Five tips for gathering better video and sound

By Bob Gould

I teach broadcast news at Michigan State and one day last year I decided to take the students out and shoot a story with the students watching me work. I figured it was much easier to SHOW them as opposed to just telling them. So, the story was about a contest for MSU students to win season tickets to the student basketball section (called, The Izzone, in honor of coach Tom Izzo–they are hard to get). All they had to do was make a halfcourt shot on a makeshift outdoor grass court and the season ticket was theirs.

Here’s the story.

There were several things the students took away from watching me.

1. They couldn’t believe how CLOSE I would get to people and how unfazed the subjects were when I did. They are horrified by getting close ups like this. It’s important to break the perimeter of the story and get fully inside. By doing this you have a better chance of bringing the story home. I use the phrase, “Take me There, Make me Care.” If you stay too far away, it will feel to the viewer as if we are watching from afar.

2. They also didn’t realize how important it was to just start asking questions on camera without first asking them if they would do “an interview.” You will see in the piece that I talk to students in their element and not pulling them aside. Doing this would ruin the heat of the moment.

3. It’s sometimes better to be lucky than good, but you need to know how to use the luck to your advantage and not screw it up. Coach Izzo showed up about halfway through our shoot. I didn’t know he was going to be there. He’s a charismatic guy that connects emotionally with everyone. The event lasted all day, but he happened to arrive during the hour we were there. I used it to my advantage. The students were upset with me, saying that they would never get that lucky.

4. A wireless mic is the best tool in your bag. I can’t stress it enough. I used it along with my shotgun mic to get good clean sound. The students were amazed at how I asked Izzo to put the mic on without hesitation. He asked what we were doing and I said this was a class. He was floored that a class would be doing this. He gladly put the mic on. I told the students that you have to be aggressive in asking people to put the mic on people like that. They are all afraid to ask and I said that the worst thing he would say is no. I got great sound with him with that wireless. I also used the wireless to get good clean nats throughout the shoot.

5. There are two different possible outcomes for this story. One of jubilation if they miss the shot and go away empty handed and one of disappointment when they don’t make it. It doesn’t necessarily matter which you get, because sometimes stories don’t have tidy endings and sometimes the story is better when they DON’T end happy.

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