Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Repost From A Previous Semester: When Print Writers Struggle with Video

A couple of you asked me about guidance in making videos better. Here’s a recent post from News Videographer. I looked at the video and didn’t like it, but I didn’t know exactly why. The critique gave me much to think about. But the fact the original video seemed technically sound - at least, to me -   reinforces one of my primary points. Doing good video is not the same as doing a strong print story. In our class, the strong print story is the foundation. I want you to *play* with multimedia in this class, but – unless you have more free time than I do – I want you to concentrate on what this class is about. You will get full credit for spending a few minutes doing a Flickr collection of photos or doing an audio slideshow or doing three minutes of a video interview. If it’s too polished, however, it will not compensate for written work that is not up to par.  I’m grading the writing assignments A through F. The multimedia component of the course is pass/fail.

Video = Visual, emotional. Text = factual

By Angela Grant on Critiques
Dan Telvok of The Free Lance-Star posted his video on the critiques group on Wired Journalists, and he’s already gotten good feedback from the comments on his post. I exchanged messages with him and he expressed an interest in an additional critique on News Videographer. I’m taking a look at his video about a store that sells the “world’s best” hotdogs.
Hot dog store by Dan Telvok
The people who commented on Dan’s post on Wired Journalists brought up an important issue that I agree with. This video includes the wrong content. It has hard, factual information that Dan should have left in his print story.
Don Himsel: Video stories follow very closely along the print story as far as structure and pacing. I can completely understand why. It’s what we know.
Meranda Watling: One thought, however, is the VO seemed almost like a story written with the news dropped between anecdotes.
The video would have been better if Dan focused on showing the store and delivering emotional information. Dan’s print story very effectively delivered the factual information about pending renovations of the hot dog store. Instead of using the video to repeat those facts, use the video to do what the text simply cannot do effectively: Show the store by creating a visual story. Explain the importance of the store to real people by including sound bytes of the emotional thoughts of customers and employees.
Bob Hammerstrom commented on Dan’s post with advice about how to best create the visual story.
… keep the b-roll length to only 2-3 seconds each. Shoot more close ups, medium shots and wide shots, so that you have plenty to choose from. And, alternate them as you build the video. If you have a good variety, you can then do away with the zooms, and make cuts instead.
A past critique, Wide-medium-tight; wide-medium-tight, has more information about shooting sequences. Also check the end for links to two other critiques about the same thing.
In this particular video, everything seemed very far away. We see the employees behind the counter. Instead, go back there and stand two feet away to shoot medium and close shots; show the smiles on their faces as they greet and interact with customers. Go right up to customers making hotdogs and get two feet away. Get inside your subjects’ personal space so that the images you collect feel intimate and show the viewer an inside look that they normally don’t see.
To get the sound bytes of customers and employees explaining their emotional thoughts about the establishment, it’s important to ask the right questions. Don’t ask questions that will elicit factual information (for example, how often they come to the store). Ask questions that get them talking about their feelings. For example, ask them to explain the tastes and sensations of biting into a hotdog. Maybe it’s comfort food for them! Ask them to tell how important the store is in their lives. Maybe they stop by every day and chat with employees, so they feel like they belong there.
Remember: Video is an emotional and visual medium. Text is perfect for delivering the factual information. Because the Internet allows us the luxury of using whatever medium we want for the information that we have to deliver, make smart decisions and use each medium for its strengths.
This is a post from News Videographer.
Video = Visual, emotional. Text = factual
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