Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why video stories work VII

Perhaps one of the most gripping pieces I have produced recently was talking to Rachel North.

Gripping has nothing to do with me the producer but the person being interviewed.

There are many technical reasons, as opposed to its creative elements, why video works and it can sometimes be taken for granted.

If you watched Brit TV features in the 80s and 90s there was a huge safety net for why video/TV should always work.

I recall so vividly how at BBC Reportage (1992-93) we would:

  • 1. Bash the phones - searching for stories/ contacts- often sparked by the newspapers.
  • 2. Search approp. contacts and literally write up mini books about what they said.
  • 3. This would be shown to an editor who would drive us into the area she/he felt yielded good SOTs ( sound on tape)
  • 4. Go out and shoot - looking for those same sots.
  • 5. Come back and have secretaries transcribe.

    Point 5 will perhaps bring on the biggest gasp.

    From 8 pages of transcript you'd comb through picking out those vivid sots.

    "So as I looked out of the window I felt a pain. It was sudden, and then I started to bleed. I blacked out and then I'm told I lost all time and when my mum came home and saw me, she took me off to the hospital and there they said I was lucky to be alive, because I had accidently drunk poison that should have killed me. I'm not sure how that happened, but I thought at the time it was just a stomach ache....

    Now circa 92 what might have been edited would have been
    (1)"I felt a pain. It was sudden, and then I started to bleed. I blacked out..

    (3)"I accidently drunk poison that should have killed me"

    With a voice over supplying the bits in between.
    Jane was discovered by her mother x hours later. At the hospital doctors were amazed she was still alive -- insert (2)

    The system worked because the programme had a sizable budget to play with, and accuracy rather than speed was the driving currency. ( though the two are never tradeable)

    But what people said suddenly became interesting in another guise; nuances, choice of words, semantics.

    Pushing Video's sot content
    Yesterday, BBC local news led with an item about the tragic death of a policeman, but started off the piece saying the commander of blah blah police force has sent his condolences..

    Uh! Yes this might be news, but not as the lead in this case when scant knowledge has been said of the event.

    Similarly, journalese e.g hhospitalised, medicalised truck - heard that one yesterday - and "a car has collided with a tree" take on new meaning.

    But I digress.

    Turning over a news report or feature piece in the hustle and bustle of 24news accords no such time luxury, so you learn to drive a live conversation homing in on the good bits, waiting to further explore, and intervening when it goes flat to pick it up again.

    Do all the hard work in the field

    Cutting down time in the news arena before even getting back to the edit is one of the keys to help you unlock Gonzo VJism.

    And added to that the conviction of knowing what your piece is about.

    If you've got the SOT, why waste any more time. Leave. Say thank you.

    I'd pursued a member of parliament all day, and when he agreed to an interview as part of a press corp, I only had two questions for him.

    "Do you intend to resign... why not....."

    He was a bit perplexed: "Is that all!", he quipped.

    I ran all these together.

    I didn't see the point of a fishing expedition asking 30 questions when I only had space for 40".

    Average time of a sot depending on your territory 4-8 secs, 8-15 seconds, 15-25 secs, 25-40 seconds, though clearly if you're in the latter then you're verging on docs.

    Christmas Game

    It's not a bad pasttime game.

    Close your eyes and see if you can pull out the sots of your partner or parent talking to you.

    Nice for Christmas too if your mum can finish a five minute oratory with you staring down at the Christmas pud and still know what she was talking about.

    "That would be Mr Bell, mother... you know Mr Bell, that's who you're talking about..the one with different sized feet"

    Listen out for the dip in intonation (break). That's the edit point.

    Then if you can find any of Margaret Thatcher's old tapes (youtube) try it again.

    Thatcher it was rumoured knew how to control her inflexions so effectively she kept on rising in tone until she finished her point.

    Real bummer to edit as it sounds incomplete and you're forced to take the whole 40 secs.

    So the interview below is an example of a quick knock together video that er works: Rachel North, who survived the tube bomb blast, needed little intervention.

    Let her tell the story - that's the best part of radio as well.

    Animated voice, paints pictures with words, and speaks in 15-25 second chunks.

    Whoops! 30 seconds gone, lets pick up the inflexion to arouse secondary interest.

    Three different cut aways drove the visual narrative.

    Time taken about 10 minutes for the interview in which I originally posted with perhaps one edit.

    Here's part one - 1.40 odd seconds for part's two and three you can find them on here


    Mindy McAdams said...

    Yeah but David those cutaways to the serious-looking reporter (you) standing there are totally lame. So TV news! So fake!

    And what's with that intro with the siren? There was no siren and no yellow police tape the day of the interview. I think you needed either a VO intro or cut that whole bit with the siren, eh?

    She's a great talker, you're right about that.

    Dr David Dunkley Gyimah said...

    Hey Mindy How are yer?

    Cutaways in situ are still the visual construct that drives the visual narrative.

    After what's now been called the Yentob saga, where it was first thought this BBC senior figure inserted himself into his film which he discovered he didn't C/As came in for a bit of a bashing.

    One network even dropped them.

    But as a VJ or TV bod it's still the device that will get you in and out of an interview when there's little picture, plus it brands.

    The looking serious is exactly how I felt listening to her talk about her day - again in situ effect.

    The siren and pictures at the top is the window into the piece. That's both my arc and mis en scene.

    It's a direct reference to the event which she was a part of so visually sets the scene.

    I can see your point, yes there was no siren on the day of the interview, but I know you're not saying don't use archive or create "windows"

    That interview took me about ten minutes to do and just as much to post.

    Time wasn't the factor, but it's what I call "kill what you can eat".

    It's also something I still advocate. I have got a limited time - secs for user attention.

    A V/0 may have worked, but to those unfamiliar with my interviewee, I'll ask myself visually what gets their attention, her or incident.

    I left a response to perhaps this area we're playing in on Andy's blog talking about the various levels of VJ

    VJ for tv e.g. interview with
    Chatham House Director

    VJ for VJ e.g.
    Reuter's Phone story
    and some more that tear up the rule book. e.g. 8 Days.

    There's lots of things about TV News I'm not a fan of - and I have got a lot to say about that.

    Yet the language of TV news or say cinema has some things as a VJ we build upon.

    Personally done well,( and that's a point in itself) the insert construct ( C/A) I believe won't disappear.

    But in the end it ain't about me, gonzo or TV mode. If I feel I can get a user to the end of interview, then job done.