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UPDATE: When I wrote about the value of Flipboard’s user-created magazines a couple of days ago, one of my major complaints was that folks could see them only if they own an iPad, smartphone or Android tablet. Well, the FB folks have fixed that. As of today, I (or any other FB user) can mail you a link to my magazines or post a link on social media, and when you click, the magazine opens in your Web browser. This vastly expands the utility of the magazines, since you can now let anyone see them. Here are links to three of my magazines, on Web Video,  Photos, and Data Visualization.

My purpose in creating these is to collect stuff on a given topic that I can then use in class, and now I can use FB’s web page to organize each magazine and then mail links to it to students at the beginning of class.

HINT – Once you open one of my magazines, click on the small icon at left with three short parallel lines. That will take to FB’s choice of best user-created magazines.
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I’ve been using Flipboard’s new “Create Your Own Magazine” feature for about three months now, so it’s time to report on how it’s working.

I’m basically very happy with the software, that allows you to store your Web page bookmarks as “magazines” on Flipboard, displayed in the software’s unique layout.

For now, Flipboard is only available for iPads and iPhones, Android, and Windows 8 phones. The basic application allows you to select feeds from Twitter, Facebook or various magazines and pull them into Flipboard. The app then displays the headline, photo or illustration, and the first 1-3 grafs of the content, laid out magazine-style, with 2-6 items on a page. You turn the pages by sliding your finger from right to left, “flipping” them.

FlipboardCover

It’s a far better way to browse a Twitter feed featuring links or photo, e.g., because you don’t just see the url — you see the actual photo or article headline, along with the first few paragraphs of the text. Content from several dozen Web sites, including The Economist, Salon, National Geographic and The Guardian, are also available, in the same format.

But about three months ago, Flipboard announced a new feature that allows readers to create their own magazines. First, you set up your magazines, by title and category. For example, I created magazines for Photos, Data Journalism, Web Video, Teaching, Journalism, Mobile apps, Gadgets and Music.

Now, as I browse content on Flipboard, a small plus sign is visible to the side of every article, and if I want to save it in one of my magazines, I just click.

Far more powerful, however, is a Pinterest-like feature that allows me to add a link to my Firefox or Safari browser. With that installed, whenever I am browsing anywhere on the Web, I can click on the “Flip” link and a window pops up, allowing me to add the link to one or several of my magazines.

You may be asking how this is any different than just storing the URLS for those Web pages in my bookmarks folder. At a basic level, there is no difference. I generally add both a bookmark and “flip” the link to my Flipboard magazine whenever I find something of interest.

But Flipboard’s magazine-style layout makes it much easier to find a URL long after you’ve forgotten why you saved it. By displaying the headline, photo or video or illustration and the first few grafs of a story, you can quickly remember what the article is about.

Here’s a quick illustration of that comparison. Below is a screen shot of my bookmarks folder for Web video (OK, I could do a better job of organizing it):

BookmarksWebVideo

Now here are several pages from my FB magazine for Web video:

FB5

Your magazines by default are public, so they can be followed by anyone else interested in your topic. At some point, for example, I could send a note to my fellow online journalism professors across the land, letting them know that I have collected several hundred links to great examples of web video, available for their classroom use.

photo

Flipboard has already made one upgrade to the service. About six weeks ago, they announced a Web page where you can log in and edit your magazines. You can drag and drop each item into whatever order you like, and you can also create a permanent title page for your magazine (by default, Flipboard uses the art from your most recent post as the cover page art).

FB7

There are still some missing pieces for Flipboard to be more useful. I’d like to be able to write new headlines for the articles, e.g., and I’d like the ability to create subsections. For example, in my Photos magazine, I’d like to have one section for great examples of photos, another for photo gear, and a third for how to take photos.

And most importantly, I’d like to be able to share the content on the Web and not just on a tablet or smartphone. Most of my students have laptop computers, but almost none of them own a tablet computer.

Apr 11, 2013, 3-53-06 PMIf you’ve glanced at fashion Web sites lately you may have noticed a striking new image — what appears to be a still photo, but with a small portion moving, seemingly in a loop.

