Ten rules for video journalists

Travis Fox

Everybody likes lists, right? Travis Fox of the Washington Post shared his “10 golden rules” for video journalists at a recent workshop at the University of Miami on creating video narratives.  [Thanks to Chrys Wu for sharing this, as well as another great post, “How to tell a Multimedia Story,” that focuses on audio.]

  • Golden Rule 10: Get “X-roll.” X-roll is when you get your interviewee’s money quotes in their natural environment.
  • Golden Rule 9: Shoot within 180 degrees around a subject. In other words, don’t walk around your subject when interviewing them.
  • Golden Rule 8: Sequence your video with a variety of detail, tight, medium, wide shots as well as cut away shots. 50 percent of shots will be tight, 25 percent medium and 25 percent wide
  • Golden Rule 7: Remember 80:20 ratio (80 percent should be b-roll and 20 percent should be interviews)
  • Golden Rule 6 Get close to the subject when interviewing them for audio purposes
  • Golden Rule 5: Stay quiet when shooting
  • Golden Rule 4: If you do not get the shot, you do not have it.
  • Golden Rule 3: Do not move the camera when shooting (unless you are an advanced videographer)
  • Golden Rule 2: Hold every shot for 10 seconds
  • Golden Rule 1: Wear headphones

Can’t argue with any of them.  Hadn’t heard the term “X-roll” before; in the textbook, we call that “active interviewing.” And I’d amend rule #6 to read, “Get microphone close to the subject.” I do hope you’re not depending on a built-in camera mic to get top quality sound.


3 comments for “Ten rules for video journalists

  1. Captain Obvious
    February 3, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    #6 should have read ( to reduce the wrong-interpretations & confusion )

    “Get the mic close to the subject when interviewing ’em: double distance quadruples quietness”

    to explain clearly What & Why.

    #1 should have read

    “wear closed headphones or in-ear monitors that seal out external sound, so you can hear what is being recorded, including any subtle problems like the sound of the fluorescent lights or fans, or mis-aiming the mic so it drops the treble”

    though an alternative technique that is much cheaper than studio ‘phones is to use your ipod phones, but put good quality earmuffs over ’em, to silence-out the extraneous noise/distraction: costs 1/4th or less of what studio phones cost.

  2. Deborah Potter
    February 4, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Excellent tip, Captain. In addition to being cheaper, ear buds plus earmuffs are a lot easier to carry than clunky, over-the-ear headphones.

  3. Curt Tremper
    February 23, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Nice list it covers all the basics.
    One addition is needed. Try to make the subject comfortable by being as unobtrusive as you can. One way to help is to not begin interviews with the question
    Save that question for last.

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