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Thursday, June 21, 2012
Digital Media Toolbox

Don't forget about the nuance of video

By David Sheets

In the mad rush by journalists to become multilingual in the language of multimedia, a few finer points can get cropped out of the picture. Key among them: nuance. Lacking this, attempts at quality journalism will seem a little less so, to journalists as well as their audiences.

For example, in print journalism, itís crucial to know that most words have many definitions, intended and implied, and the context either way can make the difference between enlightening readers or confusing them. Radio talent understands this, too, and is adept at conveying additional meaning through pronunciation and delivery.

Meanwhile, videography incorporates both sets of nuances and brings another thatís purely visual in scope, something many seasoned journalists are wrestling with as video news-gathering rises in prominence and importance. These nuances do not come bundled with the technology, though; they are, like verbal and audio knowledge, products of wisdom acquired over years of practice and error.

Thus, while itís one thing to know how to use video technology, itís quite another to use it properly and effectively, to bring out a news storyís layers and colors. So, be sure to make room for nuance in video, the better to keep an audience engaged.

Among the nuances that deserve attention:

1. HUMANITY

The more complex a story, the harder it will be to explain all its facets. Thatís why itís more effective to narrow the storyís focus onto one person, one character, who embodies the issue. Pull the audience into that characterís life and explain how this one person fits inside the larger issue. People relate to people better than broad concepts or ideas. Show how the central concept or idea has affected this single character.

2. PERSONALITY

If youíre the one in front of the camera, do not fear the lens, as the audience will see that fear. Look directly into the lens, taking care not to read from cues or prompts. This way, the delivery looks natural, the conversation seems personal, and nothing appears scripted. Audiences also can sense that thereís a script nearby and will be just as distracted in listening to it as you are reading from it.

3. ENERGY

Donít just talk to the lens; show energy and commitment while delivering the message. Bring all that energy to the camera if you want the audience to bring all of its attention in return. When the subject material makes this difficult, it may be easier to also attach a purpose to the delivery, such as getting the audience to laugh or cry or to have it ponder a particular point.

4. BREVITY

Audiences give videographers just seconds to make their case, then only seconds more to explain why audience members should even care. So donít waste the audienceís time or patience. Make the videoís main point in one shot, preferably unedited, because viewers tend to trust clear, straightforward messages to ones that are filled with edits. After that, keep the videoís maximum running time at three to five minutes. Not only does this respect the audienceís time, it reduces the potential for errors in the final product.

5. CLARITY

Speaking of the final product, take care to include only the essential elements in any video clip. The best way to do this is edit out the beginning and end of the clip, where youíre stepping in and out of the frame. Thereís a theory that leaving in the rough edges around a clip makes the end result seem more natural and inviting. But news trumps ďnaturalĒ when it comes to credibility. Stick to using clean clips and resist the urge to ďedit inĒ more than what the clip is saying.

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