Video is an increasingly easy and effective tool for use by young journalists. The tools for shooting and editing video are well within reach of individuals and news organization, even within high schools. The job of the instructor is to give the students some basics about how video is used in journalism and to allow them the opportunity to practice these principles.
Television gathers large audiences and delivers news immediately.
There is nothing slow, backward, shy or retiring about television. People who work in the medium will tell you that television journalism is the most exciting work that a person can do.
Television can make stars out of journalists. These journalist become well known and recognized by local audiences. Even people who work behind the camera and never appear on the air gain the attention and respect of people who watch their station for news and information.
Part of the price for this fame, attention and audience is the daily pressurized atmosphere of television. Every day, television journalists hit the ground running and aim for the deadline of the evening news. It is always a race against time, against competitors and against those who might want to prevent you from getting the news.
Television as we know it developed in the late 1940s. Its predecessor was radio, which had been in operation at that point for about three decades. Companies and organizations that had been broadcasting through radio turned to television because the broadcasting technologies were similar. Consequently, many and the traditions and forms that television first used came directly from the forms that had been developed for radio.
But television turned out to be something quite different from radio. Television uses moving pictures – video – and this turned out to have very different qualities from just sound. Video could be handled in a variety of ways that the pioneers of television news did not recognize. If you have a chance to watch any early television news broadcasts, you should do so, and you will see some extraordinarily stilted reporting and editing. (Take a look at the ABC coverage of the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963 on YouTube.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDQrp3sllHo and it looks very different from you might see of a major breaking news event today.)
Those methods developed for television news, while still very much in use, are being supplemented by the increasing use of the web for showing video news. The web has, in fact, freed video news from some of the strictures of television. The length of a story or news broadcast is less important now than when video news was produced for over-the-air or cable channels that had to fit within certain time periods.
With the web, more types of video are possible. Interviews are a good example. A traditional news story for broadcast might be able to include just a few sections of an interview with a news source. On the web, however, video clips can be divided and shown separately so that if the web site visitor wants to see 10 minutes of an interview, he or she is free to choose that.
The web is having other effects on the use of video that we will explore in this section.
Most importantly, the web has expanded the opportunities for video news and for those who want to work in this area. It is even possible through web sites such LiveStream.com to produce your own video news show on a regular basis. With a small camera capable of shooting video, you could produce a news program about your school, promote that program and gain an audience.
Thus, students who are interested in pursuing a career in video journalism are no long confined to just television.
Shooting the video
The person holding the camera – the videographer is the professional term – is the story-teller.
The story is in the head of the journalist, who in many cases is the videographer as well as the writer and producer. The camera is simply the tool the journalist/videographer uses to get the story to the viewer.
How does that happen?
Here are some basic things that everyone who uses a video camera should know:
Plan and think. The most important tool is video journalist has is not a camera. It’s the brain. As much as possible, video journalists should find out what information they can about the story they are shooting, who’s involved, where it’s located and what will happen. They should know before they arrive on the scene the people they want to talk with and the kinds of shots they want to make.
In addition, they should also size up a situation quickly, hold the camera up and shoot the interesting things that happen right in front of them. Video journalists should shoot efficiently, but they should err on the side of having too much video rather than too little.
- Framing. The concept of framing simply means understanding what will look good when you turn the camera on and what won’t.One of the rules of framing is to “fill the frame.” That is, when you are shooting, you should not have much “margin” around the subject, if any at all. Generally, the closer you are to the subject, the better your shots and your framing will be.Another concept of framing is to apply the rule of thirds to the video camera. The rule of thirds is an imaginary set of horizontal lines that divide what you see in the viewfinder into three equal parts and an imaginary set of vital lines that do the same thing. Taken together, the picture is divided into nine parts. Seeing the picture divided like this helps in a number of ways. For one, if the picture is of someone’s face, the person’s eyes should be along the top horizontal line. Getting a certer of interest at one of the four points where the lines intersect is also a useful technique.Head room is another term you will hear in a discussion of framing. This refers to the space in a head shot between the top of the head and the top of the picture. Generally, there should be some space for head room, but sometimes filling the picture with the head – or even cutting off the top of the head – may be appropriate for the story.
- Holding the camera. Sometimes you will need to hold the camera. Sometimes you will use a tripod.Whichever you do, you will need to keep the camera steady. If you are holding the camera, this will require practice and getting comfortable with the camera itself. Holding the camera with your elbows against your ribs is one technique for keeping the camera steady. Another is to put your elbows on a stable surface like a table.A tripod solves the problem of making sure the camera is steady, but it also immobilizes the camera so that it can be used in only one spot – or it can be moved along with the tripod.
- Camera angles and shots. Try to get a variety of angles and shots whenever you use your video camera. Used judiciously, different types of shots will make the story more interesting for the viewer. (Check out this page on MediaCollege.com http://www.mediacollege.com/video/shots/ for examples of the different types of shots you can use.)Resist turning the camera so that the picture is angled. This is disorienting for the viewer and quickly becomes irritating, and you are likely to lose viewers if you do this without good reason.
The best way to learn any of this, of course, is to go out and do it. Cover stories, shoot action, interview people. Carry your camera and be ready to use it. As a video journalist, you should follow two basic rules:
Shoot a lot. Get different kinds of shots. Follow the 10-second rule of turning the camera on 10 seconds before you ask the first question and leaving it running for 10 seconds after you finish. (You’ll find you need this space when you edit your video.)
Carry a pen and notebook. Don’t depend on your memory. Write things down, particularly names and titles of people. Take notes during interviews or during shooting if your camera is on a tripod.
Additional readings and links
Alf Hermida, How Online Video is Different.
Mark Johnson, Shooting Video (Digital Literacy series)
Video 101: Shooting Basics (Vimeo)
Video 101: Editing Basics (Vimeo)
Makeuseof: Seven Deadly Sins of Camera Work
Who is the most interesting person you know? What would you want to know from that person if you could only ask them three questions? If you were going to do a video interview with that person, what would be the best setting in which to shoot the video? Give those questions some thought. It may be that your first response to each is not the best one.
Video interview. Have your student interview three of their classmates by asking them all the same question. (When you interview one student, make sure the other two aren’t around.) How similar or different are the answers they give? What does this tell you about interviewing people.
News site management assignments
Embed a video in a news story. Take any news story that is on your site right now. Find a YouTube video that is relevant to the topic. Follow the embedding instructions found on page 15 of the ISONN Administrator’s guide or here on the ICONN site (scroll down to the middle of the page).