Monday, December 3, 2007

The Power of the Slideshow

This topic has kept coming up for me and was punctuated by a discussion last month at Streaming Media West called, "TV's Last Gasp, How Broadcasters Are Making The Move To The Web." The panel was moderated by Jose Castillo, President, thinkjose LLC. and included speakers from SNL Kagan, FOX Sports, Associated Press and Online Studio, Current TV. The panel focused mainly on what the TV networks were doing (and need to do) to move their traditional TV content models to the online world.

The main take home message was that there's a huge on-line market for super-niche content. Web-only content that's not just an upload of an existing TV shows but a unique experience that offers Web 2.0 "lean forward" features (UGC, mashups, folksonomy, tagging, comments). I've seen some of that already in the form of web-only webisodes, but there's not a lot people in the traditional TV space creating content specifically for the web. Video quality is also still an issue for sports and some entertainment genres due to low video compression data rates.

A great example of the shift from fast action and movement to a more simple approach is the of traditional photo essay with narration. It's a different way to tell stories than full motion video because photographers have different aesthetic. The power of the single image capturing that frozen moment in time, compelling wide angles, rich saturated color or stark black and white. Audio narration adds depth and a layer of truth making the pictures come to life. Much like how Ken Burns revolutionized the documentary genre, this format is catching on as Slideshare and Flickr become extensions of how we tell our stories. Not with full motion video or even animation, just pictures, words and sound.

Garr Reynolds recently shared an example from the NY Times in his blog, Images, narration, text: the power of the slideshow which I've featured here The slideshow is from Free and Uneasy: The First Year Out. Garr sums it up by saying, "This is very simple—nothing fancy or high-tech—and yet how powerful... This is a technique that storytellers, such as documentary film makers, often use. And powerful images, plus thoughtful narration and maybe even a bit of text, can help you tell your story in ways that bullet points never could."

It's that single image frozen in time. A compelling moment captured by the eye of the photographer. Whether it's a famous image like this* or one taken with your own camera, it's the power of the still photo that creates an open space of emotion for the viewer to explore.

There are a bundle of tools you can use to create your multimedia slideshows. In my department at work, the graphic arts, web and video departments have collaborated to create wonderful photo essays with narration. One series in particular documented a group of employees who volunteered in the rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina. They captured audio and photos in the field and emailed them back to the office hundreds of miles away. The final project was compiled in Flash. You can view the Gulf Coast Volunteer Project here.

A few other colleagues in other departments have suggested trying Soundslides, a rapid production tool for still image and audio web presentations. I know there are a whole slew of other products and audio tools to create these type of presentations but more on that for another post. If you have any you'd like to share, please let me know.

*"Migrant Mother [Oklahoma, 1936] by Dorothea Lange