Trigger happy? You're in luck. Christie Nicholson, video producer and contributor to Scientific American, says now is the best time to get involved with online video. People’s TV and online video streaming are soon going to be one and the same, and Web video is growing at a phenomenal pace.
Nicholson and Eric Olson, video and audio editor for Nature Publishing Group, ran a hands-on workshop today on the basics of good video production. After a quick introduction to the basic equipment that a science writer-turned-producer would need, and tips on shooting and interviewing, volunteers from the audience played interviewer and producer. Here are some tips I took away from the session.
Action is key to telling an interesting visual story. Running, jumping, eating, biting. Nicholson's tip for judging good visuals: is the image/video still interesting if you turn the sound off? Take this New York Times video of cuttlefish that they showed us: http://bit.ly/192mY4 See where the cuttlefish bites the scientist? That’s good action. (It would have been neater still, Nicholson says, if they got the creature to bite Zimmer too. More biting, it seems, is key.)
Take time to find characters who speak with emotion. If they talk with their hands, and with their face, that’s a valuable bonus.
Pay attention to sound quality – you only get one shot at recording all your source matter, so keep your headphones on. Stay away from trucks and sirens. Keep out of the wind, and don’t be afraid to stop your interview and start again until your sound quality is just super.
When shooting, make sure the person talking is well lit. Take your time. Avoid windows.
While interviewing, take a few questions to get the interviewee comfortable on camera (Olson says people usually get comfy after three questions). Ask them to repeat the questions in their answers – this makes stitching together the final video easier. (And, don’t forget to sound check!)
When shooting additional footage (b-roll in production parlance) zoom slowly, pan slowly, almost twice as slowly as you’re tempted to.
Finally, when editing, keep it short. Online videos these days typically run for about 2 minutes, Nicholson says. The scripts for video and audio pieces are snappy too. Nicholson, who produces the “60-Second Mind” weekly podcast for Scientific American, said these one-minute pieces don’t typically run longer than 200 words on a page.