Visual storytelling secrets

Okay, there’s really only one secret. Award-winning photojournalist John Gross of KSTP-TV in Minneapolis says it’s pretty basic, and once you know it, you just have to make sure you get it every time.

Gross believes the closing shot is the most important shot in any story.  It’s the information the viewer will take home, so it should be the best video you have. “Work on your closing shot more than any other shot,” he advises, “and don’t leave until you have a good closing shot.”

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9 Comments

  1. But this is a visual story right? And you followed none of the rules he lists. Do these rules really apply to web video?

  2. The great thing about web video is it doesn’t need to follow all the rules. But some old rules are die hard. Like Gross says sequencing is the secret – it tells stories without words, on TV, on web.
    Also tight shots are even more important for web video in my opinion, because the screen is so much smaller.

  3. Good question! I’d argue the video in this post is not a story but a sound bite, so the “rules” don’t apply. That said, there are differing opinions about whether Gross’s tips on visual storytelling should be followed when shooting Web videos. My own view is, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Raw video can be very effective on the Web. So can extended sound bites. But if your goal is to tell a visual story, it seems to me that you need sequences, whatever the medium.

  4. Deborah – John Gross lays out a set of rules that he uses to shoot TV news stories, which you recommend shooters follow “every time.” But then you continue that these rules don’t apply to “extended soundbites” or “raw footage”. All footage starts out raw – and much of it as sound-bites.

    If you want to put traditional TV news on the web – then follow traditional TV rules. Will it work? So far the answer is a resounding and unequivocal NO. Producing video for viewers vegging out on a sofa is very different to producing video for surfers hunched over a monitor.

  5. Interesting responses. The sequencing I was talking about… wide, medium, tight was taught at the first NPPA workshop 50 years ago and applies today in tv news. Just watch the NPPA national winners at Poynter.org, or b roll net. Turn down the sound and look for the visual story telling. It can also be found in movies, and commercials. I was impressed with Deborah’s presentation at an NPPA event in Washington DC about the web and what is put on nowadays. I’d love to see some examples and
    if I can help in any way, I will. And if I can’t, I’m
    friends with former NPPA national still photographer
    of the year Jim Gerhz, and a couple former national
    class TV photographers who are now working at
    newspapers….maybe they can help. If you want to
    send me some of your soundbites or stories I’ll
    be happy to watch and give you constructive feedback.
    John Gross jgross@kstp.com.

  6. I agree 100% John. But do the same guidelines apply to web video in 2009? There is no definitive answer, but looking at an organization like the BBC which serves video on both TV and the web, they promote 2 very different styles of video for the different mediums.

  7. Pingback: John Gross at NSC | b-roll.net

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