For the third installment of the Digital Video Accelerator Program in Brazil, the Facebook Journalism Project welcomed Bill Shepherd, production editor at The Guardian and The Observer, to discuss the role planning plays in video production. Developed in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), these sessions provide global news producers with a clear, detailed roadmap on how to use Facebook to enhance business objectives. 20 publishers attended this session held on May 13 in São Paulo, Brazil.
Shepherd, who also serves as a member of the Guild of Television Camera Professionals, covered the following aspects of video production and their importance in creating strong journalism:
- Framing / photography
- Audio capture
- Story development
“Mobile journalism requires good framework, good sound, and good lighting,” Shepherd said. “And pre-production is just as important [as production]. There’s nothing worse than getting to a shoot without first figuring out what you have to do.”
Planning Makes Perfect
Before filming, Shepherd encourages videographers to create an initial list of the shots they want and to picture them in their head. It can also be helpful to fully outline the story they want to tell on paper and share it with editors so they can also understand how the pieces will fit together.
“I visualize the story that I would like to film, exactly as I want,” Shepherd told the audience. “I draw the shots I want to make as a template, and in the end, you know exactly what to record.”
Shepherd offered the following seven tips for framing videos and photographs:
- For websites, capture images and videos in a horizontal format. For photos, use 16 x 9 landscape format.
- For social media, shoot in square mode or vertical; Upload in 1080p.
- When shooting with your smartphone in your right hand, keep the subject on the right side of the screen (and vice versa).
- Divide the frame vertically and position the interviewee in one half looking at the empty space of the other half. Frame the interviewee at the top or side of the frame – this will help make a two-dimensional image look like a three-dimensional image.
- Hold the smartphone at the interviewee’s eye line and frame the subject’s eyes to a third of the top.
- Use leading lines to emphasize and create a sense of action and keep in mind that vertical lines are more powerful than horizontals.
- When shooting, lock focus on your smartphone (with the camera steady, hold your finger in focus for two seconds).
When it comes to shot format, it’s also crucial to factor in the six basic questions of storytelling:
- To shoot “who:” Choose a close-up.
- To shoot “what:” Choose an over-the-shoulder shot.
- To shoot “when:” Choose a big close-up.
- To shoot “where:” Choose a wide shot.
- To shoot “why:” Choose a piece-to-camera (presenter talks directly to the audience through the camera).
- To shoot “how:” Choose a medium shot.
“Once we have these answers, we can decide the location for filming,” Shepherd added.
Lighting is Everything
Framing and the quality of the shot matter little if the audience can’t properly see the action. As Shepherd reiterated, “You must always ask yourself ‘What am I going to see?… Remember, this is visual journalism.”
In order to ensure your subject has been set in proper lighting, take these six steps into consideration:
- Position the subject where there is more light.
- Use natural light for a better quality image.
- Do not use your smartphone against the sun or the bright light.
- Take advantage of the contrast of shadow and light (dark side and light side). The camera favors the dark side, so hold the smartphone on the same side as the shadow side of the interviewee.
- Position the interviewee slightly away from the light to model their face using the shadows.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Prior to filming, it’s paramount to consider the duration of the shot. Whether the video is 30 seconds, 90 seconds, or longer, the videographer needs to factor in possible noise disruptions before pressing record.
“You can record in excess or work too hard for what you need, so work efficiently,” Shepherd said. “After all, it’s your time. The more you plan, the better. You have more room to be creative.”
Shepherd emphasized the following six tips to ensure sound quality remains pristine (or close to it):
- Be aware of microphone sensitivity levels and background sound.
- Listen carefully before proceeding with the recording.
- Use headphones to monitor the sound. But in a hostile environment, it may be best not to use headphones.
- Utilize a sound damper for recordings in places with a lot of wind.
- Turn off electrical equipment (such as air conditioning).
- Avoid interviews in public places with a lot of noise, unless it is relevant to the story.
Strong Characters Drive Your Narrative
The best stories are told through one’s own experience. They are informal, intimate, and provoke an emotional response. However, alluring visuals and attractive framing aren’t enough to create a great story. You also need an enticing character.
“I know people who have fantastic stories, but can the character clearly articulate it on video?” Shepherd said. “I’ve done stories where the character could talk on the phone but not [on film], so make sure the person can really tell the story.”
There’s a Journalist in All of Us
In today’s shifting media climate, anyone can be a news producer – and smartphones can serve as the camera.
“These small devices work very well,” Shepherd said. “This for me has everything to do with speed, to make the report as fast as possible. You have to shoot, edit, and publish, and smartphones work [for all those functions]. They’re ideal for quick interviews, provide more intimate recordings, and allow you to film reports wherever you are.”
The Video Accelerator Program
The Facebook Journalism Project’s Video Accelerator Programs are designed to help news publishers create excellent video and build sustainable business models from that work. Funded and organized by The Facebook Journalism Project in collaboration with The International Center for Journalists, the program includes hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans and coaching from industry experts. Catch up on all the lessons from the Video Accelerator here.
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