Video Journalism

Web site of professor Chris Shumway, Grady College of Journalism, University of Georgia

Story Guidelines

Here’s a list of guidelines for producing video stories. It’s a compilation of rules and advice taken from many other pages on this site. Some deal with videography, audio and lighting, others deal with story structure and writing. They’re all good guidelines to follow. In fact, I refer to this list often when grading stories.

Confirm the facts yourself. Don’t copy from other media. Be persistent when tracking down a story.

Tell stories through real people. And tell the audience something about them. 

Shoot b-roll sequences with one good wide shot, a few medium shots, and lots of close-up shots. Move to a new position and repeat the process.

Record natural sound when shooting b-roll. Focus on the audio as much as the video.

Remember: the camera IS the audience. Take the audience INTO the story. Let them see and hear the action from a variety of angles.

Avoid panning, tilting, zooming shots. Hold steady for 10 seconds before and after the pan/tilt/zoom so you’ll have usable shots if the pan/tilt/zoom doesn’t work.

ALWAYS use proper lighting indoors. That means light kits and portable, on-camera lights. No excuse for poor exposure!

DON’T shoot indoor interviews in front of a bright window. The background will be overexposed and your subject will be underexposed.

Use the sun as your key light when shooting outdoors during the day.

The eyes are the window to the soul! Set camera focus on the eyes of your subject.

ALWAYS shoot an OTS shot and a reverse OTS shot after every interview.

Adjust framing during interviews. Use a variety of shots for your main characters’ SOTs. Try to shoot some active interviews (“walking and talking” SOTs).

Open stories with compelling b-roll and nat sound. Give the viewer a reason to keep watching. 

Write to your video. Review footage before writing narration. When editing, lay down narration, then add b-roll that illustrates the narration. Main rule is: Say it, see it.

Write conversationally in the active voice: Short, declarative sentences. 

Use SOTs to reveal the emotions and the unique perspective/experience of your characters

Use your narration to explain the b-roll, provide important facts and add context

Use stand-ups as a transition or as a demonstration (show and tell).

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