Multimedia Rules to Live By and Seven Steps to Training Yourself

This teaching thing must really be getting into my blood. Now that I’m on winter break and I haven’t been in a classroom for over a week, I have a strong urge to spew unsolicited and unnecessary multimedia advice. Please excuse the rant and take it for what it’s worth–the ramblings of a wanna be intellectual. TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND LEAVE THE REST…



Stop, Collaborate, Listen – “Vanilla Ice”

Mad props to keithwj for the above quote.

STOP! Too many of us don’t stop and THINK before we embark on a multimedia project.  But wait, let me STOP and explain my definition of *multimedia project*  this includes any combination of audio, text, and visuals. OK.

Too many of us, create multimedia too quickly, without real thought or reason. Before I start any project, I ask myself a few questions like:

What medium is appropriate for *telling* my story? The default answer is NOT always video! Sometimes a 60 second audio slideshow is the best choice. Remember, less is more. You’ll always be remembered by your worst image. So edit tight. Also, don’t underestimate your audience they want a good story and they know when you’ve just slapped one together.

What is the appropriate way to *present* my project? The default answer is NOT always Flash. Flash is great for certain projects, or should I say *parts* of projects. I’m not a big fan of entire projects encased in the tomb of Flash. We know sites built entirely in Flash are challenging for SEO–unless done right. So, if you’re gonna do it, learn about deep linking with SWFAddress. Knowing how your project is going to be presented on the interwebs will also inform your design and execution.


Picture 421

Collaborate. Good Multimedia is like good sex, it’s much better with two or more.

Stop thinking you have to do it all! There are very few people, if any,  who produce great multimedia all by themselves. Great journalism has always been a team sport and always will be. Surround yourself with other storytellers. Ask for help. Find a mentor! Enlist a friend, co-worker, anybody with complimentary skills and get crack’n.




Stop skimping on the audio!  Twenty images and a piano interlude, does not make a compelling project. Ambient sound and the voices of the actual subjects moves people beyond words. Come on people it’s 2010, let’s *layer* those images with sound. Spend most of your time learning the art of sound recording and editing. Spend most of your money on good audio gear. Never buy anything from Azden, Audio Technica. Buy only Sennheiser. Not really, BUT know the difference. BUT, I kinda mean it. There is some junk out there, try to avoid it. Ask around, do your homework. Focus on the audio. My workflow includes producing the audio narrative FIRST, then letting the other layers support my audio narrative. Just a thought.

OKAY, one more time, with feeling this time, Stop, Collaborate, Listen – “Vanilla Ice”

Here comes the rambling……..

Don’t bury your lede! Sound familiar. Too many mm projects bury the good shit. DON’T! Focus on your intro, your lede, your beginning. You have about 10 seconds before folks click away. Spend those first ten seconds, knocking their socks off! Also, read this book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition (Paperback) Don’t get all *fancy* and *hip* with your design and presentation, just because you can. Have a reason to do so. If you’re going to use a lot of *bling* crazy typefaces, or ripple transitions you BETTER have some DAMN good reasons why and be prepared to explain their usage in your project. And just because it’s Halloween doesn’t give you permission to use some crazy ass font in orange. Let me be more frank about this. LEARN about typography. Actually let me put it plain and simple, if you can’t effectivley explain the difference between a serif and a sans-serif font then you ONLY get to use Helvetica. Make sense? Good. Let’s move on.

If you build it, they WILL NOT COME! Despite all your great work, nobody is going to see your project unless you promote it! I’m still surprised how many people are too humble to shout from the mountain top. Listen, you’re doing work that matters, right? Then promote the hell out of that shit. I don’t need to explain the value of social networks. Do I? Listen, tweet that project every hour on the hour if you must. People won’t care if you do this as long as it’s good stuff, right? Am I wrong? BUT don’t tweet everything you do, because frankly, not everything you do is that great. Do you feel me? If you need some advice on how to *hussle* then nobody is better than Gary Vaynerchuk.

