Was over on Angela Grant’s News Videographer website this morning reading a post about writing to video. She made some very valid points about building sequences. One comment caught my eye:
It feels like unrelated b-roll shots are being slapped on just to go with the audio tracks. It’s good to an extent, because you do want to be able to show what you’re talking about. However, this audio is controlling the placement of the video so literally that it creates a disjointed visual story. The visuals in themselves are powerful storytellers that can and should exist on the same level as the audio story. It’s okay for the audio to run without the video literally showing everything that the words are saying…
The strength of video is the ability to tell a story on several levels. First, the content – the information you are writing/narrating and what your subjects say. Next the audio – this is different than the content…this is the natural sound, the emotion in the interviews…the real world intruding on your story. While your content may be objective, your audio is subjective. Third are the visuals. The worst stories I’ve seen were perfect audio/video matches. A real example from the late 1970s – story about a poverty-stricken area of Africa. “See the boy in the red shirt (show him) with the flies all over his face (show flies). He is starving (show ribs).” That’s not word for word, but what I remember of a very bad story with audio/video perfectly matched. The beauty of video is you can reach your audience on a conscious level and subconscious level at the same time – tell them something and then show them something to reinforce or even contradict what you are saying.
On to my next point: dump editing. I’ve edited the top/breaking story for a show and set up for a live shot in less than fifteen minutes (thanks to a very supportive live truck engineer).
Example – during the Sund-Carrington missing tourists story near Yosemite in the early 2000’s about an hour before showtime we heard a car had been found along the highway…my reporter and I rushed over the hill from where our satellite truck was positioned and down the highway…got some shots and quickie interview and headed for the truck. The reporter was new to the market and hadn’t worked with experienced photogs and told me she’d just go live – there wouldn’t be time to pull it off. I had her write a track-interview-track-interview quickie package on the road. Immediately after pulling up she cut the audio into the camera…I tossed my sticks up, threw the camera on top and let the engineer to hook it up while I hopped into the truck. I slammed the narration and interviews together and then did the “dump edit.” I’d purposely shot long (:15-:30) shots knowing I’d be in a rush and all I did was set my in/out and covered with one shot. It didn’t matter that the editing wasn’t my best – what mattered was getting information on air. When time is short, know the shortcuts.
In another case during a very intense storm period in San Francisco I was shooting for KTVU with reporter John Fowler. We knew from the moment we got the assignment we’d be in trouble and resorted to standup city. Our goal was to show as much as possible of the storm and how it affected folks and get it live at the top of the show. So we hit several locations and at each location he’d have a short segment of track and I’d either pan to him on location or just shoot the location while he narrated. The most memorable was getting to the Golden Gate Bridge tailgating an ambulance through traffic and then just shooting a telephoto shot of the closed bridge (historic – had only been closed once before in its history due to weather) buckling eight to ten feet up and down. We battled our way back to the live truck…I edited (I think) five or six of the segments together and the audience got the full package treatment without a lot of fancy editing. Just sound and picture.
Editing hint for standups and narration track. It’s a pain to find the beginning of tracks if you’re in a rush, so when you record always begin with “Track one, take (1, 2, whatever), in three two one…” If you preceed each track with this and you make a note of which were the good takes you can find them easily…the countdown of “three, two, one…” right before you begin a track lets you know to set your in point. Often, in a rush I’d just rewind to the last take of each segment.