Video basics

This post was written for an internal blog that I have been keeping for my work and was written for reporters with no video experience:

We all know the basics of what goes into a typical tv news piece:

  • Interview and/or voice over narration
  • Lots and lots of b-roll (footage to lay over interviews/narration)
    • Establishing shot
    • Medium shot
    • Detail shots (anything to do with hands, eyes, mouths talking, etc)

Some general rules of thumb for shooting (Again, these are just rules of thumb, and rules are made to be broken once you have a grasp of them):

  • Use a tripod. Given the small size of our video camera, camera-shake while hand holding is almost guaranteed. Film your interview, establishing and medium shots and some details with the camera on the tripod. No one wants to feel like they are watching the Blair Witch Project. I can barely watch this video by ESPNwith commentators Michael Wilbon and Jon Barry (Apparently the video was so bad, they took it down)
  • Take the camera off of the tripod. I know I just told you to keep it on the tripod. And you should, to gather all of the basic elements of your piece. For a photographer, this is similar to grabbing the shots you know will work in print. For reporters, I imagine it is getting the who, what, where, when and why in a story. Once that is done, you are free to get creative and find that well-composed shot.
  • Change your angles. This applies mostly to when you take the camera off of the tripod. Place it up high, down low, frame your subject by shooting through something. Move back, get close. Try and avoid shooting from the same distance at the same height for each clip.
  • When interviewing, control is key. As we discussed last week during the audio gathering training, you want to have control over your environment when conducting interviews. In the case of video interviews, whenever possible, you want both good sound and good light. Just as in audio gathering, this means moving your subject to a quiet location. As for light, window light works well indoors, shade outdoors.
  • Avoid unnecessary zooming, panning and tilting. The most common culprit is the zoom while filming.
  • Keep your shots static. Related to the last item, compose your shot as if you were taking a still photograph. Let your subject walk into and out of the frame, rather than following him/her around.
  • Storyboard your video ahead of time. Just as you have a list of questions you plan to ask before heading in to an interview, you should have a sense of what shots you want before you start filming. This will be a great help when you are back in the office editing, which is the real time-intensive part of video production. Having to sort through and make clips of five to 10 minutes of footage is far easier than 30 minutes of footage.

Some video examples:


One of my favorite multimedia producers. Katy Newton, and her husband Sean Connelly used to work up in the Bay Area. This ongoing multimedia piece features profiles of people that Katy finds on the Missed Connections area of Craigslist. They also have done a great package for the Oakland Tribune called Not Just a Number, which puts a name, face and, at times, a story, to all of the murders that happen in Oakland and the surrounding area. It is an amazing piece as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *