For my final year project I have produced a useful ‘how to’ guide for journalism students. I wanted to produce something that would explain what it is like to be a journalist in a working newsroom producing news. I have produced a short documentary called ‘How to produce WINOL’ and I have produced an additional four ‘how to’ videos these are: ‘How to present WINOL,’ ‘How to make a news package’ and ‘How to film multiple camera interviews’
The idea to produce a ‘how to’ guide has been a chance for me to reflect on all the skills I have learnt on the journalism course. The initial concept of these videos was that the videos would be a useful tool for journalists to use. I based these videos on a similar concept to the BBC College of Journalism website. The College of Journalism oversees training for BBC News staff. The website focus on the best practice in core skills, offers an overview of specialist areas, legal ethical issues, and a style guide. I wanted to produce something similar for the Winchester News Online students.
My research for this project involved looking at the different how to guides available for journalists already. These all came from the BBC College of Journalism website and this was the base of my idea. I also had to research documentaries for the style I wanted my WINOL documentary to look like. I was inspired by the Channel 4 show ‘Come Dine With Me’. I watched this for the structure not the concept. The show is structured really well in terms of there being lots of jeopardy like ‘will the dinner go to plan? ‘Or “ will the meal be a fail?’ adding questions like these keeps you interested and throws it forward. I also like the quick editing style and I wanted my documentary to include both of these factors.
When it came to editing the documentary I initially approached it incorrectly by not planning a structure to my editing. I had filmed WINOL reporters on location and filmed the news meeting and inserted all of these rushes together and added a voice over. Although the pictures looked great the documentary style was not coming together and this is because documentaries need a certain structure and plan.
Firstly I needed a shooting script; this is a scene-by-scene plan of what you need to film. By writing a shooting script I was able to know what I needed to film and it helped me with the editing process.
Secondly you need a narrative structure this is the structural framework. A documentary has to be divided into three sections. This is known as the three-act structure. So firstly you need the set up and then the conflict and then the resolution. The set up is where you establish your main characters and their basic situation will be introduced. A problem must then be introduced as this is what drives the story forward and then the final scene would be the resolution. So a documentary must simply have a beginning, middle and end. The crucial part of this middle section is to convey jeopardy. With my WINOL documentary I wanted there to be constant jeopardy to keep the viewer interested. For the WINOL team this was ‘will we hit the three o’clock deadline?” “Will my story be approved by the editor?” “Will I get all the footage I need to make this news story?” At the end of a documentary there needs to be fourth act, this is an overall debrief from the characters where they can discuss how it went. I interviewed all of the people featured on the documentary about how it went. I believe the WINOL documentary has clear structure. The most successful part is where this is the most jeopardy and I believe Nicole Collas puts this across well with her anticipation to hit the three o’clock deadline.
I also introduced parallel narrative, where two separate narratives converge in to a single narrative. I did this with my two narratives towards the end of the documentary when the news presenter Zeena Alobaidi was introduced and the director Nicole Collas was introduced.
Initially when I starting filming the documentary I knew that I needed to go out with WINOL reporters to show what it is like to be out on the beat and filming. My filming style was very ‘fly on the wall.’ I needed to film the reporters producing their work without them knowing I was there. I went out with WINOL reporter Laura Allen on several occasions when she was reporting on the floods in Hampshire. This was a great opportunity to film as the location was great and Laura was faced with many challenges, in particularly the weather.
I also had to capture hours of footage that would be edited down. My initial filming was useful as it gave me ideas of what my documentary could look like. But these initial filming sessions were not enough to complete a documentary, as a good documentary requires you to film hours of footage. Therefore I went out and filmed secondary to this until I had enough footage.
The WINOL documentary is filmed in chronological order of the working week. An entire bulletin takes a week to produce therefore I started by filming on the Monday morning news conference and so on. I also edited in this chronological manner to reflect the truth rather than constructing it.
