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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-11-16

No Squeeze Play with STLtoday Coverage of Cardinals World Series Run
By Elie Gardner, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo by
Early in the baseball season, jokes about the Cardinals making the World Series were plentiful in our newsroom. But, as we know in the news business, nothing ever turns out the way we predict, and planning often becomes everything. Our plans for baseball playoff coverage at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch started well before the first pitch was thrown in San Diego.

World Series coverage is a prime example of why the Internet is important for news. With five photographers and three editors at the stadium, others covering the series in the community and a multitude of reporters, we were producing more quality content than newsprint could hold, even with our special sections. The Web allowed us to showcase many photos and stories that would otherwise have been stuck archived on a hard drive, waiting to be used as file art or put in a book.

This football season, STLtoday.com started producing Game Day Replay - a recap of every Rams' football game by online sports columnist and blogger Jeff Gordon paired with photos from the game, usually by photographer Chris Lee. Sports content on the Web drives traffic, so when the Cards made the playoffs, it was a no-brainer to produce a similar multimedia package recapping each playoff game. Playoff Replay became the name.

How it Happened, Technically
Jeff Gordon had a portable recorder. He recorded himself giving the recap and emailed it to our online staff. From there, I took the audio and converted it to MP3 format. I listened to the audio carefully. If specific players and/or plays were mentioned, I looked for the corresponding images as I edited. With that said, the marriage of words and pictures wasn't always so easy. For example, if Gordon decided to talk about pitchers for the entire two minutes, I didn't want to bore the viewer by editing only pitcher photos. Sometimes I took liberties in order to use the best images, but I always tried to keep the word/picture relationship in mind. I also worked against the clock. We aimed to have Replay up within an hour to an hour and a half after the games' completion. Consistency and speed is important to viewers on the Web. If Replay didn't get updated until the next day, it would get hits, but by then it's old news.

Making the Series
When the Cards made the Series, we knew we wanted to produce more than Playoff Replay - which morphed into World Series Replay. Photographer Huy Richard Mach, who I like to call the wizard, immediately volunteered to work his time-lapse magic.

(He produced a time-lapse video for opening day at the new Busch Stadium: http://graphics.stltoday.com/online/buschopen)

Director of Photography Larry Coyne, Mach and I met to discuss exactly how to cover the Series visually on the Web. The original plan was to produce two time-lapse videos from the same game - one of fans and the other of the field - that would then be used on the Web side by side synched up. This didn't go as planned, and we learned the secret to time-lapse video is positioning the camera high and wide.

Expressions on the fans' faces didn't translate when the frame changed so rapidly. Instead of the original plan, Mach produced an overall time lapse at Comerica Park and also, for something different, mounted a camera in the dugout. He also produced an overall time lapse at Busch Stadium. We wanted at least one time-lapse project from each stadium and, when we realized Game 5 could be the clincher, we knew it was the one we wanted to cover.

Photo by Elie Gardner / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo by Elie Gardner / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Post-Dispatch photographer Huy Richard Mach adjusts his time-lapse camera at Busch Stadium in St. Louis during the 2006 World Series.
Lesson Learned: Be flexible. If something doesn't work the first time, don't give up. Learn from the experience and find a way to make it work.

More then Replay
In addition to Replay and the time-lapse videos, we wanted to provide fan color. This was a method of giving voice to the community and making them part of the coverage. We coordinated the feature pieces as well as we could with the feature articles in the newspaper. For the most part, they coincided, or, at least, related. In addition to taking photos, Mach recorded interviews with his subjects using a Marantz audio recorder.

When in Detroit, he FTPed the audio and photos to me in St. Louis, where I produced the pieces. When the Series came to St. Louis, I was on site and able to gather and edit the audio so that Mach could have more shooting time.

We also found a way to get the community involved on the Web and took that back to print with I Witness, STLtoday's reader-submitted photo zone. We created an album for the community to submit photos of their Spiezio soul patches. We used the paper to promo the album and received 60 photos of Spiezio in a couple days. From there, we edited a few of the best shots and used them in the paper, accompanied by a short article about the red facial fashion. All sixty photos are viewable on the web, and you can still submit your Spiezio: http://iwitness.stltoday.com.

Wear More than One Hat
Vital in our coverage was the attitudes of the photographers and editors involved, as many wore multiple hats. One of our photographers shot features pre-game and edited during the games. Mach shot, edited and programmed the entire World Series package for the Web. I was able to gather audio, edit and produce multimedia when the Series came to St. Louis. In addition, I covered a shooting spot at the end of Game 5 when we wanted to nail everything - the jube on the field, the fireworks in the sky and everything in between.

In planning for World Series coverage online, it was important for our online staff to know what the paper was doing and best translate that. But coverage didn't stop there, as we produced the multimedia extras and provided items online that there was no room for in print.

Other components of our online World Series coverage included downloadable desktop wallpapers made by our graphics department, a slideshow of archival photos from the 1968 World Series between the Cardinals and the Tigers, news feeds from the Detroit papers, interviews with our sports writers and columnists in our weekly Podcast (Inside St. Louis), blogs updated live during the game, downloadable PDFs of pages and much more, made possible by a dedicated online staff at the newspaper that was willing to work around the clock.

At the Post-Dispatch, I believe we are trying to make the Web a friend to the visual journalist. We all must continue to try innovative ways of using the Internet to best present and share our images.

We need to think big, think different and think for the net.

See our World Series coverage online: http://graphics.stltoday.com/online/cardinals_ws


(Elie Gardner is Online Photo Editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Related Links:
Gardner's member page

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