Monday, 1 September 2008

Newspapers go video ga-ga

In the stampede to go multimedia, newspaper websites have gone video ga-ga.

It's early days yet for some print journalists to get their heads around the extra dimensions - sound and vision being just two - but those who have tackled it successfully are pushing new ground in a new medium.

As UCLan Online Journalism tutor Andy Dickinson notes in his excellent blog, online newspaper video is not television. And neither should it try to be.

Before a newspaper even begins broaching video production, there's the investment in kit to consider. And while respectable video cameras can be picked up for as little as £200, there is the question of which editing software to choose. While some proclaim Avid as the program of choice, others prefer Final Cut Pro. And there's also the cheaper alternative of Adobe Premier Elements. An issue well worth a re-visit.

And this doesn't even take into account the new generation of smartphones which can see a multimedia news operation boast an army of fully kitted out multimedia journalists on duty 24-7 for as little as £100 a throw.

But the debate rages on about what level of quality self-packaged newspaper video should aspire to. How long should an already overstretched reporter spend on filming, then editing a video? Video journalism trainers at the University of Teesside say the finished package could take as long as three hours to edit down, and that doesn't even take into account the time it takes to film.

Obviously the type of video being produced will dictate how long it will take to complete. Short embedded videos can take just minutes to do, while full packages can take hours. Basic point and click and user generated submitted video, no time at all.

I recently heard the suggestion that videos should take no longer than 30 minutes to edit. But if you are using DV tapes, it can take that long just to upload in real time the video to the editing machine. And putting this kind of time constraint pressure on journalists who could be for the first time branching out into video journalism is unfair.

But is the investment in cash and time really worth the effort? Are newspaper video efforts attracting enough viewers to warrant the investment? Should newspapers leave video to BBC and ITV?

The answers: yes, not yet and no - in that order.

As already mentioned, it is early days for newspaper video journalism. The new medium is still finding its feet and newspaper VJs are just getting to grips with the new media.

Video is now a crucial element of a newspaper site's offering, but until it begins to attract the levels of returns (cash and viewers) then newspaper video will continue to be in the frame.

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