Berta’s multimedia journalism journey

Interview with IMMJMA Alum Berta Tilmantaitė, recent award winner of “NPPA 2017 Best of Photojournalism”

Berta Tilmantaitė is a Lithuanian multimedia journalist, specialising in photography and video. She’s a keen traveler and her visual stories from across the world focus on social issues, human rights, environment and the connection between human and nature.

After graduation in 2011, Berta worked on a number of self-funded and commissioned projects and her photo and video stories were published in various global media outlets and won awards in international contests and festivals. In 2015 Berta co-founded Nanook, Lithuania’s first multimedia platform for documentary projects.

Q: How and why did you become a multimedia journalist? Is there a story or person that influenced your path?

A: I was studying Journalism in Vilnius University (Lithuania) and during my last year I went to Danish School of Media and Journalism to study Photojournalism. It was in 2008 and multimedia journalism was starting to develop. I created a project with Soundslides (one of the first available audio slideshow software) while studying and even though now it looks funny, it was something very interesting and special back then. When I came back home, I united with a university friend and we started to work together – she produced the sound and I was in charge of visuals. Later, when I was looking for Master’s programmes, I knew I wanted more than to study only photojournalism and I came across the IMMJMA program in Beijing and that was that.

Q: As a multimedia journalist, which mediums do you use most? It seems that filmmaking is your major skill, is that right and why?

A: It depends on the story, project, and circumstances. When I travel and find interesting stories on the way, I usually produce photography and publish in magazines along with text. But when I work in my home country or if I stay somewhere longer, I like to shoot video and combine other mediums too. It gives me a lot of freedom and saves me from getting bored. Some stories work better in still pictures, some in moving images, recently I also started to work with podcasts – which is entirely different experience, and gives further possibilities to tell interesting and important stories. I’d like to try 360° cameras and VR or AR in the future when I find stories suitable for those kinds of mediums. For me, it’s very important to experiment and challenge myself and others that I work with. It’s essential to be open to the story and follow its direction – usually, it’s not me who decides how to work, but the story itself develops into the shape and medium it finds the most suitable. 

Q: Can you tell us about Nanook? – When, how and why did you start the company? How does it work?

A: I and my colleague started Nanook – a media agency, a sort of collective – three years ago. We were not happy with the journalism and media organisations in Lithuania, we both were freelancing, had international experience and saw possibilities and the need to create something new in our home country Lithuania. So we started Nanook, where we create documentary based and creative projects, podcasts and also pay a lot of attention to education – lectures, workshops, and discourses around visual and multimedia journalism.

Q: Also what does the name “Nanook” mean?

A: Nanook was the main character in the pioneering documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty. Nanook means “polar bear” – the master of bears in the Inuit religion, who decide if hunters deserved success while hunting.

Q: You’ve traveled the globe telling stories, but you still focus on reporting news in Lithuania, So which one do you think is more important for journalist, go around the world to find more stories, or focus on discovering one region.

A: For me traveling and exploring is extremely important and I think it helps to understand my region and it’s place in the world better. There is no one single or best way to work – you have to find what goes better for you. I prefer the combination of both for now.

Q: I watched your recent trailer of “TRACES: Traversing the past”, It’s stunning and I can’t wait to see the full project! Meanwhile, I realise you that you been to many risky places,what is the most dangerous thing happen to you, and how did you manage to handle that situation.

A: Thank you, I’m glad you liked it! I’ve been in a few tricky situations while traveling and working in Siberia, Nepal, Kenya or South America, but I consider myself quite lucky as everything always ends up well so far. It’s important to always be conscious, understand what’s going on around and how to deal with that. Clear mind and understanding that you have to keep on going and stay safe help me a lot. You have to trust environment and never overestimate yourself – bad things happen as soon as you think you’re in control. Be open to failure and acknowledge that something might always go wrong, but don’t let that stop you.

Q: Why did you choose the IMMJMA program to study?

A: At that time (2010) it was the first and just one of very few Multimedia Journalism programmes in the world. I was really happy to get into the first cohort of IMMJMA. Also, the opportunity to live and work in China was an incredible bonus!

