The Joy of a new House.
mayo 23, 2011

Reconstruction Stories – What I’m learning about Multimedia

The Joy of a new House.
© Heber Vega | Reconstruction Stories | One of the beneficiaries of this project, enjoying her new house.

Well, it’s very busy these days in Iraq. So many things to do and so few hours to accomplish them! Anyway, after a whole week of working on administrative things, meaning by that, no photography work, it was great to have had time over the weekend to finish my work on this multimedia piece. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before. This is the work I did while I was back in Chile with the victims of last 8.8 magnitude earthquake in my home country.
In this post, I’m going to tell you some of things I’ve learned throughout this experience, and how I did some of those things as well. I’m not going to be that extensive in my writing today ;-), so if you have any questions, please leave me a comment at the bottom and I’ll answer you right away.

The Things I Learned:

1. Sometimes the most amazing stories are right in front of your nose.
While I was heading back to Chile, I was contacted by a couple of organizations who wanted some work done, most of it related to the last earthquake in Chile. The problem was that my time in Chile was not meant to be work, so I was reluctant to take these assignments. As things were moving forward though, I started to realize that some of my best friends in Chile were all involved in a project that was somehow unique, important, and more than that, a life-changing-situation for some of the victims in that little fishing town called Iloca, the epicenter of this catastrophe. So, I ended up working on this project instead of the other ones offered. Why? The story! Totally different, inspirational, and uplifting from anything else I heard at the moment.
In the end the most attractive story was right in front of me. I just needed to listen to my friends!

2. Confirmed! A multimedia piece is a ton of work.
Two weeks ago I was trying to figure out the time involved in this project and all the things I had to do in order to produce it. At project end, it took 15 – 8-hour days of my life. I traveled three times to Iloca, which is 500 Km from Santiago! In total, I spent at least 5 entire days shooting. At the end, I was still lacking images for the story (more on this later). I spent another 2 days working on my recorded sounds and interviews, including editing/selecting them, another day to put them together in a story. 2-3 days on editing and post processing all the images, including cropping them to a 16:9 ratio (more on this later). Another 2-3 days went into putting all the selected images and sound clips all together in a final unique piece. 1-2 days were involved in writing the scripts (dialogs), getting them translated, and finally “burning” them to this English version of the video. So, If you want to work on a multimedia piece, just be aware that it will involve a lot of time and hard work!

3. The dilemma of the Software!
I ended up working on a software call FotoMagico Pro, where I put together the final sound clip and all the selected images, plus video footage. The thing I learned the most is that there’s only one piece of software that’s up to a task like this, and that is Final Cut Pro. That’s why it’s the industry standard workhorse software for this type of thing. All the rest will only give you headaches at some point. I lost time and got frustrated with other softwares. So, at moment, I’m learning FCPro ( because I don’t want to waste my time again.

4. For a project like this, thousands of images are never enough.
You realize, once you are working on the audio clip, that you are still lacking images for some of the parts of the story. That’s why it’s good to have time to go back to the place and shoot some more after you have made the final audio piece. If you know in advance that you won’t have that chance, then make sure to shoot as much as possible, and cover all the different angles every time – every single place and every single character. For example, there was one person in this story that talked about his son a lot, and I was never able to shoot his son or his wife… so I had to use other images instead, not the ideal! So, shoot details, portrait, wide angle, etc. everything that comes to your mind.

5. The Crop Factor!
Crop to a 16:9 ratio if you want to be able to show your video on a widescreen monitor, HDTV, projector, etc., or to have an HD video (1080p/720p) You have to crop all your images at this ratio. So what’s the deal with this? When you are shooting, you’ve got to be thinking about this all the time. Your portrait-oriented images are NOT going to work here, unless you want black space on the sides of your image. Even the normal 3:2 ratio images that most of the DSLR are based on, are not going to look that great sometimes. TIP: you can draw lines on your camera display and see how the image will look once they’re cropped. Or, you can leave space at the top and bottom when you are framing and use your imagination ;-).

6. Recording Audio.
Recording good audio is the most important thing. I need to learn a lot here. Also, I need to buy some gear as well. If you are planning on doing this often, besides a sound recorder, you are going to need a good microphone. This is elemental – PERIOD! In my case, I had to make sure I was using my sound recorder really well, at a good distance and using headphones all the time to check the levels. At the same time, I used cars and rooms to isolate the sound. Doing an interview with ambient sound in the background is a nightmare. So, make sure to record your interviews without any other noise and then in post you will be able to add ambient sounds that you have grabbed separately.

7. The Story!
Writing the story line is the most difficult part. Once you have done that, the rest is a piece of cake (not quiet that, but it feels like it ;-)) When I said the story line, I meant the idea of how your story will unfold. In my case I always prefer to have this recorded as a final audio clip and later on I just need to “fill” that with images or footage. But again, to find out the story line among all of the images, sounds recorded and footage is a HUGE deal! So here’s when you need good storytelling tips (Which you will have to find but not here ;-). I’m still learning…

Well, I hope to have helped with this insight on multimedia, but as I said at the beginning if you have any questions that aren’t well covered here, I will be glad to answer them in the comments below. Peace!

Ah! And here’s the multimedia video: “Reconstruction Stories”, I hope you like it!

Reconstruction Stories from Heber Vega on Vimeo.

Carlavega Design 19:13 mayo 23, 2011 Responder
 Quisiera encontrar las palabras adecuadas, Solo decir lo importante que es devolver la dignidad a las personas. Alegrense los que lloran, porque serán consolados y los compasivos serán tratados con compasión. Heber GRAN TRABAJO, estas creciendo y cada vez es de mayor calidad tus creaciones o mejor dicho tu reflejo de la realidad.
    heber vega 06:18 mayo 24, 2011 Responder
    Gracias Carla! Esas palabras valen mucho para mi... y tu lo sabes.
Serge Van Cauwenberg 11:17 mayo 31, 2011 Responder
Heber, thanks for sharing your experience! I'm preparing some multimedia tests soon and some of your tips are very useful. I do have two questions/remarks: 1. If you use a storyboard or a script about the story you want to tell, you will know in advance which images you'll need. When you shoot every possible image that comes to your mind, you'll need much more time during the final selection. I do believe that a thorough preparation is essential. 2. I suppose I can use my 3:2 images without cropping to the 16:9 format?
    heber vega 12:26 mayo 31, 2011 Responder
    You are welcome! and Thanks for sharing. About your questions: 1. A storyboard is a great tool but... in order to use it, you gotta know what the whole story is about. For example, storyboards are a must while making a film because you already got your script in the first place. But in some works as this one, you are shooting while trying to find the final story. So I guess my advice only applies for this type of works. If you have or know your story before even starting, then is way better to have a script and a storyboard on place. If not as I did, you can always have a storytelling shot list.2. Depends. If what you want is to present your work on a HDTV or a Widescreen Projector, then if you don't crop it (leave it at 3:2), you will see black bars on the sides or at the top and bottom depending on crop ratio. That's why I decided to work 16:9 right away.If you have further questions, just leave me a comment. 

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