The news comes amid a continuing power stuggle between Telegraph editors and management (see related story) and at a time when all of the Telegraph’s picture desks are set to be merged into a single operation, which will handle visual content for the print edition, the web, and the 4pm “download and print” edition of Telegraph pm.
“Digital stills photography will, when we look back on it, form a very small period of time in the history of photojournalism”, Nicol told EPUK. “Telegraph photographers will undoubtably be shooting solely on video in the future, and certainly within a year we hope to be well advanced down that route.”
At the Press Association, where Stuart Nicol has been Group Picture Editor since January this year, all of their 42 staff photographers are now equipped with £300 Canon S3 cameras for shooting internet-quality video in addition to their existing Canon stills cameras.
The move came after a four month trial of a number of digital camers which could shoot video, and Nicol claims that the PA photographers had embraced the new technology, with one veteran photographer who had been shooting on film and digital for many years who had three internet broadcasts published after just two days of training.
Other moves to multimedia
A significant number of regional papers groups including Newsquest have already retrained their staff photographers to shooting video content in addition to stills. Earlier this month, photojournalism stalwart VII announced its move into multimedia and video.
While Nicol is keen to stress that the current priority for the Telegraph’s picture desk will continue to be stills photography, he believes is it only a matter of time before the quality exists for still images to be taken from video stills. The Telegraph has already signed a deal with ITN whereby the broadcaster supplies video content for the website.
At the moment the quality of video stills available from small video cameras is generally below that needed to produce photographic quality. However, some US newspapers including the Detroit Free Press and Dallas Morning News have already begun shooting solely on video, at 1920×1080 pixel resolution, on cameras costing around $5000, equivalent to a high-end digital SLR body.
It is not yet clear whether the Telegraph job rate will increase to cover shooting additional video footage or the purchase of additional equipment. While the nominal ‘job’ rate has risen in recent years – from £160 in 2000 to £175 currently – certain expenses such as digital fees and phone calls have stopped, meaning in real terms photographers are currently paid less than six years ago.
Unusually for breaking technology, it is the UK regional, rather than national, press that have been the first to switch to video for websites. Local newspaper giant Newsquest already runs courses to train staff photographers to shoot moving images.
There are still significant technical problems which hinder the taking of quality still images from digital video. Whilst the video camers run at 30 frames per second – significantly faster than digital stills cameras – each frame is taken at a slower shutter speed than might normally be used. So for fast moving situations – such as a court ‘snatch’ – there are more frames, but each one is more blurred.
The logistics of transmitting video clips from a laptop are also daunting. While the Canon S3 cameras use the same CompactFlash cards that are used in digital SLRs, a card that could contain 300 high resolution still images can only contain between two and four minutes of low-resolution video. In addition, whereas a photographer might only be needed to send an edited selection of four of five photographs from a job via a mobile phone or WiFi connection, sending and storing video is significantly more difficult due to the larger files.
Nevertheless, the Telegraph’s move is likely to be watched closely by other newspaper groups. Dan Chung, staff photographer for the Guardian was spotted at the recent Labour Party conference shooting video as well as stills, and his blog discusses the logistics of handling video on location, as well as putting together other web-ready content.
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