Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

10 tips for recording a better interview

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on December 1, 2011

The most exciting power of great multimedia storytelling is the potential to give a voice to those who would otherwise go ignored.

I’m deep into teaching undergraduate students on Kingston University’s journalism program the basics of producing good video stories. They recently finished their first film, portraits of fellow students and how they feel about their job prospects in light of high youth unemployment. A dry-ish topic, and so their challenge was to tease good stories from their subjects, find specific angles and get to the nub of the issue.

The key to doing this is the interview: in most great online video stories & portraits it forms the spine of the narrative. Everything else in the story hangs off the interview.

Watching their first attempts at film making, it was clear conducting good interviews is an issue. So I put together a presentation with 10 tips for recording a better interview – I thought I’d share it here. Lots of this advice has been won through hard experience in my last 8 years of interviewing everyone from genocide survivors to David Cameron; but I’m also grateful to multimedia maestros like Ben Chesterton of Duckrabbit and Brian Storm of MediaStorm for a couple of the specific tips.

Again, there are bound to be things I’ve missed off: let me know in the comments!

10 tips for recording a better video (or audio) interview

NOTE: I’ve published the presentation under a Creative Commons Licence (attribution) – feel free to reuse and share, but please credit.

Why charities need multimedia journalists

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on November 30, 2009

Last week I showed my journalism students an audio slideshow by multimedia producers Duckrabbit. Sat in silence, they watched Francoise’ story and got into a healthy debate afterwards about the piece.

They loved the text on the screen, and the images; but most of all,  as one student put it “I like how she tells he own story without any reporter’s voice”.

Duckrabbit have just launched a powerful new series with Medicins Sans Frontiers, and if you speak to Ben Chesterton from Duckrabbit you’ll quickly learn letting people tell their own story is what he’s all about.

Told only in their own voices all the website asks you is to send a message of support. At first that might seem a bit daft…Surely what they need is cash right? Well if you watch their videos you can find out about their lives, you can find out they’re not much different to you and me…secondly your messages of support do make a difference. I worked in camps in Kenya and the thing that people were most frightened of was being forgotten, the sense that no-one cares.

A debate on this blog earlier this year asked the question: do people need to care in order to act?

Journalists realised a few years ago there is good work available telling the powerful stories of NGOs, charities and the people they help.

More NGOs though need to come round to that idea, and understand the journalist’s storytelling skills will add a punch that no black and white footage with dreary voice over ever could.

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“At the edge of the world 150 million people live at the mercy of nature”

Posted in International Development, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 1, 2009

We are just weeks away from one of the most important meetings – arguably – in the history of man kind.

The COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December is, if you believe the people who made the excellent Age of Stupid, our last chance to get a universal deal to cut carbon emissions.

Or we’re stuffed.

And it seems multimedia reporting is going to play an important part in showing us how our lifestyles affect those around us, and the politicians why half measures and compromises are not enough. Video & Photo Journalists have already proved adept at getting into difficult places and shedding light on climate change catastrophy not deemed catastrophic enough to warrant 2 minutes on the evening news.

Just think of China’s Growing Sands, Powering a Nation, and Waterlife for examples.

Expect some important reporting before and after Copenhagen. British multimedia producers David White and Ben Chesterton at Duckrabbit have just returned from a month trip to Bangladesh. And today the Bombay Flying Club have unveiled a trailer for a web documentary to be released in November. It too tells the story of Bangladesh, a place “at the edge of the world where 150 million people live at the mercy of nature.

The trailer is stylish and emotive as you’d expect from the BFC, but perhaps a little slow paced. But I’ll be back to watch it.

Good storytelling is now becoming as important as it’s ever been. Apart from anything else, the mass migration of  150 million people is not something I want to be around to see.

Learn from the best

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 20, 2009

A brief, simple blog from multimedia producers Duckrabbit has stuck with me this week.

As well as highlighting amazing inspirational pieces of work (not to mention producing a fair few themselves), they’re also not afraid to highlight the less than good.

A frank post: “CNN should fire the producer of this audio slideshow” shows us a piece about a rehabilitation centre for children in Aghanistan, and shows us whats wrong with it.

In particular:

The point about a still photo is that your eye explores it. When you put too much motion into a slideshow you’re removing the viewers ability to pause and reflect, to explore.

Slow pans on a big screen look great … but at the small size the images are reduced to on our computer screens the panning looks as rough as a dogs dinner that even the dog refuses to eat.

This is an incredibly important point about the still photograph and its place in the audio slideshow,  and one I’ve never thought about before. (You only have to watch an audio slideshow I did from Basra to see similar seasick movements).

So these guys know what they’re talking about.

And now there’s a chance to learn from the best: with a weekend training event in Bristol, UK in July. Click here for all the details.

I had high hopes of going myself (gawd knows my photography needs some help) but sadly a prior arrangement (and a shortage of cash) keeps me out of the race.

Which means there’s one more place for you!