Back in 2009, I came across a series of posts by Mindy McAdams, an online journalism instructor. One of the posts in the series, “Tell a good story with images and sound,” has some great tips for deciding whether your story is interesting enough to support an audio or video medium.
I list a series of her tips below, but I’ve also included a chart that she designed showing the energy level of a story. (She talks mostly about photo slideshows with audio in her article, but the principles work for video too.)
McAdams is a big proponent of deciding what message you want to communicate about the story before you go in. Once you have that message figured out, make it your mission to gather the resources you need to tell the story. A storyboard might help, but any kind of planning would be better than no planning at all.
She is also a big supporter of figuring out your opening and closing before you decide on the middle of the story. The strongest slideshows and video stories she has seen start out direct and to-the-point. That hooks a viewer. Then, the story needs to move toward a satisfying and worthwhile conclusion. That way, even if the thing wavers a bit in the middle, the viewer will probably say with the video for the duration.
- Shoot a lot of photos or video to capture the ambiance of the location, more than you think you need.
- Consider the interview a dress-rehearsal for the on-camera or on-mic interview. This means re-asking some of the important questions from the interview, the questions whose answers will drive your story.
- Let the subject know you’re recording and why you’re asking questions over again, but don’t tell them how to say things.
- Don’t record too much audio; it just makes a lot of extra work in the editing bay later.
- Do the math. For example, if your video is going to be 120 seconds long and you want to interview six people and use them evenly, that means you need no more than 30 seconds of video per person. That might mean asking each subject only one or two questions per interview to get what you need.
- For audio production only, gather as much background noise as you can. You may wind up needing it during the editing process. Try to get at least a solid minute of the “silent” room.
- Editing is a repetitive process. Know that going in.
- McAdams suggests deciding on the opening and closing of your piece first, then filling out the middle of the piece.
- She further suggests filling out the middle of your piece with photos that show a good mix of angles and distances to improve the pacing of your piece.
She has other tips too. Read them here. Her whole series on multimedia journalism (12 posts long at this point) is linked below. I’ll be writing in more detail on at least one more of her posts, the one that has to do with video.
- Read blogs and use RSS
- Start a blog
- Buy an audio recorder and learn to use it
- Start editing audio
- Listen to podcasts
- Post an interview (or podcast) on your blog
- Learn how to shoot decent photos
- Learn how to crop, tone, and optimize photos
- Add photos to your blog
- Learn to use Soundslides
- Tell a good story with images and sound
- Learn to shoot video