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Friday, May 9, 2008
This IS the feature presentation...

Golden_trailers
One of my favorite pieces recently is an interactive package in which readers can watch 13 of the best movie trailers as selected by the Golden Trailers Awards, and vote on which is the absolute best. The trailers are all great to watch and make me want to see many of the movies. I think the interactive is fun too. The trailer on which the clips play is actually the logo of the Golden Trailer Awards.

To see which trailer is selected as the best, check back at USATODAY.com on May 26 at 8 p.m., or watch the Golden Trailers Awards show on MyNetworkTV at that time.

Listen up!

Summer_music
Following the summer movie guide, which I mentioned in an earlier post, we've now posted a summer music guide. This guide gives readers the details on more than 175 tours and festivals by acts as varied as Kenny Chesney, Kanye West, Tom Petty and others. I hope readers will use the comments field to tell others about acts they've seen and what they though. It could be a great place to not just get an index of summer music, but to form a community around summer music.

Seen any good movies lately?

Summer_movies
It's time for our annual summer movies guide. Recently we posted a rich interactive graphic in which readers can browse the upcoming movies by date or title, read about the film, watch a tailer, vote on whether or not to see it, and even find out where it's playing.

This graphic is built in a way that makes it a cinch to update, which is good, since release dates change. It also means its easy to update as we get more trailers, photos and other information. Now, if only I could find time to actually go out and see some of these movies for myself...

Get 'Lost'

Lost_theories
Not too long ago, we asked readers to submit their plot ideas for this season of Lost. Wow, did we get a bunch. We selected 10 of our favorites and asked two Lost producers read through the submissions. They did and graded them. You can see the results in this graphic.

We could have just done all of this as a story, but where's the fun in that? We wanted to add photos, give other readers a chance to vote, and provide space for comments. Who knows? Maybe you'll see some of these plots on a future episode.

Friday, May 9, 2008
Making maps

Gossip_girls
A couple of recent stories have lent themselves to multipoint maps. Sounds like a job for... Google maps! The first story was a look at New York City spots that have served as locations for the tv show Gossip Girls. Not only did we create the Google map, but we also created a downloadable .kmz file that users could import into Google Earth.
We did the same thing for a book tour for author Tony Horwitz. That map plots all of the stops Tony will make on his book-signing tour, complete with addresses and phone numbers of the shops and stores. It, too, includes a downloadable .kmz file for Google Earth.

Agricultural zones

Ag_zones
Recently we posted a story on how agricultural hardiness zones are shifting, possibly a sign of global climate change. To show how the zones have changed over the years, we created this simple A/B graphic in which users can drag the dividing line across the country and see the shift. It's simple, yet, I think, effective.

To get more specific, we also used a little look-up widget so readers can enter their ZIP code and then see exactly which zone they are in.

Papal posting

Pope
When Pope Benedict XVI was traveling in Washington, D.C. and New York City, we posted a graphic to show readers where he'd go and what he'd do. The graphic was modeled after one we did covering the California wildfires of last year. The idea was to copy what worked from the wildfire graphic (putting a lot of information and media together in an easy-to-use visual system) and address its shortcomings (hard to know what was being updated).

I think we were fairly successful. The Pope graphic is clearer and cleaner, and includes links to lots of photo galleries, stories, videos and other content. However, those links were probably too hidden, especially when the graphic would advance to the next stage of the Pope's trip. I'm sure we'll come back to this concept to see if we can continue to work out the kinks.

By the way, one of the links in the graphic is to this great video of the Pope's Mass at Nationals Park in D.C.

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Innovative plant hardiness zone map

Garden200 Plant hardiness maps are used by gardeners to determine plant hardiness across the USA. When I first heard about the story idea, I had no idea that these maps even existed — that is, until an editor explained that many people might know them from seed packages.

By the time I learned that two zoned maps, dating from 1990 and 2006, document how plants typically known for their hardiness in warmer climates are moving north, my colleague Josh Hatch came up with a novel way of presenting them. Josh, who works in our Life section as a producer, suggested a single map the defaults to 1990. By dragging a scrubber located below the map, the data changes to reveal the 2006 zones. Senior Designer Jerry Mosemak made it happen.

I found this solution a particularly effective way to communicate this information. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
NFL draft: Finding the talent

Picture_2 In anticipation of the 2008 NFL Draft this weekend, today marks the launch of an interactive database that lets you examine the origins of nearly 20 years of NFL Draft picks as well as trends in picks across conferences. Next to our Deaths in Iraq piece, this is one of the largest database-driven projects we've built, with over 5,000 entries, and one we will continue to expand upon with future drafts, beginning with the 2008 picks this weekend.

Sports first approached our Design group about creating a way for draft picks to be plotted to a U.S. map, based on where the players went to high school and college. As we started to work through the data, we thought it would also be valuable to see how many players each conference took over this time range as well. What has resulted is a four-tiered approach to breaking down the data. In the first two sections, you can examine, on a state level, which high schools and which colleges the players have come from, filtering for a number of factors. In the third section, you get a chart plotting how many players each conference has selected by year, from 1988 to 2007, with the ability to filter down the numbers and toggle each conference line. In the fourth section, you can work through the entire database, again with a robust filter.

Perhaps what I enjoy most about this interactive is that while it's based heavily on numbers and statistics, people who work with it will likely find trends and stories within the data, some that may be uniquely relevant to them. Personally, I'm a recent Michigan alumnus and a native to the state; thus I'm curious to look at all of the players who've been drafted from Michigan, both as a college and a state, since 1988, a range that extends far beyond my time at the college. Moreover, I can compare those with rival schools in the Big Ten, and those we often compete against from other conferences. But enough of my talking about it — go ahead, play around with it and find your own story.

Friday, April 11, 2008
In Praise of Amen Corner

Blog_masters In praise, indeed. It's been 50 years since writer Herbert Warren Wind dubbed the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National "Amen Corner" in Sports Illustrated.

So this year, our multimedia for the 2008 Masters Tournament offers a couple different takes on Amen Corner.

Interactive tour of Amen Corner
Initially, we wanted to create detailed depictions of the greens on the three most famous holes in golf. But the maps we received were not detailed enough to provide an accurate depiction, so instead we tried to create a realistic image of each hole and highlight significant parts of the holes.

Multimedia artist Jerry Mosemak used satellite images from Google Earth to find the angle he wanted for the holes and then spent several days colorizing and enhancing the imagery. The end result are beautifully realistic and accurate images that are more robust and easier to understand than a simple photograph.


Can a replica compare?
Renditions golf club in Davidsonville, Md. has recreated some of golf's most famous holes. Among the holes recreated is Amen Corner. Photographer/videographer Eileen Blass and reporters Gary Mihoces and Jerry Potter visited Renditions on a cold and rainy Maryland-in-March day.

Potter gives a video tour of the differences between Augusta's Amen Corner and Renditions and you can see Mihoces hit a golf ball into the water on No. 12 (Augusta)/No. 7 (Renditions). Renditions does have azaleas, but it's still a bit too cold for them to bloom.


The Road to the Masters

Washington Road is a busy four-lane road lined with fast-food, tire stores and gas stations. But during the first full week of April, the only road in and out of Augusta National is jammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic and the sidewalks are filled with entrepreneurs, vendors, volunteers and fans. Parking goes anywhere from $10 to $40 a day and golf memorabilia businesses sell $10,000 collectibles. Reporter Gary Mihoces and photographer Jack Gruber captured a typical tournament-time afternoon along Washington Road.

You can also catch Masters news and daily galleries at golf.usatoday.com.