Wrapping up before spring break

You have two deadlines before leaving for spring break. They are both at midnight this Friday, March 1, though of course you may finish your work well before then.

1. Your video project. It looks like all of you are well on your way to making a good three- to five-minute news video. Many of you are close to being done and could finish in class on Friday. By deadline, please finish your video, publish it to YouTube (we’ll go over that in class), embed the video in your blog and write a brief post about it.

Our lab is open on Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. If there is any demand for it, I will keep it open when I get back to Northeastern at 5 and allow people to continue to work. I can do on-the-spot critiques as well.

2. Your blog. I will be giving you a first-half blog grade over spring break. This will be a comprehensive assessment taking into account everything we’ve talked about so far. As you know, the goal is to write two or three posts a week, which includes posts related to your beat as well as class assignments. They don’t all have to be 250- to 350-word show-stoppers. Some can be quite short. I will be looking at the following in determining a grade:

  • The ability to seek out good, interesting topics for your blog, especially in posts related to your beat.
  • Quality of writing, including grammar, spelling and consistency of style. If you are someone who needs help writing clear, grammatical English, then please seek it out. By “consistency of style,” I mean that if you are not following AP style, I at least expect to see a consistent approach to such things as the names of television shows, abbreviations and the like.
  • Strong headlines. We’re not worried about search-engine optimization in this class except to acknowledge that it exists. Aim for interesting, informative headlines. “Class Assignment: Mary Knox Merrill” is not an interesting headline. (I’m just making that up. If any of you actually wrote that headline, I’m not picking on you.)
  • Good linking practices. I can’t imagine writing a blog post without at least one link, and I would think you could manage three or more in most of your posts. Remember, your aim is to act as a trusted guide for your audience on whatever your beat happens to be. Aggregation and curation means that you are going out and finding stuff.
  • At least one category and several tags with every post — no exceptions. Categories are how you organize your blog. Tags are how Google finds your posts.
  • Use of art. Finding pictures related to your posts that you are legally free to use makes a blog much better than one that’s mostly text. Be sure to give proper credit when using photos from Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons.
  • A blogroll with at least five links to sites that you use in order to blog about your beat.
  • Appearance. That doesn’t mean I’m going to critique the WordPress theme that you chose. It does mean that I’m going to look at the general execution. If the formatting has gone wrong, if pictures look lousy, and you don’t know what to do about it, ask me before I start my assessment.

Open lab hours

Here is the schedule for open lab hours in 171 Holmes this semester. You may need to drop by in order to finish your videos on time.

  • Mondays, 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, 11:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Thursdays, 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Fridays, 2 to 5 p.m.

Getting ready to edit your videos

I hope you all had a good experience shooting video (and stills) for your video project. Perhaps you are shooting today — it’s certainly a good day for it. You got some great guidance on Friday from Mary Knox Merrill. The Mindy McAdams guide on the syllabus, especially Part 12, has some good advice on shooting video as well.

On Tuesday we will begin editing our videos. Most of you will be moving your clips and photos to an iMac in 171 Holmes. Please come equipped with what you need — most likely a USB cable you can plug into your camera and then attach to the computer. Also: Everyone should bring earbuds or headphones.

I will do a little bit of demo’ing of iMovie ’11. Mainly, though, it’s a hands-on program, and it can be hard to figure out what someone else is doing simply by looking at an overhead. On the syllabus, the two most valuable documents are Apple’s “Get Started with iMovie” and the tutorial from Bowling Green State University. The tutorial is a PDF and it’s not that long. You should consider printing it out and bringing it with you.

There are some advanced features you don’t need to bother with. We’re not doing voice-overs (you can if you want to, though). We’re not adding music or flaky themes. We are making a basic three- to five-minute video with three interviews, at least three clips of B-roll, still photos, title slides and transitions. That’s it.

This will be fun.

Finishing your photo stories

As a reminder, here is the original assignment, and here is a follow-up with links to a couple of examples.

By the end of class today, it seemed that everyone had uploaded her or his edited photos to Flickr, had created a set and was well on the way toward finishing the set. Remember to write a headline text for the set and for each photo.

I’m not sure everyone grasped the final steps, so I am going to try to outline them here.

To embed a photo from your set in your blog: You can download the photo to your hard drive and use it as you would any photo. But you can also use the URL of the photo itself. Which means …

  1. Click on the photo to select it.
  2. With the cursor over the photo, hold down the <control> key while pressing the mouse or the trackpad. A dialog box should come up.
  3. Select the best size for your blog — probably Medium 500 or Medium 640.
  4. With the cursor over the photo, hold down the <control> key again while pressing the mouse or the trackpad. A dialog box should come up again. This time choose “Copy Image Address.” (If you’re using a browser other than Safari, the wording might be slightly different.)
  5. Write a post for your blog. Add an image by clicking on “Add Media,” just as your normally would.
  6. Click on “Insert from URL.” The rest should take care of itself.
  7. For a caption, write “Click on image for more photos” or some similar language of your choosing.

To link from your blog to your Flickr set.

  1. You are still in the editing window of WordPress’ dashboard. Open a new tab or page.
  2. In Flickr, go to your set. You do this various ways, but I like the view called “Thumbnails.” For example, see this. (Although I didn’t interview anyone, it otherwise contains all the elements of the assignment: headline and text for the set, headline and text for each photo.)
  3. Copy the URL for the set from the address bar of your browser.
  4. Go back to the WordPress editing window. Select the photo. The link chain should be activated, and you can use that to link to your set just as if you had selected some type.

Your video assignment

On Tuesday we’ll discuss what you’ll need to get started with your video assignment. We will begin editing next Tuesday, Feb. 19, so you’ve got a week to think about a story and shoot it. This Friday, Feb. 15, you’ll get some valuable tips from Mary Knox Merrill.

The goal is to make a three- to five-minute news video. As with all of our assignments, it would be nice if you could shoot something related to your beat, but it’s not a requirement. You need to shoot the following before next Tuesday:

  • Interviews with at least three different people. Make sure you get their complete names, first and last, spelled properly.
  • A stand-up of yourself introducing the story.
  • At least three more video clips, mainly to be used as B-roll.
  • Some still photos, also to be used as B-roll.

You should make all of your shots horizontal, both video and still.

When you come to class next Tuesday, please be ready to work. Most of you will be using iMovie in the Mac lab. If you are planning to transfer your material from your camera, be sure to bring a USB cable that actually fits your camera. (You may choose to bring your video clips and photos on a CD or flash drive instead.) Also — very important — bring a pair of headphones or earbuds for video editing, since we won’t want to hear the audio.

If you are not familiar with iMovie, I will do some demo’ing in class. But there is no substitute for familiarizing yourself with it ahead of time. Take a look at Week 7 on the syllabus. Mindy McAdams’ outstanding two-part guide will be particularly useful to you. Read it. The two parts are not that long, so you may wish to print them out and bring them to class.

McAdams’ guide, though, is for iMovie ’09, and we have upgraded to iMovie ’11. Apple documentation is notoriously difficult to come by. If you have a Mac and access to the App Store, a guide called “Tutor for iMovie ’11” gets good reviews, and is only $4.99. The book “iMovie ’11 and iDVD: The Missing Manual,” by David Pogue and Aaron Miller, is excellent, but you’ll pay more.

We’ll have fun, but unless you’re already a video wiz, this is going to take longer than you think. We’ll wrap up by spring break.