Web or television video production is still a constant challenge. Skill, investment, and innovation are key focuses in the daily exercise of producing video content. That’s why the Facebook Journalism Project Video Accelerator Program kicked off on May 6, to spark a series of conversations with leading journalists in the news industry to share experiences and inspire a more organic and high-quality content experience through video.
The Video Accelerator is part of the Facebook Journalism Project and in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting quality journalism around the world. The first Accelerator session focused on the theme of Scriptwriting & Digital Video Narratives, and featured Emmy® Award-winning video journalist and documentary television director, producer, and writer Craig Duff. Specializing in multi-platform storytelling and solo journalism, Duff is a professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in the United States and was responsible for multimedia projects in Time magazine, The New York Times, and CNN and Turner Broadcasting.
Based on his experience within the digital space and his observations of current methods of reporting and production in television and video around the world, Duff addressed the following topics during the Video Accelerator:
- The fundamentals of visual narrative
- Some of the best practices for using video
- How to build a digital media production team
Why Video? Because You Can Show Instead of Tell
“We always have a question. The idea is the curiosity of something. That’s what’s at the heart of what a video can be, what it can do, what it can show, how to help people see, witness, and understand more deeply and feel the video. This is what makes the video stronger. It’s that discovery of witnessing,” said Duff.
According to the journalist, video has many forces — especially with emotion. “You can see the tears, the smile of someone, the relationship between people at the moment. It is also very good to show instead of tell. You feel the intensity of the emotion,” Duff said.
In addition, Duff reinforced that situations and characters help the viewer experience the facts presented in the video first-hand, as exemplified by this video produced by Vox.
Video Styles to Experiment With
Duff presented some of the most widely used video styles today, especially in American and European media organizations. They include:
- Conventional news
- Straightforward explainers
- Short documentary-style
- Hosted series
- On-camera reporting
- Video as a tool for reporting
Duff recommended experimenting with your video style. The video Get clever with your clutter…and these 7 organization hacks!, for example, is one of the most watched on Facebook and received 440 million views a year and a half ago.
“The interesting thing is that it has no language. It is all visual. You don’t have to speak another language to understand the video.” Duff comments.
Whatever the video style, Duff recommended sticking to these video formats:
- Landscape: 1920×1080 (YouTube)
- Square: 1080×1080 (Instagram)
- Portrait: 1080×1920 (Snapchat and Facebook)
- Cinematic: 2.4:1
The Magic of Good Storytelling on Video
The recipe for a video seems simple: find a character, talk about a subject, and add empathy.
“Empathy alone will make things flow,” said Duff. “Empathy is you connecting with the other person, it is understanding. The best documentaries, the best video pieces I’ve ever seen take this understanding: to have the experience of the other and communicate it in an explicit way.”