How to Apply the Concepts of Video Journalism to Family Video

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Have you tried applying video journalism techniques and concepts to family video?

I’ve done this, and I think more folks might want to give it a try.

The results can be both interesting and fun.

An Overview

The general idea is that we create a video story of family events and experiences using the same concepts and techniques that a video journalist might use.

Here’s what I think most people do when it comes to recording family video:

They turn on their video recorder and record the event from beginning to end.

Or they create a video montage that shows little pieces of the event, frequently set to music.

These are fine, but consider this question:

If the television show “60 Minutes” were going to make a video story of the same event, how would they do it?

The “60 Minutes” version would likely be significantly different from a typical family video.

Now of course, the production team at “60 Minutes” puts a lot of time, energy, and money into their video stories. Most of us aren’t going to do that with our family videos, but we can still apply many of the same concepts and techniques they use.

It might require more effort, but it can also be more rewarding.

How to Mix Video Journalism and Family Video

So how do you do it?

The first step is to become familiar with the techniques and concepts of video journalism.

You probably already know a lot just by being exposed to video journalism as a viewer throughout your life.

But there are plenty of other resources as well…

There are whole books on this topic of video journalism (I’ve read a few, including text books, and they’re interesting and useful).

There are college courses on the topic.

My favorite resource is simply watching examples of other works. For high quality examples, I suggest watching “60 minutes”.

Visit the video journalism websites of some of your favorite universities and watch examples of their students’ works.

We can learn a lot by watching example stories, and especially if we’re doing more than just enjoying the story. We can ask questions like “What are they doing here in this part of the video, and why?”

Concepts

Here are some of the things we find in examples of video journalism that we might not typically find in standard family video:

  • Interviews: This is one of the big ones. Video journalists interview people. They likely don’t use the complete interviews in the final video, but they get enough interview material to help tell their story.
  • Narration: The video journalist (or another narrator) frequently helps tell the story of the edited video through narration, which leads me to the next element which is a…
  • Written Script: The written script helps make sure the story is told well and includes the important details.
  • B-Roll: B-roll shots typically include a wide variety of different shots that help provide viewers with additional information as well as add visual interest. Having said this, many family videos I’ve seen are nothing but B-roll shots set to music. The result is a visually rich video montage, but frequently lacks the detail and structure to feel like a story.
  • “Nat sound”: This is short for “natural sound”. It’s the natural sound of the environment. For example, if you’re recording someone stirring a bowl of cookie dough, a viewer might expect to hear the sounds of stirring.
  • Beginning, Middle, and End: There’s usually a beginning, middle, and end which helps the video feel like a complete, self-contained story. Also the stories tend to begin and end with intentional opening and closing shots.

Advantages

The advantage of applying these techniques and concepts to family video is that we can end up with richer, more fulfilling family video.

They feel more like stories and they include more of the important details — the details that we’d likely want to know years later when we stumble on the video again.

Downsides

In my opinion there are only two main downsides to using this technique, but I still think it can be worth it.

The first downside is that it can take longer to make this type of video. But like I said, the quality difference can make the extra time worth it.

The second downside is one that I’ve learned from experience. When I’m in the moment/situation/experience I’m capturing, I have to decide if I’m going to be a participant in the experience, or am I going to be the one who documents it?

Sometimes I’ll intentionally decide to participate and not worry about capturing the experience at all.

Sometimes I’ll fully commit to documenting the event, and I don’t worry about my own lack of participation.

And sometimes I’ll try to go back and forth, documenting for a bit and then participating for a bit. Usually this doesn’t work out too well for either my participation or my documenting. I find that by trying to do both, I don’t do either very well. But that might just be me.

Still, even with these downsides, I think it can be worth the effort for some family video projects.

Conclusion

If you’ve heard me talk about Small Stories in the past, they would fall under this idea of mixing video journalism with family video.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried applying the concepts of video journalism to family video, I highly encourage you to try it.

You might (as I did) find it to be a rewarding way to capture and share family stories and experiences.

14 thoughts on “How to Apply the Concepts of Video Journalism to Family Video

  1. Hmmm I’m gonna have to try that 60-Minutes idea! Thanks for the inspiration.

    I’ve edited lots of family vacation videos, they used to be epics made with the button on two VHS recorders. You know you’re in trouble when the audience in your living room asks if they can borrow pillows and blankets!

    Finally, I’ve accepted the fact that I am not Rick Steves. I don’t travel with a production crew. Family members are too excited to cooperate with anything scripted or planned. So the edits become short vignettes which I try to brighten with music and humorous narration. Less than five minutes of every hour of my wonderful footage is used .. . but at least the audience members don’t feel like prisoners!

  2. What a great article, lucid (as always) and inspiring. This is a wonderful launching pad of an idea. It provides discipline and concept. Thank you. I shall employ it for my next flick.

  3. Some great tips, Izzy. I like to add some dash cam video into my cross country road trip, so I might start some “60 Minute” narrating explaining some of the sites along the way to my destination, instead of just adding writing of what State I’m passing through. Thanks Izzy.

  4. I have been doing family videos for decades, so my processes have evolved from primitive “Point, shoot, and don’t worry about anything,” to more (well, at least slightly more) thoughtful approaches that incorporated at least some of your suggestions, but as I have become much more involved in community-focused documentary production, my family videos have gone into the fantasy realm, where I am seized by a theme that then shapes the family video in wilder ways than I originally would have dared to contemplate. My family videos, today, are for fun, above all, whereas our documentaries are serious, and often quite linear. But everything that you have said is dead on, in terms of being good procedures to consider for creating a solid family video. And much of my evolution has been under your guidance with Final Cut Pro, Izzy, so thank you for that long-term connection.

  5. Travel videos, we have been traveling quite a lot and I come back with hours of video and thousands of still photos. Then I take months to make something out of it. A script, a B-Roll…a beginning, middle and end? That’s completely the opposite of the way I have been doing it. Thanks, I’ll give it a try.

  6. I’ve been an internal company video maker since 12 years now.
    The most difficult thing to do is to convince all the people who want/have to approve the master, to start making videos the right way.
    Again this great article will help me to explain things.
    Thank you so much

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