The images are called “cinegraphs,” a name copyrighted by photographers Jamie Beck and Kevin Berg, and they first started using them in 2011.

One of the first examples was during Fashion Week in New York City that year (click on New York Fashion Week): http://cinemagraphs.com/

They seem to be gaining mainstream acceptance. Here’s a recent example from People magazine.

http://www.people.com/people/static/h/package/mostbeautiful2013/gif/index.html

Here’s a good overview article with lots of good links:

http://columbianewsservice.com/2013/03/wait-did-the-picture-in-that-ad-just-move/

I decided to show my multimedia news production class how to produce them, which required learning the process myself. (One of their best is the one of the two flags at the top of this post). There are two approaches, one using Photoshop (I’m guessing you could also do it in GIMP or Photoshop Express, not sure about Pixelmator) and the other using an app for an iPad, iPhone or Android tablet or smartphone.

Here’s an Android app:
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/make-animated-gifs-and-cinemagraphs-android/

Here’s the iPhone and iPad equivalents:

Echograph.com
Cinegram.com

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cinemagram/id487225881?mt=8

The app approach is much simpler, though it doesn’t offer all the capabilities of Photoshop.

My guess is that we will see a lot more cinegraphs because coming up with a good one takes some thought, the sort of process that both video and still photographers enjoy.

First, you need at least two elements of your image that are moving. The goal here is to freeze one of them and let the other continue to move. But you need to be careful that none of the elements in the frozen portion of the image move behind the image you want to move. When an element is moving, it swings from side to side or up and down, revealing part of the background and if anything moves through that background, it will spoil the effect. So your moving element should be in front of something that is stationary. That was a problem in the third-from-the-bottom image below, where the runners ran behind the young woman. We had to freeze the right side of her skirt, since when it blew to the left, it would reveal the runners when they passed behind her.

Your frozen image also takes some thought. You want the reader to recognize instantly that some of the elements in it were moving but now have been frozen. In the bottom image in this post, e.g., it is not immediately obvious that the young woman is not just sitting very still. In the one above it, on the other hand, it’s clear that the person walking has been frozen while his shadow precedes him.

With an app, such as Echograph, the real headache is in getting the video into and out of your smartphone or tablet. That requires loading the video into your computer, opening iTunes, selecting the Apps window, and scrolling down to where data can be transferred via iTunes from your computer to the app, and then loading the video (the folks at Echograph are also selling an SD card reader that attaches to the phone or tablet, allowing you to transfer the files directly from your camera).

But the process of creating the cinegraph is idiot-proof. Open the app, open the video and hit Play. Stop when you find the frame you want to freeze and then, using your finger, erase over the part you want to continue moving. Voila! Instant gratification and you can share your creation via e-mail or social media.

Photoshop is harder, but offers more options. I didn’t realize you could import a video into Photoshop, but you can. Under the File menu, select Import and you can select “Import Video to Layers.” That puts each frame into a separate layer and you can even trim the front and back of the clip to reduce the file size. You then need to stack the layers, add a mask over the part you want to reveal and after a few more steps, create your cinegraph.

It’s a complicated process, but it offers two advantages over the app version. First, in Photoshop you can select your frames and then paste them in, in reverse order, so your video moves forward and backward to the beginning in a smooth-flowing loop. The app versions also play the video as a loop, but at the end of the clip, there is a jump cut back to the beginning. By reversing the frames, the image seems to be in perpetual motion. Secondly, in the apps, you use your fingertip to reveal the underlying image. That’s normally sufficient, but it doesn’t offer the pixel-level control of Photoshop.

Here are the detailed instructions:

http://blog.spoongraphics.co.uk/tutorials/how-to-make-a-cool-cinemagraph-image-in-photoshop

One other point – you absolutely must use a tripod. If one part of your image is frozen, any camera shake at all in the moving portion will be accentuated.

