PodCorps.org is Closing

podcorpsThree years ago The Conversations Network launched the PodCorps.org website, a place to match producers with audio and video stringers around the world. Nearly 1,000 stringers have joined PodCorps.org, but the website has not achieved the kind of critical mass required to make it a success in anyone’s book. We have therefore decided to close the PodCorps.org website as of July 5, 2010.

The reason we failed to reach that critical mass is rather straightforward: We are spread too thin among multiple projects and didn’t commit the resources required for PodCorps.org’s success. The Conversations Network has a very small budget and depends entirely on volunteers. And while many people supported the concept by registering on the website, we were not able to recruit a volunteer team to manage and promote PodCorps.org.

I want to personally thank everyone who registered for their participation and support of the PodCorps.org concept. I only wish we had the resources to fulfill our side of the bargain. The Conversations Network’s other projects (SpokenWord.org and our proprietary podcast channels) get all of our attention and are doing quite well, but we need to accept our limitations in order to ensure our successful projects continue without distraction.

MEDIAmobz: An Introduction

For those of you in the video world, I want to use this opportunity to introduce a somehwat different alternative to PodCorps.org. We have a long standing friendship with a for-profit company called MEDIAmobz. They have a network of producers that provide video production services for the business market via partners such as Business Wire and Cisco. As PodCorps.org is closing, we thought you might want to sign up with MEDIAmobz as a way to find video production jobs around the world.

Dave Toole, founder and CEO of MEDIAmobz passed along this note:

“Thanks for considering joining our producer community at MEDIAmobz. We provide you free tools to post your video reels and links to your work to help market your capabilities to the business market. We have provided dozens of clients turn key video solutions for business story telling. We do not charge clients to post jobs and only charge a small fee when they have agreed to hire a production resource. We hope that we are able to help provide an easier way for clients to connect with creative resources to help them tell their story. Please have a look around and let us know what we can do to help you in providing your services.”

Public Media Opportunities

For those of you interested in public radio or TV in the U.S., here are some additional related sites you should check out:

Curators Wanted: SpokenWord.org

Over the past two months we’ve been discussing the future of SpokenWord.org with our advisors, directors and members. We now have a new plan for SpokenWord.org and we need your help.

The web is awash with audio and video. There are great programs out there, but they’re just too hard to separate from the noise. We created SpokenWord.org because we wanted to help people locate the best podcasts, videos and slideshows. We got the basics right — topics and collections — but our homepage in particular isn’t discriminating enough. Literally every five minutes we display the latest programs in each topic, but they’re not filtered. There’s little sense of what’s worth watching or listening to as opposed to just being “new”.

What’s missing is the human touch. For example, I’ve recently become obsessed with photography, and I’ve been looking everywhere for the best podcasts and videos to help me learn more. Along the way I’ve had to work my way through all sorts of junk in order to find the good stuff. If only there were a photography guru who would take the time to find the best podcasts and individual episodes for me. That would be awesome.

So that’s what we’re doing in SpokenWord.org 2.0. We’re building a team of expert curators, each with his or her own specialty. These curators will find the very best audio and video programs and use SpokenWord.org to present them to you. These curators and their collections will be the primary feature of our website.

Is there a topic you’re particularly passionate and knowledgeable about? Would you be willing to share your expertise by maintaining a curated list of feeds and episodes for SpokenWord.org? Would you like to become one of our curators?

There’s no monetary compensation for your effort, but I think you’ll be rewarded by the appreciation you receive and the credibility you’ll gain within your niche. We’re going to work hard to spread the word about SpokenWord.org and our curators, and I think being the SpokenWord.org curator for a particular topic will eventually carry some real weight.

We’re still early in the process of implementing the website features to support this new concept. In fact, the concept itself is still evolving. If you’re interested either in becoming a curator or just participating in the discussion of how our curation system will function, please join the brand-new Google Group dedicated to SpokenWord.org curation.

We’ll soon have a way for you to formally apply to become a curator, but for now, joining the discussion is the best way to get involved.

