Sequencing video

On Tuesday, I am running a two-day in-house training on video fundamentals and Final Cut Express for my newspaper’s MoJos, photojournalists, and web producers. I only have three hours each day to get to the point. Trying to use the time wisely and not overwhelm people is paramount for me.

Yesterday, Liz Kishimoto, an assistant photo editor, came up to me holding a shinny new Canon HV-20 HDV video camera. She has never shot video before. Liz is taking my mini workshop to learn how video is produced. I think it is hugely important for department editors to understand the time commitments and challenges of video production. Doing so will help them better manage these new workflows that are now affecting every department.

I gave her a quick tutorial on the camera. We got into a discussion about how still photography and video storytelling are alike and different. When talk turned to sequencing of video, she had a perplexed look on her face. I had just completed a video on how people in wheelchairs have a difficult time getting around in the snow. I showed her the edited video sequences I had assembled for the story. One sequence of a para-transit driver loading and unloading a client in a wheelchair, featured the proverbial wide, medium and tight shots. I tried to explain the concept of compressing time to her. That a video sequence takes something shot in real-time and compresses it, using a variety of shots, into something much shorter. I impressed the importance of how the viewer understands and accepts this time compression, because it has been ingrained in them through years of watching TV and movies.

Liz still had trouble understanding how I got the shots for the wheelchair sequence. Are you turning the camera on and off for each shot?” she asked. Then she asked me to see my raw unedited video.

What she saw in my raw take, finally made sense to her. I had shot the entire sequence without turning the camera off. She saw swishy video of me running to get a shot of the van driving up to the pickup spot. Me, running again, to get a shot of the woman in her wheelchair arriving. She saw me raise the camera and hold that shot for ten seconds, before seeing me run again to get a quick shot of the woman wheeling up to the bus from behind. On it went– run, stop, compose, hold the shot, and then move on to the next. I told Liz, as I am running, I’m thinking about shooting a variety of shots. I showed her how my detail shots helped me later on in the editing. I reinforced how tight detail shots can help you transition from one scene to another. When we were done, Liz had I big smile on her face “I get it now!” she said.

I now get it too. What a great way to show people how to sequence video. I will be showing my raw video on Tuesday.


6 thoughts on “Sequencing video

  1. Training is lacking for everyone…you should tape your sessions for online presentations? check out what is doing now …maybe you could work something out….All of us need what liz needed someone to show them. All newspapers are running on empty in that department….your such a good teacher… expand on it for all to see and learn.

  2. I encourage you to work however is most comfortable for you, but when I shoot, I (usually) start and stop recording when changing shots. This leads to less wasted media, and less time in editing looking for the shot you want. It is also referred to as “editing in the camera.” I can’t give you any hard and fast rules that I have on when I roll constantly, but it’s usually when the action is happening rapidly or the record button is not easy to reach due to the way I’m holding the camera.

    I do see the benefit of constant rolling to show people who are just learning video how to get from one shot to the next. A wise man once told me that shooting well sequenced video is like boxing; stick and move, stick and move.

    I’ve also found that there is nothing like leading someone to that ‘light bulb’ moment when teaching them.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks Oreo,

    You are right about editing in camera. I do that mostly now. But in this case, the sequence happened so fast, hence the all the running, that I just kept the camera in record mode. Your point about editing in camera is so true. The less you have to capture the faster you can start editing. The point I failed to make is by having all the building blocks of a sequence–wide, medium, tight shot in camera, it will be a lot easier to create an effective edit later. I have cut my editing time is half because I am sequencing much better than I was last year.

  4. I think your technique might work however I teach students in my classes to turn the camera off between shots unless they are recording for sound, or if it is a breaking news event where every second counts. I learned to shoot news when the amount of film stock was limited so we had to sequence in the camera. I teach this method to my journalism students for two reasons – so they learn to edit in the camera which saves time in the edit room and so they learn to anticipate what shots they will need to tell their story.

    I think the most important skills to be taught include understanding screen direction, how to shoot to avoid jump cuts and holding the camera steady if you aren’t using a tripod. I recommend using a tripod as much as possible since it is very difficult to hold the smaller cameras steady.

    I also tell students to stand and watch what is happening in their story for a few minutes before they shoot so they can anticipate what sequences they will need to tell the story. Most general news and feature stories involve repetitious action – so there’s plenty of time to turn the camera off, move, zoom in, focus and frame the shot before rolling tape to get that next shot in the sequence.

    I know many a tape editor in the television news business who would disagree with your technique especially when they are editing on deadline. It takes much more time to wade through the zooms, pans, shakes, and other unusable video to get to the good stuff.

    Encourage your staff to shoot plenty of close ups which they can use as cut ins and lots of cutaways to avoid jump cuts and they will be well on their way to producing quality video stories.

  5. I wonder if sequencing has such a prominent role in video 2.0? It gained favor during a period when producers main concern was not confusing the viewer. Today boredom is the rock on which video founders.

  6. Pingback: Question No. 20: “Seriously?” «

Comments are closed.