Fundamentals of video: Sequencing

Sequences are the foun­da­tion of video sto­ry­telling, writes Colin Mulvany, a mul­ti­me­dia pro­ducer at The Spokesman-Review. “Sequences com­press time in a video story. Without this com­pres­sion, what you’re left with are long video clips that visu­ally bore view­ers to death.”

Rather than show­ing action in real time, show sev­eral estab­lish­ing shots to hint to the viewer of the action tak­ing place. Shoot a vari­ety of wide, tight and medium-range shots and you’ll have some­thing to work with in the edit­ing process and, ulti­mately, some­thing that will effec­tively com­mu­ni­cate a story.

When shoot­ing a sequence you have to antic­i­pate the action. Still pho­to­jour­nal­ists are skilled at this. But if you are a word per­son, it might be a bit for­eign to you. When I’m shoot­ing, I’m always run­ning sce­nar­ios through my mind. I ask­ing myself: Where’s the action headed? Where do I need to posi­tion myself to be in the right spot? What shots do I need to get me from point A to point B?

Mulvany also drills in the con­cept of not mov­ing the cam­era and to hold the shots long enough, at least 10 sec­onds. “Don’t pan or zoom,” he writes. “Just let the action enter or leave the frame.”

The other thing you should remem­ber is to weight your shots to the tight and super tight end of the shoot­ing spec­trum. Tight shots make great tran­si­tions between two wide shots or two medium shots. They pre­vent the infa­mous jump cut (two shots that look the same) that annoy and con­fuse peo­ple view­ing your video.

In addi­tion to pre­vent­ing viewer deaths as a result of bore­dom, using sequenc­ing tech­niques has cut down Mulvany’s edit­ing time.


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