10 Tips for Journalism Students: Creating Great Video Profiles (@KaiminNews @BradyMoore)

I recently came across a video journalism series produced by The Montana Kaimin at the University of Montana that is worth emulating or using as inspiration: “1 in 15,000,” a regular video profile of individual students at UM who are doing interesting (not necessarily extraordinary) things.

Here are two excellent “1 in 15,000” examples, both put together by Kaimin staffer Brady Moore.

Below are the top 10 reasons I like these student video profiles, and what you can learn from them while embarking on similar packages of your own:

1) They focus on a single aspect, passion or project of the people profiled, cutting out irrelevant bio info or life history clutter that often only drown out or waylay the good stuff.  The video profiles with the most verve stick to the most fascinating news hook from start to finish.

2) In vid #1 at least, the main interview with the subject is presented in a nice, natural setting with real depth of field.  It provides the eye with a bit of wonder to behold without stealing too much attention from the profilee.

3) They give their subjects some visual space, without losing sound quality or a sense of intimacy.  Too many video profiles favor uber-close-ups that squash the subject’s face into the frame, unattractively showing every pimple and wrinkle.  (Yes, vid #2 does veer into “OK, now smile for your yearbook photo” territory.)

4) They show some reporting legwork, interspersing the main sitdown interviews with a few shots of the subjects in action and the contributions to the world they are discussing.  It’s a nice break from the most oft-repeated video profile MO: a steady shot of a single drawn-out conversation with someone, edited linearly simply to cut out extraneous chunks.  The problem with that: The resulting package looks more like a hostage video than a profile.  DO NOT MAKE HOSTAGE VIDEOS. :)

5) They mix video and still images quite effectively and mesh the transitions between them seamlessly with the audio.

6) They boast a definite presentation style, in this case one I’m calling old-school quiet.  The black & white scheme, fixed shots, and gentle audio aura each stand out and complement each other.  Importantly, these choices don’t overwhelm or distract from those being profiled, but they still represent a particular vision and at least the perception of real forethought into what the reporter wanted to get across.  Just as you consider how you want to arrange words for a story after you gather the facts, spend time brainstorming about the presentation elements and overall style best suited for the video profile you’re producing.

7) In vid #2 at least, the subject is introduced in an engaging way— the sound of a blaring trombone overlaid with the student smilingly delivering the quote teaser, “Even the bad times, I have it great.”

8) The subjects come across as human, not nervous, wide-eyed interviewees stiltedly or animatronically answering questions.  That accomplishment seems to be tied to the reporter’s decision to singularly focus on topics the students care about a great deal and can speak about with ease.  It is also an offshoot of the pre-recording reporting that enabled on-point questions to be asked.  My favorite part of either video: the end of vid #2, when the student begins singing and then smiles thin-lipped, seemingly at the reporter, as if to say, “OK, well there you have it, that’s me.” :)  Always aim to report so thoroughly and interact with your subjects so engagingly that similar smiles show up on their faces.

9) They follow the rule of thirds in respect to their subjects’ positioning in the frame.  And they avoid what I call the “awkward camera staredown,” instead having the subjects look slightly away from the lens, ostensibly at the reporter asking questions.

10) They are short (maybe, maybe a tad too short) in length.  I do wish I could have learned just a tiny bit more about the first student’s art project (she actually slept in the museum or wherever this was staged?!) and the second student’s barbershop quartet participation.  But for these type of packages– what I call “glimpse vids”– brief trumps bloated in my book.

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