Small Town Rivals (view this story)

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Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius Nov. 17, 2010, 8:40 a.m. permalink

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for sharing this piece. In your description you say that the aim was to "capture[ ] the intensity between two small town rivals in the League Championship game." It's great to have a tight articulation of your objective like that, and it provides a useful gauge to see how the finished product stacks up. All of the vital information, however, is in a short burst of interview tape at the very beginning: that's the only time we really know it's a championship game, that hopes were high for a close game (PA is undefeated, but the Wolves have beat them prior years). We don't ever learn that there is a rivalry between the town, at least not beyond the usual competitiveness of all sports teams.

The rest of the piece is filled with lots of good natural sound, but it all pretty much runs together in a series of spectator and action shots. There's no pace or buildup of drama, no sense of key moments in the game. Judging by the final score, it was a rout.

How might this be approached differently? I think -- though have nowhere near the experience to be sure -- that you need to make the choice between covering it as a sports photographer or as a piece of community journalism. Are you interested in peak action of the key plays in the game -- which will only be of interest to people who already care about it -- or are you interested in conveying what this game means to the community, the players, the parents?

Your description sounds like you intended the latter. In which case more interviews with spectators and townspeople would help. We hear from the Wolves' QB, but how about hearing from the home team? Some of them could give us the background on the rivalry and its history, for example. And what about the cake that PA served up? That's pretty interesting and speaks volumes about sportsmanship.

Think also about how you want the viewer to get into the piece. You hit them with lots of facts at a fast pace right up front, before they even know what this is all about. Consider a slower start that conveys building anticipation -- like spectators setting up early, maybe the guy with a roof-top platform on his truck, or older folks setting up lawn chairs. They could say what's about to go down and why it matters. Another avenue is to add a short piece of text on the website; that'll give me the facts, and something to read in the few seconds it takes for the slideshow to load. Then you might pick up the pace with pre-game moments, the locker-room rituals, the cheering squad. Then you go up another notch to the game itself and spectator reactions, wrapped up with the important moment of presenting the cake to the winners by the losing team. That starts to seem to me like a story with broader resonance and bit of drama and arc.

Intensity and passion come from having something at stake, and having something at stake comes from caring about the people in the story. So Job #1 has to be to give the viewer someone to care about. (More about this from Jim Merithew here.)

Finally, on a technical note, the presentation of this piece interferes with being able to absorb and enjoy it. There are no controls to pause or back up; I couldn't even play it again without refreshing the whole page. Since the opening audio hits you up front, there's no chance to hear it again, for example.

Thanks again for sharing the piece.


Rep: 444
Eric Seals Nov. 18, 2010, 11:31 a.m. permalink

Kevin did a great job breaking it down for you Jimmy so I'll just add to the technical part of your piece.

Besides having strong visuals, audio and a good flowing storyline, you want people watching to be able to sit back and just hit play and not worry about loading of the images etc.

I was watching it at my newspaper (and we have blazing speed here) and the 1st 9 pictures took forever to load and there was white  between each one.  

Have you ever used or heard of Soundslides? I was judging the college photographer of the year contest in Missouri last week with Joe Weiss, the creator of that program and it works great (from what I'm told as I've never used it, I shoot video but many, many vouch for it maybe others on here have experience with it)

Just a thought.


Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius Nov. 18, 2010, 4:12 p.m. permalink

I second Eric's suggestion for using Soundslides. All my projects to date have been made using it. It's easy to use, and the latest player supports iPad playback with automatic fallback to the Flash player. There is also an online conversion tool to make a video file from your finished piece if you want (with some limitations, notably image movement). It's very reasonably priced, too, and has an active user forum.


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