There’s a Lot of Really Bad Advice Out There – video wise

Posted on December 2nd, by Michael Rosenblum in Journalism. No Comments

NO, NO and NO!

Yesterday, I got a tweet from my friend (and in the Facebook age, aren’t we all friends?) @profsamuels, (he’s a prof at NYU but also works at CNN, so says his Facebook page. We have never met in the ‘real world’.)  In any event, Profsamuels, who is Jason Samuels,  tweeted a link entitled Four Tips for Better B-roll.
(see above)

Needless to say, I clicked on the link. I am always looking for good stuff.
This was not good stuff
This was bad stuff.

When we started nyvs, and even to this day, some of our partners (not from the film or video business) asked why we didn’t just open the doors to anyone who wanted to add to the body of instruction.

Others said, ‘the web is full of free information on how to make videos.  Why not just become an ‘aggregator’, like Drudge, for example.

Each time I read something like these ‘four great tips’, I am reminded why we don’t do that.

Now, let me say that I don’t know Ron Dawson, who posted these tips on his website,

From what I can see of his work on his website, he is a very good cameraman and has a very good eye.
He also seems to specialize in industrials and highly directed spots, which is fine, but it is not documentary filmmaking.

Now, down to the picking apart stuff:

First Point from Ron:  When shooting B-roll, “Wait Until After The Interviews”

No. No. No.

There is so much wrong here, I barely know where to start, but I will anyway.
First, if you spend 90% of your time shooting an interview (something I am strongly against anyway), then you will end up with 90% of your film being either a talking head or being driven by an interview. I am going to put this in bold because it is really important.  You are the storyteller. You tell me the story. If you are shooting a film about a bus driver, don’t expect the bus driver (or the single mom) to miraculously turn into a storyteller. That’s not what they do. They drive busses.  You re supposed to be the professional story-teller, so you tell  me the story, not them.

The world is filled with really terrible video and film producer who spend tedious hours, days and sometimes months locked in an edit suite tortously trying to twist transcritps (nicley alliterative, no?) from interviews into something approaching a coherent narrative.


Stop because it’s going to be a mess before you start.

Consider this:  If you were assigned to write a profile for Vanity Fair about a NYC bus driver, and you turned into the editor of the magazine 2500 words of nothing more than a long string of quotes from the bus driver laced together, do you think you would get paid? Do you think it would be published? Do you think would ever work again? Nor should you.  You would produce a pile of unreadable crap.  What do you think makes video any different?

So shoot the whole story.  Visually. Tell me a story with pictures and a few nat sound emerges.

Then….lace together a visual picture story with the events you have shot. Drop in a a few soundbites.

Now, if you want narrative from your subjects (ie, interviews), put them in front of your laptop. Show the the scene you are going to use. Then, ask them, (while recording them) ‘Bob, remember when you stopped the bus to pick up that old lady in the wheelchair and everyone was complaining?  I am going to show that to you now.  Now, tell me how you felt while that was happening.”

Voila!  Soundbite, voice over or whatever you want to call it.

Interview driven by the story, as opposed to story driven by the interview.

Get the concept?

You couldn’t do this even a few years ago (or my guess is the way that Ron worked in the past and probably works now). You could not bring your subjects to the ‘edit suite’ (unless he was Mick Jagger and you were making Gimme Shelter).  But now, take your edit suite (your laptop) into the field with you with the camera and drop in a rough cut of the scene on the spot and get your soundbite.  Trust me, it takes a lot less time than recording some stupid interview, transcribing, laying in sound, trying to make it make sense and finally wallpapering with some ‘b-roll’, another term I hate.

OK. I was going to cover his other terrible points, but I think I have made my point already.

Jason Samuels, who I tweeted back and told him it was crap said, ‘answer him in your blog’.

OK Jason. The ball is in your court.


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