Tag Archives: #ProdLab

A chat about mojo with Robb Montgomery

When I started this course in May I signed up for Robb Montgomery’s mojo masterclass. It’s awesome. So after some cyber stalking, I asked Robb if I chat to him in more detail about mobile journalism and draw on his experience of it as a profession and what it’s like to teach it to people like me.

So me and Robb Skyped, Blighty to Berlin, and I’ve finally gotten around to putting it together. And in the interests of being multimedia, I turned it into a podcast.

Robb is fascinating and very talented, you have to listen to him. Me, on the other hand? I may have a face for radio but I’m not even sure if I have the voice – I sound so monotone! Perhaps this listening to your own voice lark gets easier over time…

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I do like a little bit of problem-solving

 

I’ve always liked finding solutions to problems, it’s incredibly satisfying and, on the whole, means you’ve learned something. Whether you succeed in solving the problem, or not.

And today I got a lot of satisfaction by solving a problem… bear with me, it’s a long (ish) story…

I needed to get some content ready and scheduled for Friendship Day on Sunday and to cut a long story short (er) we have some audio recordings of three members of a large student friendship group and I wanted to use JamSnap (picture and audio) to showcase them.

But JamSnap WILL NOT work on either of my two iPhones, it just spits me out every time I try and log in. Deleting and reinstalling didn’t work and it didn’t work for a colleague either. Time for Plan B…

Graphic designer to the rescue

I decided to use Thinglink, a similar app which allows you to pull other images, videos, events etc onto a background image (as referenced in previous posts). First issue… the image we had of the friends group was a group photo with the three in question sitting nowhere near each other. And it wasn’t high res.

In comes my graphic designer colleague who happily offers to tinker for me, managing to move the three friends I needed so they’re sitting side by side, the others cropped out. Awesome. Now, to make this the optimum size for Facebook meant distorting the image massively. No can do. My colleague came back with a polaroid design on top of a corkboard which kept the image small enough without looking like it was floating in a big hole. Nice one.

Now to adding the audio files and a whole heap of issues. A colleague recorded and edited the audio clips but the interviews were done over the phone so the sound quality is pretty poor, but bearable. Not ideal but given timescales and locations, phone chats were the best achievable. Thinglink desktop doesn’t allow you to pull in raw video files, only content with a url, like a YouTube video. I hopped over to the app version which allows you to pull in content from YouTube or your photo gallery, including raw video files. Great. But you can’t get an audio file to sit in your phone’s photo gallery or camera roll like you can a video. Grrrr. So while I had access to the audio files on my phone, either via WeTransfer and WeDownload or Dropbox, I couldn’t get them onto Thinglink.

Turning audio into a video…

Another Plan B needed, or is that Plan C? After lots of thinking, I wondered if hosting them on Soundcloud could work. And then, inspired by the waveform that appears as Soundcloud’s embeddable trademark, I searched for a rights free YouTube video of a waveform. Found one.

I then needed to get that onto my phone. I searched for a ‘download YouTube video’ converter (you can try ClipConverter or KeepVid.com, for example) and then popped it in Dropbox so I could get to it from my phone.

I then went back to the audio files sitting in WeDownload and there’s an option there to save them straight to iMovie. So I did that for each of the three audio files, as separate projects, and overlaid the waveform video on top and trimmed it to fit. Phew.

I then managed to save the three, now video files, and load them onto Thinglink from my phone. I then returned to the desktop version to add customised icons and some blurb.

Debugger (yes, it’s an odd word)

With all that effort, I decided to post a link on Facebook (viewable only to me) to see if it rendered properly. It was pulled through a strange title which I couldn’t suss out, so hopped over to the Facebook Debugger tool (very handy!), rescraped (by pressing the button) and tried again. Bob’s your uncle! And then I scheduled the post for publication at the weekend.

And I’m afraid that’s not the end of the story. I don’t think Thinglink works as well on Twitter so wanted to try something else with this story. I pulled some really nice friendship quotes from each of the audio files and used the Legend app to turn them into text/image-only videos, the quote flashing up first and ending with an image.

But the image was poor quality anyway and certainly not good enough to crop each of the three friends off for three separate quotes. But if I used the pic of the three of them, how would we know which one of them the quote related to? I tried putting red arrows on pointing to the friend being quoted in each of the three vids but this just looked pants.

On discussion with a colleague – two heads are better than one – she suggested playing one quote after another and ending with the image of the three of them, so one video rather than three, and playing the quotes in the order the ladies are sitting. Plan!

Eureka moment (almost)

Eek, but the apps give you a character limit and there’s no option to pull three quotes in one by one. Grrrr. I had a chat with the videographer to see if he could whip out his old school tools and make something for me, which would possibly take a bit of a time. And as we were talking it through, he said the phase ‘stitch the quotes together’. It was a eureka moment (almost). I said ‘give me 10 minutes and I’ll come back to you if I haven’t done it by then.’

