Video Story Critiques

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As a student who has been dipping her toes in the video-editing world in classes over the past couple of semesters, I have serious respect for the art.

It is not easy. At all.

So as I searched for food-or-restaurant related videos to critique for a class assignment, I could only imagine the effort these video creators put forth.

One website, Food.Curated., really impressed me. Liza de Guia is the founder and chief storyteller of the site. Her motto is, “All good food has a story. I tell it. On video.”

That sounded right up my alley, so I clicked on a few and watched. Wow. Here’s my take on a few of de Guia’s pieces:

The story “Grazin’s Grassfed Burgers: A Small Diner Aims to Make the Cleanest Burger You’ll Ever Eat” managed to do the impossible. It got me to actually watch a nine-minute video all the way through.

Yep. That was a miracle. I sometimes have the attention span of a squirrel.

The visuals are amazing. The opening shot is of hands–belonging to the main character, Andrew “Chip” Chiappinelli–molding a raw burger patty. It may be a little out of the ordinary to open with raw meat, but the quality of the colors in the shot are jarringly good, especially for in a kitchen. The music that plays over that part of the video helps catch the attention of the viewer.

The videographer has Chiappinelli tell about his passion of animal welfare and good food, then open up into the larger operation of the farm and some of the difficulties they face.

Chiappinelli is shown to be a very likable character. He’s portrayed as passionate about his craft and good-natured. He has an easy way of talking and seems comfortable, which adds to this representation of

Essentially, the main character is doing something entirely different from other diners. He and his father-in-law are borderline obsessed with the quality of the food they serve and the way in which it was sourced. He talks about how this turns some people off, but he’s OK with that.

He has a goal in life to prepare the “cleanest” possible food that he can. And he sticks to it.

The videographer uses Chiappinelli’s voice to tell the story along with an abundance of video of the diner, the farm, the animals and Chiappinelli himself working. The music the videographer chose to add helped transition between pieces of the story from introduction to background to what Grazin’s goal is and so on.

The natural sound could have been more prominent. There were many farm scenes where I just thought that adding in the mooing of a cow or amping up the sound of chickens would have helped the video.

To end the story, the videographer showed Chiappinelli telling a funny anecdote about a vegetarian in need of iron coming by and appreciating the way he prepares his meat. Then it cuts out as he mentions he wants everyone to enjoy the food experience he supplies.

As I look forward to my work, I will keep in mind the use of music to move the story along. Also, I like how the video work was done–great quality, dynamic angles, lots of variety. However, I think more natural sound is definitely necessary to have a fully-rounded piece.

The next story you should check out is also by de Guia on Food.Curated.

La Vara Churris: The Standard Which to Measure Every Churro” pulled me in with the opening shot of churros bubbling in a deep fryer as the main character, Alex Raij, saying she thinks that her restaurant, La Vara, makes the best churros.

To someone who loves food and cooking (read: me), that catches my attention. She said it’s the best and it looks pretty good, so I’m going to stay and watch what makes them the best. It reeled me in.

Raij is portrayed as a cute Argentine woman who just finds happiness in perfecting her churros. She mentions that she does “personal” versions of dishes. She values nostalgia in her food. She’s like a Latin Betty Crocker.

Raij’s quest is to make the best churros. She is specific in how she does it (a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Argentine traditions) and how it should be eaten (warm, with dulce de leche and maybe some hot chocolate). The videographer uses the excellent interview to both establish the character’s passion and to tell the story by playing it over delicious-looking video of Raij preparing churros.

Showing step-by-step how Raij makes the sweet confections also adds to the story arc.

The videographer wraps up the story by playing a sound byte of Raij talking about not finding any good churros in New York, but having found some good ones in North Carolin followed by a laugh. Though it was a bit of an abrupt way to end, the sound byte added to the character’s personality.

Once again, de Guia had excellent video, variety and use of music and sound bytes. I hope I can be this consistent in that area of my video storytelling.

But she also lacked good natural sound once again. I could just catch a little of the background noise under the music, but I think really cranking up the natural sound on the sound of the sizzling fryer or the mixer would have transported me to the kitchen.

For my third and final video story, I mixed it up a little. I wandered on over to Vimeo and stumbled upon a great member called Cool Video Hunting. The team that makes this page’s videos claims to shoot for innovation.

In their video story  “John Daley of New York Sushi Ko,” they certainly found it.

The video opens with a scene-setting shot of a busy sidewalk and music, then pulls the viewer into the sushi shop. This technique really pulled me in.

