Posts Tagged ‘videography’

Video Grammar: Single Camera Technique

Back with more Video Grammar basics for digital journalists!

Reviewing our VG checklist so far:

Next up: developing good shooting technique to facilitate the editing of your visual “statements and sentences,” (a.k.a. the montage).

NOTE: Professional shooting technique assumes the editing of your material later. Plan the shoot, shoot the plan.

So, how does a journalist shoot enough to enhance their story and have enough to edit later? One shot at a time, baby!

It’s called Single Camera Shooting Technique and pro shooters use it to “acquire” all of the shots they will need to edit an appropriate visual statement together later. In VG, framing and composition are visual verbs and nouns, single camera technique is the sentence structure. Single camera technique was developed back in the early days of film and was designed to give directors (and digital journalists!) maximum control, allow for footage to be shot “out of sequence” and facilitated editing. It’s genius in its simplicity which is why it remains a standard shooting convention in film, news, documentaries or any other genre shot using only one camera.

Briefly, here’s how it works: each shot is planned and executed before you start recording. The shooter makes all of the critical aesthetic decisions (exposure, focus, framing/composition and the type of shot – wide shot, close up, medium shot ) ahead of time and then records one shot at a time.

Once each shot is recorded, the shooter repositions the camera for another shot and/or angle. Before each recording, new aesthetic decisions have to be made on the above criteria BEFORE recording each new shot. It’s easy – move, setup the shot, look at the frame, make aesthetic decisions, record, stop, move…repeat.

When done successfully the shooter ends up with a variety of shots, properly framed, in focus and correctly exposed that can be arranged and rearranged in the editing process to tell a great visual story, or as I believe video was intended, to enhance good writing or a killer piece of music!

When it works, it’s a beautiful thing. Like this simple visual story shot by Jamie Stuart of a snow storm.

NEXT TIME: The seven sins of bad shooting technique!

Video Grammar 101: The Basics

Previously, I submitted the notion today’s digital journalist must be as fluent in video grammar as they are in traditional English grammar.

Whether it’s a point and shoot camera, an iPhone, a DSLR or a straight-up video camera, fluency in video grammar in today’s ever-converging journalism industry is a must-have tool in your storytelling toolkit.

Our digital media journalism program starts everyone off with equal parts writing and video aesthetics. We assume every journalist will not only write copy but will also provide editors with appropriate digital still images and video for future stories.

I tell my freshman, don’t envy or fear “the camera.” It’s just another tool to help you tell stories.

So, what are the “nouns and verbs” of basic video grammar? Every journalist armed with a video capable camera should start with a practical understanding of framing and composition. To teach the basics, I turn to a short instructional video for help on basic video aesthetics brought to you by the friendly folks at Digital Juice.

Who? DJ is the leader in royalty free graphics, animations, stock footage, and music for video editing, print & graphic design, presentations and multimedia design, that’s who.

Video and print pros from the largest broadcast networks, magazines and blogs, down to the smallest college media programs use their royalty free “juice!” Our program swears by their stuff because they make us look like a million bucks on a very low budget!

Remember, basic video grammar and creating aesthetically pleasing video like the pros (regardless of the camera you’re using) requires an understanding of:

  • The Rule of Thirds.
  • Don’t Chop the Chin.
  • Compose the nose.
  • Lead them on.
  • Beware of bad backgrounds.

Props to DJ and their great graphics and for even better instructional videos found here!

NEXT TIME: Video Grammar 101 – Single camera technique!

Tim McCarty is an educator and Emmy award-winning videographer. Yet despite all that experience, sometimes his bad video grammar has a pole growing out of his son’s helmet. Reach him by email at


To digital journalists: learning video grammar as important as English grammar

Reporter notebook/pen? Check.

iPhone/iPad/Laptop? (Which double as a digital audio recorder and HD video recorder.) Check.

Pocket dictionary/thesaurus? Check.

A thorough understanding of video grammar to “acquire” the video shots needed to enhance a news event, conduct an on-camera interview or document breaking news for print story enhancement, broadcast and web video?  As they say in television, “Stand by please…”

Being a converged journalist means different things to different people. For some it means,  “I can tweet that.” Or “post” that on Facebook. For others, it means one story shared or linked across multiple traditional and new media platforms.

For me, it means today’s digital journalist must go back to school to learn a whole new language of video grammar to enhance their storytelling skills. In today’s world of new media-based content delivery that includes (some say demands) video, journalist must now become fluent in video grammar.

Some journalists have embraced shooting video like a second language, for others it’s like struggling to learn a foreign language.

According to Wikipedia, Grammar is a set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases and words in any given natural language.”  Given that definition, my definition of video grammar is a set of structural rules that govern the acquisition and composition of shots, types of shots and sequences of shots to visually enhance language. Indeed, video in it’s most effective form – and if acquired using correct technique – is the ultimate storytelling enhancement.

With digital technologies now allowing video cameras of all shapes and sizes to be used, from big (and heavy!) traditional broadcast cameras, to iPhones that shoot full HD video, there’s no excuse for today’s converged journalist not to shoot grammatically perfect video on every story.

NEXT TIME: Video Grammar 101 – The Basics

Tim McCarty is an Emmy award-winning videographer with over 25-years experience. Currently, he is co-chair of the Journalism & Digital Media department at Ashland University. Reach him by email at

Get better video from your digital SLR camera

Quill isn’t just SPJ’s print magazine – it’s a multimedia resource for all journalists. To accompany his Digital Media Toolbox column in the January/February issue, videographer Jeff Achen made this brief training video on getting better video from a digital SLR camera. Enjoy.


Follow Jeff on Twitter, @jeffachen, or e-mail him at And please feel free to share.


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