Haven’t got three hands? Streaming video on the job won’t be easy

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: Photojournalist Joe Kaczmarek streamed live video as Air Force One pulled away yesterday.

Not so long along, journalists kept one hand free for a smoke or a cup of coffee. But with so many of us tasked with producing multimedia reports in recent years, there is more to carry and much more to do.

So, if you’re already expected to grab a photo and send it along with a tweet while covering events, all the while taking notes for the final story, when will anyone find the opportunity to stream live video from the scene?

Yesterday, we got a look at one example from Philadelphia photojournalist Joe Kaczmarek, who was covering President Obama’s arrival and departure from Philadelphia International Airport. (Yes, Joe’s the same guy who Periscoped from the Amtrak accident last week.)

After spending the day in nearby Camden, NJ, President Obama retuned to the airport on Marine One before climbing aboard Air Force One and flying back to Washington.

Kazamarek propped up his iPhone and started streaming as the helicopter came into view and made adjustments when he had a free hand — before ending the stream with a look at the big jet flying away.

Altogether, the video runs more than 17 minutes, but Obama was in view for just about 45 seconds. During that span, you need to stay focused with the camera you were paid to bring. But that still leaves a lot of time for streaming before you get escorted back from the camera position.

As I wrote about my own first attempt at covering news with Periscope — during the recent #PhillyisBaltimore rally — just managing oneself and the phone can be quite the juggling act.

And as I discovered during my first attempt to stream while cycling, you can’t watch the screen while you’re doing something else. So, you may never see the comments that evaporate, but at least you can continue your narration for the benefit of your viewers.

We have seen other newsies stream from the passenger seat when pulling up on an incident, using an iPhone mounted on another camera at the scene, and of course giving us a look at the action back in the studio.

But where is the opportunity on other assignments? While covering meetings or courts? Or while working on feature stories?

Please come back and share your ideas and experiences as this movement continues to develop.

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Keeping it weird in Philadelphia: Covering the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

Above: A competitor pedals a shark toward the finish line Saturday at the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby.

I could try to explain the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, or you could just watch the video below. I have posted a two-minute edit, taken from the three live streams which I shared Saturday on Periscope, totaling 19 minutes.

Basically, artists parade on decorated bikes and other vehicles and then speed down a crowded chute before trying to avoid crashing in a mud pit.

But I learned that it can be difficult to cover so much down time. While the pace was perfect for those in attendance, there was just not much to see or say between riders.

Also, as I started to discover while covering the recent Broad Street Run, sunlight can make viewing your screen nearly impossible. I wish I had taken the shady side of the street.

I was probably also zooming too frequently, and I wondered if that was why a lot of viewers seemed to check out quickly. Shaky shots are just no fun to watch for very long.

Meanwhile, steady zooming seems to do little harm to the image quality, probably because resolution is so low to begin with. But I think we might look back in a few years and wonder how anyone tolerated these highly-pixelated images, which is how I often feel these days when viewing old YouTube videos.

Also as I have discovered in the past, I picked up new viewers by stopping and restarting streams and by changing titles, but I ran into initialization delays again, reinforcing my suspicion that crowded events place a burden on broadband service make it safer to start connected once you begin streaming.

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Handlebar reporting: Counting cars in the bike lane

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

Above: I spotted one couple out on Philadelphia’s new Indego shared bikes at left, but I also watched as other cyclists were forced into traffic by cars parked in bike lanes.

Shortly after launching this site, I shared the impediments I discovered while “Pedaling while Periscoping,” after mounting my iPhone on my handlebars and taking a spin around Philadelphia on my bicycle.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went out again to try to do some actual reporting, using Periscope to show the number of cars I found parked in bike lanes in Center City.

A lot of us fancy Philadelphia as a bike-friendly city, where one study showed rush-hour cycling up 260% between 2005 and 2013, we have 435 miles of bike lanes, we just got cool new bike sharing program and the city even paved over some old trolley tracks recently to make some intersections safer.

But if you like cycling on Sundays, you might find many bike lanes blocked near houses of worship, where congregants are permitted to park with the city’s permission, based on a program which long precedes the like lanes.

The problem is that the parked cars force cyclists and passing traffic into narrowed lanes, creating an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous squeeze for blocks at a time.

To share this experience live on Periscope, I pedaled back and forth on Spruce and Pine Street in Center City, covering about 40 blocks of bike lanes.

I counted more than 160 cars parked in bike lane spaces which would be otherwise illegal — if not for the provisions made for worshippers.

Now, I don’t expect the city to change the parking program after all these years, but I think it would be safer for everyone if we could simply close the bike lanes to through traffic during the same periods. What do you think?

Here’s a time-lapse look at my trip, below. The right lane is supposedly reserved for bicyclists.

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