Television Broadcasting Tutorial 4


Television sequences are the sentences and paragraphs of visual storytelling. Alongside a tight script, they drive a narrative, informing and entertaining the viewer. In the same way that a script complements what’s seen onscreen, so a sequence illustrates the information in a voiceover. They work in partnership and shouldn’t be created in isolation from each other.

Once a student fully grasps the powerful combination of a strong sequence and an engaging script, they’re well on the way to a successful career in television broadcasting.

So what makes a strong sequence?

Whenever you shoot b-roll, make sure to shoot in sequences. The collection of wideshots, midshots and close-ups are edited together to tell the narrative of your news story. There will be sequences of action with a clear beginning, middle and end.

To shoot a simple sequence of someone carrying out an action, you need three shots:

  • A master shot showing the person doing the activity
  • A shot of the person’s face
  • A close-up of the activity

Your master shot should be wide enough to show all the action taking place. If the action is repeatable, film all the action in the master shot first, then pick it up in close-up afterwards when the viewer will be able to see the person’s face and a closer shot of the activity.

Watch the video at the link below about visual storytelling, which clearly explains the process.

(Btw, what it refers to as ‘crossing the axis’, we have called ‘crossing the line’ in Tutorial 3. They’re different terms for the same thing…)

copyright 2006 Peter Biesterfeld documentary series


1)      Establisher shots:

Establisher shots are important, as they establish the location of the story/interview for the viewer. These are also known as General Views (GVs). When filming an establisher like the exterior of a building, include people leaving or entering the building. It makes a static shot more interesting.

2)       Set-ups:

To establish someone about to be interviewed in a news story, film a set-up sequence of them doing an activity. This can be used to cover voiceover introducing them and explaining their role in the story.

3)       Overlap:

When you are shooting a sequence on a wide, then a close-up, make sure you repeat at least part of the action to give you an overlap that makes it easy to cut from one to the other in the edit.

4)       Continuity:

Keep a close eye on continuity (who did what and in which order, etc) when shooting a sequence involving a number of different shots. A lack of continuity can ruin a sequence.

5)       Clean frames:

Let someone walk out of frame (a clean frame) before picking up the action in a new location. This will help the viewer believe that the action has moved to a new location in your story. Letting your subject exit shot gives you a reason to edit and acts as a visual full stop.

And when you start shooting a sequence, also start with a clean frame and let your subject enter the shot. As you repeat this action on a close-up, start with a clean frame again. These clean frames at the start and end of shots will make it easier to edit your sequence.

6)       A list of shots:

A list of all the images you need to film on location is invaluable, if you have time to make one. This will include establishers, b-roll, cutaways and shots with natural sound. It helps you think through the process of what you need to film and why.

Use a notebook to list ‘must-have’ shots you spot on location also. You can make notes on points of continuity, whether you need to record some background sound to use in the edit, etc…

7)       Shoot more close-ups:

Shoot more close-ups than anything else. These will be useful in the edit because it’s easier to cut from a close-up. Opinion varies on exactly how many more close-ups you should film though. Here are two bits of advice I received as a young producer/director which I’ve always remembered:

  • Experienced cameraman: “Always shoot three times more close-ups than anything else…”
  • Respected Exec Producer: “An average shoot will break down like this: 50percent close-ups, 25percent wideshots and 25percent midshots.”

The main point is the same. Make sure you shoot enough close-ups.

8)       Cutaways:

Good cutaways are essential for the edit as they cut away from the main action and help you paint the edit points in your story. Cutaways can include people watching the main action, etc.

9)       Length of shot:

An average shot in a programme is about 4secs. But when filming, hold a shot for 10secs so you have flexibility in the edit.

10)   Pans, tilts and zooms:

Make sure any pans or tilts you include have a clear start and end point. The end point should be better than the start to give a reason for the movement. Don’t zoom unless absolutely necessary. It doesn’t look good to edit in or out of moving shots, so keep pans, tilts and zooms to a minimum.

Finally, as you get more experienced at filming sequences, you will shoot with the edit in mind. On location, you will imagine how your shots cut together to tell your news story. But in the meantime, this tutorial should help you get started…


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