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June 27 2013

15:28

Introducing the Newest MediaStorm Workshop: Editing Workflows

MediaStorm is proud to announce our newest workshop, Editing Workflows. This one day workshop is a deep dive into the 200-plus step workflow that MediaStorm producers use every day to organize and create our films.

Led by producers Eric Maierson and Tim McLaughlin, participants will learn the keys to organizing and working with large scale projects.

While some editing techniques will be discussed, this workshop is primarily focused on methodology. We’ll be sharing the editing workflow we’ve refined over 7 years to produce more than 200 projects.

This workshop uses Premiere Pro and Aperture, though the principles apply to Final Cut 7 as well.

Applications are now being accepted online.

Upcoming Dates

  • Saturday, August 10, 2013 – Apply by July 10, 2013
  • Saturday, September 7, 2013 – Apply by August 7, 2013

Workshop Details

  • Tuition for selected participants is $500
  • Workshops will be held at MediaStorm’s office and will start at 10 am and end at 6 pm with an hour for lunch
  • Attendees are responsible for their own room and board during the workshop.

Topics covered include:

  • Creating paper and radio cuts
  • Efficient logging
  • Techniques for quickly locating b-roll
  • Syncing two camera interviews
  • Working with large picture archives
  • Exporting and encoding
  • Archiving

Workflow Resources

14:39

MediaStorm Guide to Copy and Pasting a Clip Range in Premiere Pro

This article is part of a new series of posts with tips and tricks from our producers’ experience working with Adobe Premiere Pro after years of working in Final Cut Pro. To read more about why we made the switch, check out this post.

Today’s post was written by MediaStorm producer Eric Maierson.


A neat new feature in Adobe Premiere Pro CC is the ability to copy and paste a range of clips (or one clip) without first having to use the Razor Tool (C).

To do this simply mark an In (I) and Out (O) on your timeline.

Then, Copy (Command-C) and Paste (Command-V).

Super easy, super helpful.

Note that if a clip is already selected, you’ll simply copy and paste whatever is highlighted, not the range indicated by in and out marks. Use Command-Shift-A to first deselect all clips.


To learn more about how our producers are using Adobe Premiere Pro see our other blog posts on the topic. Also, follow our producers’ twitter feed @PrProShortcuts for Premiere shortcuts.

To learn more about our production style, you can purchase a copy of our Post-production Workflow. Readers who purchase our current Final Cut Pro and Aperture workflow automatically receive the Premiere workflow when it is released.

MediaStorm offers several online and in-person training opportunities at mediastorm.com/train.

Have you made a recent switch in your editing software? Let us know about it in the comments below.

May 15 2013

14:58

MediaStorm Guide to Creating Subtitles in Premiere Pro

This article is part of a new series of posts with tips and tricks from our producers’ experience working with Adobe Premiere Pro after years of working in Final Cut Pro. To read more about why we made the switch, check out this post.

Today’s post was written by MediaStorm producer Eric Maierson.


There’s a critical difference between the title tool in Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. In FCP, one could slice a title that’s already in the timeline, open it in the Viewer window, then change the contents so that you now had two distinct titles.

This does not work in Premiere Pro.

In Premiere Pro each title is a distinct instance. So, if you splice a title in the timeline then change its content, you will also change the content of the first title as well. Both titles will say the same thing.

The only way around this is to create a new title instance for every subtitle. It’s a cumbersome process and one that we wish Adobe would change.

Setting Up a Title Template

In the Project window create a new bin (Command – /). Name it Subtitles.

Open the title tool (Command-T).

In the New Title window, name the title temp. The title size will default to your current sequence size.

When the title tool opens, press T for the Type Tool, then click inside the rectangle. Use 38pt Arial, then type a short phrase. If you plan to use drop shadow, and you should, add it here as well. (Tim McLaughlin will follow up this post with a more detailed look at the functionality of the Title Tool.)

Next, click the Selection tool (arrow icon) and move the title so that it rests on top of the title-safe line.

Use the Horizontal Center tool to align the title in the middle of the screen.

Close the title tool.

Drag the title from Project window to your Timeline.

To create a new title, simply click the New Title Based on Current Style button at the top right of the Title tool.

XML

At MediaStorm we no longer use burned-in timecode. We use XML to generate titles in our player.

If you plan to use XML with your subtitles for any reason, say to copy from one computer to another, the following steps are crucial:

Each time you paste a phrase from your transcript into a subtitle, you must also rename the subtitle instance with the exact same phrase.

If the contents of the subtitle is “I went home” the name of the subtitle instance must also be “I went home”; the names must match identically. That’s because XML in Premiere Pro reads the name of the title, not its contents.

Here too, we wish Adobe would change this behavior so that XML functioned as it does in Final Cut Pro 7, reading the content of the subtitle, not the name of the title file – the opposite of how it works now.

It’s obviously more expedient to avoid this extra step.

Subtitle Styles

Font Size – 38

Font – Arial

Drop Shadow – Standard effect, change opacity to 90%

Fades

If narrative is more than 15 frames from the end or beginning of a cut, set subtitle to start 10 frames before the start or end of narrative, then place 8 frame fade on subtitle.


To learn more about how our producers are using Adobe Premiere Pro see our other blog posts on the topic. Also, follow our producers’ twitter feed @PrProShortcuts for Premiere shortcuts.

To learn more about our production style, you can purchase a copy of our Post-production Workflow. Readers who purchase our current Final Cut Pro and Aperture workflow automatically receive the Premiere workflow when it is released.

MediaStorm offers several online and in-person training opportunities at mediastorm.com/train.

Have you made a recent switch in your editing software? Let us know about it in the comments below.

April 16 2013

00:54

Adobe Launches Collaborative Editing Solution at NAB

LAS VEGAS  —  At NAB last week,  Adobe presented its collaborative editing solution called Adobe Anywhere.  At the show, we  interviewed Adobe Anywhere Senior Product Manager Michael Coleman about the product.

Coleman explained, “Anywhere is going to allow professionals that are working with Premiere Pro and Prelude to collaborate on media over the network.”  Groups of people can work on centrally-located shared productions from anywhere in the world. “It’s a really big shift in the way people work.”

Adobe Anywhere doesn’t use proxy files, says Coleman.  “We work directly with high resolution media, and we have a new technology called the Adobe Mercury streaming engine that will send the high res media all the way across the network to the editor who’s working right in Premiere Pro and Prelude.  It’s a great way to work and it’s a huge advance in productivity.”

