Monday, August 3, 2009

Planning is Key to Good Multimedia

Multimedia is not easy--takes much, much longer to create than pure text--and requires more thought, cooperation and collaboration.

At each stage of creating the Malawi video that is up on CNN's website--pre-production, production, post-production and distribution--I kept realizing how many different pieces there were. I'll admit there were times when I felt pretty low as each stage seemed to take longer than I anticipated. But I think the result is worth it.

Several multimedia journalists I respect keep emphasizing that you need to do a good job matching up various aspects of the story to the medium. Text--at whatever length (even captions) is particularly good for facts and analysis. Images for action or "slice of life." Audio for emotion.

So, even before I went to Malawi to report on its severe nurses shortage, I knew that I wanted the video to complement the text--not be the whole story. I wanted the video to give a sense of a couple of individual nurses and what they face in a real-world way that is much harder (although not impossible) do to with text.

And then the text could focus on context and analysis. For example, look at these three sentences from my CNN article:

"By the late 1990s, however, Malawi was reeling from the AIDS epidemic. As if that weren't bad enough, the government also had to cut spending on health care and education as a condition for getting help from the U.S. and other countries to liberalize its trade and economy. The publicly funded health system, on which more than 95 percent of Malawians still depend for treatment, quickly started to fall apart. "

Very quickly, I was able to provide the necessary context: the twin ravages of the AIDS epidemic and structural adjustment programs that crippled the Malawian health care system.

The photo essay was the least well-developed part of the CNN package--it really happened almost as an afterthought, when the CNN producer asked me if I had any still photos. But I was able to throw it together in a couple of hours (maybe 20 minutes to pick the photos and longer to export and email them to the producer) because I have organized all the photos Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick took for the Malawi project as well as caption information in Lightroom, a terrific photo management/database program from Adobe. (And no, nobody paid me to mention Lightroom.)

Once again I wanted to touch on themes of showing nurses in a wide range of activities both inside and outside the hospital/clinic. Given how many negative images of poverty and despair we see from Africa, I specifically chose photos that show success--or at least active engagement. That's something I have thought about a lot over the years and so was able to act quickly.

FYI, I produced one other video based on the Malawi trip, called "Telling Stories, Saving Lives." You can see it in either Flash or Quicktime. I chose to upload it to because of the Creative Commons license.

"Telling Stories" is more of a self-contained piece -- but could probably also be paired with a good text story (on women's rights or domestic violence or the arts and health). Why not all three articles connected to that same video. Ahh, my next project!

Related Post:
My Malawi Nurses Video Featured on CNN


Laura said...

Great video and text/photos, Christine. I really liked hearing it directly from the nurse how impossible it is to live on those kinds of salaries. It's so important to underline, again and again, that everyone in a community must be supported in order for the community to progress.

Christine Gorman said...

Thanks, Laura. It is amazing how often we ignore that point.