Teaching Video -- part 11, Raising Your Game

In terms of news videos and mini-documentaries, if you want to raise your game, you can do so in many ways, technically, visually, in an investigative way, filming underreported and little seen realities, excelling at the "nat pack" genre, combining videos with photos and well-chosen music to create powerful narratives, the opportunities are endless. Strong storytelling, with characters, challenges and twists, getting raw and intimate with your subject, editing quickly but efficiently, having lots of beauty shots, and a really well pieced audio track will get you far.

One of the best textbooks on "making tv news with style" is "Making it Memorable", of which the title alone is worth it. One of my favorite quotes is from legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio, asked why he played so hard every game: "Because there might have been somebody in the stands today who'd never seen my play before, and might never see me again." The same should apply to every video you work on.

Here's a great lesson plan on "Visual Storytelling" with lots of great video examples, all accessible on the Internet. Here's an analysis and presentation of recent web videos.


These one-minute short documentaries about contemporary issues and characters shows how important the idea is, however simple and basic or oddball it might be, but how you always need lots of action, scenes, real moments, different well-composed angles, powerful quotes, and beginning/ending scenes to make your video successful. This is one about a sign spinner.

Positive Stories, And Lots of Text For Mobile

More and more stories for mobile phones rely less on audio and more and more on big, bold text, so people can watch and get the message without disrupting people around them. Do good, feel good material is also on the rise, as many are tired of the rehashing of negative stories and stereotypes. Here below is a follow-up, feel good story about social media and a Syrian refugee.

Media Storm

I've always been a big fan of the Media Storm collective. If you google them, they have lots of polished videos available for free on the web, as well as workshop videos explaining their workflows and style. Here's an example of some of their work.

A Thousand More - MediaStorm Storytelling Workshop from MediaStorm on Vimeo.

The Future of Soundslides?

Soundslides had their day, and many students tried them as a step between audio and video storytelling. A video on Vanity Fair recently revived the genre on a controversial topic.

Travis Fox

I've also been a big fan of Travis Fox. Here's a one-man band video he made in Mexico. Early in his career, Fox developed his own auteur, documentary cinema verite style, telling news stories through the scope of ordinary but exemplary people he came across during his reporting. He worked for a while on the web video desk of the Washington Post, before moving on to the PBS Frontline show. He was grittier before though, and less glossy, and unburdened by fancy equipment, a style I quite enjoy.

The Town of Lonely Dentists from Travis Fox on Vimeo.

Pierre Kattar

Another auteur, backpack type videojournalist I've really admired is Pierre Kattar, who did this investigative type mini-documentary.

Contamination and a Crusade from Pierre Kattar on Vimeo.


This mini-documentary shows that with a great story and detailed camera work, appropriate choice of music, and getting people to share their mementos and old video footage, you can create very powerful work.

Political Documentaries

Even politicians are getting into the well polished, short doc form. Whatever your political bent, here's an interesting one for Bernie Sanders.

Satire Documentaries

A genre that works well on the web is the satire mini-documentary. Take this one, which makes fun of the genre itself, while presenting hipsters.

PR Documentaries

Companies are getting into the mini-documentary game as well. This example on current golf champion Jason Day shows how excellent photography and peeling the layers of someone's story can lead to very riveting storytelling, even if there aren't too many real scenes, and this relies more on the narration track and a succession of finely executed and reconstructed beauty shots.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, make sure to check out the other chapters in my video series.

Teaching Video, Part 1 -- Your Equipment and How to Use It

Teaching Video, Part 2 -- A Lexicon of Shots

Teaching Video, Part 3 -- Shot Composition and Sequencing

Teaching Video, Part 4 -- Nat Sounds and Action Shots

Teaching Video, Part 5 -- Interviews

Teaching Video, Part 6 -- Standups

Teaching Video, Part 7 -- Choosing Your Video Stories and Shooting Them Wisely

Teaching Video, Part 8 -- Ingesting Into Premiere

Teaching Video, Part 9 -- Writing Your Script

Teaching Video, Part 10 -- Editing

Teaching Video, Part 11 -- Raising Your Game

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