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Ever heard this complaint? "Stories about the Internet never look good on television." Maybe that's because we haven't yet figured out how to tell stories about this flat, two-dimensional medium so they work on television.

Here are some suggestions that might help.

Hide the Technology

  • Use very little video of the screen itself, unless you are walking viewers through a site, showing them how to do or find something online.

  • Don't start or end with Internet video. Use it in the middle, to prove your point, not to open or close your story.

  • If your story is about technology, shoot people using it; don't shoot the technology itself in isolation. You wouldn't tell the story of a new piece of sports equipment by shooting it sitting on a table.

Focus on Character

  • Tell Internet stories as people stories, so the computer screen becomes incidental, not the focus of your report.

  • Find one personal example to illustrate a bigger story (one online political donor, for example). Use that person's story to answer the question, "Why should the viewer care?"

  • High-tech and Internet stories can appeal to many different demographic groups. Consider using different "tour guides" to tell Internet stories. A hip young narrator can add a new voice to your newscast.

Shoot and Write it Tight

  • Avoid shots of scrolling screens, shot so wide that the viewer can't see what's actually on the screen. If you show words, people want to be able to read the words.

  • Think of the screen as a still photograph, and use a "Ken Burns" approach. Shoot plenty of close-ups. Get in as tight as you dare, and pan or tilt the camera to reveal content.

  • Use what the computer gives you in terms of movement: drop down menus, a mouse that moves in the shot. Click and change pages on camera, using the available nat sound, rather than cutting from one page shot to another. Make your story duplicate the process of using the computer.

  • Keep the copy tight, and match it closely to the video. Every shot should help you tell the story. "Wallpaper" b-roll of computer screens is even duller than ordinary wallpaper video.

Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009

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