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Editing, Publishing and Hosting: Cutting It Down and Putting It Up


By Deborah Nason

EDITING

The editing process can go quickly and smoothly, but careful planning is essential. It starts with interview preparation, and continues by taking a variety of well-planned shots, ensuring quality audio recording and shooting only the necessary amount of footage.

Planning ahead
Constructing a video story requires a different type of thinking and preparation than print stories – and preparation is key.

“Interviewing on camera is really different than interviewing for print,” says Gretchen Macchiarella, webcast producer for the Ventura County Star. “With print, you have to ask general, open-ended questions. But with video, you have to ask specific questions for specific answers. You may need to do a pre-interview or – after the print interview – ask the more specific questions for the camera.”

EDITING

  • Planning ahead: Essential advanced planning includes interview preparation, taking a variety of shots, ensuring quality audio recording, and shooting only the necessary amount of footage.
  • Software: When choosing editing software, the most important consideration is price, followed by level of complexity appropriate for the intended users.
  • Learning curve: Experts agree when learning how to edit, practice is essential. Starting with a simple one or two shot "video illustration" is a good idea.
  • Putting it together: When putting a video together, experts advise paying attention to sequence, keeping it simple and as short as possible.

Be sure to shoot a lot of shot varieties, says Regina McCombs, senior producer for multimedia, StarTribune.com. For example, when covering a press conference, she suggests changing your shot with every question.

It’s also a good idea to plan shots with the final video package in mind. “Sequence, not montage! That is my mantra,” says Randy Covington, Director of the IFRA Newsplex at the University of South Carolina, in an e-mail.

“Video works best when it allows the viewer to experience something. One accomplishes that in the editing process through showing one action from different perspectives. The goal is to build a sequence of video scenes.… Many beginners bring back a lot of different shots, but those shots do not edit together very well. In some cases, there is nothing wrong with a montage, but that is not using video to its fullest effect.”

In shooting video, more is not necessarily better. “Unlike writing, with video you don’t want to capture everything and then edit it down. If you want one or two minutes, just shoot ten minutes. Edit in the camera,” advises Michael Bazeley, editorial director, electronic media, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley. Before working at the University of California at Berkeley, Bazeley spent eleven years with the San Jose [Calif.] Mercury News as a reporter, technology writer and then senior Web editor.


In shooting video, more is not necessarily better.



Michael Bazeley, editorial director, electronic media, Boalt Hall School of Law,
University of California at Berekely


Set a schedule, too, since video can eat up a lot of time. To convert and edit raw video into final format can take from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the complexity of the piece, he says. This does not include time spent shooting the video.

It may also help to plan in advance whether the final video piece will be a video illustration of an activity or be an interview interspersed with B-roll. That information can guide the process.

Software
This may make publishers happy: When choosing editing software, the most important consideration is price, according to Andrew Satter, video producer for Congressional Quarterly. This is largely because software sophistication and editing capabilities increase proportionally with cost. “If you want to go on the cheaper side, there are lots of options, but the more you pay, the better bang for your buck,” Satter says.

Satter says another consideration should be who will be using the software, which will help determine the complexity.

According NAA’s online video survey, video editors come from the ranks of reporters (33 percent of responding newspapers), online staff (72 percent), photographers (60 percent), and videographers (46 percent). The question, “Who edits video for the Web site?” allowed respondents to select multiple answers.

With the simpler programs, the basics are “capture, edit, save,” says Satter, who has done extensive video training. For the more experienced editor, higher level software will offer multitracks for more complex edits and more control over effects and placement of overlaying text, he says.

Easy applications such as Apple iMovie and Windows Movie Maker can make learning more complex programs easier. Angela Grant, multimedia producer for the San Antonio Express-News, says, “All of the basic ideas and processes that you use in these free programs are basically the same in the higher-level editing programs. So, the things you learn at this level will transfer up to the higher levels.”

Final Cut Pro is the most widely used editing software, used by 55 percent of newspapers that responded to the NAA’s online video survey. iMovie or Apple iLife Suite was in second place, used by 41.1 percent.

Learning curve
Experts agree there’s a lot of information to absorb when learning how to edit, and practice, practice, practice is essential.

“Video editing is a time-consuming and tedious process that has a steep learning curve. A novice must go into it knowing it's going to be a challenge, but also knowing that he or she can conquer it with time and practice,” says Grant over e-mail.

