task that, though it may seem boring, is actually very enjoyable. [I] only wish I could have more experience using Final Cut Pro.

Thanks to all the students. It has been a privilege.

Video dimensions (important!)

You need to know what the aspect ratio of your video is. If no one has changed the settings on your camera, your aspect ratio in this class is 16:9 (widescreen). I set these myself, so I know all of the HV20 cameras started out with that setting.

The first time we captured with Windows Movie Maker, I told you which settings to select — BEFORE you captured — so that your video would have the correct aspect ratio. The default setting in WMM is not 16:9! (So you must change it! Change it every time — because the lab computers reset themselves.)

Six of you did not set the aspect ratio correctly when you captured the second video. As a result, your videos look a bit squished, as if someone pressed the left and right sides toward the middle. Not really what you want.

I expect you to select the WMM settings correctly for your final video!

Aspect Ratios

16:9 (widescreen) is 720 x about 400* pixels; however, WMM will output a file that is 720 x 480 pixels with black bars (letterbox) at top and bottom to make this right (if you selected the correct settings).

4:3 (old style TV) is 720 x 480 pixels.

*For a scary level of detail, see History of Aspect Ratio.

Settings in Flash Video Encoder

Because the output from WMM will be 720 x 480 no matter what (well, if you selected the proper output settings, that is …), you will use 720 x 480 in the Flash Video Encoder when you are converting the .wmv file to an .flv file.

THEN you will CROP the video’s black bars, as I demonstrated in class on April 3.

Download the notes from class about how to select the Flash Video Encoder settings (PDF file, 100 KB).

Making an FLV If You Do Not Have Flash

The image and sound quality might NOT be as good, but there are several Web sites where you can upload a .wmv file and have it converted to the FLV format, free. One is Zamzar. Another is YouConvertIt. If you find others that work well, please add a link in the comments to this post.

If you have access to the Flash Video Encoder (as all UF students do, in the labs), then please use that — and NOT the online converters.


All the stuff about the FLV Media Player and SWFObject is linked on the Week 13 syllabus page!

Tips from the HV20 camera manual

Here are the tricky things we covered in class:

  • Turn image stabilization off and on (OFF when camera is on tripod) — p. 38
  • Adjust audio levels (make sure you are wearing your headphones!) — pp. 60 – 62
  • Manual focus for an interview — pp. 48 – 50 (esp. page 50)

You can print out the individual pages and carry them with you.

These do not work when you are in AUTO mode (use the switch on right-hand side of camera); put it into “P” (Program) mode.

Use the camera ON THE TRIPOD whenever possible.

On the tripod, you may try some zooms. They can look okay if you are on a tripod. You may also try some pans and tilts. But please, hold the vast majority of all shots STEADY — no movement of any kind. These shots are the easiest to use in editing. The moving shots can be very hard to use, and you will be kicking yourself during the editing work if too many of your shots have a moving camera.

Video interviews and video sound

These are the two topics I did not have time to cover during class yesterday.

The first one, video interviews, I decided to make into a blog post in my primary blog (follow the link to read it). I have also linked this on your syllabus page for Week 6.

The second topic is video sound. This was covered nicely in a short “Make Internet TV” tutorial (Capturing Sound) that I linked on your syllabus earlier. You might want to review it.

You will be using the (new) shotgun mic on top of your camera. We have the Rode VideoMic, and it’s gotten a lot of rave reviews. There are certainly more expensive shotgun mics out there, but this one is no slouch.

The reduction in noise, as compared to what you’d hear from the on-camera mic, is quite significant. … The ability to capture sound at distances with the Rode VideoMic is also very pleasing. It could easily pick up voices at moderate volumes from over 20 feet away. The mic still captures sound quite nicely beyond 20 feet, but in situations with other competing noises like heavy traffic, the sound you don’t want starts drowning out sounds you do want. Realistically, the audio is definitely best when the mic is pointed at the source you want to capture. There’s a notable difference in sound from objects directly in front of the mic compared to those off to the sides.

The reason for using an external mic with a video camera is the same as the rationale for using an external mic with an audio recorder — QUALITY of sound. Sure, the little built-in mic on the Canon HV20 is not so bad, but it’s just the bare minimum of the range of possibility.