Here are a few of my favorite images from our class:

Apr 11, 2013, 3-50-26 PM

Apr 11, 2013, 11-19-29 AM Apr 11, 2013, 11-30-54 AM Apr 11, 2013, 11-04-22 AM

 

 

 

 

 

I have a general thesis that free video on the Web is going to put a serious crimp not just in the commercial TV programming we know now, but also the wannabe Web-only equivalents, the sorts of folks who count on paying for their Web video shows by making money from  advertising (such as the 100 projects Google has green-lighted and the ones NetFlix and Amazon are also backing).

The links here are fairly broad — a couple of music clips, a seminar, some crazy stunts — but they’re what I ended up watching the past few days instead of cable TV. I think this sort of free programming still has lots of room to grow. SmartPhones are still getting better in terms of video and audio, and they’re still spreading into every corner of the globe. There are now hundreds of thousands of folks using DSLRs and high-end point-and-shoots to shoot better-quality video, and folks like GoPro, with their affordable cameras aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts, have shown that a key requirement for participants is the ability to show your friends what insane stuff you did. Oh yeah — Google Glass goes on sale this year and if it’s wearable video cameras get any serious traction, it will add millions more cameras out there capturing everyday life in all its humor and pathos — for free.

So tell me what you watched on the Web this week… Are you watching more or less cable TV?

Enough talk — here are the links:
Two gutsy/foolhardy guys jump out of ultralights over Rio at 5:45 a.m. wearing those flexible wingsuits that allow them to sort of fall/glide to the ground — right through two towers of an office building. Free content from extreme sports enthusiasts.

Love baby seals? A guy in Seattle mounted a camera on an old surfboard and watched what happened. Free content from an amateur videographer with some imagination, and luck.
http://www.viralviralvideos.com/tag/gopro/

I didn’t watch all of this (yet), but in the first 20 minutes I learned a lot about how National Geographic photographers get those great photos. On average, they shoot 1,900 for every one that appears in the magazine. I teach photojournalism and that’s a key point for students to learn — no matter what your technical settings, you need to keep shooting to get the very best photos. The seminar was sponsored by Samsung at B&H Photo in New York, which is another point. Remember that incredible balloon jump last year by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner? It was sponsored by Red Bull. Remember that theme — advertisers don’t need to put their ad on your video product. They can create THEIR video product and bypass your cable network.
http://www.petapixel.com/2013/03/16/storytelling-made-easy-capturing-photos-that-tell-a-compelling-story/

This one is more technical — two guys use a bunch of GoPro video cameras mounted on an arc-shaped metal bar to recreate those “Matrix”-style videos where the image freezes but then the camera moves around within the frozen image. But that’s another point — As a photography nut, this is niche info I can’t find anywhere on cable TV and there are thousands of similar niches, from knitters to mandolin players to folks who want to learn to swing dance or program C++.
http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/03/16/homemade-gopro-camera-array-creates-stunning-matrix-style-bullet-time-visuals/

Chris Thieles is one of the best mandolin players in the world today, though you wouldn’t know that from watching this entertaining clip of his group, The Punch Brothers, cover a song by The Cars. Again, the clip was done by a Web site for promotional purposes, so I don’t have to watch a 30-second ad before the clip.

This one is from an art exhibit — a fascinating (and highly edited) slow-motion drive through New York City. Yep, this time it is a non-profit that is giving us the free video.
http://www.petapixel.com/2013/03/17/street-a-mezmerizing-slow-motion-drive-down-the-streets-of-nyc/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PetaPixel+%28PetaPixel%29

PS – I started putting the actual links in because this WordPress template doesn’t do a good job of highlighting linked text. It adds a faint gray underline that is easy to miss.

That’s it for now, but I’ll add more on occasion, whenever I see stuff that proves my point: The Web isn’t just disrupting traditional media. By offering a huge amount of free content and allowing advertisers to create content themselves, it is completely destroying the traditional model where someone produces content to attract eyeballs and then sells those viewers to an advertiser to finance the costs of producing the content.

An item last week in the always-excellent 10,000 Words blog outlined why Reuters and the Wall Street Journal were parting company with YouTube. You may remember that — only a year ago — both companies trumpeted their selection to produce content for a YouTube channel, one of 100 premium channels the Google-owned web video giant spent $150 million to launch last year.