“Do it as much as possible in the beginning, not once a month. Build up the skills quickly, every day,” says Bazeley. “The first time you do it, it will take you a long time, the second time will be half as long, and the third time, half as long again,” he says.

Grant suggests taking small steps. “For your first projects, keep [the videos] sweet and simple. Don't try to tell a documentary story on your very first try. Instead, shoot a simple ‘video illustration’ – one or two shots totaling 30 seconds or less that complement or illustrate a text story.”

“This type of video will be fairly simple to edit. It'll allow the novice to learn the basics of the editing program without too many problems or obstacles. Once he or she learns how to ‘push the buttons’ of the editing program, that knowledge will make it easier to tackle the higher-level video story forms,” says Grant.

Putting it together
When putting together a video, experts advise paying attention to sequence, keeping it simple and as short as possible.

Be linear:
If you use B-roll, make sure it adds to the story; don’t have it for its own sake, advises Bazeley.

The video editing process should be interview-driven, says Macchiarella. In the editing process, Macchiarella says she does A-roll first, “laying it out in order on the timeline, and then begin to add images from B-roll to complement. It helps you see if you go overboard in time. If you have pieces of video that must go together, those should be in the A-roll.”

In some of the more complicated editing programs, there are layers to the timeline, she explains. “Stack B-roll on top of A-roll; you can turn down the audio as a background. Because of the layering ability, you can insert names, titles, quotes, and text in lower third of the frame.”

Be brief:
Respect the viewer’s time, says Bazeley. “Most people don’t have a lot of time. They may be watching from work, for example. Don’t let [interviewees] talk too long. Do quick cuts.”

“If you have titles, make them short. People don’t want to read a lot of information, they want to be in the moment,” he says. Use titles for identification and archive purposes – perhaps one title page at the beginning or end, with a date. 

Machiarella suggests inserting names along the bottom of the video frame, which is easy to do with the layering capabilities of most video editing programs.  She adds that quotes and text can also be included in the lower third of the frame.

Be aware, however, that placing text along the bottom of the video could interfere with some advertising models, where ads appear on the lower-third of the video while it is playing.

Video length should range from 45 seconds to 5 or 6 minutes, but longer videos must be engaging and emotionally powerful, says McCombs. Most videos run two to three minutes, however.

To keep the video appropriately short, Bazeley suggests having someone else edit the video. “You have an emotional connection to the work you produce and it can be harder for you to be objective about cutting out certain parts,” he says.

Be simple:
Video does not always have to be an interview or a documentary. Sometimes a video clip can serve as an enhanced illustration for a print piece. In that case, “You don’t have to make it look like TV. Think of it as a moving picture on a page.” says Ryan Sholin, director of community site publishing for GateHouse Media.


PUBLISHING & HOSTING

Many news sites use outside hosting services to upload, play and store their videos. While some sites host their own videos, it is a major undertaking.  “It’s cheaper, but more complicated.  Managing the media is an enormous job. The files are huge, and hard drives and server space are major issues,” says Macchiarella.

Getting views
If you’re just getting started, some experts suggest uploading your videos to YouTube. “It’s a good place to experiment, especially if you’re just starting out. There is no hosting, and there are no video players to worry about,” says Macchiarella.

PUBLISHING

  • Getting views: For beginners, many say YouTube is a good place to experiment because the hosting service and video player is provided. More customizable hosting services can integrate the video into a newspaper Web site, providing the ability to serve ads and deliver better analytics.
  • Video players: These should be reliable, easy to use and organize, and searchable. Viewers should be able link directly to your videos and to share them with friends.
     

Although many newspapers embed YouTube video players on their site and YouTube has the benefits of being free and easily sharable, there are disadvantages. “You can’t brand it or put ads on the videos. And YouTube gets all your hits; you have no control over their server,” says Satter. 

Other hosting services can also integrate the video into a newspaper Web site and solve some of the YouTube challenges. “With a host, you put your videos on their server. We’re buying the host services for their video player, publishing and presentation services,” Satter explains.

Furthermore, these customizable services “give us the ability to serve ads and have better analytics, such as how far viewers get into files, or files viewed per session. They also…give us a way to contribute video,” says The Star Tribune’s McCombs.