Q: What was your most unforgettable experience when you were studying on the IMMJ program?

A: The whole year in China while studying IMMJ was a really important and life-changing experience for me.

Q: What was your biggest gain from studying the IMMJ program?

A: The most important thing was the realisation that I can work on stories I like in the way that I enjoy, and work as a freelance journalist in any part of the world. Right after I finished IMMJMA, I started to lecture at a university, then co-founded a media agency a few years later. Who knows what is going to happen in the future – the understanding that there are no limitations of what and how you can do things was a big breakthrough for me. Also, relationships with other students and media professionals, contacts, experiences, discoveries, knowledge and the desire to constantly know more. 

Q: What advice do you have for our current IMMJ students?

A: Never forget to enjoy what you’re doing – if you feel unhappy, there is something wrong. Studying and work must be fun, even if it’s challenging and really hard sometimes. Follow your own interests and learn what’s going on in the field of journalism, read, research, explore, self-educate yourself. Find the topics that you care about the most and develop your own way to tell stories about those topics.

Berta has BA in Journalism from Vilnius University (Lithuania), she also took a course at Photojournalism at Danish School of Media and Journalism and holds an MA in International Multimedia Journalism from University of Bolton/Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Check out some Berta’s website and some current and recent work and awards here:

  • Will to Win Stories about Lithuanian Paralympians won an award at the prestigious “NPPA 2017 Best of Photojournalism, Multimedia Awards”
  • TRACES: Traversing the Past – Berta’s currently working on an interactive documentary story covering the painful history of Lithuanian deportations of 1941 – a catastrophic event that was orchestrated and followed through by the Soviet Union.

2015-16 IMMJ-MA Graduates Publish Work with Sixth Tone

We are always excited to see IMMJ-MA students publish their student work with professional outlets, and last month we saw shorter versions of two final graduate projects published in Sixth Tone. Sixth Tone is a new Chinese (launched in April 2016) English-language media outlet aimed at international reach and readership. The website often covers contemporary national issues in a deeply humanized way – which is often the way IMMJ-MA students tend to tackle their stories.

Publication of Term 2 and especially Term 3 final stories in professional and reputable outlets is exactly the standard we hope our students achieve. Publishing work not only helps you to establish credibility but also delivers a lesson in how to work with publications and editors through an editorial process. All of this can be critical to breaking into the industry. Having your own website is an important way to show editors or clients your work but having a published clip with your byline on your CV will really help to prove that you can do the job.

Big congratulations to IMMJ-MA 2015-16 cohort and recent graduates Cicy Lin , King (Cheng Wei) and Nicole (Zheng Yu). The stories are fascinating, covering access to equal education for China’s blind and a touching environmental story on bird and wetland conservation. Do read them! Here are links to the Sixth Tone versions directly below, you can find the full stories at the bottom of the page.


Cicy was headhunted for professional work before she even graduated – largely in part to her quality Term 2 and 3 projects, and the fact that she produced shareable versions and distributed smartly on social media. She is currently continuing her love for both the outdoors and filming and working as a producer for environmental mini-documentaries. Nicole has returned to her former job and continues to work on storytelling projects, King is working as a multimedia reporter in his hometown Chongqing.

You might also like to view the full versions of their graduate projects:

Audio for DSLR


Audio is 50% of your video, people are more likely to watch a video with good sound and poor visuals than good visuals and poor sound. Why? Because in most cases it’s the audio that is driving the narrative. If your viewer can’t understand the story, they’ll click away.

Let’s keep things simple (for now)

There are a whole lot of options available, but I’m going to keep things as simple as possible – for now. Later in a Term 2 workshop, we’ll give you more instructions and more options. As always, you’ll also need to do some research on your own – and be sure to check out the best options for your specific camera model.

Firstly, do not get sucked into  the false question ” Which is better, a lavalier or a shotgun?”, they are not in competition – different mics serve different purposes and scenarios. Eventually, you’ll want both a lavalier and a shotgun. For the first term, a recorder and lav mic will do just fine.

