Doing TV

I don’t know TV. I read, mostly and I listen to audio. In the past, I took fotos with an 1936 camera. This concludes 6 weeks of TV training: Camera, Cutting, Speaking - and watch out for music.

I don’t know TV

My media intake is largely text based. Linear TV, webvideo, social - I know them, I sometimes see them, but ever since I don’t own a TV anymore they’re not my go to media.

I do enjoy watching the occasional TV series and films. I used to be a Tagesschau junkie but TV always seemed quite far away.

So great I had three months of TV.

Some stories

It started out with a month of training which resulted in me going live from a coal vessle in the Rhine and an accompanying report.

It continued with me interning at DW’s Sports News Desk in Berlin, with me running between the newsroom, the studio, meeting cutters, voicing videos and actually going shooting with camerapeople.

And it ended with a two week intensive on shooting ourselfes: Handling storytelling, interviewing, camera, sound, post-production all as a one-person team and for me several super sweet encounters.

For one task during the seminar my colleague Julett and I stumbled into a local darts bar and with no preparation but permission just started shooting with one of the younger players in the tournament that night. Just before entering the place, Julett hat told me of her friend Ana who had said “As a journalist, don’t be the fly on the wall, be the elephant in the room.” Well, entering a local one-room bar that has no music playing but highly concentrated darts players and some loners at the bar carrying a huge camcorder bearing a fat DW logo - we were the big ass elephant in the room. Which, I would say in the end played nicely in our favour. Because the camera was already there. They knew something may be coming but asking if we could just get a beer did buy some time for mutual reassurance and calmity of everyones minds. The shots there turned out beautifully. Thanks to Beul’s eye.

I got to shoot at the Bonn Botanical Gardens a week later. I focus-pulled my way through damp greenhouses which gave the camera some headache and overexposed maybe 20 percent of my material. But the huge learning was that I picked out music for the piece before I went shooting. Just to set the vibe I was aiming for. Its a problematic strategy because maybe what you find on-site isn’t what you were aiming for with your music. So, staying open to the place is a must.

Some takeaways

  • Storytelling
    • Action first, Meta later
    • Emotion early, Background later
    • For no-narration pieces plan questions ahead of time
  • Planning a shoot
    • Rule of thumb: One scene per minute film-time
    • Plan for questions per scene
    • Master Interview and/or situational questions?
    • Think of all the Schnittbilder you are going to need. Make a list.
    • Plan for breaks and snacks
  • Interviews
    • Emotional questions: How does it feel, Whats your favorite
    • Set multiple interviewees on opposing sides of the frame
    • If interviewee is on left side, try to ask questions from right side of camera to have them looking into the frame
  • Camera
    • Five-Shot rule (see matrix below)
    • Change shot angle by 30 degrees for each shot
    • Shoot neutral transitions
    • Stabilize camera when zooming
    • Use zebra to aviod overexposure
  • Editing
    • Change shot size each cut and consider skipping one size (see figure below)
      • Don’t cut head on head
      • You can go anywhere from a Detail
    • Keep checking for Schwarzbilder
    • Hide your mistakes in the edits
      • Sometimes changing speed/direction does the trick
      • Adjustment layers do wonders for color-correction of interview settings
    • Keep going to a neutral picture
    • Sound
      • Level SOTs to approx. - 6db
      • Level Music/Ambience to approx. -12/-18 db
  • Voicing/Narration
    • Keep narration to a minimum
    • Cranck up your voice for the narration. You don’t want to sound sleepy.
    • Be to the point and work with the pictures
    • “Touch and go”: Talk about we see first and take it from there somewhere else.
  • PTC
    • Chill out. You have time and everything is good.
    • The more chill you are the more surgically you can use your hands.
    • Make three, max four points per PTC/live-answer
    • Use your background wisely
    • Bring cable headphones. Just less drama.
This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.