Five steps to a basic news video for the web

This how-to covers the reporting and news-gathering side of things. A later Storify will focus on the editing stage.

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  1. My first-ever attempt at video was at the White House on St Patrick's Day in 2009. Yes, that White House! By some dumb luck, I found myself right in front of President Barack Obama as he welcomed the cheerful crowd of Irish Americans to the March 17 celebrations. All I had was a Flipcam. This is the result.
  2. March 17, 2009. President Barack Obama at the White House
  3. What's wrong with the video? I think a better question might be "What did I get right." Very little! Which is why I've put this handout together to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
  4. STEP #1: STABILIZE THE CAMERA

    As Drew Keller so ably explains in "Tripods from Everyday Things," I needed a tripod. If I had watched Keller's video in advance, I might have been able to get away with the rubber-band solution. So step #1 is to make sure you stabilize the camera. Get a tripod. And if you can't get a proper camera tripod check out Keller's tutorial. Although I don't think I would have got away with disassembling a lamp in the White House! 
  5. STEP #2: USE THE RULE OF THIRDS WHEN SHOOTING
    This rule - the same as the one discussed in photography - is vital for shooting usable footage. Learn how to frame each shot according to the 9 square grid. Watch this video from Drew Keller to revisit the rule of thirds. 
  6. Shooting with the Rule of Thirds
  7. STEP # 3: SHOOT IN SEQUENCE

    USC professor Andrew Lih and ONA fellow @lamthuyvo both recommend the Michael Rosenblum five-shot sequence which has been used to train reporters at the BBC, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. A random Twitter search shows multimedia educators in Britain and the U.S. talking about the same method today. 
  8. The five-shot sequence shooting is fairly straightforward. 1) The What: Get a close-up of hands. 2) The Who: A close-up on the face 3) The Where:  A wide shot. 4) The How: An over-the-shoulder shot for point of view. 5) The What Else: An unusual shot which gives context and narrative. The sequence and some tips for interviewing is included in this next link from Andrew Lih.
  9. Andrew Lih says to remember to stick to the basics:
    - One concept per shot: treat the camera like a still camera: no moves, pans, zooms
    - Hold each shot for 10 seconds
    - More closeups! Especially for web video where the image is small
    - Get good clean audio for the interview
  10. STEP #4: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SOUND
    This might sound counter-intuitive but poor audio can ruin videos. One student learned that to his cost when an otherwise perfect video interview with a baseball great was marred by the white noise from a nearby vending machine. Make sure your audio is as clean as can be. That was another problem in my Obama video. I needed more volume from the President and less from the noisy folks from Chicago! 

  11. Journalism experts say that audio can be as much as 70 percent of video. So make sure you pay attention to the sound. The Transom.org is a great resource for all things audio as is "This American Life" host Ira Glass. 
  12. Ira Glass on Storytelling, part 1 of 4
  13. STEP #5: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PICTURES
  14. Is there something happening in your video? Is there something that makes the story substantially different from an audio report. Try this experiment. Call up a story on YouTube and try listening to it with the video off. If you can figure out what's going on without the pictures, it's a waste of video. 

    Pierre Kattar at the Washington Post says video journalism need to be able to answer the question: "Is there something happening here?" Kattar, like Ira Glass, says the best thing a journalist can do is practice. Keep making videos. See what works. 


  15. Telling true stories with video, Part 1
  16. Extra resources: 
  17. How to get your first storyboard together
  18. Five tips for basic web video interviews
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