Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

On being a VJ for the New York Times

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 10, 2010

The NY Times’ excellent Lens Blog (a must for all photo & visual journalists) has a nice piece with one of their own video journalists.

Brent Macdonald is one of nearly a dozen full time VJs at the paper (they’re supported by more freelancers too) who shoot, edit, sculpt a narrative, script and voice their own material. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in video journalism – here are a few choice cuts from Brent:

On kit:

 I ended up in Idaho, with a Hi-Def camera, a tripod, travel cases, three microphones, three compact lights, two light stands, clamps, cables, a laptop computer and, of course, a pair of comfortable shoes.

On audio:

Capturing good sound is often as important as recording dazzling pictures. Viewers tend to forgive an interview that’s poorly framed or lighted, as long as the audio is clean. But a beautifully shot interview with scratchy or distorted audio? Forget it. Nothing will drive a viewer out of a video quicker than bad audio.

On the “shoot-to-edit” ratio:

But it is usually preferable to have too much than too little. On the one hand, the less footage you have, the less time it takes to sift through and edit. On the other hand, if you limit your shots, you risk missing something that could become important during the edit …For VJs, there are no second chances.

On creating a narrative:

Much of the storytelling happens after the shoot, when you sketch the narrative arc, knowing now what material you have to work with. Generally speaking, stories that make for captivating Web video have a strong visual and emotional payoff.

Want more?

Visual Editor’s man Robb Montgomery’s just put together a list of the five most basic things for first time video journalists to remember.

And there’s loads of stuff on this blog, including a 6×6 Video chapter and more.


5 Responses

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  1. Will Peach said, on February 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Great post, useful and informative. Was just wondering how much a set-up like Brent Macdonald’s would come to?

  2. Mike Phillips said, on February 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    This is great. Another resource (some members of which I think used to be somehow associated with the NY Times Television) that is worth checking out along these lines is the New York Video School:

    I’ve been going through all of their courses and there is a lot of stuff like what Brent talks about here (although with a lot more detail). Enjoy!

  3. Dick Bertagnolli said, on February 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for posting, we’re glad you like it. I mean, her, awesome thoughts

    Follow me on Twitter

  4. Therese said, on February 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know that I found your lecture today at Kingston University to be very helpful and inspiring. I’m definitely reading your book in May!

    Great blog as well.

    Therese from Kingston Uni.

  5. Will Peach » February 11th Links said, on February 12, 2010 at 6:20 am

    […] Shared On being a VJ for the New York Times « Adam Westbrook. […]

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