In television news you quickly learn what makes a good video story and what should be information put in a script for the news anchors to read.
Video stories have become a vital part of online and newspaper multimedia reports, but not every story should be turned into a video report. I thought I’d ask three television news videographers to help us in our quest to figure out what makes a good video story and when should it only remain a story in print.
Chuck Denton is a multiple Emmy Award-winning news videographer based near Los Angeles. He has 23 years of experience and has been a long time freelancer for CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN. He’s also won awards for his video editing.
Bonnie Gonzalez works as a one-man-band for an Austin television station. She’s been a reporter/videographer for more than five years, and admits doing it all has taught her to be creative and resourceful.
Jim Kent is another news videographer with a long resume. Jim has 10 Emmys and has been awarded Region 10 Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association. Jim has more than 20 years experience and has freelanced for Fox and ABC. He owns his own company in Phoenix called ArtGecko Productions.
What do you look for in a good video story?
Chuck: Are there “visual” elements to help tell the story? Covering a city council or school board meeting can be a snoozer to watch unless you can use video to help illustrate the issue. Sometimes local news covers a crime and has no crime scene video from the night before. It can be a challenge. Are the interviews dynamic? Are they compelling enough to keep folks interested in tuning in?
Bonnie: Is there action and lots of nat sound or natural sound? That’s the sound you hear within a story that really pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re there. For example, say I was doing a story on fishing. I’d want to pick up the sounds of splashes, the reel, a fisherman’s laughs or groans, and place a lot of emphasis on those sounds in the story. Watch a story with a lot of nat sound versus one without, and you can really tell a difference.
When do you know it’s just a good print story and not really a good video story?
Chuck: It’s a good print story when there’s no real video to use or shoot to tell the story. Meetings come to mind!
Jim: TV is a visual medium, that’s a given. I believe a great still shot and a well written print story can’t be beat when the story is complicated and complex, and can’t be told in a minute and half in video.
How important is it to have good characters?
Chuck: Having good characters is always a plus, but boring interviews can be offset by compelling video and by keeping the sound bites short.
Bonnie: If you have an interesting character, viewers are going to pay attention. Journalists tend to look towards people who are energetic, emotional, etc.
Jim: What do we all remember about our favorite stories? Is it the well written copy or is it that great opening or closing shot? Most likely it was that fantastic character that led us through the story. People relate to people, not reporters, besides we all know reporters aren’t people, right? Just kidding.
How important is it to have good sound bites and action?
Chuck: Great sound bites can portray emotion and incredible context of the situation/story you are trying to tell; a grieving family member, a witness to a crime, a victim of a scam, someone well-known who may say something outrageous or out of character. How many times have stories been made for television, because we have terrific home or surveillance video?
Bonnie: If there’s no action how interesting of a story is it going to be? I once did a story on the housing market. My video was only different shots of houses and my interviews. Not too exciting is it? Maybe I could’ve connected with a realtor and got video of a person showing a house otherwise it was a better print story.
Jim: I never stop shooting until I know I have great sound to tell the story. It’s that important.
Here are some examples of their work:
Chuck’s stories on CBS Evening News “Going with the Grain” and “Fallen Hero’s Story Inspires.” You can contact Chuck at email@example.com
Bonnie’s story on News8 Austin “Prehistoric Mammoths Debut in Waco” and “Junior Chefs Shine in Temple Culinary Class.” Bonnie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim was one of the videographers on ABC’s 20/20 report “Revenge Against A Religious Sect.” Jim can be contacted at email@example.com
Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy Award winning freelance multimedia reporter in Dallas. She produces videos, digital slide-shows along with her reports. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org