Two of the most popular hosting services are Brightcove and Maven, which work with videos in Flash, the format used by 75 percent of respondents in NAA’s online video survey.

Do a bit of due diligence on these services. Satter suggests asking these questions:

  • What are the options for putting on ads?
  • How easy it is to put videos on your home page? What is the quality of the display?
  • Can the host help with syndicating?
  • How easily can people share videos?
  • How much flexibility do you have in organizing the videos and naming channels?

Video player
There are a number of considerations surrounding the video player. “A ton of options independently sprouted up in the last one and one-half years. Look for ease of use and content management,” says Satter.

The video player should be easily searchable, says Grant. Many sites have a main video page with an archive-type player that categorizes and organizes all of the video on the site. …It’s [also] a good idea to have smaller players in different sections — for example, a sports video player on the sports page or an entertainment video player on the entertainment page. A third type of player, for just one video, should be embedded within the text story,” Grant wrote on her blog NewsVideographer.com.

“With any solution, it's important to allow viewers to link directly to your videos and to share them with friends. Maybe even embed the videos on their blogs or other Web sites,” says Grant. “Put your videos in more places than just your Web site. Video sharing sites like YouTube could help your videos reach a larger audience.”

Be sure the player is reliable, says Covington. “It is very frustrating to try to watch a video and the player doesn't work. I have a Mac PowerBook and historically some sites have not worked well with Macs.”  


USER-GENERATED VIDEO

Soliciting and posting user-generated video is becoming a common practice among newspapers.  In fact, the NAA newspaper online video survey reports that 67 percent of respondents accept user-generated video for their Web sites.

USER-GENERATED VIDEO
Soliciting and posting user-generated video is becoming a common practice among newspapers, enhancing the hyperlocal aspect of a newspaper

The Ventura (Calif.) County Star prominently solicits user-generated videos on its video site, called Studio805.tv.  “I created a YouTube player – it means you don’t have to touch the video. I review it, and make it a ‘favorite’,” explains Macchiarella of the Ventura County Star.

The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger uses a Brightcove program to solicit user-generated videos from its community site, PolkVoice, as well as its newspaper site at www.theledger.com. Videos uploaded to either site appear on both.

Getting Your Video Podcast onto iTunes

  1. To put your video onto Apple’s iTunes, you’ll first need to have a working RSS feed (see bottom for resources).
  2. Once you have a working RSS feed, open the iTunes application. The application can be downloaded if you don’t already have it. You must register with a valid e-mail address and credit card, even though submitting your video to iTunes is free.
  3. Click on “iTunes Store” in the left navigation column.
  4. Click on “Podcasts”.
  5. In the “learn more” box at the bottom of the application, click on “Submit a Podcast.”
  6. Submit your feed URL to iTunes. iTunes will have to approve your video podcast for inclusion in iTunes, which could take several weeks. (Advice: Submit your feed as early you can.)
  7. Promote your iTunes podcast by placing your podcast into directories, such as those offered by iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, Podcast.net, Podcast Alley and Podcast Directory. Try searching Google for “podcast directories” for more.

 -- Beth Lawton

Although the sites are currently not receiving many user submissions, the upload feature is an integral part of the organization’s strategy, says The Ledger’s Managing Editor/Digital Barry Friedman. “We’ve been moving toward opening the news process up to the community. So if somebody happens to have a videocam or cell phone in a news situation – as happened during the hurricanes we had last summer – they’ll think of us.  This also enhances the hyperlocal aspect of the paper.  And as broadband becomes more pervasive, people will be looking for [videos] a lot more.”

Covington suggests caution. “I think we have a real opportunity with user-generated video.  However, the potential problems are obvious. Was the video staged?  Has there been deceptive editing?  Will viewers understand the context?”

“The standards for user-generated content clearly are different from what we might consider professional production standards.  If the story is good enough, I can put up with a shaky camera and too many zooms,” he adds. “However, I don't think we can lower or surrender our journalistic standards.  So I think journalists should review footage.  If there are questions of accuracy or fairness, they should be answered before something is posted.”

Cable news channel CNN launched iReport in August 2006 to accept viewer-submitted video news reports. CNN only runs viewer-created content the news organization has vetted for accuracy and checked for content quality. In January 2008, CNN launched an independent iReport site to post all viewer-submitted video that has not been pre-screened.

 

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First Published:
May 7, 2008