DNG Camera Profiles

Before I could sell a bunch of old stuff on eBay, I first needed to buy some new camera gear (strobes, stands, umbrellas, etc.) to post some good photos. You know how this works: The gear I bought cost more than what I’ll get back from selling the old junk, and it will probably take up more space. That’s how geeks do spring cleaning.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve been a slacker when it comes to color calibration. (My monitor still isn’t calibrated, although next week a new X-Rite Eye-One i1 Display 2 will arrive to take care of that.) A few weeks ago I bought another X-Rite product: a ColorChecker Passport and I’ve been using it for simple white balance. It works great. Just use the white-balance eyedropper tool in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc., and you can solve most of your color temperature variations. Everything looked pretty good to me, so I didn’t give it much thought.

But yesterday I decided to take advantage of the real purpose of the ColorChecker Passport and I created Adobe DNG Profiles for each of my camera/lens combinations. (The rest of this post applies only to those who shoot in RAW format.) I even went so far as to create “dual illuminant” profiles based on two exposures with widely varying color-temperature sources. I didn’t really expect much benefit from all of this. It was just a way to waste an hour instead of working. I used X-Rite’s software to create the profiles and install them into Adobe Camera Raw so they’re available to Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3.

Last night I sat down to see how these profiles might affect some of my old photos. I was blown away by the results. I expected very subtle changes. How far off could my lenses and cameras’ sensors really be? I’ve always adjusted color, exposure, contrast, etc., to give me the results I wanted. I figured this might just make it a little easier. But the results were dramatic. The colors in many shots became much more vivid without introducing unwanted saturation or contrast.

Unlike the use of a neutral gray card for setting white balance, using a DNG profile doesn’t require you to do anything at the time you shoot. Once you’ve created profiles for your gear, you apply them in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom 3 — all in post-production. You can still use the ColorChecker Passport during your sessions to correct for white balance, but a single profile works across all sessions and lighting conditions.

And this is where I had my breakthrough. The DNG profiles are separate from white balance. I apply the profiles when I import my photos into Lightroom. Then I set the white balance, color temp, etc. The DNG profiles compensate for variations in the equipment, which don’t change due to lighting conditions from one session to the next. It’s the white balance adjustment that corrects for the color temperature of the illumination at the time of exposure. You might think that you can use color temp and tint adjustments to compensate for your sensors and lenses, but I learned you really can’t.

You can create new DNG profiles for extreme lighting conditions at the time of exposure, but you won’t need to do this under most circumstances. Invest an hour or two to create good dual-illuminant profiles once and use them forever. (I used a Nikon SB-900 strobe with and without a TN-A1 (full CTO tungsten orange) filter for my two exposures.) The only cost is a ColorChecker Passport: $99 at places like Amazon.com. It’s already improved my photos more than any other $100 investment.

Additions to The Conversations Network Board

Today we held our annual meeting of the board of directors of The Conversations Network, during which we elected two new directors: Hugh McGuire and Rashmi Sinha. They join the five current directors, all of whom are continuing in that role for another year: Brian Gruber, Jake Shapiro, Jon Udell, David Weinberger and me. Thanks to all of them for their invaluable advice. Everyone needs help, and I’ve got the best.

I’m a TWiP

It’s sorta like being a TWiT. Today I had the pleasure of being a guest on This Week in Photography. The podcast should be available there in a day or two.

A few weeks ago I offered to share my experiences from our November Kenyan photo safari, and the TWiP team decided to make an entire episode on the topic. In addition to host Frederick Van Johnson, the show included two folks who are not only much better photographers than I am, but who also spend an incredible amount of time in Africa: PixelCorps’ Alex Lindsay and photo-safari leader Andy Biggs. It was humbling and flattering to be on the same show with these guys.

Knowing that the show notes would include a link to my blog, I decided to update my SmugMug gallery page. My work can’t touch Frederick, Alex or Andy, but I’m learning!

I Forgot Your Birthday

I didn’t really forget, but I’ve been very busy and am just now catching up. Nine days ago (June 5) was the seventh birthday of IT Conversations, still the longest running podcast in existence. So Happy Late Birthday to ITC, The Conversations Network, our members, major supporters and TeamITC, the wonderful folks you never hear about that bring you a new program more often than every day of the week.