Monday, July 18, 2011

Imagination b-roll

I see one at least once a month. A package that makes me shake my head and come close to picking up the phone and calling the reporter who did it.

Recently I saw one that really stuck out. It was a piece on an animal shelter that was having financial problems and needed money. We saw the building. There was a shot of an empty cage. Stacks of pet food. Several sound bites with people who worked at the shelter, talking about the need for cash to keep the homeless pets alive.

Should have been a touching story. Should have made me open my checkbook and send the shelter a few bucks.

But a key element was missing.

Did I ever see a shot of a cat? Nope. A puppy looking at the camera with sad eyes? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Incredible, a package about animals that didn't show a single animal. I guess the viewers were supposed to close their eyes and imagine Fluffy and Fido waiting for new homes.

In this case, a well done package should have tugged at the hearts of viewers. The reporter could have injected emotion with both words and b-roll. Maybe had a follow-up when bushels of cash rolled in.

Instead it was another story that missed the obvious.

I actually see a lot of these. The main focus of the story is nowhere to be found. Oh, it's talked about with sound bites and voiceovers, but never seen, like a monster in a M. Night Shyamalan movie. Stories about overcrowded classrooms show no kids. Stories about booming businesses show no customers. The viewers may as well be listening to the radio and creating a theater of the mind.

When you head out to a story, take a moment to think about the main topic. Then please, shoot some b-roll that actually shows what you're talking about. I shouldn't have to close my eyes and imagine it.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano



turdpolisher said...

In the 20+ years I've pointed a lens a the daily news buffet I've shot my share of stories like this. Call it bad timing or worse karma, but the day you show up to shoot the story, nothing goes right.

You're sent out to shoot a school story at 3:30pm. The booming business is having a slow day. Your first story falls through so you end up shooting a rush-hour traffic story at 11 a.m. Or what about the preview story of the first ever event that hasn't happened yet?

When that happens, it's up to the crew to get creative. Come up with a different way of telling the story with the video you do have. It ain't always pretty, but that's the time that a crew needs to find that third angle you're always talking about.

The case with the dogs seems like a no-brainer, but I've been there and done that enough that I realize things aren't always as easy as they seem. And I know you've been there too. I know it's just an example, but sometimes you gotta cut the crew a little slack. If you've seen this reporter's work before and it's usually decent, you gotta chalk it up to circumstances beyond their control.

Everybody has a bad day now and then.

Now, of to my day . . . hope the desk has something good.

-The Grape said...

No slack for the dog story, as I heard barking in the background.

But yeah, I've been there.

Most memorable was the time I was sent to cover a major protest. Supposed to be a thousand people there. We arrived to find three,, count 'em, three, people with picket signs. Called the desk. Photog was told to "shoot it tight."

turdpolisher said...

Yep. . . Been on those. . . Gotta love it when the houseboys don't trust the word of the folks they ask viewers to trust every night.