The Art of the Autograph (view this story)

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Rep: 141
Colin Mulvany May 24, 2010, 9:03 p.m. permalink

Really well done Eric. I didn't think the length was too long. In a video like this, where you put a lot of time crafting the interviews, the longer length does not hurt it. If it is interesting to viewers, they will watch it. I viewed it full screen on my 27-inch iMac and it looked as good as well-produced feature piece I’d see on TV. I bet in a sports town like Detroit, the Tigers’ fans go nuts for anything behind the scenes from their team.

I really like the pace of editing in this video. I could see you tried hard (and successfully) to find a variety of shots in something that was pretty repetitious. The mix of player and fan voices, none of which rambled on too long, kept my interest.

The gold coin in this story was the sheet of plexiglass, which the players each wrote their autograph on. A great visual moment when layered with audio of them explaining the evolution of their signature. Brilliant!

The one technical thing I saw was a couple of player interviews that could have used some color correction—they stood out because of the ugly magenta skin tone that paled next to all the warm tone of everything else. Boy, you can really see the difference in color space when you put your saturated still shots next to the video.

What’s great about a video like this is that it connects with a lot of people who will come back to view it over and over. Not only that, it hits to the core of sports fans who crave any information they can get about their team.

Rep: 2
Gary Miller May 25, 2010, 5:10 a.m. permalink

As Colin noted the wonderful element about his video is that transcends baseball and you don’t have to be a fan of the sport to enjoy it. At 4:07 it is compelling and has a very nice flow. It’s the type of story that would bring a different type of viewer/reader into the section for a visit which is a key these days.

Question: Why did you think the interviews with players did not go well? They seem very engaged?

Rep: 33
Adam Wisneski May 25, 2010, 7:59 a.m. permalink


To respond to your feedback request.

I'm always having this discussion some of the editors in the newsroom. Anything over 3 minutes and they freak out that "it's too long for the web."

But the question that should be asked, I think, is: Was it engaging? And, if not, when did it stop being engaging. Right?

I mean, come on, people watch hour-long shows on hulu all the time. Why? Because they're not boring. There's no reason that newspapers couldn't produce a 20 minute mini film on, for example, the mayor's battle with city council if it was interesting. Or a local community leader that's combating a problem in your city if it was well told.

If it's well produced and engaging, why couldn't a Free-Press mini doc be the thing people chose to watch while eating dinner instead of Everybody Loves Raymond. Didn't newspapers figure out that "everyone wants local content?"

For this piece, I didn't even notice how long it was. LIterally. The pace was so well done, the variety of interviews, camera work, moments all kept advancing me into the story. I had to go back and check the length, because at the end I came out of a good story trance.

I like autograph glass aspect. Man, you must have gone through 15 cameras just to get those shots! The Free-Press must be rich.

Just kidding.


Rep: 444
Eric Seals May 25, 2010, 9:41 a.m. permalink

Thanks Colin,
You're right about the ball player interviews. When I see this video I cringe at that part because I should of picked a better background, framed better and had a tighter focus on them. The color is muted and ugly compared to the rest of the video. Wish I could have a do over on that.

I think the interviews with the players went well given I only had about 5 minutes with them for the interview and getting them to sign their autograph but like I said to Colin, visually it was bad, that's what I meant.

I agree with you that if something is engaging people will watch until the end, I didn't mind it being 4 minutes because there was a lot there to tell and the video got a ton of views from people here in Detroit especially Tiger fans.

I also went viral with it and posted the link to the video on many different major league baseball message boards/forums and the best was posting it on autograph fan/collector message boards. Those folks are rabid about their collections and autographs. Ended up getting lots of feedback and videos from those collectors.

I do that a lot now with certain videos of mine, going viral to help drive traffic to

I wish the autograph signing on camera was my idea but I saw something done on ESPN a few years ago of coach diagraming a play shot through plexiglass. It was nicely lit and striking. I filed it away to do it with still someday but when I started shooting video in May of 2008 wanted to do something like that and just waited for the right video to do it.

Thanks for checking it out guys along with the feedback and discussion :-)


Rep: 444
Eric Seals May 25, 2010, 9:51 a.m. permalink

Sorry Adam forgot to add how I shot the autographes...

I went to Home Depot near the Tigers spring training facility and bought a 4 X 4 foot clear plexiglass and a box of sharpies. Total cost was like $25 for both.

