Monday, October 10, 2011

Reverse engineering a package can teach you a lot

The term "reverse engineering" has been around a long time. Basically the principle goes like this: take someone else's product, take it apart, figure out how it works, then make one just like it or better. Manufacturing and technology companies have been doing this for years.

Guess what? You, as a reporter can do the same thing. And maybe end up with a better product than the one you took apart.

We've said many times on this blog that you only get better watching the pros, not the other rookies in your entry level market. So, to start the reverse engineering process, you need to find some stories you admire.

Let's say you've found a killer package that hits on all cylinders. It really moves, has great writing and nat sound, terrific editing. You've got it on tape, or you can watch it over and over again on the Internet. Get yourself a legal pad and start taking it apart.

-First, transcribe the entire package. Write out, verbatim, the voice tracks, sound bites, and standups. Don't forget the anchor lead.

-Note the natural sound breaks and their length. Also note how the nat sound plays underneath the package.

-List any pieces of video that really convey the story.

-Note the b-roll that matches the copy. (It's TV 101, but you'd be amazed how many people don't do it.)

-List any bells and whistles: graphics, music, etc.

Okay, you should have a whole bunch of elements by now. Step back and take a look at the entire script, and note how it differs from what you do on a daily basis. Note how the reporter wrote to the video, in or out of sound bites, in or out of nat sound. How did the reporter use graphics to reinforce the information? Did the reporter turn a phrase or two that was clever? And did the standup add to the "show and tell" aspects of the story?

Do this for several packages and eventually the light bulb will go on and you'll figure out how you can do the same thing.

Or something even better.


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