YouTubeSo what went wrong? One place to start, 10,000 Words points out, is the money that YouTube pays for traffic to its channels. They cite an article by Peter Kafka in All Things D, that claims YouTube takes 45% of all ad revenue as its cut, leaving the content producers with revenue of only about $2.50 for every thousand viewers. Yep, that would be $2,500 if your video gets one million views.

Or, to parse the data another way, assume a staffer makes $65,000 a year, which translates neatly to $1,200 per week or $250 per day. Just to earn back their daily salary, that video producer is going to need to produce content every day that reaches 100,000 eyeballs (at YouTube’s rate of $2.50 per thousand eyeballs). Assuming you have multiple staffers on your team, EVERY ONE OF THEM is going to need to produce a video that hits that 100,000 views mark every day.

How likely is that? 10,000 Words points out that a recent highly-trafficked New York Times video netted 330,000 viewers — not per day, but in total.

We’re off here by a factor of at least 10 and that’s what keeps me worried about the future of commercially successful video on the web. And that’s now — before the floodgates open and we see a surge of user-generated streaming video from the likes of UStream and Google Glasses, all free and all competing for those same limited eyeballs.

I don’t want to end on a dour note, so in fairness, I should point out this story about a spiffy new video production facility YouTube just launched in Los Angeles called “Space.” It’s state-of-the-art with green screens and cool camera and editing gear — and it is available for free to folks YouTube allows in to produce premium video content. The goal, according to YouTube, is to give new producers access to better gear so their productions will look more polished. If the cost of producing content were the major roadblock to producing commercially successful content on the Web, I’d say this is a great idea. But it’s not. A couple of HD cameras and a laptop with editing software are within the reach of most wannabe producers, particularly if a few friends pool their resources.

Nope, the enemy of commercial web content is free web content. And who is the biggest purveyor of that in the land? Ironically, in light of this latest venture, it’s the folks at YouTube.

Can Glass break Rock?

Can Glass break Rock?

One of the most striking features of the stories about the Russian meteorite was the volume and quality of videos capturing its blazing arc across the sky. You would have thought that half of the autos in the small town where the meteorite crashed had cameras mounted on their dashboards. And you would have been correct.

Because drivers in Russia don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of their court system to correctly assess who is at fault in an auto accident, many have mounted small cameras in their cars to record a few minutes of video into a buffer, which can be saved in the event of a crash — a persuasive bit of evidence in court.  And as a result, video of car crashes is a popular subject on the Russian versions of YouTube. See here, for example, for some highlights.

You rarely see auto crash videos in the U.S., because they happen suddenly, before anyone can turn on a camera. The ones you do see are often from cameras mounted on police cars, similar to those in Russia.

But Google seems close to changing all of that, and in a way that may transform what we now know as commercial TV.

Watch the video embedded in this PopSci article on Google’s hush-hush meeting with developers recently in New York. The session was to show selected developers the latest iteration of Google Glass, the eyeglasses the Web search giant has been crafting that allow users to overlay info from the Web onto the real world.

Up to now, the glasses have seemed intriguing, but not revolutionary. Curious about what it costs to live in a ritzy neighborhood in northern New Jersey? If you’re wearing the glasses, just ask Google to overlay data from Zillow or Trulia or some other Web-based real estate firm onto your vision and you can see what houses have sold for recently, as you look at them. Thinking about stopping at a new ethnic restaurant while running errands? Ask Google to call up Yelp reviews and display them right in your vision. Intriguing, yes, but not that more advanced than what I can already get from a smartphone.

But as this latest video makes clear, Google is far more ambitious. Now the glasses have voice control, and the ability to record video and stream it live to friends. Just tell it to “Start recording” and a small image of what is being captured shows up in one corner of the glasses. Tell it to “Start Hangout” and it begins streaming the video live, allowing up to 9 friends to join in a Google Hangout video chat session, texting their reactions to what you’re seeing. And Hangouts have a URL, which anyone in the world can access.

In other words, anyone wearing Google Glass becomes a TV producer, streaming live whatever they are seeing, and anyone in the world with Web access can watch. That’s a big step up from dashboard-mounted video cameras in a small town in Russia.