Coleman explains more about the product and target user, as well as gives a short demo of Adobe Anywhere, in the video interview.

Megan O’Neill

April 04 2013

13:39

MediaStorm Introduces Asset Parser for Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro 6

Today we are releasing our Asset Parser for public use. This free online tool created by the MediaStorm production and development staff generates a list of all image, video and audio files used in a project.

When it’s time to color correct photography, rather than scanning the timeline for image names, we use the Asset Parser to create a quick list. These file names can then be copy-and-pasted into Apple’s Aperture or a similar application to locate the necessary photographs.

Here’s an example of an asset list generated by the parser.

In addition to speeding up your color correction workflow, this list can be used as a guide for other tasks, such as manually archiving your work.

The Asset Parser works with both Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro 6.

Try using the Asset Parser with your project at tools.mediastorm.com/asset_parser.

April 01 2013

13:20

MediaStorm Guide to the Adobe Premiere Pro Media Cache Database

This article is part of a new series of posts with tips and tricks from our producers’ experience working with Adobe Premiere Pro after years of working in Final Cut Pro. To read more about why we made the switch, check out this post.

Today’s post was written by MediaStorm producer Eric Maierson.


Each time you import audio or MPEG video files into Adobe Premiere Pro, the application caches a version into a database. This speeds up performance so that new previews do not need to be generated each time you view a clip.

Audio is stored in a .cfa file and MPEG in .mpgindex. These files are shared between Adobe Media Encoder, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore and Soundbooth.

By default both the cache files and the database are stored in the location /Users//Library/Application Support/Adobe/Common.

To check this, open Premiere Pro > Preferences > Media.

Storing Cache Files

Under normal circumstances, we tell producers to keep all project files together. But in this case it’s problematic as the media cache is not project-based. It stores files from all of your projects in one location.

So if project A, along with your cache drive, goes offline, project B on a separate drive will need to rebuild these files.

Of course, you could change the cache location each time you begin work on a different project. But honestly, the chances of forgetting this step seem high.

At MediaStorm we’ve left the cache in its default location without any noticeable performance issues. Nevertheless, the sheer number of these files means that they will add up quickly.

Cleaning the Cache

In the cache preferences (Premiere Pro > Preferences > Media) you’ll see a Clean button. Unfortunately, this function works counter to what might be expected. The Clean button deletes cache files associated with files that are currently not online. It ignores cache files related to your currently open project.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to create a specific workflow for deleting unused files. Our best suggestion is to make sure all current projects are mounted before cleaning the cache. This can obviously become burdensome if you’re working on more than one project.

Making The Cache Better

Ideally, I’d prefer to see the clean cache function work like the Render Manager in Final Cut Pro 7 (Tools > Render Manager…).

In FCP, the Render Manager opens a new window displaying a list of projects that contain render files. It offers the ability to individually select which project files to delete.

Hopefully, Adobe will address this issue.

For more information on Premiere Pro’s media cache database see Adobe’s support document Setting Up Your System.


To learn more about how our producers are using Adobe Premiere Pro see our other blog posts on the topic. Also, follow our producers’ twitter feed @PrProShortcuts for Premiere shortcuts.

To learn more about our production style, you can purchase a copy of our Post-production Workflow. Readers who purchase our current Final Cut Pro and Aperture workflow automatically receive the Premiere workflow when it is released.

MediaStorm offers several online and in-person training opportunities at mediastorm.com/train.

Have you made a recent switch in your editing software? Let us know about it in the comments below.

July 30 2012

15:21

MediaStorm Post-production Workflow Released for Final Cut Pro X

post-production-workflowWe have released a new version of the MediaStorm Post-production Workflow for Final Cut Pro X.

The workflow takes advantage of many of the new FCP X features and reduces the number of steps from the previous FCP 7 version.

While MediaStorm producers tested and refined the original MediaStorm Post-production Workflow for FCP 7 over seven years and more than 100 projects, we created the workflow for FCP X based on limited work with the new software. At the moment, it is a work in progress.

The updated workflow is bundled with the original FCP 7 workflow and includes access to MediaStorm’s Apple Aperture Workflow and MediaStorm’s Final Cut Asset Parser. Everyone who previously purchased the workflow will receive complimentary access to the FCP X document.

About the MediaStorm Post-Production Workflow

Developed over seven years, the MediaStorm workflow covers every phase of editing, from organizing assets through outputting final projects and archiving. Covering more than 200 steps, our approach efficiently streamlines the editing process with a focus on organization and creativity.

The MediaStorm Post-production Workflow includes:

  • The full 200-step workflow MediaStorm uses everyday with Final Cut Pro 7
  • The new workflow for Final Cut Pro X
  • Exclusive access to MediaStorm’s Apple Aperture Workflow, including information on how to best use the image management program in conjunction with Final Cut Pro
  • Exclusive access to MediaStorm’s Final Cut Asset Parser, a tool we developed to quickly generate a list of asset names used in a Final Cut 7 project
  • Time-saving software suggestions for transcribing audio, syncing and converting and editing video
  • Integration of more than 10 MediaStorm tutorials to help you choose the right music, color correct your video, work efficiently with subtitles, and backup and archive your files effectively
  • Helpful tips on organizing, naming and selecting assets

The MediaStorm Post-production Workflow takes into account best practices from more than 100 multimedia projects by MediaStorm producers.

Online access to MediaStorm’s Post-production Workflow, including MediaStorm’s Apple Aperture Workflow and Final Cut Asset Parser, can be purchased for a one-time fee of $14.95.

Click here for details.

Have you used our Post-Production workflow with FCP 7 or FCP X? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

March 29 2012

14:00

The Difference Between 'Invention' and 'Innovation'

Two and a half years ago, I co-founded Stroome, a collaborative online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner.

From its inception, the site received a tremendous amount of attention. The New School, USC Annenberg, the Online News Association and, ultimately, the Knight Foundation all saw something interesting in what we were doing. We won awards; we were invited to present at conferences; we were written about in the trades and featured in over 150 blogs. Yet despite all the accolades, not once did the word "invention" creep in. "Innovation," it turns out, was the word on everyone's lips.

Like so many up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I was under the impression that invention and innovation were one and the same. They aren't. And, as I have discovered, the distinction is an important one.

Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, if I would help define the difference between the two. A short, 3-minute video response can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd share some key takeaways with you here:

INVENTION VS. INNOVATION: THE DIFFERENCE

In its purest sense, "invention" can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. "Innovation," on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

Consider the microprocessor. Someone invented the microprocessor. But by itself, the microprocessor was nothing more than another piece on the circuit board. It's what was done with that piece -- the hundreds of thousands of products, processes and services that evolved from the invention of the microprocessor -- that required innovation.

STEVE JOBS: THE POSTER BOY OF INNOVATION

If ever there were a poster child for innovation it would be former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And when people talk about innovation, Jobs' iPod is cited as an example of innovation at its best.

steve jobs iphone4.jpg

But let's take a step back for a minute. The iPod wasn't the first portable music device (Sony popularized the "music anywhere, anytime" concept 22 years earlier with the Walkman); the iPod wasn't the first device that put hundreds of songs in your pocket (dozens of manufacturers had MP3 devices on the market when the iPod was released in 2001); and Apple was actually late to the party when it came to providing an online music-sharing platform. (Napster, Grokster and Kazaa all preceded iTunes.)

So, given those sobering facts, is the iPod's distinction as a defining example of innovation warranted? Absolutely.

What made the iPod and the music ecosystem it engendered innovative wasn't that it was the first portable music device. It wasn't that it was the first MP3 player. And it wasn't that it was the first company to make thousands of songs immediately available to millions of users. What made Apple innovative was that it combined all of these elements -- design, ergonomics and ease of use -- in a single device, and then tied it directly into a platform that effortlessly kept that device updated with music.

Apple invented nothing. Its innovation was creating an easy-to-use ecosystem that unified music discovery, delivery and device. And, in the process, they revolutionized the music industry.

IBM: INNOVATION'S UGLY STEPCHILD

Admittedly, when it comes to corporate culture, Apple and IBM are worlds apart. But Apple and IBM aren't really as different as innovation's poster boy would have had us believe.

Truth is if it hadn't been for one of IBM's greatest innovations -- the personal computer -- there would have been no Apple. Jobs owes a lot to the introduction of the PC. And IBM was the company behind it.

Ironically, the IBM PC didn't contain any new inventions per se (see iPod example above). Under pressure to complete the project in less than 18 months, the team actually was under explicit instructions not to invent anything new. The goal of the first PC, code-named "Project Chess," was to take off-the-shelf components and bring them together in a way that was user friendly, inexpensive, and powerful.

And while the world's first PC was an innovative product in the aggregate, the device they created -- a portable device that put powerful computing in the hands of the people -- was no less impactful than Henry Ford's Model T, which reinvented the automobile industry by putting affordable transportation in the hands of the masses.

INNOVATION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

Given the choice to invent or innovate, most entrepreneurs would take the latter. Let's face it, innovation is just sexier. Perhaps there are a few engineers at M.I.T. who can name the members of "Project Chess." Virtually everyone on the planet knows who Steve Jobs is.

But innovation alone isn't enough. Too often, companies focus on a technology instead of the customer's problem. But in order to truly turn a great idea into a world-changing innovation, other factors must be taken into account.

According to Venkatakrishnan Balasubramanian, a research analyst with Infosys Labs, the key to ensuring that innovation is successful is aligning your idea with the strategic objectives and business models of your organization.

In a recent article that appeared in Innovation Management, he offered five considerations:

1. Competitive advantage: Your innovation should provide a unique competitive position for the enterprise in the marketplace;
2. Business alignment: The differentiating factors of your innovation should be conceptualized around the key strategic focus of the enterprise and its goals;
3. Customers: Knowing the customers who will benefit from your innovation is paramount;
4. Execution: Identifying resources, processes, risks, partners and suppliers and the ecosystem in the market for succeeding in the innovation is equally important;
5. Business value: Assessing the value (monetary, market size, etc.) of the innovation and how the idea will bring that value into the organization is a critical underlying factor in selecting which idea to pursue.

Said another way, smart innovators frame their ideas to stress the ways in which a new concept is compatible with the existing market landscape, and their company's place in that marketplace.

This adherence to the "status quo" may sound completely antithetical to the concept of innovation. But an idea that requires too much change in an organization, or too much disruption to the marketplace, may never see the light of day.

A FINAL THOUGHT

While they tend to be lumped together, "invention" and "innovation" are not the same thing. There are distinctions between them, and those distinctions are important.

So how do you know if you are inventing or innovating? Consider this analogy:

If invention is a pebble tossed in the pond, innovation is the rippling effect that pebble causes. Someone has to toss the pebble. That's the inventor. Someone has to recognize the ripple will eventually become a wave. That's the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs don't stop at the water's edge. They watch the ripples and spot the next big wave before it happens. And it's the act of anticipating and riding that "next big wave" that drives the innovative nature in every entrepreneur.

This article is the seventh of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur Tom Grasty talks about his experience building an Internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one altogether.

January 03 2012

08:18

Ingrained knowledge can be a b****…

Life is full of patterns…we live by them and a good videojournalist sees and uses them. It’s all good. Positive. Um…not always.

Part of patterning is doing stuff in a certain way – a set way. Do it often enough and your body can go through the motions without the brain having to actively participate. Like driving a car – your foot finds the brake without you having to think it through. And eating…the fork finds its way to the mouth without the brain actively telling the hand to grasp the fork, the arm to extend to the plate, etc.

Right now my brain is attempting to break out of more than ten years of patterning created by using Final Cut Pro and Express. And those have been a good ten years…when the brain is freed from the nitty gritty of how to do tasks, it can focus on the story and thinking ahead to the next one or twenty edits.

Enter Adobe Production Pro with Premeire Pro. Just close enough in many ways so that I was able to do basic drag and drop edting on day one. But now I’m trying to play catch-up and do some REAL editing. Motion, fades, superfine detailed stuff. And while my body is aching to follow the old patterns, I’m attempting to teach it some new patterns. For starters, I’ve had to go from touchpad to mouse…needed some way to break loose because the touchpad on the new laptop is smaller and off center and I KEPT MISSING IT WHEN I TRIED TO USE IT. Wow…something as basic as that. My old patterns were aiming at a MacBook touchpad that wasn’t there.

