Five video story forms

If you’re new to working with video, especially online, it’s important to think about the kind of story you’re trying to tell before gathering the visuals you’ll use to tell it.  Our recent post on how Web video is different shared how the Washington Post categorizes Web videos into three “tiers.”  At the Arizona Republic, deputy managing editor Michael Roberts talks about five “story forms” for video.

  • Event: One time, ongoing or recurring.
  • Guide: Tour or how-to.
  • Profile: Person, place or organization.
  • Slice of life: Sights and sounds, often familiar.
  • Man on the street:  Quotes and views of people.

Roberts suggests that you first decide what form you’re using, then collect information about the story and plan the shoot to gather video and audio.  Before you put the pieces together, decide on a structure.  Are you telling the story in chronological order?  Are you grouping information by topic?  Either can work, but in every case your video needs a clear beginning, middle and end.

This may all seem obvious to experienced photojournalists, and it leaves out a lot of other video story forms.  But it’s a useful road map for anyone who’s new to visual storytelling and who’s expected to produce Web videos quickly.

By the way, we’re now working with some folks on developing additional ways of thinking about Web video, so stay tuned.


7 Responses

  1. […] Five video story forms « Advancing the Story […]

  2. what is the utility of classifying stories in this way? Why classify video stories and not text stories?

  3. […] O JORNAL The Washington Post catergoriza os vídeos para a Web em três categorias, o Arizona Republic fala em cinco. […]

  4. I think there’s one main reason so many people are trying to classify online video story forms. Journalists who’ve never worked with video are now being expected to tell visual stories on the Web. So they need simple guidance to get them started. Writers of text stories need advice, too, but it’s more widely available. For example, in the writing chapter of our book, Advancing the Story, we talk about four basic story structures: inverted pyramid, hourglass, diamond and Christmas tree. That said, there’s plenty of room for other ways of classifying text stories. Got any to share?

  5. […] Potter wrote early this week about the Arizona Republic’s definitions of five forms of online video: event, guide, profile, slice of life and man on the street. I like their thinking because it shows […]

  6. stories could be classified by length, target demographic, style, longevity etc.

    Classifying a story as a “profile of a person” seems in many cases redundant – how does the designation help the journalist? – and in others unnecessarily restrictive – does a story about a political speech really have to be classified as either a ‘profile’ or an ‘event’, why can’t it be both?

  7. A bit more context on the five video story forms we developed here at the Arizona Republic. As someone noted, the forms are more like story forms, a combination of shape, function, content. They are not strict technical outlines for editing or timing. As well…

    — A primary goal was to give everyone involved in generating a video more of a common language. Rather than someone saying, “Hey, we need a video off that story (or a standalone video),” we could talk a bit more about the purpose and best form. And even when not to attempt a video. We have a sister TV station that provides much of the breaking news video on our web site. So most of our Republic video is enterprise, and done with natural sound (versus a standup). Our early stuff was pretty weak, almost the equivalent of wild art in photo. Forms helped drive more discussions about why we were doing a video and what it should communicate.
    — On restricting someone to a preconceived notion, I worried a bit about that, particularly from the photographers shooting video. (We have reporters shooting video as well, and they are more familiar with planning a story.) But, when we introduced the forms, the photographers were very enthusiastic, both as a defense against lame assignments, and to help them think through a storyline and related shot list. Surprises happen and we can go with them. But going in with a plan makes it easier to come back with the planned piece, or know clearly why we switched ideas.
    — Another issue, common with video newbies, was people shooting far too much footage (as the idea was vague) and then having to spend way too much time editing to find the story. Forms and preplanning has really helped with the time management aspect of video — which also seems welcome from the videographers.
    — On the question of a “profile,” we mean a sketch or snapshot of a person or place focused on their distinguishing characteristic, be it a news event or something else. (Example: We use the same concept in prose profiles in the newspaper.
    If anyone would like more info, or a copy of the materials we use, I’d be happy to direct you.
    Michael Roberts
    Deputy Managing Editor Staff Development / Projects
    The Arizona Republic

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