10 minutes later and I’d done it. I created three separate quote clips using Legend, and saved them to my camera roll. I then hopped over to the Splice app and ‘spliced’ the three quotes together and added an image at the end. Bingo! No need for the videographer to interrupt his work, yay! It’s easy to forget that a single app won’t always do everything you want but you can jump from one to another with a single piece of content.

End of the story yet? Not quite. I then went to schedule the video and Twitter post for the weekend but the scheduling tool we used wouldn’t take the video file format (and I can’t even remember what that was, but probably a mov?!). Back onto Google where I found onlinevideoconverter.com and converted the file into an mp4 and FINALLY I was done.

Here’s a screen shot…

grab3

And here’s link to the post, with the Thinglink interactive on Facebook.

Stop, collaborate and listen (I’ll thank Vanilla Ice for that one)

Sounds like a lot of work for a single story but it didn’t take all that long – although it does highlight the amount of effort that can go into a single tweet or Facebook status. Social media isn’t as quick as you’d think.

It also shows that collaboration is key. Four colleagues were involved in this process – the one who did the audio interviews, the graphic designer, the videographer and my line manager who I consulted when I felt a bit stuck. That’s five of us! And, while in theory I could have done of those tasks myself (the graphic design being the most challenging) it would have taken me an age. So while it’s easy to think it’s just me, a story idea and the mobile phone, it actually rarely ever is.

To summarise, I felt great. I’d solved a lot of problems with this content and while the one that concerns me most – the quality of the audio – is beyond my control, I’ve learned a lot. Problem-solving is actually a lot of fun!

And I’ll update this post with the actual content once it’s live (update: now done!)

Here’s a link to the video on Twitter so can you play it, and below are screen grabs of the video (left) on Twitter and an image card (right – taking the same content and giving it two ‘treatments’, posting within an hour of each other to test which worked better. At the time of updating this post (3pm ish on Sunday 7th August) the video got much more engagement. Is is the moving quotes, or could it be the Yeats quote?

 

 

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Dabble with apps, share the love

As part of this latest production labs module (note: deadline looming, desperately need to get my act together!) I’ve been glued to my mobile phone. No surprise since I’m looking into mobile journalism, but a pleasant side effect is that I’m now the proud owner of some very useful apps; ones I actually use rather than sitting there soaking up storage space.

Mobile journos – in my experience – are keen to share their top tips, advice, skills, technology etc to support others, particularly as it’s still an emerging rather than established and mainstream practice. And in that vein, I wrote a blog post for local (Milton Keynes) web design agency Westfourstreet

Read: 9 apps to support your creativity

mobile-apps-used-for-creativity

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You know you’re addicted to this #mojo lark when…

…you take your kids to zoo and can’t help but whip out the mobile phone. And don’t take any pictures of the kids! I was genuinely gutted that I left the 64GB iPhone 6S at home (dead battery) and instead had to make do with the 16GB iPhone 5S after deleting a load of photos to make room. It was a gloriously sunny day and I can’t help thinking I missed a trick or two at Woburn Safari Park.

The kids fell asleep about the time I pulled into the lion enclosure and I desperately tried to capture an artistic shot of two lions sleeping in my rear view mirror. I really needed to open the window and reverse a bit to make it work… but chose safety over art. I’m not ready for the “Did you hear the one about the lion who found his #mojo? For dinner!”.

Instead, and in the space of literally two minutes because a) my phone ran out of storage and b) the kids were screaming for ice cream, I took a few shots of some super cute sea lions. And this is the result, courtesy of Splice for editing and Videoshop for the text overlay. Short and sweet.

Sea Lions at Woburn Safari Park from Robyn Bateman on Vimeo.

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How to make a great pic awesome

 

WEDDING

Snapping away as a bride walks down the aisle mostly brings up a camera-full of blurred, awkward photos as you grapple with friends and family from the discomfort of a pew.

On the occasion of Esther and Dave’s wedding I hit it lucky, capturing this photo of Esther in all her wedding-day glory. It also captures my friend Jen’s mobile phone, just in shot and framing Esther perfectly. I’d like to say this was my creative genius at play, but alas, it was just a coincidence, albeit a brilliant one.

I tinkered around with the image a bit (after the wedding, of course, although I could easily have done it at the back of the church and between hymns). And, thanks to the Photosplash app, I turned it from a brilliant photo into an awesome one.

This app turns your photos into black and white and you can use your fingertip to highlight areas of colour.

I was never going to get a wifi signal in a church but thanks to the power of 3G or 4G I could easily have enhanced the photo and posted it to social media by the time the bride had said ‘I do’.

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