I guess it’s like a phantom limb…when you lose an arm or leg, but still (in your mind) try to use it. Oh well…could be worse. I could be trying to walk through walls…


July 15 2011

15:21

Final Cut Pro X, it was good while it lasted.

This is the last in our series of MediaStorm producers responding to the new FCP X. If you missed them, you can check out Eric Maierson’s thoughts here, and Tim McLaughlin’s here.

FCP X, it was good while it lasted.

After working in FCP X for a week, I left on a Friday buoyed by the speed and efficiency at which the program runs. I had blazed through a weeks worth of work in just three days.

But on Monday morning, my work was gone.

I spent an hour on the phone with Apple. They asked me to run some tests. Several times I opened the project, made some changes, and closed it. Each time I reopened the file, it behaved differently.

Think Memento.

Sometimes the program “remembered” the changes correctly. Other times it reverted to a previously saved version. Other times it combined two previously saved versions to create a third!

The consultant on the phone sent my file to the engineers. He said they would analyze it and send me the prognosis in 48 hours. It’s over a week later, and I still haven’t heard back.

I’ve returned to FCP 7, but I can share my insights from a week of working with FCP X.

The Good

  • It’s speedy. I definitely noticed the difference in response time when I returned to FCP 7
  • Using keywords is a fast and easy way to organize your footage

The Bad

  • Synching more than two cameras using synching doesn’t work (I tried to synch three cameras with no luck. I also combined two cameras into a compound clip, and attempted to synch the third camera to this clip. Still, no luck)
  • FCP X crashes when editing multiple formats
  • Skimming is annoying when you don’t need it, and I didn’t find it very helpful when scanning for sound bites. You can, of course, just turn it off, but it would be great if you could actually use it to scan for bites.

And the Ugly

  • Being able to save your work is 101.

I believe it’s too early to predict the future, but after my experience I do not recommend using the program right now.


In summary: as much as we all really wanted to love FCP X, it’s not usable for us in its current iteration. We’ve all reverted back to FCP 7 for now. We’re hoping that updates will make the program work for us in the not-too-distant future, but we’re also starting to look at other possible solutions should we need to make a switch. Right now, it’s really too early to make a decision.

We’d love to hear thoughts and impressions from all of you – are you making the switch, or sticking with FCP 7, or switching to an entirely new system? Let us know in the comments.

July 05 2011

16:11

The New News Paradigm: 'Pivot or Perish'

At the recent MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, I had the pleasure of speaking to 16 of the most promising thinkers in the area of digital news. Culled together from myriad of disciplines and backgrounds, some had already established themselves as pioneers in the digital space.Others had come from legacy newsrooms. A few had found their voices in the field.

But regardless of their backgrounds, they all were united by a drive to innovate, inform and empower. In short, these 16 new news entrepreneurs had come to Cambridge, Mass., with a plan: Reinvent the news business.

But if I had just one takeaway I wanted to impart in my talk to the newly knighted 2011 News Challenge winners, it was this: Those carefully crafted plans are about to change.

uturn.jpg

Being Open to Change

There's an old axiom in entrepreneurship, and it goes something like this: Pivot or perish.

"Pivoting" -- the ability (and perhaps more importantly, the willingness) to change your course of action when you realize the ground beneath you is shifting -- isn't just the essence of entrepreneurship, it's the only way you'll survive.

Trust me, we've been at it for just a little over a year now with Stroome, and in that time we've had to pivot plenty.

Now let me be clear -- having a plan for the future is just as important as a good, solid pivot. Looking two, three, even five years down the road is critical, not just because it places your idea in a larger context, but because it forces you to realize that no one really knows what the future has in store. In the end, the best we can do is play the hand that's dealt us. And this is precisely where the concept of pivoting comes in.

When we set out last June to build the next iteration of Stroome, a collaborative online video editing platform to simplify the production of news and video, we sat down and diligently drew up a list of goals. The exact number was just short of a dozen or so, but the three key ones included: increase adoption in journalism schools, forge strategic allegiances, remain open to unforeseen uses.

It didn't take long before those goals started to come to fruition. Within four months of receiving our grant, Stroome was being used by a class of aspiring digital journalists at Columbia College Chicago to comment on the importance of voter registration during the highly anticipated mayoral election. In April, we partnered with USC Stevens Institution, relaunching the site at the third annual TEDxUSC conference.

And who could have possibly foreseen that we'd have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Egyptian revolution? But that's exactly what happened this past January when protesters began using Stroome to get their video out of the country when the government shut down Twitter and Facebook.

More than a 'to-do' list

Remarkably, in less than a year we had accomplished nearly every goal we had set for ourselves. But our goals had became more than just a list of "to-dos'' to be ticked off one-by-one. Instead, they became "listening posts." And by listening to our users, we were able to gain valuable insight into what is truly important to them.

In most instances, their revelations were consistent with our expectations. Yet at times, what we heard was completely incongruous with what we thought we should be building. And when that happened, we had to evaluate which comments to implement, which to set aside for the time being, and which to dismiss altogether. Said another way, we had to pivot.

Because while we may have had many goals, at the end of the day we only had one objective: Create the most intuitive user experience possible. But without those pivots, that objective would never have been achieved.

And as I looked out across the room and into the faces of this year's Knight News Challenge winners, I could see an unmistakable determination, an undaunted doggedness, an unrelenting sense of resolve. There was no mistaking it: Reinvention of an industry many have written off as outdated, archaic and obsolete is a goal well within their grasp.

They're just going to have to pivot to get there.

If you're interested, Los Angeles angel investor Mark Suster has written a great post on the importance of pivoting. Read it here.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Stacy Lynn Baum.

05:32

How can I make those changes in one go?

Hello everybody as an editor I have to republish a magazine but not before making minor modifications across the magazine. Any suggestions on how can I make those changes in one go?

Tags: editing

April 25 2011

15:12

R.I.P. Flip Cam: The Smartphone Did It (Not Cisco)

Over the last three years, I've attended all three TEDx conferences on the idyllic campus of my old alma mater, the University of Southern California. And it's been my experience that TEDxUSC is where you go to be inspired, not have your dreams relegated to the heap bin of "what if..."