A shotgun mic mounted on top of the camera is not the only option. Other common set-ups:

  • Wireless lavaliers: This is a tiny microphone that you clip onto the interviewee’s shirt or jacket. It is wired to a small transmitter that the interviewee can clip to a belt or slip into a jacket pocket. The transmitter sends the audio to a matching receiver that is plugged into your video camera. We will not be using these (because we don’t have any!).
  • Booms: This is basically a mic on a stick. You can buy all kinds of expensive booms, or like the DIY crowd, you can make one. You use the boom (often it is very long) to dangle the microphone above the heads of the people in the video — out of sight of the camera. When you see two people walking down a street and talking in a video, and there are no little mics clipped on their shirts, where was the microphone? A boom operator (a third person) was walking beside the two, holding a long pole arched over them, and a mic was hanging over their heads.
  • Handheld mics: In some cases, you might plug a regular mic into the video camera with a long cord attached, and someone speaking (on- or off-camera) will hold the mic. This method might also be used to gather some nat SOT, e.g. the sound of a small creek, or a person’s footsteps on a gravel path. By holding the mic close to the source of the sound (but out of view of the camera lens), you will get synchronized, authentic sound to go along with the visuals.

About wearing headphones (YES! YES!) — if you want to ensure that you are getting good audio, you WILL wear your headphones whenever you are shooting video.
If you have questions about any of this, please make a note to yourself to ask during class on Feb. 14!

Notes about Chapter 12

For this week (Jan. 24 class), you were assigned to read the chapter about shooting in the Bernard textbook (pp. 177-192). We didn’t talk about it in class, but here are a few points to keep in mind:

Visual thinking: Think about the most interesting visuals when you are thinking about the story. The structure of the final, edited story will come from the images. Consider “Red Hot Rails”: Which came first, the images … or the script?

Crew size: It would be great to have a two-person crew (and you will for your final project), but a lot of newspaper video is shot solo.

Story and approach: These are not the same as having a final script or a final written text story. When you go out to shoot, you should be clear in your mind about what your story probably is and what approach you think will work best. If you’re not clear about these, you will probably shoot a bunch of unusable junk and cry in the editing room.

Knowing where to stand, and thinking on your feet: Read page 180.

Editing while shooting: I cannot emphasize this enough (page 181). You will start to understand it as you learn how to edit. The general idea is that the more you edit while shooting, the easier it will be to do the final edit. This means leaving stuff out — not shooting it! The worst thing you could do? Shoot everything. Disaster.

Demonstrations (page 183): This is a useful technique. Think of it as a video illustration. For some stories, you might legitimately ask a subject, “Please show me how you …” This might be for something like training a dolphin at SeaWorld (“How do you teach them to jump through the hoop?”) or subduing an arrested suspect (“How do you restrain a guy without Tasering him?”). Your subject might not show you (demonstrate) using a dolphin or a real crime suspect but rather using a colleague as a stand-in. It will be obvious to the viewers that they are watching a demonstration, but it will be a more visual way of absorbing the information than just listening to someone talking.

Lipstick camera (p. 183): See this link if you are curious.

Cardinal rule of documentary video: “A powerful story, told well, can overcome some cinematic rough edges. [But] a weak story shot spectacularly well is still a weak story” (p. 186; my italics).

Interviews (pp. 187-192): More about this later! You will shoot an interview (with a tripod) for Shooting 2!

Online syllabus updates

On the Week 3 page, you’ll find a link to the video we saw in class yesterday.

On the Shooting 1 and 2 assignment page, you’ll see a clarification about how to turn in your work. Make sure you read and understand the full assignment before you go out and shoot.

Don’t worry about sound at all. We’ll do sound for the second shooting assignment. (Your microphones arrived yesterday! They are nice!)

The edited example I showed you yesterday, of the woman painting, is linked to the Editing 1 assignment. Remember, that is an edited version — your raw tape will not look like that.

If you have any questions about the HV20 camera, feel free to e-mail me immediately. Also, the complete manual is a PDF file inside the Handouts folder on the L: drive. You can access our class L: drive from any computer in Weimer Hall if you log in with your class login name and password.

First shooting exercise (Jan. 17 class)

I have blogged about the first shooting exercise here.

You students did a great job. I think the previous work with still photography and shooting stills for Soundslides (Toolkit 1) has really prepared all of you well for shooting video.

This is going to be fun!

Diving into video

Welcome back! Apart from the video links on the Week 1 syllabus page, I wanted to give you a link to the post from Angela Grant’s blog, News Videographer:

How do you choose stories for video?

This is the post that suggests three attributes that make a story well suited for video:

  • Lots of movement and action
  • Something people just want to see
  • Emotion

Why not add News Videographer to your RSS reader today?

For a roundup of blog posts about video, see Online Video: An Essential Tool for Journalists.