This is a standard news package, and at the Pentagon Bureau, we shoot a TON of these. They’re boring as hell, they’re not very visual, and they are usually on topics that one could care less about. As lame as this sounds, I try to approach these things like a challenge: How can I make the coolest, most professional looking product out of this award ceremony/wreath laying/plaque dedication/whatever?
In this package, I opened with a reporter stand up. I really don’t like doing these because I’m a little self-conscious about my delivery. With a story like this, however, there really aren’t enough good visuals to carry the piece, so having me in the beginning takes up a little bit of screen time. I also feel like it gives the piece a little immediacy. I use the present-progressive tense in my lead (“… the Navy IS awarding its top scientists …). By having me on the scene and using the present progressive, I’m trying to give the viewer that “breaking news” feel. Hopefully that adds a little bit of excitement to a boring award ceremony package.
So what’s the workflow for a piece like this? Well, we start planning as soon as we get the tasking to cover the event. Here are the steps we took planning and executing this shoot:
-Get a list of the awardees being recognized. From that list, we isolate one or two of the awardees who have done VISUALLY EXCITING things. Our plan is to interview these folks, and use some B-roll of their visually exciting work to make our package more entertaining. For this event, we chose the Rail Gun team, and another team that didn’t make the final edit.
-Write the script. With an event like this we have time to craft the script, and it usually doesn’t change that much. We think of what soundbites we want from the interviews, then we craft questions to elicit those soundbites. Sometimes we get the predictible soundbites, sometimes we get better ones.
-On the day of the shoot, we brought two cameras to this event. A Sony F350, which is a big broadcast camera that is good for shooting Main Cam (the podium shot for the 1st soundbite of ASN Stackley). We also brought a Canon 7D DSLR. With these events, I end up shooting Cut Cam, but I’m also the official event photographer for grip ‘n grins, so the DSLR is the all-in-one machine that I need to accomplish my mission.
-We set the Main Cam up first, so we are ready to roll when the event starts.
-Then we set up and shoot my stand up with the DSLR.
-After the stand up, my partner, MC2 Alexandra Snyder, goes and finds our interviewee while I re-adjust the camera composition and our lights so the interview doesn’t look exactly like my stand up.
-We shoot the interview. It goes great, and then it’s time for the show to start.
-Snyder operated the Main Cam for this shoot. Main Cam usually stays focused on the podium, or the main action on stage.
-I shot Cut Cam. The cuts are what make my package, so I’m shooting non-stop (plus I’m shooting the still photos for the event). Usually, whoever is shooting cuts is also going to edit the product in post.
Ok, so let’s talk about editing this thing, and how we use Main Cam and Cut Cam to stitch together sequences for the final product.
Right after my stand up, we have a Cut Cam shot of the speaker at the podium. The audio under that shot is still the narration from my stand up. The next shot is the soundbite of the speaker at the podium; this is from Main Cam. This gives us a nice little two-shot sequence. The Cut Cam shot leads the viewer into the soundbite. We get this shot by design. If you notice, the action matches up pretty well from the Cut Cam shot to the podium shot. To make sure the editor can get that matching action, Cut Cam has to capture a full range of the speaker’s motion. He looks left, he looks right, he talks with his hands . I captured that Cut Cam shot for almost a full minute to make sure I would be able to roughly match action with whatever soundbite I used from Main Cam.
“I captured that Cut Cam shot for almost a full minute to make sure I would be able to roughly match action with whatever soundbite I used from Main Cam.”
Rail Gun Sequence
The next sequence is of the audience watching Rail Gun test footage. We got lucky that they played this video at the ceremony. We had already downloaded the video from DVIDS, and we were planning on using it to spice up our package. Since they played the video for the audience, we were able to sequence it. This sequence goes from Main Cam to a shaky, awkward Cut Cam shot, and then we use the actual footage we got from DVIDS.
Next, we go into our interview soundbite. How we chose this soundbite out of the all the great stuff she gave us would take up a whole blog-post, so I’ll just say this: her soundbite adds “color” to the line of narration that I read just before the soundbite. In my narration I explain that the Rail Gun uses electricity to launch projectiles, and her soundbite implies that using electricity is a really major step forward.
Finally, we finish with my standard lame-ceremony closing sequence of applause. As everyone knows, video rules say an editor should finish a piece with “negative action.” Applause is my negative/closing action. I actually get the applause sequence in the beginning of the ceremony. These ceremonies always start with the MC or the keynote speaker thanking a host of people. This part of the ceremony is useless, so I use it as an opportunity to catch the applause sequence.
These ceremonies always start with the MC or the keynote speaker thanking a host of people. This part of the ceremony is useless, so I use it as an opportunity to catch the applause sequence.
This piece isn’t going to win any cool-guy awards, but for the past 6 months, these stories have made up 85 percent of my workload. So, since these pieces are the bread and butter that pay my mortgage and feed my children, I really have no choice but to try and make them as good as I can.
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