For broadcast journalists just coming out of college and taking a first job at a local affiliate station, doing a real live report, or “live shot” will be one of the big challenges. Some won’t ever master the art of live shots, others will quickly grasp that what on its face seems difficult is less so once you come face-to-face with the beast.
How do you start?
These tips can apply to anyone doing any kind of work on the other side of the camera. They’ll sound simple, and you will get results if you put these simple methods to work for you, regardless if you work for a network affiliate station, or are a business owner called upon to do some sort of pr work or even talk to a reporter. First thing, make sure you have on the uniform, usable by both guests and reporters in the field. This article will give you some pointers on both makeup and clothing, at least for men in the field. Women have many of the same considerations when it comes to making sure appearance doesn’t distract from the message. Outside of that, you’ll have to learn to control your panic response or fear. Sometimes breathing exercises like slowing your breath and counting to ten can help calm jangled nerves. On the other hand, sometimes it just takes constant repeated exposure to the live end of a television camera to help one get over unreasonable fear of performing live on television.
What will happen?
Between 5 and 10 minutes out from the live shot, master control or your producer will begin to get In touch with you to check your mic, your image and anything else that may need to be done before your report. It’s important to be on your spot at that time, ready to go through the last few paces. Also, even though you may be nervous, keep a civil tongue in your head. If you’re on satellite, you’ll have all kinds of people worldwide watching you between feeds. Locally, you’ll have managers watching and listening to you. Just relax, and keep things professional. When the show starts, you’ll hear “program” in your ear, or the sound of the show as it begins, and will have some idea what time you’ll “hit” or go on-air. Your producer will often “count you in” to the start of the shot, and the photojournalist will often cue you by hand. That’s the start of the shot – and the start of the time-warp effect.
Doin’ the Time Warp
Due to adrenalin, bright lights and a shiny camera lens, you may notice a strange effect during a live report. Time may seem like it slows to a crawl. What seems like it took forever to you may have only taken a couple of seconds to someone watching at home. You’ll have to monitor yourself for this kind of thing, and usually take steps to noticeably slow and relax your speech patterns. Take some breaths, save a word or two. It’s may feel like you’re talking sooooooo slowly, but you’ll probably notice the time=warp and see later that the slowed speech actually sounded like normal speech in terms of speed, and what felt normal is very fast. Keep it slow and reduce the number of words you use to avoid stumbling.
The live stand-up.
The terror of all inexperienced television reporters. What to say? What to do? This is your moment to shine or simply screw it up, so, what do you do? A counterintuitive approach we’ll describe here will make you seem more confident on-air and will make your job easier until you get more experience. These are the black-magic secrets to doing that live shot. First, lose the stick mic and put a lav mic on – you know the one that pins to your collar? Next, get rid of the notebook. You may hold a pen if you’d like. Now, you’ll be on the high wire without a net, but we’ll find out how to cheat so it looks more dangerous that it is.
Divide things up
It’s easier to think of you story often like a 4-part item. First, a standup, then a voiceover video, then a soundbite, then another tought to end it up and throw it back. To do this without a notepad, just think of a single idea that leads into the story. Don’t think of two or three, just one idea. Try just saying this without notes. Shouldn’t be too hard. You don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to practice it – just keep that one simple idea and use it as your opening standup. Then, either use a notepad to keep taking about what’s on video, or take another idea that helps set up the sound bite. Final idea usually throws the story ahead into “what happens next” territory.
Practice this method. You’ll often find out that your ad-libbed single thought statements are 10 seconds or less. And remember, the fewer words you have to say on camera the less of a chance you have to mess things up as you continue to build confidence. When you know your average time for a stand-up, single idea bit, you’ll even have an easier time in the field covering stories. Shooting bridges becomes more of a snap.
It’s really that easy. I like to compare it to someone standing in a big field and running toward a barbed wire fence with the goal of jumping the fence, but being more frightened as one gets closer, only to get close to it and see it was an optical illusion – it’s only a 2 inch high fence. That’s like TV live news shots they’re frightening, until you have a few under your belt. Good luck.