Archive for the 'EPJ' Category

28
Apr
10

EPJ Final Project Update

Mired in Flash! (Not quite Flash hell, but I can feel the heat.)

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20
Apr
10

EPJ Critique: Lauren Greenfield’s “Fashion Show”

In a word – OUTSTANDING!

I wouldn’t necessary call it “objective journalism.” It is not journalism in the sense that it explains much for the viewer. It gives a glimpse to the viewer of what it is to be a high fashion model and that environment – from the media circus to the behind the scenes at the shows. It is journalism in the same way that an op-ed piece is journalism. It has a point of view and expresses it clearly and effectively although through visuals and music, not words.

The audio is a character in this piece. Stills and video are segmented and sequenced to the beat of the audio track. The effect on the viewer is one of a machine. A global beauty industry churning out the next hottest fashion, no matter the toll that it takes on the models or the practicality of wearing such “garments.”

This fits right in line with the scope of Greenfield’s work. Greenfield has been examining pop culture and the effect on the population for her entire career (as I know it). I was introduced to her work with the Fast Forward project – kids growing up in wealth and how that plays out for a pre-teen. She has delved deeper into the issue with her books/work Girl Culture and Thin. Fashion Show falls right in line with all that work and examines the root of the fashion industry.

As for production, I didn’t really have many issues. There were 1-2 pictures I wish were held a little longer. Photos that I wanted to explore more. However, I think keeping the pace was more important and fits with the theme of a high-powered, fast-paced environment that high fashion is.

This is what multimedia storytelling can be. Whether or not there is an economic model to support it is another matter.

17
Apr
10

EPJ Final Project Update

So this is ridiculously overdue but here it is.

I had several things fall through on me since my first proposal at the beginning of the semester. I am now focusing my project on Crystal City, MO and the ongoing story between a proposed iron smelter and the development of a massive underground recreational facility in a former sand mine.

This is obviously too large a project to finish in this semester for EPJ but I will bite off two parts as Dr. Greenwood suggested. I will be building on some of the work I did last semester for MPW and building a history of the area slide show (or possibly interactive map). And I will be focusing on the former mine that the owner is trying to develop into this recreational center.

Not too much happens in the mine at this point, a little construction and minimal use by various community organizations. However, on the Saturday before Easter the owner opened it up for a day long open house. Of course there were Easter egg hunts, but also an air soft tournament (similar to paintball but with little plastic beads), and a bunch of other activities. I also got an on-camera interview with the owner that day.

Here are a few photos from one of the egg hunts. The kids turned in the plastic eggs for prizes at the end.

14
Mar
10

Critique: News Organization Multimedia Project

The “Childhood Poverty in Colorado” project by The Denver Post has a lot of things going for it but, in my opinion, could also improve in several areas.

The project's home page.

The good: The aesthetic design was nice and simple. The subdued color palette reinforces the serious nature of the subject with only the word “poverty” highlighted in red. The black and white photos & video also reinforce the serious nature of the topic. The paper built out a separate interface for the project rather than making it look like the rest of the Post’s website. Everything functions well, I couldn’t break the site. Since it is flash embedded in html pages it is a little cumbersome even on my broadband connection – very minor for me, but I wonder how users on dial up would be able to view the site. There is the argument that users view more websites and traffic goes up when they are at work where most businesses have faster connections. Although I can’t imagine a user going through the mountain of content that is on this site (one hour plus, if one wants to read/watch everything) during their workday.

Interactive Map

The interactive map is nice and illustrates the areas within Colorado where poverty has increased and also illustrates Colorado’s distinction as the state with the largest increase in childhood poverty. However:

Things I would improve: On the map I would like to see major cities listed/highlighted to get a sense of where things are in the state. This may be because I’m not a native (therefore, not in the target audience) and I don’t intuitively know where the stories that they reported are taking place. I have a vague idea of Denver being just about dead center in the state, with Boulder being a bit north of Denver – that is the extent of my geographic knowledge of Colorado.

Also, with the navigation:

User is brought to this "chapter" page to select from one of eight stories that the Post covered.

User is brought to this "chapter" page to select from one of eight stories that the Post covered.

Once inside the chosen chapter the user can choose from a stills gallery or the video.

Here we are at the “three-click rule” and we haven’t even seen the content. Supposing we choose “Photo Essay” we are brought to the slide show. The user can click through the slideshow manually (good), turn captions on/off (good), but the scrolling flash transitions between each photo I find a little jarring (bad). I didn’t mind the scrolling in the chapter selection but would like smoother transitions in the individual story.

The user can also see thumbnails of all the photos by hovering the mouse over the center of the picture (good), however if the user never hovers over the photo and just uses the arrows to advance – like I did initially – they may not realize they can go anywhere in the presentation (not so good).

Another navigation challenge is when the user comes to the end of a photo essay slide show they are brought back to the main chapter navigation (clicking “Stories”) or have the option to go to the video for that chapter.

Video prompt is good, in fact that option is throughout the slide show. However clicking back to stories puts the user at the opening chapter. Better would be to return the user to the chapter menu at the story they just saw or at the next story in the lineup. This would save a lot of user clicking and prompt the user to other portions of the project.

My solution to all of these problems would be to keep the home page but open then to an interactive map, with major cities, and the cities where the stories took place that they reported. Rolling over the major city would do nothing unless there was a story reported there. Rolling over the story cities would bring up a pop up window with a brief description and the choice to go directly into the video or audio. When either of those portions were done the user would be brought back to the map navigation. Additional map overlays could be done that the user could turn on or off on the main navigation to show the information that is currently on the separate page.

