Skillset for success…

cropped-200-seamore-bear-intvw-2.jpgBeen doing some gigs with a local producer and on the road we often discuss the woes of the world with slant on video production. She tries to hire local and has worked with seasoned pros and local university students and has seen large gaps in what said students don’t know. So here’s a quick primer on the skillset you need to get started in video…be it production or news.

Attitude. This is one of the top concerns…the know-it-all newbie who has just acquired thousands of dollars worth of book learning but is lacking sadly in essential areas. Coming in to a job with attitude is a killer for the employer. Courteous and humble works oh so much better and will get you a return gig more than likely.

Speaking of schooling…all too often colleges are heavy on theory and light on reality. Skills such as shooting and editing can be taught but they must be fully assimilated in order for them to do any good. What that means is daily use of said skills…not a story or two in a semester. One skims the surface while the other drives knowledge into the very physical core of the student.

And shooting – please don’t go all artsy fartsey and say that you actually wanted the shots to be wavering and shaky because you “don’t do” tripods. Use. A. Tripod. For Every Shot. Until you learn how to glide like an eagle or use a steadicam, stick to the sticks.

Please understand how light works and how to work with light. Know the basic rules of composition…and when to break them. What else? Well – sharp focus and proper exposure.

Audio – just because you THINK you can hear it doesn’t mean it’s good. Use a real plug-in microphone. Not the on-cam mike. Use a headset to make sure you hear good audio. Then play it back as a final assurance you got it clean.

Sequencing. The crown jewel of video. How to tell a story in a series of connected shots…shots that segue and flow into each other when edited.

I can’t believe I’m writing this…everything thus far is so far down the food chain in what a shooter needs to know…but all of these were discussed while heading to a gig earlier today as the producer lamented the lack of skills she is seeing.

Oh – and final word of advice. When you put up your demo reel, keep it short and focused. Three or four minutes at most. (My current demo reel is 3:05.) If you’re bad that will be obvious seconds into the reel – and no producer is gonna sit thru bad for longer than that. If you’re good it takes just the same few seconds…so why ruin it and take the chance the producer may back away. Make sure you show the basics mentioned above: exposure, steady shooting, composition, lighting…

And about your attitude. You are being offered an opportunity when you get a job. Don’t make the person who hires you regret it by treating them poorly.

5 thoughts on “Skillset for success…

  1. Nice reel…and no, the industry too often views shooters/cameramen/VJs as pack mules who work at their bidding. Unfortunate since most cameramen I’ve known are exceptional visualists and thinkers.

  2. Understand that I’m perfectly willing to stop a shoot if there is bad audio or light or anything that interferes with doing it right. Just today we were shooting an interview and I put the brakes on everything until we figured out an audio issue. I’ve stopped shoots mid-way when light shifts or noise levels pick up. Ignoring such issues makes you look worse than interrupting.

  3. Cyndy,

    I love reading your blogposts and find this one to be especially helpful. One of my professors often talks about the skillset that we must have in order to be successful in the broadcast journalism industry and I like that this post went more in depth into those different aspects. I also appreciated your comment about making sure audio and lighting are near perfect during an interview. I have watched interviews where those things were slightly off, and you’re right, those aspects can make or break the interview.
    I have a question in regards to sequencing: do you think it is ever appropriate to start a news story with a standup or should that be saved for the middle of a news package? Also, when it comes to making a demo reel as a journalist, how many news packages and standups should I include in that reel?
    Once again, this post was very helpful and it is a good reminder of how I can constantly be improving myself for my future career.

    Thank you!

  4. Elsie (love that name…it was my mother’s)…thank you.

    Re your questions: standups are generally used as a segue between elements of the story or to explain something you may not have visuals for – or to also demonstrate something to make it clearer to the audience.

    There are no hard answers about when and where to use standups, but (see above) they usually work best in the body of the story. That is not to say that occasionally you can’t use them at the beginning or end. And you are going to run into news directors who insist on standups no matter what, so the ending standup with tag out becomes pretty standard.

    Demo reels…reporter reels are different than shooter or editor reels.

    BTW are you a member yet of the Storytellers facebook page? Please do join…and ask those questions there. There are some amazing members on site, some of the top cameramen and reporters in the country…and they are there to help and support each other and newcomers.

    Realize I’ve been out of the game a number of years…and this blog is more reflective than active. Good luck with the career. It is a real roller coaster ride.

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