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Shooting Documentary Short Films

Lesson 4 of 16

Essential Elements of TV News

Griffin Hammond

Shooting Documentary Short Films

Griffin Hammond

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Lesson Info

4. Essential Elements of TV News

Lesson Info

Essential Elements of TV News

This isn't fun segment because we're going to talk about the building blocks of news and documentary the parts like the checklist of what you need to come away from a shoot with and then we're also going to do a deep dive into setting up an interview doing it the right way we're going to go look the footage we got yesterday on our test documentary shoot but we're also going to bring some of the studio cameras up on stage and do some live demonstrations so it should be ah lot of fun uh I'm gonna start with this white board because I want you to if you're not familiar with these terms write these down these are the building blocks of television news that I use I need these parts first one is a sot anyone know what ah what sought stands for it's an acronym just me well I'll tell you it's ah sound on tape which is probably an outdated term it really just means interview soundbites talking head uh that's what it is but we we could we call that in news asat and so actually when I organized m...

y footage I label them sot so if it's just an interview with someone you're gonna want to get assad right you're gonna want to get some people talking on camera in your in your piece we also talked about video in news does that stand for voiceover yeah uh voiceover is the voice that we hear underneath some video it's usually not sink with the video it's different, something different and in in news we also call a video piece avio if it uses like a piece that is on ly b roll don't talk about right now, uh, and needs the anchor the news anchor to talk underneath it. We call that a vo piece I make a vo pieces sometimes in my job b roll is the video that we used to cover up a voice over and it's just I don't know where the name came from I guess the primary things in the timeline must be the a role that assad is probably the a roll in the b roll is the other stuff that we shot and in the next segment we'll talk all about b roll, how important it is and how to shoot good b roll on the segment. We're mostly talk about sod and then we also have stand ups, which a reporter does you know what that is? Hello, I'm a reporter and I'm here and I'm doing a stand up that's, that's a, uh stand up these are the ingredients of documentary and television news and these air what ii pick up when I go into the field to shoot something? Now I know what some of you are probably thinking I'm talking about television news another formula right? And all of you have probably seen really bad television news sometimes it's always news stories are bad and you probably thinking like I don't want to shoot that way that turns into really bad stuff and here's an example of how bad that can be uh I didn't want to throw anyone I don't want to throw anyone under the bus so I just decided to shoot my own bad news story version of the documentary that we got just hears that here it is this is griffin hammond coming to you from the mac plant where I have way too much light on my face and it's creating this big dark mess behind me that's not visually pleasing it all and here's an establishing shot I yes, I should have cleaned up my lens here is inside it's not quite level and for some reason I'm doing a pan when surely I could have come up with some better way to show the space let's go talk to someone I repair mold way pick them apart on dh cleaned them on uh frequently tried to fix them. All right, so we've all seen stories like that, right? I mean, sometimes that happens what's wrong with the shot uh the composition is or he's in the center of the frame it's backlit with window there and that outlet is pretty ugly background yeah it is an ugly background uh what else is bad about the shot sound actually I have to listen to it again let's hear it that might actually be pretty close to the sound I got it is a noisy place on uh clean them on that sounds not great but yeah, it doesn't help that he's facing the noisiest stuff yeah definitely seems like he's not giving the best types of answers like in the other clip it seems like you prepared him a lot better. Yeah, he sounds a little bit bored he's looking out into space he's not really looking at you. Yeah, I may I mean he might be looking man you don't know where he's looking actually cameras a little shaky yeah yeah means handheld I mean that's that's what happens sometimes and I think handheld can look good may be done with it. Great. Here the microphone cord is the under his shirt thank you. I think that is my biggest pet peeve because I don't feel like it's that difficult but I've watched you know you watch documentaries on netflix that a professional and you sometimes see that mike or just hanging down thank you creative life for putting a microphone in my shirt it's not that difficult I know it's awkward to be like hey, can I put this up your shirt but please do it I mean I hate that yeah I just think that's I think it's a very amateur look that we can all avoid yeah, the lighting is straight on so it's sort of one toe one ratio there's no shadow or it doesn't give a sense of dimension and reflection in the glass is could have been avoided house the focus on the shot yeah, I probably have the amateur close down tomorrow so it's pretty deep focus but if you had to guess what in this shot is in focus, can you tell uh the outlet at the outlet for someone? This is clearly in focus and he is not now. I made a conscious choice when I was shooting this terrible shot to do that, but I don't know why I feel like I see this all the time in news I don't know if it's because they're on auto focus and maybe their center focused and it's deciding oh, that walls in the center of frame let's focus on that I don't know why that happens. We're talking to segment today about controlling your focus and you just you can't rely on auto focus or at least you gotta just make sure I don't know I don't know why that's one of my biggest pet peeves so that is a terrible looking interview and now let's look again at what george looks like in the good interview so there's the difference I mean actually in a lot of ways they're kind of similar they're composed about the same way but he's he's lit right he's he's uh it's on a tri pi looks pretty nice the background looks a lot better I don't know why so many interviews end up against the wall that's just a poor choice I think it's because people are good natured and they don't want to be in the way they're like let's go to this corner of the office where we won't bother everyone and I don't know it's just like it's instinct for some reason people just like going to a corner and they shove the person over there they point a camera at him and you end up with stuff like this all you have to do this exact same location as the other interview I just turned it around and I'm facing something interesting it's really it and I hit the wireless the cavalier microphone cable s o I mean, just just you have to take care of your interview and we're going to go through a very specific checklist for all the things I'm look important interview which includes all of that but before we move on to that I just wantto talk about these again now that we know those commie really terrible, you could have a terrible sot you could have bad b roll that covers up voice over I mean that the shots were just bad and some of them were not even white bounced correctly like this one's a little too yellow surely and I don't I think you have a choice when you're shooting stuff about like does it look cinematic or not and there's something about hands that just look very home video to me because I think we all kind of learned we first picked up a camera like let's show the space can be helpful you're doing like a real estate tour but often a pan just doesn't feel very visually interesting feels like kind of a poor choice I think I could show a wide shot of a room and then go in and show a close up of something in that room and then I could show a different angle like I can establish that same idea without that movement so it's about considering the movement of your b roll b roll which we're going to talk about in depth in segment three on I also did the reporter stand up that was just horrible it's that lighting they put the lighting on the camera and I hate it if you're going tohave lighting that close at least move it somewhere moving off the sides you get some interesting shadow but you blow out the you just kill the background when you when you blow out the foreground like that it's just really ugly but my point is it's still these building blocks just because some people do them really badly and you can do them badly after today, we're gonna go through all this stuff, and hopefully if you shoot a great side, you're shooting great b roll, you could even do a stand up. Why not? I mean, some some documentaries have it. You can do all the things that television news does, but you can do it really beautifully and make a great film, and it doesn't have to be the same formulas, physicality, news story we're gonna build upon these thes these building blocks and the reason I say this is because one it's a nice checklist, just make sure you get these things, but I also feel like this is what separates video it's what separates home video from documentary any of you? If you're shooting on an iphone, you're pretty much shooting home video like you're doing it because it's like your kid's baseball game or something, if you were to shoot an interview with your kid afterward had to go, and you matched it with the b roll of him playing the game, and and then you take some of that sound of him talking about how wonderful it was, and you put you put the b roll on top of it, like you have a really compelling story about your son's baseball game that I mean maybe don't always need to do that sometimes just want to upload the little klepto facebook but you could turn anything that's happening around you the events in your life into an interesting story if you just remember to capture these elements the other element which I didn't mention is a nat sound break and that sound is the natural sound that's happening in an environment it's often the sound that we get for b roll it's not sound on tapes on tape is like asking a question and it's very good clean audio on that sound break is just something that happened um here I'll show you an example of one I guess we look again like what this stuff can look like instead of that terrible news version here's our here's our nice looking interview that's our son I got a couple of shots will show you the other one a little bit later and we'll talk about how I set up these shots did two interviews we got a lot of b roll you know let's look at some example b roll here that's the interview there's a time lapse shot I did here's some b roll b roll b roll but this this is a gopro shot that's way more visually interesting than a pan around the factory, right? I mean, it depends on what I'm trying to show you but like I think there was a pretty b roll their eyes and I could do a little better um I didn't I'm not gonna stand up for this piece by sure I could shoot better than that terribly lit version and then here's a good example of a nat sound break like we got this piece going has some good quotes from the talking heads we're not showing too much talking hands were showing some interesting b roll you shot some cool shots and then we want to give you a flavor of the space and that's what in that sound break does here's in that sound, theo often my net some bricks aren't even like the most controlled environments like shots like that's not a beautiful shot I'm going to walk in but it's kind of interesting he's like doing something there's cool sound to it when you hear that a lot in in television news especially national network news is we'll do a story the anchor's doing there talk blah, blah the candidate did this today and then all of a sudden you'll hear like hillary clinton walk and she was like, hey everyone let's do it like that that sound break where they where they call it that sound pop sometimes because they break away from the video of the anchor and they let the scene play out a little bit so you look for those two um just you don't want your entire documentary to be people's voices talking. You want to think about what I often think about what the audio of my pieces before I could serve myself with the video. Too much. And I wanted to be just as I want the visuals to be interesting and have a variety I want. Have a variety of audio to music and voiceover and sound of tape, and that sound break. These are all the elements you wanna make sure you're capturing and really, just making sure you're recording. Sometimes with a microphone on your camera, you get some cool things will happen in front of you.

Class Description

Today’s media landscape is largely made up of regular folks who know how to spot a good story and use basic gear to document the world around them. Find out how you can join their ranks and make compelling, marketable shorts in Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 

Griffin made a name for himself with the ode to an iconic hot sauce, Sriracha. In this class, he’ll teach you how to identify, shoot, and share documentary-style video. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize and tell a good story
  • Capture high-caliber footage with low-budget gear 
  • Incorporate all the essentials for online and TV news
  • Produce corporate work clients love
  • Find your audience and monetize your work

Griffin will share tips on lighting, framing, and interviewing subjects so you walk away with lots of usable footage. You’ll watch as Griffin shares clips from a one-day shoot and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to turnaround a complete documentary-style short on a deadline.

You’ll also learn a handful of helpful editing techniques and get insights on the ethical and legal responsibilities of documentary filmmaking.

If you want to learn how to tell meaningful stories that look great and sell, while working on a shoestring budget, don’t miss Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 


Bruce Gruenbaum

First off, if you have not watched Sriracha, go and do that. The techniques that Griffin used in it are pretty incredible. This course expands on those techniques and what really surprised me about this course is how simple the setup is that he uses to make some absolutely amazing documentaries. The quality of what you can produce with the most basic of equipment is really mind-boggling. Some of the most interesting stuff was about B-Roll and how to use it to create a visually interesting presentation. The idea of a lot of small clips that show specific information is invaluable. The techniques he uses to create shots like the one where the camera was placed on top of a cart and pushed down an aisle was amazing. More than anything else, the ideas and tips I came away with have helped me find ways of making my own videos much more interesting.

a Creativelive Student

Griffin is a great storyteller and I was hoping to learn a LOT from this class. But I didn't. I'm an experienced corporate video editor/shooter who's always dreamed of doing a documentary. About half of the class is the very basics of video production (b-roll, rule of thirds, good audio) and the other half is interesting content that seems to cut off just as it becomes engaging. I'm not sure why Creative Live edited it that way other than to extend the number of segments? Although the next segment doesn't seem to pick up where the previous left off. I've never felt that way before about CL, but it seems like every segment is cut right as it gets to things I'm interested in. It did have some great information about revenue streams for a short form documentary, but I was left wanting to learn more. If you're just starting out... this is a great resource to learn the basics of non-fiction filming. If you already work professionally in the field I would pass.

Tim Greig

This is brilliant. Griffin is such a generous, self-deprecating filmmaker you just can't help but love him. He goes into great detail on just how he makes his documentaries and other work and is so inspiring, mostly because he is a one-man band and produces such interesting and wonderful videos. Thank you Griffin and CreativeLive for offering this.