Took the plexiglass out on the field and used light stands and claps to hold it in place. Did a pre focus right at the spot where they would be signing their names and started to roll. Ended up having them do 4 or 5 signings each. After they each signed is when I did the interviews and asked them to describe their signature and how they sign it and stuff like that. It was fun to do that concept and even better doing the whole edit on this video.


Rep: 91
Peter Huoppi May 25, 2010, 1:54 p.m. permalink

Eric: great point about facilitating viral distribution of your videos. They won't always take off, but a few minutes of posting links to message boards, blogs and social sites can do a lot to get more eyeballs. Everyone should consider this with their online content.

Rep: 444
Eric Seals May 25, 2010, 2:11 p.m. permalink

Thanks Peter,
It's amazing seeing how a video gets spread around when you go viral with it.
Did it for a Detroit body building video I did and it's been linked to or the video embedded on many body building websites around the world, especially in The Netherlands, go figure!!
(I guess there's lots of muscle in that country) LOL!!

It's kind of a pain having to sign up for various message boards to go viral but worth it especially if people find other things to look at and read on the newspapers website, maybe they'll be hooked and keep coming back to the paper.

Rep: 4
Jennifer Lacey May 25, 2010, 3:43 p.m. permalink

At the end of this, I felt the players were an extended family of the fans. There was a lot of love in this, so good job. You hit a home run with this one!

And the plexiglass idea was spot on.

Rep: 4
Billy Calzada June 2, 2010, 3:28 p.m. permalink

I love that you put so much effort into this. I think that some of us would have considered this a "quick hit," but you went far beyond that and made it very meaningful and intimate.

It is long, but it doesn't get "old."

I don't think that we should be constrained by "time limits" on videos. Shorter is usually better, simply because some tend to drag. But if it doesn't drag on (and this one certainly doesn't), why put a limit on the time?

Rep: 444
Eric Seals June 2, 2010, 8:40 p.m. permalink

Agreed Billy about not being constrained by "time limits" especially if there are interesting things going on in a video that make you get so into it watch it you and time is the last thing on your mind.

There were a lot of interesting characters and it was fun story boarding, shooting and editing the piece :-)


Rep: 19
David Brooks June 3, 2010, 5:01 p.m. permalink


I admire your storytelling. Taking a topic and crafting it till it's done and not stopping at a set time limit. I would guess that in part through your videos and your fellow staff members you have informed your viewers and helped them get over their short attention spans.

At my paper most of us, myself included are nervous posting anything that cracks the four minute mark, mainly because our analytics show that a lot of people click-off around that time. I understand that subject matter is key but even something like our football, the San Diego Chargers, which is a huge traffic magnet, can fall victim to the four minute mark.

When I first came to the paper, the first video I did was 13 minutes long, I was so proud of it, I thought it was pure gold, then the editors got to it and well, it wasn't 13 minutes in the end, rightfully so.

I'm interested in your thoughts on video length, do you decide ahead of time? or by committee? Content? For example, a recent video assignment I had I was specifically told before anything was shot- "We want about two minutes." Thanks!

Great Video.

Rep: 444
Eric Seals June 4, 2010, 6:30 p.m. permalink

Thanks for the comments and checking out the video David.

Most of the video features I do are about 1:30 because they run on the local CBS morning show in Detroit and I'm limited to that time. However once in awhile a video might be 2 or 4 minutes for the web and then I just cut it down to 1:30 for TV.

As far as pieces like Art of Autograph and a few other long form pieces I've done, I don't think ahead or decide the time it will be. I just try and challenge myself to have a good storyline or narrative arc, that alone will more often than not dictate the length of a video.
With Autograph I knew I wanted to interview and get three Detroit Tigers signing their names and picked two that were popular with fans and then the new guy coming into spring training. I also knew I wanted to lay it out on the timeline with a Tiger spaced out as beginning, middle and a ender with autograph fan voices and b-roll in between each Tiger.

If it feels like it's going to be a complicated jigsaw puzzle kind of piece I'm learning to script out the points I want to hit with the video and the questions I want to ask which really focuses me to not only stick to the talking points but help in narrowing things down for me when I go to edit in Final Cut.

Then again David sometimes I just say "What The Hell" and toss my best laid plans in the trash and wing it :-)
It's all a learning process and I struggle.

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