So what do I usually go through when I get a story from concept to completion? Well, it all starts with the production stage.
Production starts when I receive story ideas from various sources: press releases, e-mails, newspapers, community members, online sources, even twitter and facebook. In my opinion anything can be turned into a story and each one of us has their own unique story to tell, so the sky is the limit when it comes to story ideas. I don't usually worry if a story has been done before because everyone's got their own style and angle on a subject, so that's never been a barrier for me.
I truly enjoy doing stories about people who are making a difference in their community Even though some might say profile stories are very hard to do because it's difficult for the viewer to relate to the profiled person, I really enjoy that challenge. The challenge I face is to summarize someone's life in 3 minutes and make them look interesting enough for viewers so they don't turn the channel.
News stories are always the easiest ones to produce because they're straight forward, i.e a fire broke out here, a crime was committed there, a riot broke out in Vancouver, and so forth. This is the type you mostly see on TV stations like Global, CTV, CBC, and CHEK. Sometimes we do cover those events on our station, but we try to take it from the angle of 'How's this event affecting the people involved and the public at large'.
So for the purposes of this blog I will use a story I worked on last week about the Caves at Horn Lake as my example. It's a story I'm using as part of our 'Big Summer' series where we feature places in our hometowns. It's sort of a 'touristy' story, but with a 'human interest' twist. While talking about the caves I profiled a cave guide and got him to describe how majestic the caves are, and the story was great (will post that one on my blog soon). Remember, there are no concrete rules on how things are done here, which is one of the things I really love about this job; you can be as creative as you like (with limits of course).
To get in touch with someone from Horn Lake I googled their website, went to the contacts page and called. I do find that phoning is a little more effective than e-mailing in certain cases because 90% of the time you get that immediate 'human contact'. Even if that is just an 'intermediary' they may lead you to the right person for your interview. Sometimes it can be challenging when websites only have e-mail addresses, so then you send out an email saying who you are, where you're from and the story you want to work on with them. I would say that 98% of the time I had positive responses from people when I ask them for an interview, but there are a few instances when I get the phone hung up on me b/c of a shy person, or someone who's not a fan of the media.
One of the major things you have to worry about as a VJ is the technical quality of your b-roll and interviews (in television terms b-roll means visuals). To get something on air it has to both look and sound good. And even thought that might sound easier said than done, there are some tricks that you can do to make sure your video looks professional.
We will talk about equipment at a later post, but for now you'll need to know that having a tripod is very important in making your pans and zooms look steady and clean. Also, having clean audio is VITAL! It can make or break your video, so a good mic is a necessity. We'll talk about audio in more depth at a later date. Two main techniques that are good to practice while shooting are 'sequencing' and 'white balancing':
Remember a scene from your favorite movie? Do you notice they never stick to the same shot for longer than 3-5 seconds? Well, sequencing basically means getting different shots of the same scene from a variety of angles and distances. Here are some of the most common types of shots taken:
Close ups = when you get a real close shot of someone/something ex. hands doing something, eyes/glasses, feet tapping
Medium shot= a shot of a person taken from the waist up - most interview shots are done that way
Two shot = a shot that has two people in it/ two subjects
Full shot = a shot of a person from head to toe
Wide shot = also called an establishing shot. It's a shot of the action done in full
It's nice to shoot in sequences because that will make it easier when you edit. If you're talking about a person who enjoys gardening, you'll see shots of their hand watering a plant, a medium & a wide shot of that same scene, a close up of their face smelling a flower, and so forth. It makes the story more interesting visually instead of having one long shot the whole story because we're humans, and we get bored of looking at the same shot. For examples of the types of shots I'm talking about, watch this story I did a few months ago:
2. White Balancing:
Another big thing to remember while on a shoot is to white balance. Most regular camcorders do this automatically for you, but if you're using a professional video camera you will have to do that yourself. As you change locations during your shoot, you experience different lighting conditions and our eyes are conditioned to adjust to that change in lighting, but cameras aren't. White balancing ensures the camera reads the correct tone of lighting for that particular shoot. Light has different hues (color temperatures) in different situations. Sometimes it looks more orange, sometimes green, and other times it looks more blue. We white balance to get the camera to recognize the right tone or hue of that situation. I guess I consider it to be a calibration of the camera: telling your camera what white looks like at different color temperature situations.