On The Road to making better video….
When we train VJs now, we train them to work in very different ways.
One of the ways we differ is that we teach them to lay in all the pictures first on the timeline, then the audio and lastly to write the narration.
We want their work to be picture stories first, as opposed to being led by the narration.
Most television news in the US is made the other way. A script is written, and then the ‘talent’ goes into a record booth and records the narration track from a written script.
The narration track is then laid down, sound bites included, and once the narrative audio is complete, pictures are wallpapered over the narration.
This makes for scripts that are chock full of information but often hard to follow
We like to work the other way around.
We like to lay in all the video, then the sound bites, and then have the VJ narrate (as opposed to write) the narration directly onto the laptop while watching the video go by. They are, essentially, storytelling to the pictures in real time.
I learned this way of working a long time ago, when I was a producer for Charles Kuralt at CBS News.
I had cut my teeth making docs at PBS in NY, and I was used to working the other way around.
When I had my first story to do with Kuralt, I prepared a written script as usual and booked a record booth for him to lay in the narration track.
He never showed.
I called him.
He told me just to cut the piece and leave spaces for the narration.
You mean, you don’t want to record the narration? How am I going to deliver the piece?
Just cut the piece and leave spaces for the narration, he told me. And make sure I have a copy of the script.
I was sure we were headed for disaster and my new job with CBS News would soon be over.
The show was broadcast live on Sunday mornings, so I went over W 57th Street to watch what I was sure was a misunderstanding for which I would be blamed.
I sat in the corner and watched as he delivered the throw from his stool and the tape began to roll.
Then he lit up a cigarette, watched the monitor, and proceeded to read my copy to the pictures as they went out live.
His timing was impeccable. But I could also see that instead of reading a script he was talking to the audience as he and they watched the pictures.
It was the real way to turn video into compelling storytelling.
And it worked.
So now we do the same thing with our VJs.
Assemble the pictures, then tell the story they tell as you and the viewers watch the pictures go by.