So, let’s master the most basic set-ups for recording a) interviews and b) ambient sound. Once you master this, you might want to try different options and set ups because as mentioned earlier, different scenarios require different audio set-ups. The basic options here are limiting for example, if you want to interview your subject while he or she is on the move. Also, these set-ups may not work if you have more than one interviewee or want to record candid dialogue. However, you won’t typically need to worry about these scenarios in Term 1. If you do – you’ll need to do some independent research and then come to tutors for some advice.

So, let’s get back to those basic options. We recommend:

  • A lavalier mic for interviews
  • A recorder or shotgun mic for rich ambient sounds

Internal camera microphones suck. They can be used for some unimportant ambient sound, but for your most important evocative ambients sounds you should definitely be using either a shotgun microphone or recorder and getting in close to the sound.

*Note, I’m not covering the basics of audio here, if you want the basics – you’ll need to go to the class notes and the audio section in www.multimediatrain.

Tie clip or lavalier for interviews:

3 main options:

  • Sync dual system sound (i.e. record your audio on a separate device and sync in post) *NOTE – If you have a Zoom H1, you will need to check that your specific mic works with the H1 – Not all lav’s work with it. Mics that do work include mics powered by an external battery power such as the Audio-Technica ATR3350, the Azden EX503 also works as does the Rode smartLav+ with Rode SC3 TRRS to TRS adapter.
  • lavelier plugged directly into the camera
  • lavalier plugged into the camera – but channelled through a recorder (or preamp). For this. If you are using a recorder, i.e. the Zoom H4 or Zoom H1 you will need a line to microphone attenuation cable such as the Kopul ACH4-25MON.

Sync dual system sound. (For those on a budget who want great quality audio and don’t mind spending the time and energy syncing audio in post) With this option, you record a video / low-quality audio file on your camera and a high-quality audio file on a recorder. Put your lav mic on your interviewee and plug it to your recorder. You’ll probably need a simple 20 RMB extension cable to extend the length or the mic cable. Hit record on the audio and camera at roughly the same time and make a loud clap so that you can use the audio spike to help you to sycn the files in the edit. Monitor you audio with levels and headphones.

Pros / cons: The plus point of this option is hi quality audio on a very low budget. The negative point is that you need to sync audio in post production. Be very careful to download, archive and back up your audio files carefully.

*NOTE – If you have a Zoom H1, you will need to check that your specific mic works with the H1 – Not all lav’s work with it. Mics that do work include mics powered by an external battery power such as the Audio-Technica ATR3350, the Azden EX503 also works as does the Rode smartLav+ with Rode SC3 TRRS to TRS adapter.


lavelier plugged directly into camera. (For those who are too lazy to synch their audio in post or working on tight deadlines and don’t mind a lower audio quality – this options works for term 1, but may need a rethink for term 2 & 3 if the quality is too low) Plug your lavalier straight into the camera. It’s that simple.

Pros / cons: The plus point is that there is no need to synch audio later. The minus point is that it’s not the optimal quality, because you are using the cameras preamps. Which are not that great. You’ll likley need to clean up your audio in post prodcution. Depending on your camera you may have an additional problem. Not all cameras have a head phone jack. So while you maybe able to monitor audio levels, on screen – you won’t actually be able to hear the sound. So if the mic is rusltling on clothing for example, you won’t hear that. Here are a couple of tips to solve these issues. To clean up your sound in audition this video shows two methods, I prefer the second methos which starts at 3.20 secs into the video. If you want to add a headphone jack – you could try these hacks. They cost around 300 RMB, well worth it.

lavalier plugged into the camera – but channelled through a recorder (or preamp) (For thos who want to buy a couple extra accesories and get the benifit of quality audio without the hassle of syncing in post)

This method requires you to plug your lav mic into your recorder and then run a cable from you recorder to your camera – which you’ll attach to your camera. To do this you’ll need some kind of Hot Shoe to 1/4-Inch Adapter, (very cheap and easy to pick up). You will need a line to microphone attenuation cable such as the Kopul ACH4-25MON. (Not quite so cheap or easy to pick up – but has a huge added bonus of providing a headphone monitor jack if your camera doesn’t already have one).

