Our monitors were able to play video from the start, but this was just the first time we got around to actually making it happen on Tuesday’s newscast. I’m actually really happy how it turned out.
The goal for this week was to try something new. We did a class activity with the producers earlier in the semester where we brainstormed ideas to change up our newscast a little. I came up with an international news segment called Around the World and I wanted my teases to appear with a double box so viewers can see the video teaser for the story but also the anchors while they read the script.
I never implemented the double box tease -- producing can get hectic sometimes! But I started the Around the World segment two weeks ago. I created a spinning globe on After Effects and had the anchor stand at the chromakey (or green screen) so it looked like he was telling the stories in space. It’s a visual segment, but having enough videos to go with the script and getting the copy just right can be hard. A lot happens internationally and having to pick the most important information can be tough, but having to put it into context in only 15 seconds is even harder.
I try my best to have a rough draft of the international stories I want before I start my shift in the media center. I need to understand not only what is happening that day, but what happened in the past that led to this, and that takes a lot of time and attention that I don’t always have as lead producer. Yes, I follow the news throughout the week, but I have to do more research to fully grasp not just what is happening but why it’s happening.
For example, people in Chile have been rioting for a month straight. Essentially, that is the news story, but the significance behind the riots is not just how long they’ve been going on, but why they are still protesting. Chile is one of the major growing economic powerhouses in Latin America, but while the rich keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer. The protest started over the increase in subway fares, but that was just the drop that overfilled the glass. When it comes to writing international news, stating the facts is easy. Putting those facts into context is hard.
Compressing an international news story so that a viewer can understand what is happening in Chile in 15 seconds is challenging, but still possible. Fifteen seconds is usually a good amount of time for a voice over (VO) - where an anchor’s voice plays over the video - mostly because there’s already a 10 second introduction to that VO. But for the international segment, there are three back-to-back VO stories, so 15 seconds can be a bit short for a single topic. I had originally allotted 25 seconds for each story, which gives more time to explain and provide context for each country. But on a previous show, my professor Stacy questioned whether we had the appropriate video for each longer-than-usual international VO. Looking back, I probably should have given a better argument for why I was giving that much time to a story, but at the same time, I appreciated the challenge of condensing a month’s worth of news in a quarter of a minute. It felt like Vine, but for news: how creative can you be in 15 seconds or less.
This week, Tuesday’s team set up our show a little differently. We had our anchors standing at the monitors instead of at the desk, and on some of the more visual stories, we had a video playing instead of the usual custom graphic.
Having video at the desk monitor -DMON as we call it in our newsroom- is simple for a lead producer. I just write it in the iNews show rundown and register a video placeholder for that element of the show.
Our anchors were constantly having to stand and sit throughout the show. Reading a script and having your director talking in your ear telling you, “move the chair, it’s in the shot” or your producer in your other ear saying, “take a small step to your right... no, your other right” isn’t always easy. It takes serious coordination. We also try not to talk in their ears while they’re talking. We usually wait for a soundbite or a commercial break. But it happens sometimes.
One of the other challenges we faced was finding good video for the story to show on the monitor. It can’t be our best visual, because we don’t want to spoil the story, but the video needs to be engaging enough to keep the viewer interested in the story.
I remember wanting to have a moving graphic as an over-the-shoulder graphic for every story we told. Like I said earlier, it can be difficult to have good video to show. Not every story will have the elements for a video in the monitor, but it doesn’t hurt to try.