John Daley, a sushi chef, is the main character of this story. The videographer portrays him as a sushi purist who is dedicated to putting out the best and most authentic sushi. By playing Daley’s interview over a wide variety of shots, we both hear and see about his trade.

The details that Daley gives let the viewer know that he is serious about sushi. He studied under a master, then under his master’s master. Through this technique of allowing Daley to tell his own story, the videographer also portrays him as a little cocky rather than just confident.

It may not be the best character trait, but allowing that to come through was a really cool layer in the story.

As far as Daley’s quest goes, we see that he wants to serve the finest and freshest sushi.

Visually, we see this in the careful and precise way he cuts each fish and in the odd-looking techniques he utilizes (repeatedly slapping a wrapped-up fish?). Through his interview, we hear how he makes the extra effort by importing Japanese fish daily and how extensive he trained for this life.

The ending added to Daley’s respect of the art of sushi preparation and consumption. He comments that, if you come and enjoy one of the rolls, then, he says, “We’ve all grown today.”

I much preferred the natural sound in this piece to that in the previous two. I love how the videographer used the sounds of each stage of sushi preparation–from hitting the fish to wrapping it–to add to the experience.

After looking at these, I definitely know I want to focus on video quality and natural sound. In each of them, I think the music should be less prominent. That’s an issue I plan to avoid.

Any good food/restaurant video stories to recommend?

 

 

 

 

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Impressive Audio Slideshows

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an audio slideshow must be worth at least five thousand.

In an audio slideshow, readers get to not only see the images and read the captions, but hear a narrator add life to the story. This could be a reporter narrating or even the subject.

Peter Frank Edwards’ “The Whole Hog” slideshow for the New York Times is a good example of the subject telling the story of the photos. The slideshow depicts Scott’s Bar-B-Q in South Carolina and is narrated by the owner, Rodney Scott, along with raw audio from the restaurant.

Scott tells his story of growing up in this family business, the history of the business and comments on its uniqueness of being out in the country. He describes the difference between how his business cooks its meat–and the skins–compared to other barbecue joints. He sets himself apart.

This slideshow is an excellent example of community journalism, to which I am very partial. It gives people a look at a small, family-owned business that is thriving out in the country. This benefits both the owner who is getting exposure and the barbecue-loving viewer who watches and then thinks, “I’ve got to try that place.”

It really inspires me because this is basically what I’d like to do for a magazine someday. Getting to seek out and featuring small-town gems like this for, say, Southern Living Magazine would be my dream.

You’ll notice that the captions on the pictures are more factual rather than adding to the narration. They simply identify the people in the pictures and clarify what is happening if it is not completely obvious. A few of the photos don’t have captions at all, but those images don’t need further explanation because a viewer can tell what is pictured.

The restaurant featured in this gallery brings to mind many local barbecue joints here in Auburn. Moe’s Bar B Que, Country’s Barbecue, Barbecue House, Byron’s Smokehouse, Mike & Ed’s bar-B-Q…we really love our barbecue around here.

Which one do you think would give Scott’s Bar-B-Q a run for its money?

Alright, alright, back to the topic. So, audio slideshows.

While using a subject to narrate the slideshow adds a little more of a personal aspect to a story, a reporter-narrated slideshow can still add life.

For example, Eric Asimov’s “Dining in Napa Valley” slideshow, also for the New York Times, adds pizazz to the traditional dining review.

In the slideshow, Asimov gives an overview of dining in Napa, California. (Good thing he’s a wine critic!)

He discusses the restaurants he went to and describes both the atmosphere and the food. After looking at the accompanying article (a tad long for my taste), I appreciated the option to look at pictures and listen rather than read.

Hey, even journalists get tired of reading.

As Asimov narrates the pictures, captions clarify what the viewer is looking at. When he shows dishes, the captions tell you what’s on the plate. The audio and the pictures are loosely joined. By this I mean that the pictures he shows all come from the place he is talking about, rather than being described in the audio.

This is a good example of when the captions are definitely necessary.

This type of journalism is more on the consumer side. Asimov has basically made a go-to restaurant list for anyone wanting to enjoy some great food when they visit Napa.

What I love is that Asimov has paid a lot of attention to detail. He describes not only the dishes, but the ingredients and the atmosphere of each restaurant as well. He specifically sought out the newer restaurants that may not be well-known yet.

He also looked at a variety of restaurants. From upscale to diner-like, he gives an example of a small variety of options for travelers.

