How a solo video journalist learned to create great packages
The packages we've looked at so far were created not by a solo video journalist but by a TV crew
But Jason Witmer is proof that you can create great packages on your own
Jason, a video journalist on the Houston Chronicle's chron.com, told a recent Poynter NewsU seminar on video storytelling that he hd been used to shooting videos in an hour and a half for quick upload to the web.
He used to make videos like this:
But then, videos like this one by Joe Larson showed him what was possible and made him want to develop as a video storyteller:
Larson has used all the elements of good story telling.
In this tale of a very small town which has the only parking meter in 7,200 sq miles, Larson presents a range of characters, he gives a strong sense of place, and he introduces an element of suspense.
First he sketches a place where everyone knows everyone else, where nothing unexpected happens. Only once that is established does he introduce the unexpected element: the parking meter
It’s by no means a big news story, it’s a piece of whimsy, something which we rarely find on UK TV news shows, let alone on the web.
And the video points up one key difference between TV news packages and online video. On TV, with an anchor who can set up the video with clues as to what it contains, you can delay getting to the nub of the story until some way into the video.
On the web viewers expect a quick return: they want the video to get to the point right away.
Or, at least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But when you think of the sort of inconsequential, often amusing, whimsy that is popular on YouTube, we should probably be a little less ready to reject such material as wrong for the web.
There is also a great deal of technical skill in the video. There is effective use of natural sound – the meter being rolled along the pavement, grain pouring into the silo.
Such sounds are used to bring the viewer into the story, and to punctuate the characters' sound bites and narration.
Those sound bites are very natural. You don’t get the sense that the characters in the story are being formally interviewed. Instead, they are allowed to talk naturally, with the result that they give great, often humorous quotes, which bring great character to the story.
So Jason Witmer tried to learn from such video, and he came up with work of his own such as this:
This is a video with a lot of characters. They are all entertaining and often amusing, and Jason’s narration is interwoven skilfully with their sound bites.
Such sound bites can’t be got quickly. Jason says he usually films twice as many people as end up in his edited video.
He says one essential is to know what the focus of the story is as you interview, so you avoid going off at tangents.