Just a few months ago, Twitter was being touted as a revolutionary tool for journalists because it allowed them to monitor what was happening with the “Arab Spring” protests in Egypt and elsewhere. Imagine if even a fraction of those protestors had been wearing Google Glass. When protestors outside the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago chanted “the whole world is watching” before the cameras of the national TV networks, they were right. Until the cameras went away.

But what if anyone, anywhere could show everyone else what was happening? Not just protests — walking tours, traffic jams, nightclub performances, crime scenes, plus the more mundane examples of classes, lectures, museum visits or local sports. YouTube today seems bottomless, but it would be dwarfed by the Google Glass output.

Would commercial TV as well? If the print media’s experience with the Web is any guide, today’s broadcasters should be wary.

When Web news and information sites first launched, they were touted as better replacements for stodgy print media — allowing the use of text, photos, video, interactive graphics and interaction with readers at a lower production cost, all ad supported of course, just like their predecessors in print. But what has slowly been dawning on Web journalists is that they are not the only folks out there who are talented writers, photographers or videographers. There are thousands of people who are passionate about something and willing to produce content about it, for free. As a result, the volume of quality content has increased exponentially and as a result, commercial news and information Web sites producing original content have never been able to attract enough readers to charge the same advertising rates as print media.

Is the same fate in store for the TV industry? There have been many articles recently touting the success of web-only commercial video. Google itself is funding 96 start-up channels via YouTube, and NetFlix was in the spotlight for its release of a second season of House of Cards, it’s Internet-only dramatic series.

But TV producers have always appreciated the power of “live,” for viewers to sit forward in their chairs to experience “being there.” That’s what Google Glass offers. Tens of thousands of live streams, on any topic imaginable. Yeah, some folks never get beyond the first dozen channels on their cable box, but lots more will find niche programming that will take them away from commercial TV.

And that is not good news for traditional producers counting on large audiences to cover large production costs.

But can Google pull off the Glass revolution?

Six years ago, there was no iPhone. Now, many of us would say our smartphone is our most valuable possession. No, Google doesn’t have Apple’s track record with launching consumer gadgets, but they have billions of dollars to invest and if this latest video demonstration is any indication, they’re figuring out a great feature set. My bet is that Glass will have some early hurdles, but eventually will win wide acceptance.

So in six years, when the next meteorite hits, don’t flip over to CNN. Click here to watch it live.

We did Hack Jersey this weekend at Montclair State (see my previous post for links) and one of my tasks was to stream the proceedings. We posted 5 1/2 hours to YouTube, including all of the speeches, the teams’ presentations to the judges, and the awards presentation, and I learned a lot.

The good news: For what we were doing, the results were acceptable. By myself, using three laptops and two Logitech webcams, and the WiFi available on campus, we managed to stream all of the speeches, intercutting each speaker’s Powerpoint (or HaikuDeck) slides and using a second laptop as a second camera.

Our setup: I attached a Logitech HD external webcam ($199) to my MacBook Pro laptop, mounted on an inexpensive (Velbon) tripod. We had a 10-foot USB extension cord which was critical in allowing me to move the camera close to the podium, while I sat 20 feet away (the webcams also have a 10-foot cord). I asked all of the speakers to e-mail me their presentation deck. Google Hangouts allows you to switch between your webcam (either the one embedded in your laptop or an external webcam) and your computer screen. So you can show the speaker and then cut to his/her slides as needed. The audio came from the microphone on the Logitech Webcam, which necessitated keeping that camera close to the podium.

That basic setup worked well, and for most of the presentations would have been sufficient. Except…..

Since this was a hack-a-thon, it seemed appropriate to push things a bit, so I decided to add a second camera. With Google Hangouts, you typically log-in on your computer and invite friends to join by sending them an e-mail with a link to the Hangout. They click the link and you can see each other, via the built-in webcam (assuming you have one).