Pros / cons: The plus point is that there is no need to synch audio later and you’ll get high quality audio. The minus point is that you need to buy some extra cables and attachments, in my opnion however, this is a small price to pay for quality audio and losing the hassle of synching audio in post. The extra cable you’ll need is the Kopul ACH4-25MON Line-to-Mic Attenuator Cable it’s designed to connect your digital recorder (e.g. Zoom H4n, Zoom H6, etc.) output to the mic level input of your DSLR camera with 25dB of attenuation to step down the hot line level audio to microphone level. It features a 1/8″ headphone tap that allows you to monitor the signal to your camera and is shielded to reduce RF noise and provide interference-free operation.

You may also want to check out the external pre-amp option. I wouldn’t recommend this until the end of term 1 or term 2. If you are interested check out this – Get Better DSLR Audio Quality by Using a Good Preamp: Beachtek vs. juicedLink vs. Zoom H4n

A recorder or shotgun mic for rich ambient sounds

This section is pretty simple, right? Either use a recorder or shotgun plugged into the camera for your b-roll / ambient sound.

  • With a recorder you’ll need to synch sound (unless you plug it to your DSLR with an attenuator cable – see tutorials below)
  • With a DSLR shot gun mic like the rode or seinheisser  can simply attach and plug into your camera

For rich ambient sounds, whicever technique you use – get your mic in close.


A good video for Entry-Level Audio Options for DSLR from B&H. The video starts off with options for ambient sound – DSLR shot-gun and recorder on camera.




There are a lot of video tutorials out there – this is a pretty carefully selected selection. If you find good tutorials online – let me know.

Tips for operating your H1:

*Note, I differ on one point – which is deleting files from the card. I think it’s safer to download all audio files, then delete from the card – either in the recorder or in your computer. Do not delete anything until you have downloaded everything from your shoot – otherwise, you are in danger of deleting the wrong file.

Pluggin your H1 recorder into your camera – watch the tutorial below. You will need a 3mm to 3mm cable. for best quality – It should be an attenuated cable, as advised earlier.

 Monitoring interviews – make your own headphone jack

If you want to add a headphone jack – you could try these hacks. They cost around 300 RMB, well worth it.

Clean up your interview audio in post production

To clean up your sound in audition this video shows two methods, I prefer the second methos which starts at 3.20 secs into the video.

Hide your mic

Audio for DSLR Part 1 – Run & Gun – In this video we look at ways to improve the in-camera audio on “run & gun” style, single-operator shoots using camera mountable mics that plug directly into the camera’s 3.5mm external mic input.

Audio Recording Tips: Lavalier Microphones

5 Ways to use the Zoom H1 Audio Recorder

Hack your zoom H1

Today I show you how to upgrade your Zoom H1 recorder with 2 XLR inputs, 2 outputs with NO soldering! – this is such a great hack!

You have a H4? Watch this


Really you want more? Try these…

Critiquing Multimedia

Students on the should be actively critiquing published multimedia news stories, as well as their own and fellow peer’s assignments. You will be expected to critique the news you are consuming individually in a news diary as part of one of your theory assignments. You will also evaluate weekly #IMMJMA assignments in class This will take place in weekly class ‘crits’, in focus groups and informally with your classmates, This page includes a helpful set of questions to make a considered critique, you’ll need to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of multimedia journalism stories. We expect you to participate and be vocal.


  • What is the topic or subject of the story about?
  • What’s the focus?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why is it important that this story is told / How is it newsworthy?
  • Are any of these questions unclear? If so, help your teammate to find solutions.


Consider the title, subhead (dek) and subject of the story.

  • Does the headline/title accurately reflect the content of the story?
  • Does the subhead concisely summarise the story?

Subject, focus and nut graph.

  • Is the subject of the story focus/angle clear
  • Is the story focus newsworthy — interesting/ compelling/important?
  • Does the focus translate into a nut graph that the audience can clearly grasp?
  • Is the nut-graph in the right place? or too soon or too late?
  • *For more information on story focus & nut graph please read the note tagged to the bottom of the page.