I wanted this documentary to look visually impressive and I ensured this happened by filming with multiple cameras. Rather than setting up one camera on the same thing I set up two or three cameras to offer different angles. This made the editing process a lot more complication but overall the documentary looks much more interesting with the different camera angles. It works particularly well with the filming the production side of WINOL in the studio and in the gallery. I set up a camera down in the studio on the presenter and a camera on the team in the gallery and on the autocue. I switched between the three shots. Other students have not done this before but I think it works well. It gives a chance for people that may not understand how the production side of news works a better insight.
The overall ‘How to produce WINOL’ documentary has been a success and I am happy with the outcome. The narrative structure works well and provides viewers a better understanding of the pressures journalists work under to produce the news. I think Nicole Collas, the director of WINOL, is a great protagonist for this documentary as her character really shines through.
Additional to this documentary I wanted to produce a series of ‘how to’ videos. Rather than making short packages on different elements of journalism I decided to combine all of the skills together and make a video on ‘How to make a news package.’ In this video I explained what a news package is and again in chronological order how a news package is constructed. This gave me a chance to present and give my own tips for video journalists.
I also produced a short video on ‘How to film a multi-camera interview.’ I believed this video would be a useful teaching guide as multi camera interviews are hard to produce. It was not until the end of my time on WINOL that I attempted to film a multi camera interview and I think it is something the reporters should try more often but they must be clear on how to set up the cameras, as there is a huge danger of crossing the line. Crossing the line is a term referred to when the cameras haven’t been set up properly. When you set up your cameras there is an imaginary line called the axis it and by keeping the cameras on one side of the axis for every shot will look fine but if you set up a camera on the other side of the axis will give you the wrong shot and the interviewee would be looking the wrong way. This is refereed to as crossing the line. This concept is difficult to explain without seeing it happen. Therefore I thought this video would be really useful. Although I did find that this was very hard to do so on video as it is hard to illustrate and without illustrating it’s a lot to explain. Therefore I added graphics to my explanation to help explain it more visually for the viewer.
Overall I think that the ‘how to’ guides have worked. I have explained simply how to make a news package and covered different topics about filming, interviewing and editing. Although I only touched on these subjects quite briefly I feel like I have included the most important points. The videos are visually interesting and illustrate WINOL well.
I did encounter a few problems these were mostly technical ones. My main objective was to produce good quality footage. Fortunately mostly all of my footage was filmed using a DSLR camera. These capture crisp quality images therefore the quality of my footage is good. Unfortunately I filmed the news conference with a JVC camera and you can see the difference in the quality. The lighting in the newsroom is challenging to film in and the footage has come out grainy. Unfortunately I would have filmed this again but because I had to film in chronological order of the WINOL week I couldn’t film a different news meeting, as Laura Allen’s story would be different.
Capturing good quality sound has been a challenge. In my opinion, the best microphone that produces the best quality sound is a gun microphone. However the gun microphones cannot be used with a DSLR camera therefore I used either a rode microphone or wireless microphones. The wireless microphones are not very reliable and when filming on location with Laura the wind caused problems. Therefore I had to use the rode microphone, which is very exposed to the wind also. Therefore the sound throughout the package is varied because the locations I filmed in varied. If I could film the clips again for the WINOL documentary I would ensure that the sound is consistent.
If I was to continue working on this project I would continue to make more ‘how to’ videos going into more depth about different skills. These videos should always be added to because new technology and techniques will be changing. To make this useful for the Winchester Journalism course it would be useful to have videos about every situation faced when producing news. I believe some people are writing style guides and I think these ‘how to’ videos and style guides should combine together and feature on a website, similar to the BBC College of Journalism website, to be a useful guide for broadcast journalism students. I believe my videos will feature on the Journalism Now website under the ‘how to’ section.
The WINOL documentary has been a success. It illustrates WINOL in its true light and there is plenty of jeopardy throughout which makes it an interesting documentary.