She gets students started on video storytelling by following a simple formula.
“Begin and end every story with natural sound,” says Dowling, “include a nat pop in or out of every sound bite.”
Did you get that?
- Begin and end every story with natural sound. Natural sounds are those that occur naturally within your shooting environment. This works best in stories that are rich with natural sound, i.e. a kid’s soccer game or a house fire with firefighters working hard at the scene. However, at times, even traffic noise or people talking can be used as a natural sound break. The trick is to be sure that you gather good natural sounds when you’re in the field, so you have them to use in editing.
- Include a natural sound break or “pop” before or after sound bites. Of course, the natural sound has to be relevant to what the interview is discussing. Natural sound for it’s own sake is seldom compelling.
Dowling has also created a mantra to guide her students when they’re out shooting video.
“Wide, medium, tight, super tight, action, reaction,” says Dowling. “The goal is to capture the moment.”
When people are new to video storytelling, they often do a great job of getting lots of wide and medium shots, but it’s the close-ups and extreme close-ups that draw the audience in. A good rule of thumb is that 50 percent of the video you shoot should be made up of tight and super tight shots.
The reaction shots can be used to tell the audience what the story means. For example, the face of a man shaking his head in disgust after the city council passes a new ordinance is likely to be a useful shot for telling part of that story.
To reinforce these concepts, Dowling asks students to produce packages that focus on something locally produced; the best of their “Made in Montana” pieces air on the local PBS affiliate.
Of course, folks who’ve been producing packages for years will probably frown at the idea of using a formula to tell stories, but for those who are just starting out, you could do much worse than following this path for your first TV packages.
This post was previously published on AdvancingTheStory.com.