But for a brief, fleeting moment last Tuesday, I was certain that all the hard work done by myself and fellow Stroome co-founder, Nonny de la Pena, was about to go the way of...well, the Flip.

ripflip.jpgThere I was sitting in the audience along with my fellow 1,200 TEDxers patiently waiting for Krisztina Holly (affectionately known around the USC campus as 'Z') to announce the rules for a TEDxUSC-themed video scavenger hunt that would re-launch our newly designed site when all of a sudden a hundred cell phones (all muted of course -- TEDxers are "disruptors," but they're not disrespectful) suddenly came to life. The news was spreading like wildfire across the web: Cisco had discontinued the Flip!!!

Now, the fact that the popular, pocket-size camera had been shuttered probably wouldn't have prompted such a profound sense of panic except for the fact that I knew precisely what 'Z' was going to say next: "And now it's time to make something together. So pull out your smartphones, your digital cameras, your Flips..."

And there it was. I'm told 'Z' kept talking. I didn't hear another word she said.

Causing Trouble for Stroome

As the co-founder of Stroome, an online video editing platform built on collaborative content creation, creativity may be the fuel that fires the engine; but without a device that can get that content into a centralized place where people actually can do something with it, you're in trouble. For the last few years, the Flip had been that device. We were in trouble.

When the Flip was introduced in 2007, it had been hailed as "the easiest way to make and share videos." What once had required thousands of dollars to procure, and an instruction manual the size of a phone book to operate, had been reduced to a single, red "record" button on a small black box the size of a pack of cigarettes that fit perfectly in your front pocket.

Flips.jpg

And while the Flip wasn't the only game in town when Cisco acquired it in 2009, by all accounts it was a game changer. Overnight, it seemed the way we documented our lives changed forever. Birthday parties, dance recitals, high school graduations -- all could be captured on a moment's notice.

But the Flip didn't just give us an easy and accessible way to preserve the defining moments in our lives; it let us do it in dazzling HD! And the best part? All this could be ours for the low, low price of $129!

And now it was over. Like some didactic Middle Eastern dictator able to cut the people off at the knees at his capricious whim, Cisco had pulled the plug on the whole damn thing.

But as I sat there in the darkness, the last 18 months of my life playing themselves out in front of me, an incredible thing happened -- a hundred incredible things, actually.

Killed by the Smartphone

As I looked around Bovard Hall -- a hundred iPhones, Androids and Evos twinkling on and off like stars against a dark night -- I suddenly realized it wasn't Cisco that had killed the Flip. The smartphone had.

iPhone4.jpgNot 15 minutes earlier I, along with my fellow TEDxers, had watched slack-jawed as former USC film grad student, Michael Koerbel, showed us a film he had shot, edited and distributed entirely on the iPhone 4. And it was in that instant that I again began to feel inspired.

But my inspiration didn't come from the fact that a 4.5" × 2.31" piece of perfectly buffed black chrome and circuitry had effectively replaced an entire film crew. My inspiration came from the fact that in the end, shooting, editing and uploading a film on a phone -- as incredible a feat as it is -- isn't enough. You still need a place to watch your 4-minute masterpiece. And if you want to watch it with others, then work together to collaboratively create the next iteration of your idea, you need a place to do that. Right now, the only place on the web you can do that is Stroome.

March 25 2011

23:02

Photogene and iPad 2: Great tools for photojournalists

Sitting in a lawn chair outside the Spokane Apple Store last week, I pondered the absurdity of my week-long quest to buy an iPad 2. Arriving at 5 a.m. netted me the sixth spot in line and an eventual 16-gig wifi slate of glass and aluminum.

Did I really need another digital device to supplement all the other Apple products that grace my home and workspace? No, of course not. But using the iPad 2 this past week has made me giddy with excitement as I discover one new feature or application after another. It’s interesting, when I demonstrate to people who have never seen or touched one, how utterly amazed they are. Suffice to say this multimedia device is smokin’ hot. There are enough glowing reviews on the Web that I don’t need to pontificate much more.

A great tool for photojournalists

The one thing I really wanted to do with my iPad 2 was edit and send photos from the field back to the newspaper. I couldn’t find much info from other photojournalists about what applications would help me replace Photo Mechanic and Photoshop on my laptop. Nor could I find anyone who was using the iPad to send their photos via FTP (File Tranfer Protocol) back to their newspapers. I can happily announce that during my first photo assignment today I did just that.

My first stop last week was to the Apple iPad App Store where I found this amazing little program called Photogene. It allows me to crop, tone, caption and send my photos all from a three dollar application. The best part is that it has a built in FTP, so I can send my photos directly into our Merlin archive system.

Here was my workflow today:

  • Shot a photo of a woman in a job-training program working in the kitchen of a restaurant.
  • Ordered lunch, sat down at a table and plugged in the Apple camera connection cable between the iPad and the USB port on my Nikon D3s. It immediately displayed all the. jpg’s in the iPad’s photo browser. By touching a photo, it marks it so you don’t have to bring in every image on your card. I hit “Import Selected” and the files were quickly downloaded from the camera.
  • I open Photogene and select the photo I want to edit. The workflow now is super simple. I crop my photo, and then toned the image. Toning is done using sliders for exposure, color temperature, saturation etc. There are a ton of other adjustments from noise reduction to selective color channels. It even has a digital noise filter and curves adjustment tool.
  • On to the metadata tab, I clicked “ITPC” and added caption info and filled out the other metadata fields that are needed to archive the photo for later.
  • Finally, I hit the export button and chose “FTP” from the menu (You can also send directly to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or email.) I already have all the info such as IP address and password stored, so I just add the file name (make sure there are no spaces) and upload the photo using my ATT MiFi . A minute later it was ready for an editor to move to the desk.

Some observations

Will the iPad 2 replace a laptop? Probably not. I think the iPad is perfect if you need to move a couple of photos from your car during a breaking news event. It’s not be ideal for slogging 300 photos from a high school basketball game.

You need to buy the Camera Connection Kit from Apple ($30.00), which includes an SD card reader and a Apple connector to mini USB cord. I wish there was a CF card reader, but the cable works as advertised.

Typing a caption is easy, but it is all on one line that gets obscured as you type past the field boundary. A bigger caption field for photojournalists is a must have.

Get the PhotoSync application ($1.99). It lets you transfer photos to and from your iPhone, computer and iPad wirelessly. It also lets you bypass the iTunes software, which is not really intended for photos.

I also bought the pro upgrade for eight dollars. It adds a few more things that professionals need such as applying star ratings, adding personal watermarks to exported images, saving your FTP settings, adjusting RGB curves individually, and controlling JPEG export settings.

If any other photojournalists are using an iPad to edit photos please share your experiences in comments below!


February 07 2011

16:56

MediaStorm Guide to Crossfades

In my last post, 10 More Ways to Improve Your Multimedia Right Now, I wrote:

Delete all dissolves between images…The eye sees cuts. When we look from one object to another, we see a blink. We don’t see one object then dissolve to another.

A reader responded with a comparison: “Our eyes don’t see shallow depth-of-field [either], but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use shallow DOF when appropriate.”

I agree.

So before I discuss when it’s appropriate to dissolve between pictures, let’s quickly revisit why doing so usually doesn’t work.

The problem is that crossfades create an unexpected middle image. In most cases, this intermediate picture, a combination of two hopefully strong ones, is both messy and confusing. There’s no particular meaning to be gleaned from this superimposition. Now, repeat this between every image over the course of a three- to five-minute project, and it’s not hard to see how exhausting it can become. In short, it’s a distraction. And anything that distracts from your story needs to be removed.

I’m not steadfast about most rules, but this one I think is pretty solid: the number one way to improve your multimedia right now is to not make crossfades your default transition. Use a simple cut as your default instead.

But back to the question, when do dissolves actually work?

I think the answer is when there’s some commonality between the two images. That is, some portion of the images stays the same so that when you do dissolve, only the most important part of the frame changes. The rest stays the same.

At the 9:09 mark of The Marlboro Marine by Luis Sinco, James Blake Miller is standing at a window while his wife, Jessica, sits on a mattress on the floor. As Miller describes the challenges he faces, he says of his wife, “And before I put her through that, I’d rather be without her.” The image then dissolves to the same scene, Miller still at the window but now he’s alone.

Producer Chad Stevens successfully uses a dissolve here to great effect. It works because the majority of the image stays the same; the dissolve highlights just part of the frame, Miller’s wife as she literally disappears. Combine the pictures with the dialogue, “I’d rather be without her,” and you have a seamless match between technique and story. It’s the kind of harmony we should all strive towards.

A second example can also be found in The Marlboro Marine at 9:30. Here a dissolve is used to emulate a rack focus. Miller is at the back of the frame while the motorcycle he’s working on is in the front, out of focus. A crossfade changes the viewers focus, shifting Miller out of focus to detail the bike. Again, the frame stays largely the same. All that changes is the focal point of the image.

So in summary, to effectively use dissolves between images, most of the image should remain constant and the crossfade should be used to show a change in time or to shift where the viewer is meant to focus. But, like any technique that draws attention to itself, use it sparingly. Once or twice per project is usually more than enough. Ideally, you want dissolves to be seen as a surprise, not a given.

Finally, if you can think of other effective ways to use dissolves, by all means, add your thoughts to the comments below.

November 30 2010

16:15

MediaStorm’s 10 More Ways to Improve Your Multimedia Right Now

As a followup to a previous post, here are ten more ways to improve your work right now, no matter how challenging your original assets may be.

Make edits with purpose. Always ask why you are making an edit at a particular place. Is the cut motivated by action? A musical beat? A pause in narration? If you don’t have a reason, you need to find a new location for your edit. Every edit must be motivated.

When editing your visuals, don’t cut in the middle of a word. Doing so is confusing. Edit between words, or even better, edit according to written grammar: at a comma, a period, or to emphasize a word. Cutting after words like because and however is also effective.

Edit rhythmically. Make the first cut at the beginning of a spoken phrase. Time the first phrase so it ends right before a musical beat. Cut to another a second image on the musical beat. Pause a few frames before completing the audio under this second. It’s easier to understand once you see the rhythm in action. Check out the “Town Bar” section of Driftless at the 1:37 mark.

Limit the number of times your interview subject is on-screen. There are three main reasons to show your subject on-screen: 1) To introduce someone so the audience knows who is talking. 2) When the subject is expressing emotion that you want your audience to see. 3) As filler, i.e., when you have nothing else to use as coverage. Avoid situation three whenever possible. For an example of an emotional response, see the end of Kingsley’s Crossing.

Don’t start your project with text. The first 10 seconds of a project are crucial. It’s where you audience decides whether they trust you enough to stick around. Starting with text says that your work can’t sustain itself without first reading some background information. That’s not dramatic. There’s nothing wrong with using text, just try to avoid it first thing.

Make sure your text slides are long enough to comprehend. You should be able to read them to yourself at least twice. If not, lengthen them.

If you need to use explanatory text, don’t clump it together in a paragraph. Paragraphs are for print. Show one sentence at a time. If you need a second one, wait until you think the viewer has finished the first to bring the second on screen.

Choose your fonts wisely. Fonts are like attire. Pick one that best represents the occasion. Of the thousands of fonts available to you, which one best represents the spirit and mood of your work? Use that one.

Always lead with your strongest images. You may instinctively want to save your best work for the end. But if you don’t grab the viewers’ attention quickly, they won’t make it to the end. See the beginning of Marcus Bleasdale’s Rape of a Nation for an example.

Delete all dissolves between images. I’ve mentioned this one before but it’s worth repeating. The eye sees cuts. When we look from one object to another, we see a blink. We don’t see one object then dissolve to another. Remove all of your image dissolves and your work will improve immediately. For more on the eye and its relationship to editing, see Walter Murch’s excellent book In the Blink of an Eye.

Please add your own tips and tricks in the comments below.

November 23 2010

18:56

MediaStorm’s Guide to Using Subtitles

Sometimes the most difficult challenge regarding subtitles is deciding whether to use them or not.

Subtitles present obvious aesthetic challenges—from inevitably covering the most important part of an image to turning a visual experience into a written one. If at all possible, avoid them; the obvious exception being when someone speaks a language other than that of the intended audience. Then subtitles are essential.

So how do you know if you need English subtitles for someone speaking English? It’s often difficult for a producer to make this call. After listening to the same clips again and again, we learn a speaker’s cadence and nuances and they become clearer to us. Probably the best method to make this determination is to play your project for a group of people who haven’t seen it yet and see if they can understand the narration without subtitles.

With fresh ears, they’ll quickly let you know if they’re able to follow along. If there’s any confusion, use subtitles; the most captivating visuals are useless if your audience can’t understand what’s going on.

