Pooches For a Cause (view this story)

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Rep: 15
James Gregg May 31, 2011, 5:47 p.m. permalink

Hi Phil,  I know you've been patient with the review of this piece, I hope that this is helpful to you.


Kudos for finding an angle on the pet supplies store that went beyond the obvious, I think you latched onto a good idea, and it's always interesting to explore relationships between people.  In this case, the owner of the store and her sister in law.

There were some nice uses of abient sound and it was a nice surpirse to see the sister-in-law introduced with the dog steps up to the bed, the first minute of the piece gives me a good understanding of the store and what it's all about.


Overall, I think maybe you took on a bit much here to really keep the piece focused enough for us to capture the whole story the first time through.  At that 1;18 mark, I get a little disconnected, and I think it is because you attempt to really explore a lot of detail about Jodi's illness, and I get confused about what your story is about.  it takes until 2:48 to reveal that the store is selling calendars to support cancer research.  1:30 is the entire length of some web video but not enought to really explain in full the disease in much detail, so I think I would try to get as focused as possible on Jodi's experience and not try to explain all of the backstory and family history.  I would also try to keep the explaination of breast cancer brief and keep only the most relevant detail that helps us understand that she started a breast cancer research foundation and that the store is hoping to help because she was the inspiration for it's existence.  It's a nice little story that has human connection and may inspire people to act, but probably not a major project undertaking.  I think less here could have helped you focus.

Some of the focus can come during your interviews in the field.  If you have a focus during your interview, you can help focus your subjects so that they don't ramble, that can be difficult to edit later.  When she starts to go on at length about the family history, maybe that is a time to recognize that it is getting a bit drawn out and you can get her focused back on your story, which is how the pet boutique has a role.  I hope that helps.

A couple of technical notes, I would be careful about using sound during times when the lavalier microphone is brushed inadvertently, such as in your opening.  The scratching sound against the mic can be really jarring, and although I like the moment of interaction with the dog, it's hard to get past the audio and sets the tone for the rest of your piece. I would lose it.

It also seems like you had some exposure trouble with blown out highlights and a blue cast in some of the footage.  I haven't worked with the EX-1 but I often use custom white balance in mixed lighting and it is very helpful.

With your lower thirds, I lose the white type on some of the lighter backgrounds, and  you might like to explore using a faded black or other color bar as a background in these cases.  In my shop we typically go with a black bar with the opacity faded to about 40% and it helps in most cases.  Others may have suggestions as well.


I hope this is helpful, let me know of any follow up questions and I'll be happy to get back to you.


Thanks for sharing your piece.



Rep: 14
Phil Carpenter May 31, 2011, 6:47 p.m. permalink

Thanks James.
Yeah i hear you about the white balance and the exposure on some of the shots.  this piece was shot a while back, and hopefully I've improved by now ;-)

Thanks for your thoughts about the dog brushing the mic.  i wasn't sure if i should've used it.  i really liked the connection between the woman and the dog and figured maybe the viewer would forgive the dog on the mic.  Now i know, maybe not, LOL.

The business of video report length and structure is one that is so heavily debated, and there are as many opinions as there are approaches, i think.

Regarding structure, i was working with a technique that we learned on a storytelling workshop some time ago, where leading the viewer into the story was hammered into our heads.  Not having the lead up front, but rather unraveling it and revealing surprises along the way, was a big part of that course.  That's what i tried to do with this piece.

Regarding length.  i used to say also that web videos, generally speaking, should be around 1:30 because of audience attention.  Not so sure about that anymore though, especially given some really successful stuff I've seen, and the stats at our paper.

For my breaking news pieces the average is 1:30, and never over 2 mins.  A TV station that i just recently started freelancing for does news pieces for 2:00 (a reporter's dream). 

For a series of video features that i do for our paper, called Life stories, for which this piece was done, the average length is 4:00.  When we check the stats, average viewing time is consistently around 75-80%, regardless of the length of all videos on our site.  I really believe the story should determine the length, and if it's interesting, people will watch.

Maybe this piece could've been shorter, but i was also criticized for cutting too much!  LOL.  So interesting the range of opinions on this!

Thanks much, James.

Rep: 15
James Gregg May 31, 2011, 7:06 p.m. permalink

Hi Phil,


I didn't mean to say that this piece should go to 1:30, I guess my point is just that during that stretch I got a little bogged down and it affected my ability to stay with your arc.  I totally agree with story driving the length.  Some focusing there might have helped it flow, but that's just my take.  Looking forward to seeing more of your work.  I enjoyed the Haiti piece and stuck with it the whole time, there was some thoughtful writing there that helped your story along and helped me learn a lot from it as well.




Rep: 14
Phil Carpenter June 1, 2011, 4:06 a.m. permalink

Yah, James I see your point.  Wonder if i got carried away there too much.  Maybe i shoulda voiced it?  Could've helped to shorten it AND tighten the focus I think.

Thanks for your feedback sir!

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