What is a “Controlled Shoot”…

You’re never too old to learn…and I picked up a new term this week, thanks to a request for a critique on b-roll. I’m not gonna post the comments made – you can look them up yourself.

Courtesy Okinawa Soba through Creative Commons

But the new term is “controlled shoot.” Or as the cameraman says, aka “staging.”


And as if that weren’t bad enough…it was followed a few days later by a posting titled “Fun staging.”

The CS/controlled shoot video was something I would imagine a lot of camerafolk get trapped into in some way or another. Short on time…there is NOTHING happening visual, and somehow a visual story has to be turned.

So in this case, the photog asked the subject (a marathon runner) to take a run around for the camera. I’m not sure how much CS “controlled” that shoot – if he just shot the guy running or directed each shot. But – as CS admits – it is staging. Which is frowned upon in news because it is not what is actually happening. It is redone/rehashed/done only for the camera.

Now in the case of “Fun staging” the entire video was staged. And I don’t mean asking for something to be repeated for the camera. This was staged as in have people acting out an entire scenario for the camera…shot by shot. As if it were a movie. Not just a step beyond a controlled shoot – but an entire leap into a fantasy world that was created JUST FOR THIS STORY.

Ummmm….can I have a platter of the “good ole days” please?

Addendum: For you students out there – staging is considered unethical because it does not show what really occurred. Every news photog’s dream is to shoot actualities. What really is happening. Here are some examples of staging that are oh so wrong.
Case #1 (this happened way back in the early 70’s) Photog misses an immigration event where a man is arrested by INS. He asks for it to be repeated. So the man is released by INS…runs back to his family, who cries in joy at what they see as his permanent release. INS walks over (camera IS rolling), grabs and handcuffs him and takes him away, to the unhappy cries of the confused family. Great video. A total lie due to staging.
Case #2 (hmmm…think this one is late 70’s) Reporter does controversial interview. Later – AFTER the subject is gone, he tells the cameraman he wants to reshoot a few questions. Loaded questions which were not quite what he asked the subject. In this case the cameraman told the news director and the reporter was fired. Good call by both the photog and ND.
Case #3 Reporter wants to insert a track/question into a story. The question is NOT what he asked the subject. Photog refuses. Reporter argues that subject would agree to this change and calls her. She agrees it is okay, but photog still refuses to do the edit. News director is called in, gets story and SUPPORTS the reporter. Photog offers to quit. Bad call by ND.

The unfortunate truth is that there is a certain amount of staging tolerated in news. Every time you sit someone down, set up lights, hang a mike on them – you are staging. The lights and mike and camera are NOT part of the everyday life of most folks. When a still photog wants to get in super-close to a subject, they tell them to ignore the camera. Guess what? Staging. (Could YOU ignore a camera just inches from YOUR face?) And so it goes. The aim is to avoid obvious staging. This includes everything from the subtle requests to “to it again for the camera” or “wait while I move the camera” to the over the edge completely fabricated and exclusively for our news only shots.

Ethics are not laws written in stone. They are (hopefully) morals seared into the heart of every newsperson, guiding them through a treacherous world of daily deadlines and pressures. And on the days you lose a little, you try to make up by straightening your backbone a bit more for the next day.

I should know. Been there/done that.

2 thoughts on “What is a “Controlled Shoot”…

  1. Interesting that the “Fun staging” photog took his posting down from b-roll after this blog posting went up, while the other is still there. My criticism is open to criticism folks – I am not the critique Nazi and there are times I may be off-base or just plain wrong with my comments. Feel free to challenge me. I love a good argument and don’t always have to win…and besides I learn from listening to others’ points of view. And…as I pointed out above…I have erred and strayed from the path of total righteousness…but also have done my darn best to be honest to both my audience AND my peers. We are, after all, all human.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s