3 tips to help video staffers who say “I want to do a funny video this week…”

For our “Chat and Chew” segment, our videographers set up a three-camera approach to record a series of videos focusing on selecting different staff members and their favorite go-to snack to eat while getting to know them outside of their daily job. Make sure to consider the audio needed to pull off a video like this, sequence your shots to create a professional look and EDIT tight for the best parts of the conversation. Coming into the conversation with a few talking points and knowing the direction of the conversation can really help your on-camera talent as well.

It’s Quarter 4. Your team has used up every idea on your big board, and the closer you get to the end of the school year, the more your team wants to create “entertainment” videos for your website, television show and social media platforms.

The problem is, being funny is subjective, difficult to attain and always in the eye of the beholder, which isn’t always JUST your teen audience in your high schools. Your audience can range from a 14-year old freshman all the way to the community building where senior citizens in your town may watch your show for some of their news and town coverage.

How do you keep things tasteful? How do you approach comedy with a creative approach? How can you craft entertainment, culture and lifestyle into something that is just as solid, well-built and thought out as your news, feature and sports coverage?

It’s a never-ending challenge each year that changes with the different types of personalities, characters and ideas of your student media staff. I’ll try to give you a few ideas to create some entertainment content you can be proud of for the last quarter of the year!

OneMaize Show videographers gather around a new staffer’s computer to check out a final edit of a water park review for Episode 6 of the show. Instilling news value (timeliness, currency) on your entertainment/review videos can keep a “newsy” element to the video coverage while your students are still having fun getting to do the story they have chosen to do. Our OneMaize Media team (Maize, Kansas) rotates each month on who gets to do the entertainment video for each episode.

Tip #1-The foundation of great video storytelling STILL applies.

My first tip for planning and entertainment/review pieces is to take a day or two to come up with a solid approach and game plan. You’re creating a very scripted, scene-by-scene sort of video product, so you’re able to really take your time with the sequencing, storytellings, talent, audio needs and all considerations before you even begin shooting video

Look at what your program has done in the past 2-3 years within this category. Ensure you are in fact doing something NEW and FRESH that your teen audience will enjoy, but is tasteful and creative enough to grab a younger audience along with parents and your community. It’s never a bad idea to look at award-winning comedy work through the Student Television Network, which actually has a “comedy film” category to see the programs that really take pre-production, lighting, scripting and camera work to that NEXT level so that their entertainment work contains the same detail and production value as their news, sports and feature pieces.

We’re using a tripod and seeking stabilized video. We’re using lavalier microphones to mic up our talent. We’re researching a business and the food items available before we take the video review plunge. We are simply doing our HOMEWORK for entertainment and review stories and treating as professional as any other video with our approach!

Tip #2-Work in those seven pillars of news values to add some depth and professionalism to the piece.

Timeliness, impact, proximity, human interest, conflict, the bizarre, and celebrity are all news values that can still be implemented in your entertainment storytelling. Keeping these factors in mind can help keep your piece professional and help build the credibility of your entertainment section and additions to your show/website as a whole.

If you’re going to do a game show or contest piece, try to involve prominent figures in your community to compete against your students that are well known figures. Involve a local mom-and-pop business to help provide the food, resources or items for the game show to build a relationship with a district vendor/client you haven’t worked with before.

When considering a review, make sure to review a venue/business that’s recently opened to keep it fairly timely. Consider your audience (teens first) and make sure it’s a brand/identity they can connect with, actively use or would consider using after watching your video.

Consider the shock value when coming up with your ideas. How can you be original to something you have never seen in a high school news show before? Will your audience laugh, cry, be surprised, be shocked and what emotions are you seeking from your piece? What will be the school and community reaction to your entertainment idea? All things to consider in the pre-production and planning process before you begin filming your next great entertainment video.

Tip #3-Try to become as knowledgeable and informed as you can before you step into a video “reviewing” food, venues, businesses or anything else!

To do a great video review, it’s important that you take the pre-production planning for shots, audio, talent, timing and location very seriously. To execute a great video review on a restaurant, business or event, I suggest doing a couple days of research, visiting the venue in advance and trying find 1-2 of your best videographers to help your team in the shooting of the piece.

For our reviews, we usually mic up two of our videographers and they have two videographers focusing on the video coverage. One videographer will cover the people/talent shots, while the other videographer is focusing on visuals of the venue, the food, the artifacts at the location and all the other great b-roll you need to capture to bring the story to life. I would suggest one of your videographers being well-versed and comfortable with a gimbal, which can add some really nice moments and energy to your piece! Drone shots of the outside of the venue and at the beginning/end of the video can really add a nice pop with an infusion of high energy music/smart music selections and great audio editing between voiceover/live audio, NAT sound and music all meshing together in the video.

The biggest critique I’ve seen on our review stories is that our videographers use general descriptions such as “tasted good”, “It was good, ” and “was my favorite” over and over throughout their videos. I coach my videographers to WATCH the Food Network, YouTube and other videos to learn HOW they talk about desserts, drinks, entrees, customer service, energy, the aesthetic of the venue/business as a whole. Small details really matter in those voiceovers, on-camera stand-ups and reporters looking directly at the camera to give their insight and opinion.

With the end of the school year approaching, the requests from your staff and videographers to create entertainment and review pieces will exponentially increase. I can assure you of that! The key is to elevate these stories to the same professional level as your news, sports and feature coverage and give your staff the tools, insight, directions and guidance to really put some production value into these videos that still carry value for your school news website (stand-alone videos) or for your daily, weekly or monthly broadcast show.

Spencer O'Daniel

Spencer is in his 12th year of advising student media at the high school and college level. O'Daniel currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Media at Texas A&M University, where he advises The Battalion newspaper and website, Maroon Life magazine, and The Aggieland yearbook. In his limited free time, he enjoys being active and outside, spending time with his two sons, and wife Jenna. His students have won over thousands of individual awards over the past decade, including a team KSPA state championship, collegiate photographer of the year, All-Kansas publications, Pacemakers and STN's Broadcast Excellence Award.

Spencer O'Daniel has 17 posts and counting. See all posts by Spencer O'Daniel

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