Patrick Farrell is enthusiastic about what the future may hold for video storytelling. As a video journalist for the New York Times, Farrell is certainly working for one of the most robust online sites in the world.
“Especially if you’re working in journalistic video right now, the doors are kind of open,” Farrell said. “It’s unlike the nightly news where there is sort of a rigid model that works – a stand up, b-roll, interview – it’s very formulaic. I think what we do at the Times is often a miniature documentary.”
For one of his pieces, Old Man of the Mountains, Farrell flew to Washington state, collected archival footage and created a piece that comes close to the five minute mark. But Farrell says video online does not have to be long-form to be effective.
“Sometimes just a snippet of sound from an interview can enrich the audience’s knowledge of whatever the subject is,” Farrell said.
He sees many newspapers really changing their attitudes about multimedia.
“I think newspapers are starting now to think of their readers as an audience,” Farrell said. “They’re no longer just consumers of newspapers. The paper is no longer just a paper; they’re a news organization with audio slide shows, photographs, video, interactive graphics.”
Farrell says those changing attitudes have created an environment for experimentation. For example, he likes the way that stills and video can be combined to capitalize on the strengths of each.
“There’s nothing like looking at a person and hearing them tell you their own story,” Farrell said about video. “It’s also important to see them in their place, sometimes a still photo does that better than video, so it can work well to meld the two.”
Farrell says some of the most exciting things he sees going on with video involve interactive graphics. He described a project for which the Times created “almost a searchable PDF, posted alongside a video.” In the case of a presidential debate, Farrell says you could search the word “freedom,” for example, and the word would be highlighted in the text and at the same time, you would be linked to the exact places in the video where the candidate mentioned the word.
“Then there’s another layer which is analysis of the debate by seasoned political reporters,” Farrell said. “So beyond the technology is this melding of years of political knowledge mashed up with exciting use of technology, but at the end of the day, it is good storytelling.”
Later this week Advancing the Story will post more links to Farrell’s work and tips for how to tell good video stories.