ONLINE VIDEO & VIDEO BLOGGING
Every broadcast journalist today should be multi-skilled. They’re expected to blog online about their stories and record video for online platforms. But when you’re recording content for an online audience, is it different? Are there new considerations for the traditional TV broadcast journalist?
The answer is yes. But first, let’s try to understand why online content is now so important. A survey in the United States revealed that more than half its adult population use the internet to watch or download video and that news is the second most popular online genre after comedy.
So, why is online news content growing in popularity? Here are a few suggestions:
- Viewers can watch news online whenever they want to
- They can share news videos with friends
- They can see eyewitness accounts of a news story, shot by someone on their mobile phone
- Broadband connections are faster and more efficient
- Camera technology is cheaper and easier to use
A new term has entered the vocabulary of the broadcast journalist – citizen journalism. If a member of the public notices a breaking story on their doorstep, they no longer have to wait for a professional camera crew to arrive. They can film it themselves on a smartphone which records video to a good quality. This can then be uploaded to YouTube and eventually end up on a TV news programme. This immediacy is a development that’s been embraced by TV news channels. It helps the viewer feel in the middle of an important news story.
Below is a celebration of citizen journalism on YouTube by Katie Couric, one of the most respected broadcast journalists on US television.
Two areas of particular interest to broadcast journalists are online video and video blogging (aka vlogging)
Online video is watched differently to TV news. It’s seen on a laptop or a mobile phone, often alone, so it’s a more intimate experience. A unique style of online programme-making has emerged which is more experimental and innovative:
- If someone has a personal story to tell, it may be better and more powerful for them to talk straight to camera, with no need for a reporter asking questions at all. Directly addressing the audience like this breaks TV broadcast conventions, but works online because it feels like a one-to-one conversation with the viewer.
- If you’re telling a visual story, an online video journalist can construct the narrative in an observational, verite style with no voiceover. The interview quotes tell the story with the help of powerful b-roll and graphics. The result is a short 4-5mins film in the style of a mini documentary, and a number of newspaper websites are adopting this format for online video.
Below are links to a couple of online films on The Guardian’s website:
TEN TIPS ON SHOOTING ONLINE VIDEO
1) You are shooting for a smaller screen, so you don’t need big wideshots which can lose their intricate detail on a mobile phone. You want plenty of good close-ups instead.
2) Frame your interviews on a close-up or medium close-up.
3) You still need establishers, but not as many. And don’t use zooms, tilts or pans, because camera movement doesn’t always look as effective on a small screen.
4) Broadband quality is steadily improving, so problems caused when footage is compressed when uploaded are lessening. Even so, long dissolves can still corrupt. Better to cut where possible.
5) Definitely use a tripod to keep shots steady.
6) Make titles and graphics BIG so that they can be clearly read on a small screen.
7) Try using a smaller camera for b-roll, even your phone. This will fit with the intimate feel of the medium.
8) But a viewer will not accept shortcuts on sound. They must always be clear on what’s going on, and what interviewees are saying, so use a quality microphone for interviews, voiceovers, PTCs etc. Unlike video, audio isn’t noticeably compressed online, so make use of that.
9) Keep durations short and grab the viewer within the first 10secs, otherwise they could click onto another clip or site.
10) Remember, the audience may not give an online video the same attention as a TV show because they’re often grabbing a chance to view it on a computer at work or on a mobile phone on the move.
As well as including interesting written comment, a broadcast journalist’s blog can also contain audio podcasts and video blogs (vlogs) which are embedded into blogs and websites. Vlogs can exist as YouTube channels as well.
A vlogger talks straight to camera in a conversational style in close-up or medium close-up, and b-roll is used to illustrate the points being made. Rules about how vlogs are shot and edited are evolving. But basically, if it works for your target audience, it’s acceptable. So quick jump cuts can be used to edit a vlog, which would clearly be wrong for TV broadcast.
Film critic Mark Kermode runs a very successful video blog on the BBC website:
To learn more about online journalism as a whole, read this book: