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Web videos complement print work

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BY MARK SAK
We are all looking for ways to stand out in our market and give our pitches an edge over the countless queries crossing an editor’s desk. One option to think about is learning to produce Web- based video to accompany your article. A video can enhance a magazine’s Web traffic and drive visitors to your story- and the publication.
Creating video isn’t as hard as you might think. In today’s world most cameras have video capability and almost every computer has a video editing program pre-loaded. For those computers that don’t already have the software, there are programs available for less than $500 with tools to allow you to create a Web video. There are also thousands of tutorials you can take online to help you master the program you choose. But it’s not about the software. It’s about the creativity of the producer and the ability to make the consumer feel like they are watching an event happen naturally in the field or on the water. Use your storytelling skills and what I’ve learned and outlined below and you’ll soon promise video in your pitches.
Web videos have limitations. Television shows running the standard 30 minutes contain 22 minutes and 30 seconds of content to tell a story. A 10 minute Web video is a huge video that is difficult for people to upload. Plus, most people prefer shorter videos online that range between four and five minutes. Shorter doesn’t mean easier. It can be hard to tell a complete story in such a short time. There is no place for long winded participants or multiple B-roll shots in Web videos. Short, concise, focused stories download easy and visitors to the site are more apt to enjoy the piece.
The old adage “Keep it Simple Stupid,” known as the KISS principle, applies more than ever in Web based video. A mistake I try to avoid in these snippets is getting too fancy with swirling transitions, multiple unmatched music beds, or playing with sound effects. When I see those on any Web based video I view, I usually just close it and move on. Just because a transition is interesting doesn’t mean it has any place between scenes and it could disrupt the flow dramatically. My rule of thumb is if someone notices my transition then I’ve failed to produce it properly. Almost all of my transitions are gentle cross fades or dissolves. Today’s editing programs do such a great job sampling a transition for a specific scenes that the editor can usually hold the mouse over a transition to see an example, insert the transition in between the frames then right click and cut the transition if it doesn’t fit. It’s that fast.
The last, but still important, part of producing your video is ensuring picture quality and sound. If either is marginal, you might as well set the video in a drawer and leave it for archaeologists to find in 500 years.
Bad sound has ruined more scenes I’ve shot than anything else. Remote microphones help but wind can still blow away quality. Heavy clothes are a microphone’s biggest enemy. It is vital to make the camera person use the head phones every time, all the time. Just because a scene started out with good sound doesn’t mean it stayed that way 30 seconds into the shoot. Picture quality usually relates to the movement of the camera more than anything else.
Shakiness is also a scene-killer, so don’t forget to use a tripod or mount. I created a system fashioning PVC, a Ram Mount and a seat pedestal insert for my boat. I can stick it in the bow seat pedestal when trolling and the stern seat pedestal when jigging or casting. Even the best camera people struggle in boats in two- and three-foot waves. My system enables my cameras to move exactly with my boat in the waves and it is remarkably stable.
I’ve found producing Web videos develops my creativity and enhances my experience as a writer. Good videography gives me more information on my subject and editing it allows me to notice details like the sound of a twig break in the woods, or waves lapping against the boat. But most importantly it helps me sell more stories.♦
— Mark Sak has spent the last 20 years writing for regional and national magazines while fishing the Professional Walleye Trail. In 2009 he was added to Field and Stream’s Heros of Conservation directory for his work with Pheasants Forever. Contact him at Sakoutdoors@gmail.com.
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