Seek criticism, not praise. Listen to what people say about your project. Take their advice. Seek out a fresh pair of eyes to see if you are getting your point across. Before you show someone your project, don’t explain anything to them. Remember your *real* audience comes to your project without you over their shoulder explaining everything to them. When a student asks me to look at their work, I NEVER let them say anything. I just hit the play button and let it roll. If you ask five people about your project and they all harp on the same thing, then think about losing that part, even if you love it. Chances are your audience is right. In the film biz they call this killing your children. You know those shots you just love. But only you love them, get rid of them. Question your choices. Finally, don’t build anything you can’t tear down. Sometimes we put so much time and effort into a project and someone offers some sound advice and we ignore it because we can’t stand the thought of tearing down what took us hours or months to create. Get over it. The best and most creative people build and tear down, rinse, lather, repeat.

Acquire a NEW skill. Make sure your pushing your talents to their limits and learning something new along the way. If you’re not scared, you’re not doing it right. At the end of every project I finish I make a list of the things I learned.  If I can’t list anything new I learned, then I know I just rehashed the same stuff. Not good. Push the limits of your talent. And while I’m on the subject of list making. Buy a notebook, DAMN IT! If you know me, and even if you don’t, KNOW THIS, my purpose on this earth is to get people to keep a creative journal. In fact I BUY them for all my students and require they keep one during the semester and hopefully beyond. All the creative people to walk this earth at anytime in history, kept a creative journal, scrapbook, whatever you feel comfortable calling it. Just Do It! Keep storyboards, thoughts, sketches, ticket stubs, pictures from magazines, inspiration, anything, just get in the habit of doing it. It’s the best creative discipline you can practice. If you have no idea where to start then buy any of Keri Smith’s books.

Screw professionalism. The *professional* only knows one way to do things. Always be the student. Always be learning. Practice, Practice, Practice. Do something everyday to make your skills better. Pay attention to what others are doing, dissect their videos and projects, LEARN. If you’re not practicing your craft or paying attention to what your competition is doing then your losing the creative race.

“When all is said and done,
a lot more is said than done”
-Lou Holtz



BE THE STORYTELLER you were put on this earth to be.

Rant over, move-on, nothing here to see………

Okay, I wouldn’t leave you hanging, throwing all those rules at you without giving you a road map on how to achieve some of them, so here you go…


Step One: Treat Yourself Like a Dog.

When a dog does a good thing you give it a treat, something to eat, stroke it, make it feel good and really get that positive reinforcement going.So after you finishing watching that 30 minute tutorial on how to edit in Final Cut Pro via YouTube, or any number of tutorials from, treat yourself to that Krispy Kreme or go buy that new Moleskin notebook you’ve been eyeing.

Step Two: Start Yesterday.

Seriously, no one is going to train you. Nobody cares about you ( well, maybe yo mama, but that’s about it). You have to invest the time and energy into yourself, by yourself, for yourself. Hurry up because the person next to you started yesterday.

Step Three: Be Ready

When you’re searching for creative ways to learn something, keep that Moleskin you treated yourself to handy at all times. You never know when an opportunity to learn something new will strike. For example, I love to watch documentary films and I often learn new camera or editing techniques while viewing, so I’m known to grab my pen and paper and make notes for my next project.

Step Four: Overwhelm Yourself

There’s no better way to learn anything than by total and utter immersion. First, start at the beginning, find the Dummies for Dummies version of whatever you want to learn.  When I really wanted to teach myself AE, I went off the deep end. I found every AE tutorial website known to man. I also discovered the best training books and local classes.  Now when I need help with some AE expressions or want to download a free file, I know where to find it quickly to meet my deadline.

Step Five: Roll Your Own

When you are going through any tutorial– book, online, dvd– never use their examples. Use your own assets. If you are learning how to build a dynamic slide show in Flash, use your own images or those from the photo staff, that way when you are done you have a project to send to your fiends or use for work. It’s always more motivating and satisfying when your finished product has your assets, not just some random bouncing ball on the screen, but your newspaper’s logo for example.

Step Six: Be Your Own Coach

You know that voice in your head, use it to motivate yourself. For example, the discussion in my head goes something like this, “You Suck!” “No I don’t, I’m Awesome!” Harness that inner critic or ego-maniac and use it to your advantage.

Step Seven: Find a mentor, because being your own coach kinda sucks.

Remember there’s always someone smarter than you and usually they’re nice enough to teach you a thing or two.

Finally, the more you know, the more you can create.