Standout Standups

January 22, 2018 11:00

by Simon Perez, Associate Professor, Syracuse University

“Anyone can just stand there.”
 
That’s what I frequently tell my broadcast journalism students who show me their initial resume reels that inevitably begin with a montage of static standups. No matter how poised, how well lit, how comfortable on camera, a reporter who just stands there holding a microphone is going to get lost in the sea of other reporters who are doing the same thing.
 
One of the ways to pique the interest of a news director looking to hire a reporter is to show creativity on camera. (Caveat: of course, good writing, reporting and videography skills come before creative standups.) The standup is the one part of a TV package where the reporter has total control. While interviews and b-roll depend on other people and other circumstances, the standup places virtually no limits on what the reporter can do. So take advantage of that freedom and make your resume reel sing – be different, be creative. Let your standup help you stand out from the crowd.
 
Here are three ways to produce more creative standups:
  1. Transition to a new place
  2. Visualize something for which you have no video
  3. Take advantage of non-linear editing
Transition to a new place
A clear way to organize a television news story is to present both sides of an issue: side A in the first half, side B in the second half. A standup in the middle is an effective bridge connecting both halves. In this example, the standup takes the viewer from not only one physical place to another, but also from one idea to another.
 


Tips:
  • The reporter must walk in the same direction in both halves of the standup (in this case from screen left to screen right);
  • Write down what you want to say in both parts of the standup before you begin so you’re sure both parts fit together. (It’s easy to forget what you said in part A as you’re driving to part B);
  • Keep talking as you leave the frame in part A and start talking before you enter the frame on part B, maintaining the same volume and rhythm. This eliminates a pause in the track and helps sell the idea you’re just walking from one place to another.
Visualize something for which you have no video
One of the difficult parts of telling television stories is the requirement you have video for every point you want to say in the voice track. Sometimes, there just isn’t any video for a crucial part of the story. A standup can help you overcome that obstacle. Again, this is where the reporter has total control, so be creative. In this example, the standup allows the reporter to talk about (and show) a sequence of events for which there is no video.
 


Tips:
  • Write down what you want to say in both parts of the standup before you begin so you’re sure all the parts fit together;
  • Enjoy your creative control. Don’t be afraid of jump cuts as they can make your standup snazzier.
Take advantage of non-linear editing
Today’s non-linear editing software provides many more options than the day-to-day TV news reporter needs. But, there are some quick, user-friendly functions that can add a little sizzle to your standups. An Internet search yields tutorials on just about any effect in any program. Here are two examples:
 
Split screen: this is another take on taking the viewers from one place to another.
 
 
Tips:
  • Frame yourself similarly in both shots so you’re about the same size in each;
  • At the end of part A, hold your position for 30 seconds so you can stay on camera during part B;
  • Write down what you want to say in both parts of the standup before you begin so you’re sure both parts fit together.
Speed up video: no great mystery here, but notice how it adds something to the point the reporter is trying to make and allows him to do more than tell the story from one place.
 
 

All these examples can be shot by the reporter working alone.
 
To be sure, the substantive part of journalism – accuracy, ethics, fairness – all outweigh the aesthetic of an interesting standup. But, when the goal is to get that next job, creativity can be the difference between “Thank you for your interest” and “When can you start?”
 
Simon Perez is an associate professor of broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. In the summers of 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 he returned to his former job as reporter for KPIX TV in San Francisco. He has chronicled his newsroom experiences and the lessons he hopes to bring back to the classroom at http://www.simonperez.com/blog.

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