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Random reviews, remarks, reports and rants!

Martial Arts Training at Hutton Hall

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Today I went down to Hutton Hall to record a piece for my Online Journalism Masters course. I spoke to Mohammed Zahir who runs the classes about how he became involved and what the classes entail.

Update: You can read my full posting on the Commpact:Europe website here.


Written by Andy Watt

August 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Editing the Turkish video

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As the final project on my Online Journalism Masters course, I am creating a website for community group Commpact:Europe.

During a recent visit of a delegation from Turkey, the guests were given Flip cameras to record what happened during their trip.

I recently got hold of the footage but was disappointed to see that they had regularly turned the cameras on their side, as you would with a mobile phone, meaning a large proportion of the film was recoded sideways on and when rotated, had a very narrow view.

This meant that a lot of the film was unusable, but using some footage I had previously shot, along with the film I could use from the Flip cameras, I managed to put together a short review of their visit which you can see below.

Written by Andy Watt

August 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Funders Conference at Hutton Hall

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Today, a funding conference was held at Hutton Hall with local MP Liam Byrne in attendance. I was there as part of my Online Journalism Masters course to record what happened for the website I was developing.

As well as videoing the start of the meeting, I also audio recorded the event as a backup in case the video was corrupted or the sound was not of a sufficient quality.

After the meeting, I interviewed Mr Byrne about a recent news report regarding academic achievement in his constituency and also about the meeting he had just attended.

As I was planning to use audio and video recordings, I set the camera up on my tripod, framed it and then stood with the field recorder to conduct the interview. However, once I had set the camera up, he stepped forward, meaning his head was outside the screen area. When I watched it back, I was disappointed this had happened and that I hadn’t been able to monitor it while conducting a fluid interview while holding the audio recorder.

To make the framing better, I cropped the screen so the main focus for the display was his face which made to cutting off of the top part of his head less obvious. The uploaded video is below.

Fortunately I had the audio backup which I could use instead and the nature of the interview meant that it would lend itself to video or audio equally.

This would have been an ideal opportunity to have someone live Tweeting what was discussed at the meeting for the benefit of those who could not attend but were interested. Unfortunately, with video, photographic and audio to contend with, I was not able to do this myself.

Written by Andy Watt

July 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Designing a page of quotes

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For a page I am designing for the final assignment in my Online Journalism Masters course, I have been asked to create a page showing statements from participants in one of Commpact:Europe’s programmes.

I was asked to take photographs of the people involved and turn them into Polaroid style photographs to display with their statements.

To achieve this, I downloaded an iPhone app called ShakeItPhoto and used this to create to Polaroid effect. Then I resized them on the computer to ensure the size was relative to the length of the quote and added their name onto the blank while section at the bottom of the photo.

You can view the finished page here.

Written by Andy Watt

July 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm


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Last year I wanted an iPhone4. I thought I wouldn’t be sad enough to queue and I’d pick one up a few weeks later. That never happened, mainly due to the fact that I rang every morning I was free to be told there was already a queue outside which was longer than the number of phones they had.
Apparently, people were buying them and selling them abroad for a handsome profit in places like Saudi Arabia, hence the big queues every morning and the fact that some were buying more than one!
Anyway, I have got fed up with lumping a heavy laptop around when an iPad would do the job as well, if not better (due to the much better battery life) so I thought I’d get one of the new ones when they came available.
Like with the iPhone, I assumed that people would probably not bother replacing theirs if they got one last year, but on arriving in Birmingham and checking the queue, it was already quite long and growing by the second.
So I have become one of the Sardis queuing and although mainly very boring, it has been somewhat interesting too.
Firstly, the amount of Apple gear some people have must be worth a fortune. The guy in front of me has an iPhone 3GS, an iPhone 4 and is planning on buying two iPad 2’s! What anyone would want with two is beyond me, so perhaps he is buying one for a friend. He also tells me that he queued for the iPhone 4 but was turned away when hey sold out, yet he’s back for more queuing fun!
So far, as well as being fed and watered by the Apple staff with donuts and bottled water, the Birmingham Post and BRMB radio have both been asking for photographs an interviews of my fellow queue members.
Also the mall nazis have been round numerous times already, telling people to move, fold up portable chairs and stand up. Apparently having a chair could be dangerous in such as fast moving line (#sarcasm) and siting on the floor breaches health and safety regulations. Though what regulations it infringes is anyone’s guess! I suspect they are just being jobsworths!
So hours left to queue and to withstand the withering scorn of passers by who obviously think every one of us in insane! The way my backside is already feeling numb, I think they could be right!

With about 2 hours to go, the windows were all blacked out so we couldn’t see inside and as 5 o’clock approached all the staff ran out, around the centre and back in again, cheering, whooping and high five-ing anyone within reach. Then as the whooping continued they tried (and failed) to get a Mexican wave started!
Then when the doors finally opened, I have to admit they were very speedy at serving. It helped we had all been given a card with our choice on it as we queued.

Written by Andy Watt

March 25, 2011 at 11:48 am

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We can work it out!

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The biggest problem I had with my Production Labs project was that the client wanted an animated timeline map showing the Manchester cuts in sequence. No matter how much I searched, I could not find a way to do it within my current abilities.

I even spoke the the Flash developers at the Financial Times, but they said that I would need a lot of expertise to achieve what I wanted. Then over a beer in the afternoon a fellow Online Journalist, Desi Velikova, suggested I look at Tableau to see if that would work.

Firstly, I made sure I had all the longitude and latitude data in the spreadsheet, dates formatted correctly etc and then loaded it into Tableau. At first it just showed a map with one large circle in the middle, but then I found out the default setting was to find the average of the numbers, so correcting that immediately changed the view to one of Manchester with all the locations of the cuts correctly displayed.

Next, through trial and error (as the help facility was anything but helpful), I managed to work out how to add a time element to the map and also change the size of the markers depending on the size of the cut (dropped from the final version) and how to change colour depending on which department the cut was from.

You can see a screenshot of the resulting map below, or to see it in action, have a look on Kijamedia.

Written by Andy Watt

March 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Liz Taylor: A Life In Numbers

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As a practise for visualising data, I decided to use information about the life of actress Liz Taylor to create a handful of visualisations.

I used Many Eyes, Fusion Charts and Google Docs.

The first was a collection of random data such as how many films she had starred in, how many grandchildren she had, how many front covers she had graced etc.

Next I decided to look at films, and I discovered that in relative financial terms, her movie ‘Cleopatra’ is still the most expensive film ever made which I showed with the following visualisation.

Finally, I looked at a very famous aspect of Taylor’s life, namely how many husband she had, and turned that into a visualisation.

You can see all of these in their full animated and interactive glory here.

Written by Andy Watt

March 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm