Tag Archives: documentary

Darby O’Brien and Luke Gelinas on speaking out about the Phoebe Prince Case

After a semester of covering the South Hadley School Committee and the Phoebe Prince bullying case, our UMass Amherst journalism projects have been published on MassLive.com.

The semester consisted of our investigative journalism class working on the South Hadley and bullying beat. My specific beat was on the School Committee. The class kept a blog at MassLive.com/bullying.

The whole semester we worked towards are final projects which were profiles of people involved with the Phoebe Prince case and South Hadley.

Going into the class, I knew I wanted to make a video, but I also knew how hard it would be to get people to speak on camera.

I went to the School Committee meetings every other week to cover my beat, and interviewed people involved with speaking out against school officials in the background of the semester.

My final project is a documentary style piece featuring Darby O’Brien and Luke Gelinas; it covers why they speak out about Phoebe Prince’s death and why they are so critical when it comes to the administration.

For logistical reasons I ended up shooting the interviews on my Canon T1i (I wish I had access to something more versatile). I used a Zoom H2 as a backup audio device, which ended up saving an important portion of the video piece. I used an umbrella and Lowel lamp to light the room. I didn’t have access to lavaliere microphones, so I was pretty much risking it all. And hit record. I edited the video in Final Cut Pro. Some of the archival footage was shot on a consumer Canon. The School Committee footage came from the South Hadley community television station. The photos came from MassLive.com and The Republican.

You can watch the upload on MassLive.com:

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

Or, on my Vimeo.com:

Or, on my website:

http://rosiewalunas.com/productionsphoebeprince.html

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Flash and journalism

The following piece is a class assignment for a web design course for journalists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Flash is not only used to make a website look slick but can better convey news stories on the web.

National Geographic developed a very creative site called Inside 9/11, which uses Flash to better tell complex stories pertaining to September 11th, 2001. 

The page features a section of video archives called “Inside 9/11 Interviews.” When opened, viewers see a display of many photos of people, and a side bar on the left. Site visitors can click people’s images, then watch a video interview of the person and/or read a transcript of the interview, read a short biography, and see suggested interviews. Once a person’s video interview has been watched or clicked on, the thumbnail ‘grays out’ so viewers know what they have or have not clicked. The sidebar lists subjects partaining to 9/11, and when the mouse moves over the subject bar, interviews on the topic are highlighted.

I like the Flash piece because it takes the documentary concept and adapts it to the web. Video clips are archived in an organized yet creative way. It widens the opportunity for telling stories and the news, and, now, a piece of history. It also allows viewers to interact with these archival materials. They can easily choose the subjects they want to learn more about. The information provided shows how people and subject matters are connected providing a timeframe and context, while an emotional stories are also told. Other types of media are much more linear, meaning someone has to read or watch materials from the beginning to the end, where as this Flash site allows people to ‘jump around.’

The site is quite complex and I am not sure how it was made in Flash and/or javascript. It seems the author(s) used a function like in Flash’s ‘button editing mode.’ When the mouse moves over a subject in the sidebar, people related to that subject are highlighted. When the mouse clicks the bar, a sound effect is applied and the interviewees are highlighted in red as the ‘lock into place’ for viewers to click on.

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The Island Where You Will Get Pooped On

Check out the Petit Manan Island slideshow!

Few people, if any, have the opportunity to visit a refuge bird colony, and this past week I had just that experience while working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Just about 6 a.m. and everyone on the island is awake.

My mission was to visit national wildlife refuge Petit Manan Island, one of the Maine Coastal Islands National Refuges, and document what Fish and Wildlife scientists were up to. The focus of service biologists in the Maine Coastal Islands is the restoration of colonial seabirds and to provide a place of refuge. Petit Manan Island is an important and unique refuge as it has historically been a place of seabird colonization, and on it rests a fully functioning historic lighthouse.

My boss and I set out for the island Tuesday morning, after spending the night in Ellsworth, Maine, which doesn’t have much going on. We took a boat loaded with camera gear, sleeping bags, and food for four meals from Milbridge, Maine to the island. The forty-minute boat ride was brisk and refreshing after enduring unbelievably hot and humid weeks of heat in western Massachusetts. And we saw seals off one of the islands along the way, which added to my Maine coastal experience.

There are no citizen visitors allowed on this island.

When we hit land at Petit Manan Island, we were greeted by the biologists, most of which were still in school, working on their wildlife degrees and the like.

The seabird restoration team lives on the island all summer without running water, or a “proper” Internet connection. They have a propane stove, get electricity through solar panels, and use an outhouse and a composting toilet.

While the island hosts various kinds of birds it’s the Terns and Puffins that take much attention.

Daily tasks for the restoration team include provisioning, capturing birds, documenting information about the birds, taking samples to get tested, predation control, banding, and keeping track of pretty much everything the birds do.

Immediately stepping foot on the island, one shouldn’t be surprised if they get pooped on by the massive numbers of Terns flying merely a few feet above (it’s like the Hitchcock movie). Also, don’t be surprised if they start dive bombing one’s head. Luckily, I sported a baseball cap which sheltered my soon-to-be-even-more-dirty hair from the single poop that hit the top of my head.

Sitting in a blind with the cameras.

But, the biologists are even more hardcore, adorning poop splotches on their hats, shirts, and pants. They often boasted about how the occasional plop would make it into their hair or the side of their face. Imagine all that and only being able to take a cylinder shower once in a while. But getting pooped on is like an initiation process, it’s bound to happen.

Bird monitoring is something the team does a lot of. They do this often from the lighthouse and blinds built around the island. They communicate to each other with walkie-talkies and write down data as they see it.

Pretty much every day for about three hours, the team conducts provisioning. Each member takes a hidden post, looks through binoculars, and jots down information on the Terns feeding their chicks. How much fish is being feed to each chick? How big is the fish? How often? Etc.

A Tern ready to feed its young.

These sort of tasks seem monotonous, but the team really loves the birds. Even when they go in the house to take a break or eat dinner, they are always on watch through the windows, whether they are looking out for what the chicks are up to or whether they are watching for predators such as falcons, which often fly over from Acadia National park. When such predators come around, the team scurries to where the birds are squawking in chaos. They watch with binoculars, eager to know what will happen.

The team monitor’s Puffins just as well as Terns. On Wednesday, the the biologists got up at 4:30 a.m. to start capturing Puffins at 5 a.m. Once Puffins were captured (harmlessly of course), team members used walkie-talkies to communicate to one another that a Puffin entered the capturing device. The young woman heading this work would run out to where the Puffin was located and bring the bird back to where documentation of the bird was taken, it was tagged or received a new tag, and was quickly and carefully released.

Coming in for a landing.

The team has also began tracking the Puffins and what they do with the implementation of GPS units. The units weigh around 3% of the bird’s body weight and are made waterproof to endure whatever elements the puffins may encounter. The reason for the GSP units is because few know what Puffins actually do when they are not in human site or are at sea as they are pelagic animals.

My time spent on Petit Manan Island was truly an experience. Besides everything that I learned about Terns and Puffins, I learned about the awesome dedication the team has towards studying and conserving the birds of the island. And I also learned that living on a somewhat remote island with hundreds of birds, and the simplicity of rocks and grass is not something I could handle, while I could handle using the outhouse and lack of running water. I do love the comfort of be able to walk away from a place like the island with millions of miles ahead of me.

We finished our supreme video-photo documentation Wednesday afternoon and took the boat back to the mainland, where I hit the sheets at 7 p.m. after a hot shower and fell asleep at 9 p.m. in the excessive comfort of a hotel bed.

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