Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Story is in the Sound

I love taking afternoon naps.  Napping is always one of the items on my "describe your best day" list.  The sluggish feeling always hits me around 2 p.m. and there's nothing I want more than to lie down on my couch, flip a cable news channel on mute (a strange habit, but the television screen is like art on my wall - I glance at at every time I walk by), throw my green blanket over me, and rest.  I just need twenty minutes and I'm good to go again.  But this week, I never felt the post-lunch drowsiness.  Weird, but I know the reason.  I'm pumped about what I'm doing, excited for the rest of the summer and the opportunity to shoot, edit, and narrate really good television stories.  My afternoon lethargy is replaced with thoughts about preparing myself for reporting. I'm focused on something fun and it's an adrenaline rush.
I'm getting to the point now where I'm developing my personal methods of researching, shooting, editing and narrating a story.  I'm constantly tweaking my methods to see which is best, but I'm excited that new ideas are at least flowing.  This week, when I sat down in the edit chair to start piecing together my story, I realized there were several directions I could take the story, several news angles.  I punched my story into iNews, constantly looking at the video and the sounds to confirm that I had video that matched my words.  Once the story was written I started laying the video.  One problem - I did not like the direction the story was taking.  
You probably want to know what the story is.  It's about a couple in Jefferson City, MO who decided to collect clothes to distribute to shelters and individuals who need the clothes.  The news angle is that this couple started collecting these clothes in their garage one month ago, and now their two-car garage is loaded with 4,000 pieces of clothing!  The service is called Right Off Your Back.
   In the first script I wrote I failed to emphasize that the news hook was the amount of clothing the couple received from their community.  I decided to change my entire script to make sure my news angle was clear.  It was frustrating tweaking the script, but while making the corrections, I realized a little trick I'm going to start using from now on - look at video and natural sound first.  This made a huge difference. 
  The bites are usually not a problem because I know which bites I'll use when I leave the interview, but the NAT sounds and video are a different story - I just don't know what NATS are clear and what video is solid until I see and hear them back in the broadcast lab.  So, from this point forward, I'm going through my NAT sounds and my b-roll first thing, as soon as I get back to the lab. I've found that if I use the NATS and video to tell the story, my writing can just connect the dots.  Emphasizing sound and video is nothing new in broadcast, but I have really taken it to heart, because it makes the writing process much easier.  Before I started using this method, I would find myself staring at the blank iNews screen wondering what direction my story should take.  What a waste of time! The story is right in front of me, hidden in the video and the sound that I shot.  I realized that the video and the sound is my most trusted writing guide, leading me to my story's focus.  Video and sound is also a quick way of trimming the story - if I don't have the video and sound, I'm not going to use that piece of information.  This is a great technique for molding a complex story with several news angles into a coherent television story with a 1:15 airtime.  This method is not revolutionary, but it has altered the way I begin writing my stories.

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