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Shooting stories in elements and sequences

When shooting a story in which you are also the reporter, it's sometimes easy to forget that you need to tell and illustrate the story with the pictures you shoot.

You may think this sounds obvious, but many solo video journalists fall into the trap of shooting footage with a view to it simply being wallpaper to cover whatever they're planning to say in their script. Indeed, it is important to have a rough sketch of what you want to say ahead of time so you know what b-roll to gather. However - and this begins in the producing stage of the story - you need to be careful to make sure the pictures you are gathering make coherent television.

Here is a good example of a story I shot, along with Emmy Award winning shooter Denis Lefkovich, for Margaret Warner of the PBS Newshour:

You'll see that this piece utilizes several distinct elements and shot sequences - the kinds of segments you need to gather when shooting your stories.

The elements include:
- Wootton Bassett
- Reading war memorial
- Petticoat Lane market
- London Commuters
- New Statesman columnist at King's Cross

Each of these elements - or individual story nuggets that go towards explaining the broader story - has an associated sequence of shots which tell the story. There are also sequences of shots to cover narration, including footage from Afghanistan and London GVs.

This piece illustrates the way you should think about getting your pictures. You need to make sure you have several elements, the number depending on the length of your story. Each element brings an up-close example of something that helps tell your broader story. It helps make a story digestible, and not a long academic explainer.

In a very short story you can use just one element like this, but you still need to make sure you think about shooting pictures that will make for sequences when you edit. It is no good to grab one shot of something you want to show. You need several shots - wide, mid and tight - and moves in order to build a sequence that makes sense to the viewer.

Now here is an example of a story I shot and reported solo:

You'll see here that I use several elements:
- Food pantry
- A haitian in Florida
- The Haitian Consulate
- Stranded missionaries

There is also a sequence of shots from Haiti. Staying with the Haiti pictures and building a sequence with them makes it less jarring to see pictures of Haiti in the middle of a piece from Florida. It gives the viewer time to adjust to what they're seeing.

It's just another example of how videographers who are also journalists need to be mindful, not just of how they're shooting, but of what they're shooting.


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