On a content critique, in both the video and the stills the subjects seem to have high camera awareness, lots of looking right into the lens. The photo essays would benefit a lot from a tighter edit (just because the web offers unlimited space doesn’t mean there needs to be 30-40 pictures for each essay – it dilutes the impact). A lot of redundancy in the captions too. If the same caption information is repeated that is a sign that there only needs to be one photo. Each visual should tell me something new and so should the captions. The video interviews seem very stilted and uncomfortable, they are not “Hello, my name is … ” interviews but they aren’t individually insightful. Everyone seems to be saying “We’re poor, we struggle, but we love each other and we will survive.” Also I really don’t like the vignetting on the video – very distracting and gimmicky.

The project is very ambitious and kudos to The Denver Post for attempting it. I don’t know the specifics of why it fell short, not enough time/resource investment or perhaps better subjects could be found. Regardless, I think it could have been executed with more impact and therefore potentially do more good for the poor of Colorado.

01
Mar
10

Photographer Website Critique

I decided to review the website of a photographer Gary Parker. He is based in San Jose, Calif. and focuses on shooting advertising and editorial assignments.

When first visiting the page it is nice and clean with all the navigation available up front. He leads with a large image that is randomly generated, each time the page is reloaded there is a new photo.

The only thing I don’t care for on this page is the square boxes that are part of the design in the upper right corner. At first I thought the user was supposed to click on them but they are not links. I don’t know what they are for and seem to be just there. Since they are not repeated anywhere else in the layout, I wouldn’t call them a theme.

From a functional point, when I open the window and view it at my normal resolution, I have to scroll to see the entire photo. This I don’t care for. If I view it smaller to get the whole image in the browser window without scrolling then the text is difficult to read. Also in the galleries, the scroll bar for the image selection is cut off just a little, still functional but it doesn’t look great.

These are minor details and can be fixed. Perhaps it is just a function of my browser as well.

I love the gallery navigation though. I really don’t like sites where the thumbnails of photos are severe crops that don’t really remind the user of what picture they have seen. I also don’t like number photos or representing photos as dots. Both don’t tell the viewer where the photo is that they want to go back to.

Some images seem to load a little slowly on a wireless connection. I would optimize the images to load faster.

The design and navigation are all pretty good, except for the minor issues I’ve noted. The images are lively as one would expect for advertising photography and the “About Gary” section is high energy and good self promotion as well.

12
Feb
10

Final Project?

Well the best I can offer up for a final EPJ project is a few sketchy ideas. Topics I would like to look into would be family issues – either grandparents who are raising their grandkids, or younger families trying to get an education while raising children. Either of these ideas intrigue me.

I am however drawn to a different, lighter topic and that would be juggling. I don’t know what the juggling community is like in Columbia but there seems to be plenty of shops selling equipment related to the hobby. This would have to be character driven – meeting the right person to focus the project. The motion involved in the subject matter would be fantastic for video.

That’s all I can offer up right now. I dropped the ball getting a jumpstart on this one. I’ve got plenty of excuses, but you know the saying about excuses – “Excuses are like …”

11
Feb
10

Media Company Photo Website Critique

I decided to critique the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The homepage was updated within the 45 minutes from when I first loaded the page to when I refreshed. New pictures were placed on the home page, one dominant (although not very big) and three thumbnails – all had been replaced.

Thumbnails of “editor’s picks” photo galleries were prominently placed underneath the most current stories, minimal scrolling was involved but they were featured on the homepage. There was a separate section to view more photo galleries on the homepage. Most photos on the main page were thumbnail size as teasers to stories. The dominance of the photos weren’t really played up but more of a sharing of space between the written stories and visuals.

Once in the galleries section, the photos have pretty nice display within the galleries. There is a regular slideshow of the days best photos compiled, presumably, by a photo editor at the paper from what that person has seen run across the wire. Galleries are broken up into various themes such as news, business, sports – no doubt making it easier for say a fan of UNC basketball to find the photo gallery they want quickly and easily. Although there is no search function for the photo galleries, which would make it difficult to find something old.

There is an option to enlarge a photo in the slideshow but then moving to the previous or next photo can not be done at the larger size. This is kind of annoying if one wanted to look at all the photos larger.

There is a weekly photo column called “The View” which has some decent photography, well displayed but moving from one to another is tedious and means scrolling through all the thumbnails to get to the one the viewer hasn’t seen, rather than just a simple previous or next button. The text with these photo columns is also pretty uninspiring. Basically just a caption. There is a text area called “How I got the shot” which could be interesting for viewers but most of the time just conveys the technical aspect and describes what the photographer liked about the scene – information that is apparent from looking at the photo. More interesting would be what the photographer was thinking and what they intended to convey whether or not they accomplished that in the frame.

I do have to mention that one gallery featured 236 raw images and challenged the viewers to “Find yourself in the 236 raw images from the run.” I don’t care who the photographer is I can’t believe that anyone can make an interesting slideshow of 236 pictures from a single event. This is complete lack of editing and poor judgment. But perhaps they have tried this before and it is a viewer favorite to play “Where’s Waldo” with themselves. I can’t imagine anyone doing that though. They seem to have a habit of posting large galleries and calling them “First Look” before they have been edited into a tighter show.

This is not the best presentation of photography on the web but not the worst I have seen. The navigation worked for the most part, some alignment was off but that may just be my browser. The photos that the paper produced were easy to buy with a discrete button. This is a nice feature if the viewer wants to make a purchase. There was a video gallery but I focused only on the still photography for this presentation. There was no mention in the main navigation bar specifically for photography. I don’t know if that is a feature viewers use or if that is just to stroke the egos of the photo department. It seems readers might be more interested in how the photo and story work together. Although it is nice to have all the photos in one place to search. I could see doing both, for ease of searching.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being best, I would give the News & Observer a 6.