What are the biggest flaws most newcomers (and some old timers) make in creating video stories? According to Carol Knopes, director of the Radio Television News Directors Foundation, it’s poor lighting and audio.
The Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins says it is light and sequencing or shots.
Lighting is absolutely key to photography, and it is becoming even more important as people watch video on bigger, sharper screens.
Some of the biggest mistakes I see in beginning photojournalism are too many medium shots, pans and zooms and not enough wide/medium/close-up/super-close-up sequences.
They’re both right – and these deficiencies are easily fixxed. The fix is simple. Be aware. Light…audio…shots/sequencing are all apparent once you really start looking or listening. They’re all right there inside your cranium. Not enough light? Move or add light. Bad audio? Move (closer) or add a mike. Too many similar shots/not enough shots? Get a variety of shots and plenty of them. Tape is cheap. Let me add one more item to this list. Use a tripod.
Now for the reality check. Initially getting it all right is going to take time. You resist using a tripod cause it takes time to set up. In the field you think audio sounds great – you can hear it okay in your headset. And you can see your subject so the light must be fine. Right? WRONG! Don’t rush through your story and cheat your audience. They (and you) deserve your best every single day…every single shot. At first you’ll feel as if you have a weight attached to you. Time…time…time…it takes time to get each of these elements done properly. Time to take out the sticks and set them up. Time to check out the light and move your sticks over a bit to get better light or pull out the stand light and umbrella and find an outlet and light your subject. Time to attach the mike and check audio levels. Time to really look at the story and get more than the obvious shots. Time to see the details that will really impact the audience. Time to think and do it right.
And it’s not over in the field. Now you’re back editing and you have more tape and more choices, cause you shot more than you did before. Your tape looks and sounds cleaner, so you aren’t straining to hear the bad audio that sounded so good in the field and sounds like crap in the quiet of the edit area. Nice. You begin editing and suddenly you realize you can really edit…you’re not just covering words with pictures or putting in a great shot just because you have it. You are creating a visual story with an establishing shot and details. You start getting excited and then look at the clock…and deadline time is coming up fast.
At some point all of this will click. Tossing up your sticks will be as effortless as turning the camera on. You’ll always keep the tripod plate attached to the bottom of your camera for quick and easy mounting. You’ll look at light as you enter a room and automaticaly set up in the best area…or put up your reflector or light/umbrella without thinking. At the same time you’ll have the mike out ready to clip on to the interview subject. While you’re shooting the interview, you’ll be visualizing your shots for cover. With time, all of this will become so natural and effortless you will forget you never did it before…and once again, you’ll be concentrating on what is most important: telling the story (thanks Student Television Network for the motto).