Research & context

  • Does the student and story indicate sufficient research to provide good knowledge, context, and understanding of the story?

Sourcing, Fairness, Balance & Accuracy:

  • Are the sources good/credible? Diverse? Attributed & Hyperlinked?
  • Could you tell if the reporter had picked a “side” in the story they were telling? Explain why you answered yes or no to this question about balance.


Is it primarily a single media or multimedia story? For single media stories, simply asses the single media. First, comment on all individual media elements individually in the next section you’ll think about how they work together:

  • Photography
  • Text (AP style)
  • Video
  • Graphics
  • Other
  • What were the best parts about this story and what parts were less effective? If there is a primary media like video you can break down the primary media into most and least effective parts.
  • Overall, Do you think the different MM elements were used well? Are good choices being made about which information to put into text, which into video and which into pictures and graphics? Why / Why not?
  • Is photography being used effectively? Why / Why not? How could it be better?
  • During the interviews in the video, did they hold your interest or were they too long? Give specific examples from the video.
  • Where the visuals interesting? What got your attention? Were there too many shots that were similar to each other or was there a good variety? Use specific examples.
  • Do you think there’s an opportunity for social engagement — how / what?


  • Is there a Clear target audience?
  • As a whole, were you engaged?
  • Did you get bored or Confused?
  • What specifically interested you?
  • If you felt the story was too long what would you choose to cut? (In the whole story & in the video)
  • Overall choices & combination of elements — Did elements compliment or repeat?
  • At the end of the story are you confused about anything or are you left with a question that you think needs answering?
  • Does the story structure and organization have a good, logical flow? How could it be improved?
  • Length — Too long or too short Typical term 1 assignments should take around 5 to 15 minutes to view. Term 2 & 3 multimedia feature stories should take no longer than 30 mins to complete. However, this is a very rough guide. Stories may be longer or shorter.
  • Was journalistic sensibility used to filter and select information well? Informing and engaging the audience. Providing enough context and information without overloading or overwhelming the audience.


  • What’s your first impression?
  • Design & Presentation. Is it simple and clean enough to easily read and view content?
  • Would an unfamiliar visitor know the purpose of the story quickly or by looking at the homepage?
  • Where did you look first? Next? Next? Which links did you want to click on?
  • Easy to explore & Navigational flow of the project. Is it Smooth and logical or confusing? Logical use of chunking/subheadings etc. Do you easily understand how to navigate the story, or are you confused? Why
  • How about the design? Why do you like, or dislike, the colors, fonts, general layout, etc.?
  • How about the video subtitle font, is it suitable and easy to read?
  • What works well on this story, and how can the designer improve it?


Language, Grammar & Style — It’s critical that stories are well written and smooth to read. Subtitles, captions and so on all need careful attention. (Poor English seriously impacts your grade, get used to proofreading with a partner).

  • NOTE STORY FOCUS: The story focus is essentially what your story is really about. It’s not a topic or subject, it’s a story. For example migration is a topic, within the topic of migration there are infinite story angles. One focus might focus on how crackdown on the use of unlicensed e-bikes and tricycles is making life harder for huge numbers of migrant workers. Another story might focus on the social and psychological impact on ‘left behind’ children. A nut graph is a story focus rendered into a concise text paragraph. Feature text stories always have a nut graph, multimedia stories usually have a written nut graph. Video stories may have a clear nut graph presented in a text slide or narration, but not always. Even if a video story doesn’t have an explicit nut graph, it should have a sound byte which delivers the story focus and makes the point of the story clear. Again, photo essays sometimes have an explicit nut graph but not always. They do however have a clear focus. Take this photo essay for example, ‘Rat Tribe’focuses on low wage migrant workers who live in Beijing’s underground. “Waiters, karaoke hostesses, hairdressers, chefs, security guards, domestic workers and kitchen helpers, these basement dwellers are the backbone of Beijing’s service industry. But they have been unkindly dubbed the “rat tribe” for making a home in Beijing’s 6,000 basements and air raid shelters.”