But you can add an external webcam. You simply plug it in, and then in the Hangout, there is an option to choose the camera and microphone to use (you may need to reboot the computer to get the external webcam to show up). So you can point that external Webcam anywhere, particularly if it it is mounted on a light-weight tripod and has a 10-foot USB extension cord.
That’s the minimal setup you need to do a decent job of covering a speech at a conference.

To add a second camera, you need to invite somebody else to join your Hangout. You simply send them an e-mail, they click to join, and they show up, on their webcam. But if they have an external webcam, that becomes your second camera.

Google allows 10 participants in a Hangouts, so if each one had an external camera, you could have a 10-camera shoot. So if a hurricane is moving in on the Jersey coast, and you had friends spread out along the shore, all with a computer and external webcam, you could cut from one to the other to show the progress of the storm. Or get 9 friends to show up at a basketball game (or concert) with their iPads and all join a Hangout. I’m intrigued to see where this goes.

We settled for two laptops side-by-side, each with an external webcam. One was on a tripod aimed at the podium, and the other on a tripod aimed at the audience. We used a third laptop as a monitor.

Here’s where things got to be fun. The basic Hangout allows you and your friends to do a video chat. But Google has added an option, Google Hangouts On Air, that allows you to stream your output to YouTube and send a link to anyone, anywhere, allowing them to watch what you are streaming. The third computer allowed us to click on the link and monitor what was going out to the world (you could do that on your main computer, in another browser window, but I was worried about overloading the processor).

So we had the main computer (MacBook Pro laptop) with an external webcam showing the podium, intercutting the speaker’s presentation, using the screenshare function. The second computer had an external webcam showing the audience, and the third computer (all MacBook Pro laptops, although we substituted a Dell windows laptop on Sunday with no problems)  monitored the output of the Hangout.

On Sunday, we added another twist. Each Hack Jersey team was showing off what they had built, uploaded to a Web site and then displayed using one computer at the podium. We “invited” that computer to join the Hangout (sending an e-mail to the owner), so we had one computer with external webcam showing the podium, one on the audience, and one showing the output of the presentation computer.

The basic setup worked well. We were able to show the speaker, cut to his/her slides, and cut away to the audience as necessary. For the final presentations, for example, when the judges, who were sitting in the front row of the audience, asked questions of the presenters, we could cut back and forth between the two cameras and the presentations. Most of the time, the setup worked.

But…

I’m a longtime TV producer, so what sucked? In general, the audio and video quality was only acceptable. The Logitech 920 webcams claim to be 1020p but they are not even close, at least as we used them. The cameras had trouble holding focus and were very soft. It helped when we used the screenshare feature. But there is much room for improvement.

The audio, again, was acceptable, but could have been better. That’s largely because we were using the microphones on the webcams, and not using a separate microphone (which Google Hangouts allows) so we were getting audio from a microphone 6-8 feet from the speaker.

You need to mute the audio from all of the computers other than your main computer. Despite that precaution we still had audio issues as folks inadvertently unmuted their computers. An attempt by one presenter to play a video clip was a disaster, with major feedback, although I’m pretty sure that was from the laptop speaker feeding back into the microphone on the podium.

You also absolutely need to discuss what you are doing with all of the participants. While all of them gave us their decks, some of them had decks that included Web links to video or animations. Those did not always play properly over the Hangout. And we also had one presenter who logged out of the presentation laptop, which dumped them out of the Hangout and ended our ability to stream the presentations from the laptop. Fortunately, they were the next to the last presenter, and we could turn our second camera to the large screens to capture their presentation (though it looked pretty lousy).

I’ve been a TV news producer for a long time and much of this is pretty much par for the course. Folks do unexpected things in front of the camera, gear dies, you forget a key piece of equipment, and the challenge is to muddle through. I found myself doing typical TV news stuff — cutting to one camera to give me time to move the other one around to focus on something else so I could the move the first camera. But hey folks, we streamed 5 and 1/2 hours of stuff, using three laptops and two $200 webcams, and anyone in the world could watch, for free. Are Google Hangouts better than UStream or YouTube Live or something else? Would Boinx TV have given us more options? Please let me know.

But I’m betting two years from now, this (at better quality and feature set) is standard practice and most of what we now know about local TV is up-ended.

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