Here are some other subtitle guidelines you may find useful:

  • Keep all of your subtitles on the same video channel in Final Cut. No other graphic or video elements should be on that channel. Just subtitles. This will help your organization and make things much easier when you need to add a drop shadow, which I will discuss later.
  • Avoid fonts with serifs, particularly small ones. Serifs tend to fall apart when a project is compressed to smaller dimensions. MediaStorm’s style is to use 18pt Arial bold.
  • Drop shadows are imperative. They help separate the subtitle text from images and video. To see their importance, place a drop-shadow subtitle above complex imagery. Now turn the effect on and off. The difference is striking. We use the drop-shadow settings below in Final Cut:
  • When an image changes, so should the subtitle. Don’t let subtitles bleed over onto the next image, or you’ll create visual confusion as subtitles seemingly appear and disappear at random.
  • Keep subtitles to one line only. Avoid wrapping them onto a second line as this, too, will create confusion when subtitles jump between one and two lines of text.
  • If your subtitles do not fit on one line but your image remains the same, you’ll need to cut to a second subtitle. To do this, start the first subtitle when the image begins. Cut to the second subtitle approximately 10 frames before the next word is spoken. This way, you’ll retain the pacing of your narrator, and the drama of your project, by not revealing what’s said before you need to.
  • At the beginning of a new cut, if there’s a pause of more than a second before someone speaks, fade up the subtitle with an eight-frame dissolve. The dissolve should complete approximately 15 frames, or half a second, before the person speaks.
  • If you intend to broadcast your project, make sure your subtitles are broadcast-safe. To create broadcast-safe subtitles in Final Cut, from the top right pulldown menu in the Canvas window select Show Overlays Show and Show Title Safe. The title safe region is within the boundaries of the inner rectangle (when you are working in 16:9).
  • Make a subtitle template. Create one subtitle with the proper font, size, and drop shadow. Before using this as your template, though, turn off the drop shadow as it will cause extra rendering. Next, using option-drag, copy the subtitle block to its next location. Double-click the subtitle to load it into the Viewer window. Then, using your transcript, paste in the proper text.

    When you have added all your subtitles, turn on the drop shadows on your first clip. Select it, then use the keystroke command-C to copy.

    To paste the drop shadow on all the other subtitles, select the additional clips using the T tool. Then press option-V to paste the attributes. Select drop shadow from the pop-up window.

November 03 2010

14:00

It’s people! Meet Soylent, the crowdsourced copy editor

The phrase “on-demand human computation” has a sinister tinge to it, if only because the idea of sucking the brain power out of a group of people is generally frowned upon. And yet, if you call it “crowdsourcing” everything sounds so much friendlier!

But calling Soylent “crowdsourced copy-editing” isn’t quite fair, since the system performs the type of jobs that are somewhere in the gray area between man and machine. More than a spell check, not quite the nightside copy editor versed in AP style, Soylent really is on-demand computation. It’s what all word processors need, the “Can you take a look at this?” button with a small workforce of people at your disposal.

Soylent is an add-in for Microsoft Word that uses Mechanical Turk as a distributed copy-editing system to perform tasks like proofreading and text-shortening, as well as a type of specialized edits its developers call “The Human Macro.” Currently in closed beta, Soylent was created by compsci students at MIT, Berkeley, and University of Michigan.

For those unfamiliar, Mechanical Turk is an Amazon service that makes it easier for small tasks (and the money to pay for them) to be distributed among a group of humans called Turkers. While savvy writers could already use MTurk to edit their work, the team at Soylent believes their system can produce better and more efficient results than would a writer working alone.

“The idea of Soylent is, what if we could embed human knowledge in the word processor?” MIT’s Michael Bernstein, the lead researcher on Soylent, told me.

That sounds technical, but as Bernstein explains, we all call on friends for help when writing. Research paper, essay, email, story, or blog post — most people rely on a second pair of eyeballs for help at least some of the time. And one thing Mechanical Turk has to offer is a lot of eyeballs.

Soylent’s three current features are called Shortn, Crowdproof, and the Human Macro:

Shortn: Ever write 1,700 words and blow right past your 1,200 word count? Shortn lets writers submit passages of text to MTurk for trimming. They can determine how much they want to cut with a handy slider tool.

Crowdproof: A superpowered, sophisticated spell, grammar and style check that provides suggestions as well as explanations why your choices are wrong.

The Human Macro: For more complicated changes — something like “change all verbs to past tense” — the Human Macro is, as Bernstein says, programming-as-craigslist-ad. The writer describes the changes she wants (capitalization of proper names, altering verb tense, annotating references with Creative Commons photos) in a request form, which humans then act on.

Bernstein argues that Soylent’s cold, detached eye is just want some writing needs. “It’s really hard to kill your own babies in your writing,” Bernstein said. “To be honest, another motivation for me is that it’s very time consuming to go and snip words and cut things from paragraphs an hour before deadline.”

But to writers already nervous about those babies being disappeared on the copy desk, handing over their copy to the faceless masses might not sound like a solution. In their research, Bernstein and his colleagues identified “lazy” and “overeager” individual Turkers, with the lazy ones doing the minimal amount of work and the overeager making wholesale changes. Bernstein said the distributed editing process behind Soylent eliminates this problem because no one Turker is working with whole passages of a document; the work is split among many.

Some in news circles are already experimenting with Mechanical Turk; ProPublica used it to identify companies getting stimulus dollars for the Recovery Tracker project. (Here at the Lab, we use it for the long transcripts we sometimes run of video or audio interviews.) MTurk could be used for any number of tasks that call for on-demand labor. But what makes Soylent different from using MTurk directly is a programming pattern Bernstein and his colleagues created called Find-Fix-Verify, which disseminates tasks across a large group of workers. The only thing required of writers is an Amazon account to pay Turkers; Soylent sets the payment rates.

Instead of one Turker reading over an entire page or paragraph, Soylent asks a group of workers to find areas that need fixing and make corrections. Those fixes are then then filtered by other Turkers for inaccuracies, which produces a set of recommendations or an edited graph to a writer. Depending on the job and the document, it usually took Soylent around 40 minutes to complete a task.

To news traditionalists, Soylent may sound like the latest turn toward outsourcing in journalism that has sent copy editing jobs to places in India. It could also be akin to the automated journalism being tested by some companies or the Huffington Post’s real-time headline testing. And some day it may be. But Soylent is far from ready for the mainstream, thanks to the processing time and payment methods. Bernstein says they’re working towards having real-time edits and managing payment through Soylent, as well adapting the program to work on photo editing. Instead of outsourcing, think of Soylent as microsourcing.

