For the longest time, still photojournalists loved to talk smack about the TV lenslingers that would often get in our shots. But as newspaper photojournalists transition to shooting video, they should realize our TV brethren have something to teach us. The cultures of TV news and newspapers are finally starting to blend. We are both looking to achieve the same things– bring our viewers news and information in the quickest way (form) possible. For newspaper journalists, it means changing newsroom workflows, where deadlines are now and not in the late afternoon.
When I first started shooting video, there weren’t a lot newspaper videojournalists working full-time. I looked for inspiration in TV news stories. I realize that most of what TV news does is not something I or any other newspaper video shooter would want to emulate. Stand-ups and live shots are not for us. But back in the early 90’s, lenslingers of old, were able to do some incredible nat sound pieces. That was before the insultants and producers got a hold of the newscasts and jammed Eleven-Stories-in-Eleven-Minutes into our collective eyeballs. I think too many of us believe, as we’re huddled in our supply closet video editing suites, that we’re actually inventing a new way to tell a video story. The fact is, the cream of the TV shooter crop, has done this for decades. Do a search on You Tube for of any of Charles Kuralt’s On the Road series. He was a master storyteller. In the hay-day of the TV nat sound piece, TV news shooters were able to roam their communities alone, looking for those small stories that rarely got told. The boy hawking lemonade (a classic– anybody have a link to this?) where a wireless mic and a young boy was all that was needed to create TV magic.
Last month, at the Northwest Video Workshop, my co-instructor Kurt Austin of KGW in Portland, Oregon, showed his recent nat-sound pieces. A story on how Nintendo Wii is being used by senior citizens for exercise, and a fun story of a guy who dresses like a clown, blowing a trumpet from a traffic island for morning commuters, reminded me of the nat stories I watched in my youth. Both these pieces connect to viewers in ways the new style of live-shot journalism doesn’t. The sad thing for a talented videojournalist like Austin, is that he only gets to do these type of stories rarely now.
Thankfully, newspapers are picking up the torch for the lost art of the natural sound piece. We are giving it our own spin. What we can learn from TV photojournalists, is how to tell a more effective story. One of the things I, and most every newspaper shooter needs to learn, is how to edit for pacing. Many of our stories wander around, never getting to the point. We fail to edit in the little magic moments and surprises that keep a viewer staying to the end of our masterpieces. We create epics, because we can. We are afraid to use are own voice to objectively narrate our stories. So where do we turn for help?
For me, I like to watch the masters work. Checkout the yearly BOP TV news winners, dissect the edits. Watch closely how a story is paced. Is it frantic or precise? Does it match what is going on in the story? Look at the sequencing of the video. Count how many seconds a b-roll clip stays up. How many of us have used a one-second video clip? Not many I bet. Look for the nat sound pops. That one or two seconds clip where a subject says something profound or the camera focuses on a tight shot with great audio. These make great transitions, but we on the newspaper side rarely use them. Does the narration work? Or does it get in the way?
For other inspiration, check out this Youtube like site for professional storytelling video. There are some gems to dissect and help you improve your editing and storytelling.