Notwithstanding the limitations in audio recording, (the lack of ability to use headphones to monitor levels and the lack of ability to adjust audio levels manually), the Canon 5D Mark II continues to prove its mettle as a tool changing the look of video being done on newspaper websites. It is a classic example of technology influencing the aesthetics of image making and enabling the creation of new options.
Two recent examples emerged while I was working in Prague. One is the debut of a new street fashion video series on washingtonpost.com shot by Alexandra Garcia. The other is a video that Zach Wise of the New York Times shot outside the Staples Center as fans gathered there to be part of the memorial service for Michael Jackson.
Both videos show the capability of the Canon 5D Mark II to take advantage of depth of field and selective focus offered by longer lenses to shape the aesthetic framing of the videos’ subjects.
I also liked the way that Zach used muted color tonality (desaturated color) and occasional focus shifts to move viewer attention to the emotions being expressed by the fans talking and singing on camera.
In a similar fashion, Alexandra, and her colleagues Pierre Kattar and Elaine McMillion who lent support in the field to the first installment, used various creative techniques in shooting and editing to play with motion and color palette to establish mood. Also in the editing, they made effective use of split screen technique to show off particular nuances of the individual fashion styles being documented.
Both pieces are part of another type of exploration that uses the voices and actions of the subjects to propel story narrative.
To overcome the limitations of the audio system currently built into the Canon 5D Mark II, Alexandra recorded the primary subject audio interviews with a wireless Sennheiser ME66/K6 microphone plugged into a Marantz audio recorder, and then synched the sound when editing the video in Final Cut Pro.
Further refinements in the washingtonpost.com video template also worked to reinforce the aesthetics of the video itself. I am glad to see a pushing of the envelope a bit further on the presentation side. Too often, video templates are not being altered to really help support the flow of the content. In this case, the innovation team at washingtonpost.com used Flash Actionscript 3 to create the capacity to “chapterize” the video so viewers could either watch sequentially as if it were a video “slideshow” or move directly to a specific fashionista episode via cuepoints on the timeline (list) or by clicking on an adjacent map (location). The cuepoints in the player timeline are an exploitation of the underlying Brightcove video delivery system being employed currently by washingtonost.com.
It is heartening to see feature video experimentation taking place that continues to move web video ever closer to the kind of art impulses seen either in art galleries offering video exhibits or routinely as part of Hollywood filmmaking aesthetics. I applaud both organizations for supporting this kind of experimentation and hope they point the way for further innovative use of the Canon system to enhance video storytelling.