And about that name: It comes from exactly what you’re thinking. Bernstein said they were looking for something familiar but also true to the idea of what they created. Soylent, is made of people. It is indeed, people.

“The original name was Homunculus,” Bernstein said. “It didn’t have the same ring to it.”

September 09 2010

08:00

September 07 2010

14:00

“A completely new model for us”: The Guardian gives outsiders the power to publish for the first time

Last week, the Guardian launched a network of science blogs with a goal that perfectly mixed science with blog: “We aim to entertain, enrage and inform.”

Now, on the paper’s website, you can find hosted content from four popular and well-respected blogs: “Life and Physics” by Jon Butterworth, a physics professor at University College of London who does work with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN; “The Lay Scientist,” the pop-science-potpourri blog by researcher and science writer Martin Robbins; the science policy blog “Political science” by former MP Evan Harris; and “Punctuated Equilibrium,” by the evolutionary biologist known as Grrrl Scientist.

The idea is both to harness scientific expertise and, at the same time, to diffuse it. “This network of blogs is not just for other science bloggers to read; it’s not just for other scientists,” says Alok Jha, a science and environment correspondent who came up with the idea for the network and now — in addition to his reporting and writing duties — is overseeing its implementation. The network is intended to reach — and entertain/enrage/inform — as many people as possible. “We’re a mainstream newspaper,” he says, “so everything we do has to come about through that prism.” And it marks another small shift in the media ecosystem: the media behemoth and independent bloggers, collaborating for audiences rather than competing for them.

If that sounds familiar, it may be because the new network is a direct response to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s goal of journalistic “mutualization.” (Okay, okay: mutualiSation.) “It’s good to have criticism from scientists when we do things wrong,” Jha notes, “but it’s also good to have them understand how we write things — and give them a chance to do it.” Guardian reporters don’t spend days in the control room at CERN; someone who does, though, is Jon Butterworth. Having him and his fellow scientists as part of an extended network of Guardian writers benefits both the paper and its readers. “The science desk here will essentially become a channel for these guys to report from their worlds they’re all seeing,” Jha notes. The scientists “are going to lend a bit of their stardust to us”; in return, they’ll get exposure not just to a broader readership, but to a more diverse one, as well.

Exposure and payment

The Guardian network comes at time when science blog networks populated by writers with particular — and highly focused — areas of expertise are proliferating. Last week, the Public Library of Science, a nonprofit publisher of open-access journals emphasizing the biological sciences, launched its own 11-blog network. PLoS Blogs joins Wired Science, Scientopia, and others. And, of course, science blogs have been in the news more than usual of late, with ScienceBlogs and the scandal that was PepsiGate. That scandal — in which PepsiCo tapped its own “experts” to contribute content to the otherwise proudly independent blog network — didn’t precipitate the Guardian’s own foray into science blog networking, which has been in the works since this spring. However, “it certainly accelerated everything,” Jha says. “I think there was soul-searching going on among the bloggers out there: ‘What do we do next? How do we do it?’ And that, in turn, gave the Guardian staff the sense that, okay, now is the time to do it.”

The general value proposition here is the most typical one: “more content” on the side of the media outlet, and “more exposure” on the side of the content providers. Many scientists are interested in writing, Jha points out; but there are far fewer who understand the mysterious alchemy required to successfully pitch stories to news organizations. The blog setup reframes the relationship between the expert and the outlet — with the Guardian itself, in this case, going from “gatekeeper” to “host.”

The upshot of all that, for the scientists, isn’t exposure in the Huffpostian sense, in which getting your name out there = money. The Guardian pays the bloggers for their work. Which is a matter of principle as much as economics: Even though some of the scientists were already writing their blogs without compensation, Jha notes, “we thought we can’t possibly just take a blog for free, because it would be exploitative.”

The solution: a 50/50 ad revenue split. The Guardian sells ads against the bloggers’ pages; the bloggers, in turn, get half the revenue from the exchange. But this being an experiment — and web ads being notoriously fickle, even on a high-traffic site like the Guardian’s — the arrangement also includes a kind of financial insurance policy for the bloggers: If ad revenues fall below target, they’ll revisit the deal.

“Independent of all interference”

Though the blogs’ flags vary, they feature, in their Guardian presentation, a uniform tagline: “HOSTED BY THE GUARDIAN.” Which is a way of clarifying — and reiterating — that, though the blogs’ content is on the Guardian’s site, it’s not fully of the Guardian’s site. “The idea is that this is not an internal reporters’ or editorial blog,” Jha says. “It’s these guys — it’s their thoughts, independent of all interference.”

And “independent” really means “independent.” The blogs aren’t edited — for content or for copy. Unlike some other newspaper/blog hosting arrangements (see, for example, Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight is licensed by The New York Times — and whose content is overseen, and edited, by Times staff), the Guardian’s science blogs are overseen by the bloggers themselves. For these first couple weeks, yes, a Guardian production editor will read the posts before hitting “publish.” But that’s a temporary state of affairs — a period meant to work out technical kinks and to foster trust on both sides. The goal, after this initial trial period, is to give the bloggers remote access to the Guardian’s web publishing tools — something, Jha notes, “that no one apart from internal staff had been able to do before.” The vision — a simple one, but one that’s nicely symbolic, as well — is that the bloggers will soon be able to publish directly to the Guardian site, with no intermediary. “It’s a completely new model for us,” Jha notes — because, at the moment, “nothing here is unedited.”

Jha is well aware of the potential for legal headaches that accompanies that freedom — a potential that’s particularly menacing in the U.K., whose legal system plays so (in)famously fast-and-loose with libel. “As a news organization, we’ve been very careful to be on the right side of the law,” Jha says; then again, though, “we’d never try and censor.” Balancing freedom-of-expression concerns with their organizational imperative to protect themselves from liability is something Jha and his colleagues have spent a lot of time discussing in the run-up to the network’s launch. Ultimately, though, the vision won out over the caution. “We always err on the side of ‘let’s publish’ rather than not,” he notes; and, as far as the site’s new bloggers go, the goal is less top-down authority, not more. “Eventually, we do want them to have complete control,” Jha says. “That is the ambition.”

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