MediaStorm: Visionary Journalism
Fuse the sublime power of still photography with the raw emotion of an intimate interview. Throw in the immediacy of video and add a passion for journalism in its purest form. Mix well in a Mac using Aperture, Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio. You’ll end up with a potent dose of multimedia storytelling that can touch millions. It’s MediaStorm, a production studio and online publication that is, in all seriousness, a journalist’s dream come true.
“It’s an opportunity for journalists to take journalism back and cover the stories they’ve always wanted to publish”, says Brian Storm, MediaStorm’s founder and president. “We have a sense of idealism — we take on stories that we really care about and publish them for their journalistic merit”.
The basic idea behind MediaStorm: “Create a place for interesting stories, particularly ones that are in-depth and driven by the power of photography”, says Storm. “There are all these photojournalists who have incredible long-form essays, but they don’t have a home for them. I wanted to create a place that took the time to produce those larger pieces”.
MediaStorm stories have rocked the world of journalism and broken free from constraining media categories—many have been broadcast on television, and one, “Kingsley’s Crossing” by Olivier Jobard, has won an Emmy. Millions across the world have experienced MediaStorm stories.
Every one of the MediaStorm stories was produced on a Mac using Apple apps. “The Mac is just a magic box”, says Storm. “It allows us to do so many amazing things. It’s a seamless visual environment that keeps the creative juices flowing. And Macs just flat-out work. Our Macs are always running; they’re always working. We’re a total Mac shop”.
Defining New Media
Storm could be called a pioneer of multimedia storytelling. In the early ‘90s he studied photojournalism at the University of Missouri and created CD-ROM projects on his Mac. That led to an electronic photojournalism teaching gig at the same university, and a full multimedia program that explored the possibilities of the newly emerging Internet. He also worked as a photographer for the Columbia Missourian, one of two dailies in Columbia, Mo. In 1993, however, his journalism career veered off-course.
“We had this terrible flood, and I spent every day taking pictures of people who had lost everything”, says Storm. “I came back to the newsroom and wanted to do a multiple-picture package. But there wasn’t space. We ended up running a single picture with a two-line cut. That was the day I decided the newspaper was not the right place for me”.
That day MediaStorm was effectively born. Storm knew he wanted to create a place for pure journalism, the kind of big, in-depth stories that just can’t fit in newspapers. He became the first multimedia producer at MSN News, which later became MSNBC, then eventually moved on to Corbis, a digital media agency. He honed his multimedia storytelling skills and wove a web of photojournalism contacts. Then, in 2005, he launched MediaStorm.
“The old saying is, ‘The power of the press belongs to those who own one,’” says Storm. “Well, now we can all own a press, and publish on the Internet. MediaStorm is a perfect example of that. We’re an independent publishing company that can publish exactly what we want to”.
Getting stories to publish wasn’t a problem. Storm simply sent word via email to several thousand of the contacts in his address book. The response was a steady stream of submissions that has continued to this day. “We usually get a few photographs and a brief description of the story”, says Storm. “Then it’s up to us to work with the journalist to make the story come together”.
Each story is assigned to a single producer who sticks with the project from beginning to end. (There are three MediaStorm staff producers.) The producer collects photographs — lots and lots of photographs — which is why MediaStorm uses Aperture, Apple’s photo management and editing application.
“We look at every single picture the photographer shot”, says Storm. “For most projects, we’re looking at 5,000 to 10,000 images. We bring all those images into Aperture for organisation and editing. We’re looking for cinematic sequences of photographs, and Aperture allows us to organise them in a way that’s cohesive with the final project”.
Cinematic sequences of still pictures need to have a consistent look and feel. To get it, producers use Aperture’s Lift and Stamp tool. “Because we’re doing these big sequences, we can use the Lift and Stamp tool to enhance one image of a sequence perfectly, and we’ll replicate that across a sequence of stills”, says Storm. “It really cuts production time”.
A MediaStorm story wouldn’t be complete without sound. So in addition to stills, the producers collect audio. It may seem odd to ask a photographer for sound, but almost all of the journalists the publication works with carry some sort of recording device. “In most cases, the photographer has built this incredible relationship with the subject and has these extensive audio interviews”, says Storm. “Photographers know that audio has real power when it’s paired with their images, so they capture it”.
Once all the assets have been collected, the producer dives headfirst into Final Cut Studio.