All Categories > General 7 replies | Login to post

What do you do before you leave the newsroom?

Rep: 33
Adam Wisneski Aug. 11, 2010, 9:36 a.m. permalink

I'm interested in hearing what the preparation process is for some people. 

When you get a story/assignment, what's the process you go through before you leave the office, as you're driving to the assignment, at the beginning when you get there. Walk me through your process from story assignment to flipping the "on" switch on your camera. 

What kind of planning/ story boarding do you do? What things are you deciding in the car? What about in the first 10 minutes on the scene? What do you look for? When do you decide your focus? 

For this purpose, let's use feature stories and NOT breaking news. 

Rep: 444
Eric Seals Aug. 12, 2010, 9:25 a.m. permalink

Before leaving my home or the newsroom most of the time I'll already have a good grasp of what to expect going in. I find and research the video features I do which really helps me pick and choose what will make the best story and the best visually. Most of the time I'll do a phone pre-interview with the person or meet them ahead of time to talk which helps me get;

A lay of the land about what they do.
How they do it.
How they speak, is it going to be tons of um's, etc, is it going to be challenging getting good sound bites out of them, etc and how I can get around that or be ready for it.
Figuring how what cameras, how many to use (depending on the kind of video feature I'm doing)
Figuring out some camera angles that might require set up ahead of time.

I'll be story boarding in my head as I'm doing the above and on the drive home. Once in awhile, I'll sketch some things out but also make sure that I'm never locked into my ideas, concepts, story or angles in my head or on that paper and be willing to go with the flow and adjust on the fly!

On the way to shoot I don't think about anything, just listen to some good trance, techno music.

I went to the University of Missouri for photojournalism and always remember one of my professors say to us that "The best laid plans in making pictures often head down hill. Don't be afraid leave them there and start the climb back up."  I think about that a lot because seems like I'm always climbing LOL!!  :-)


Rep: 444
Eric Seals Aug. 15, 2010, 8:57 a.m. permalink

Anyone else going to chime in on this? I'm curious as well.

Rep: 141
Colin Mulvany Aug. 15, 2010, 9:40 a.m. permalink

I pretty much do everything in my head. Before I head out, I visualize (storyboard) the story. I try to think about my what opening and ender shots should be.  

If I know I have a shoot the next day, I make sure everything is ready--camera batteries charged, wireless mics have fresh batteries, tripod's in the car!

On the way to the assignment, unlike Eric, I skip the trance music and start to really think about the story I want to tell. What questions do I need to ask of subjects? What would be a great establishing shot? What might make for a good sequence? I remind myself to not be lazy with audio. I tell myself to take the time to wire the subject up properly. I give myself goals to try something new, maybe a creative camera frame, or simply the goal of "You will use a tripod on most shots!" I think about b-roll possibilities and remind myself to sequence, sequence, sequence! I think about intimacy and how I can get my subject to open up. 

I've found that my experience of doing a lot of still photo projects has helped me see "story" a lot clearer. This makes it easy for me to decide if the story is better told with a still photo instead of video.

Rep: 444
Eric Seals Aug. 15, 2010, 9:58 a.m. permalink

I only listen to music on the way to shoot something to clear my mind a bit. 

I've put so much thought going in (the planning, mental story boarding, why I'm doing this piece in the first place and what I want to say) I just want to relax a bit before getting down to business. 
Think of it like football players, their not studying their playbooks in the locker room before playing the game right?? 
There comes a point where you can over think something to death and for me having some "me time" with just music is a good calm before the storm of trying to tell a good story with video and all that goes into it :-)


Rep: 33
Adam Wisneski Aug. 17, 2010, 10:41 a.m. permalink

When I get the idea/assignment for a story, I usually talk with a reporter if there is one. If not, I make a call and talk with the person to find out what they might be up to that day, or that week. Talking to the reporter, I'm trying to focus the idea into a story, and see where they're headed with their ideas. 

Then I schedule an interviews/b-roll events. I'm looking for a two-for, getting and interview and being able to film some b-roll action after. Rarely does it work out so simply. 

Before heading out, I'll spend 15 minutes thinking about what's interesting about this topic and see if I can focus even further. Sometimes I write down some interview questions so that I don't forget. Often, it's not possible for me until I see some things, talk more with subjects, and get into the reporting a little bit. 

On the way there I'm not thinking too much about the story. Just cruising and trying to find the place. 

During shooting and interviewing, I'm constantly trying to stay open to the story. I'm trying to feel what's most interesting here, and let that lead me to focus my shooting on what's really necessary. If my previous rough plan/focus is working, I'm happy. If not, I'm a little panicked. I try as early as possible to define to myself what the story is, in one sentence. 

I have this internal dialogue: 

me: What is your story, Adam?"
me again: ummmm....errrr....It's a story about a foster kid beating the odds, and graduating high school when no one said she would.
me: Ok, so how are you going to SHOW  and TELL that?
me again: I have no idea. 
me: well you better figure it out.
me again: Ok, jeez. Shot of her arranging table decorations, ironing her gown, adjusting her cap, getting her picture taken, ask her about being nervous about the next step ..... etc. 

And then I try to look for telling moments and details that support my focused story. 

After shooting, I panic again that I don't have what I need. Then I make an outline type thingy to help structure. Then I slam a red bull, say a prayer, and edit. 

Rep: 19
David Brooks Aug. 22, 2010, 4:01 p.m. permalink

After reading the above posts, I can only conclude that I have developed some bad habits. I don't do much pre-planning or storyboarding; I don't scout locations before hand; pre-interviews are rare before the actual assignment; I don't usually write my questions down either... but at the same time a lot of this is playing out in my mind. I usually have a good idea of what I will see or at least I think I do and if I don't I will adapt.

Usually, I go into a story with a basic framework of the subject from what is on the assignment sheet, then work it from there. Most of the time at the assignment I will talk to people just to get an idea and if they seem like they'd be good on camera, then I ask them for an interview.

As far as shooting, I approach it like I'm working on a photo-essay but with a video camera- wide, medium, tight, a mix of rack focus low angles, subject interaction, get nat sound, which I forget to do regularly, I'm working on that... but for the most part that is how I approach most feature stories.

Until writing this I hadn't really made a check list. At this point more thought goes into my still assignments than for video.

I definitely need to get a more consistent workflow.

Thanks for getting me thinking!

Rep: 91
Peter Huoppi Aug. 23, 2010, 9:31 a.m. permalink

I try to know as many of the facts as possible. If I'm pressed for time, I can skip over the factual background questions of the interview and get right into the meat of the story.

Adam's point of summarizing the story in one sentence is a great one. It really helps me distill exactly what story I'm trying to tell. Is it just a basic "this happened" story where I just want to give the viewer the experience of being there, or is it something more? If I can't summarize the story in one second, how am I going to make a short, engaging video?

Since we're often using pool equipment here at The Day, I try to imagine what the shooting environment will be. I'm generally a minimalist when it comes to equipment, but I hate to be caught unprepared. In the best case, I'll only need my camera/headphones, the tripod, and a small waist pack.

But depending on what I'm doing, will I need a rain cover? Wireless? Handheld mic? Long XLR cable? Wide angle adapter? Mic stand? Light kit? Multiple cameras?

I do a feature-y series called "Behind the Scenes" with an on-camera reporter. We have to decide where we'll do stand-ups, what locations to shoot, and how to transition from one place to another. One some occasions, we get a pre-tour of the location, figure out where we want to go and what we want to say, so that we can arrive with a basic script and shot lost.

Login to post