I can picture making something like this for great restaurants of Auburn and Opelika. For the upscale I’d probably talk about Maestro 2300 over on Moores Mill Road.

I’d definitely rave over their lobster risotto.

Rather than a diner, I think I’d go with a popular game day option: Niffer’s. Every student should eat there at least once during their time in Auburn. It’s borderline tradition.

Which Auburn or Opelika restaurants do you think deserve a shout-out?

Galleries I Like

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There’s no denying that humans are visual creatures.

With that said, photos are a powerful tool to any journalist or writer. Even for a future journalist like myself–who is interested in reading news–there’s a much greater chance that I will click a story if it’s accompanied by a great picture.

I can tell a story without using words if I have the right pictures.

Pictures pull a reader in. Whether to a place, into a culture or even into an emotional state, photos can transport you somewhere you’ve never been.

For a taste of what I’m talking about, take a look at the links below.

http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/fw-photo-tour-brooklyn#!slide=16

As a foodie myself, the “F&W Photo Tour: Brooklyn” by Daniel Krieger for Food & Wine is a great example of how I remember vacations. With his pictures, he takes you through Brooklyn. He uses images of dishes, restaurants, people, and a few non-food places to give the viewer a sense of the city.

When I travel, I associate the places I’ve been to the food I had there and the people I met. You can learn a lot about a city by going out to its restaurants, trying its food, and just taking everything in.

I admire his use of lighting and angle. He doesn’t just take a picture of a plate, he finds the best side and orients his camera to present the most visually appealing shot. He makes the viewer want to go try that food or see that town.

This gallery is actually an excellent example of community journalism in that it serves to interest outsiders in coming to see what Brooklyn is all about without advertising anything. Krieger simply shows what is in the town in a beautiful way.

I appreciate that he adds a link to each photo that takes the viewer to the site of the business that is featured in some way. He’s giving credit to who created the image, since he is only capturing it.

If someone were to photograph a tour of Auburn in this style, can you imagine what it would feature? An artistic shot of Toomer’s lemonade followed by a festive image of the rolling of Toomer’s Corner after a game, perhaps? Or maybe a shot of someone eating conquering the Cheeburger Cheeburger Challenge followed by a shot of downtown Auburn at night?

The possibilities are endless, really. Like a song, food can trigger the memory of a time or place.

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/slideshow/2013/08/19/fast-food-upclose/#slide=1

“‘Fast Food’ Up Close” by Jon Feinstein for Fox News is not a beautiful gallery, but it is real. Unlike most other pictures of food in the media, these photos are not styled or lit to make them look appealing.

What Feinstein did in this gallery is show what people are really eating when they order fast food. He simply eliminates the top bun from sandwiches or piles the fries, nuggets or onion rings against a black background and snaps the image.

The result is a bit gross. Without the pomp and circumstance of food stylist-aided company photographers, dishes from fast food restaurants look as unappealing as they are unhealthy. Some of them swim with grease or appear to be still frozen.

This is excellent journalism because it is shedding light on something important. Feinstein is showing his viewers what they’re really eating. And with the rampant obesity in our country, it’s a good message to send.

Living in a college town, this is something I think should be more widely publicized. While young adults may be able to eat this kind of food and not blow up like a balloon now, it can seriously harm them down the road.

The simplicity of the pictures yet complexity of the message that I get from them truly inspires me with this gallery.

Do the images in Feinstein’s gallery make you think twice about hitting up a fast food burger joint for dinner?

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2013/12/25/dining/20131225-REST.html#1

This third and final gallery is another one by Daniel Krieger, this time for The New York Times. Though “Top 10 Restaurants of 2013” is a light story, Krieger’s photography is excellent.

He has a variety of shots for each location. There are delectable close-ups of dishes mixed in with beautiful scene-setting shots and character shots of chefs and staff members in action. The gallery celebrates each restaurant.

As for the journalistic aspect, this is definitely a consumer story. No, there is no heart-wrenching tale. No, there is not a breaking news event or national problem that Krieger is depicting.

But for a city like New York that draws thousands of tourists, galleries and stories like this are important. Visitors want to know where to eat and businesses want to be seen as the best of the best.

Personally, I think photojournalism that celebrates an aspect of the community is some of the best kind. It gives members of the community the feeling that the news organization cares or can keep them in the know on social happenings.

That translates to increased readership.

I can see a “Best of the Plains” gallery now. What restaurant in Auburn and Opelika do you think should make the cut?