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delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)

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Bob Coledelivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 28, 2010 at 4:59:41 pm

Hi all,

I wonder whether you have the current scoop to answer this question:

I'm going to be producing a video and b-roll to hand out to the press (print, Internet, and tv) at a media event. All told, the press contingent is about fifty people.

The client will be contracting with a satellite/Internet company to provide files for download, but they also want physical copies on hand to deal out to the media.

The deliverable is about 8-10 minutes' worth of high definition. What delivery format(s) should I use for this?


Bob C

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Mark SuszkoRe: delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 28, 2010 at 6:27:21 pm

Stock footage companies like to offer their HD in motion-JPEG format, which is readily readable by most NLE's these days.

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Bob ColeRe: delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 28, 2010 at 7:21:50 pm

Thank you!

Physical delivery question: data DVDs acceptable? Last thing I want is for people to try to put them in their DVD player and go nuts because the files don't play.

Bob C

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Mark SuszkoRe: delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 28, 2010 at 8:33:04 pm

That's always a worry, which is why you would print very easy to read warnings on them.

"Not for use in regular DVD players; for computer editing use only".

If it were me, I'd also have some spare SD DVD copies to hand out for the reporters to use as a reference. It would be up to you if you wanted to make those have a duplicate chapter with a window-burn for helping to select shots by time code.

Bob probably already knows the rest of this, but I'm in a preachy mood this afternoon...

With VNR's the first rule is to make things as simple and easy as possible for the editor and reporter and producer; because their use of the footage is voluntary, don't give them any excuse to bag the footage due to any tech issues.

I have to explain this often to my clients, who only ever see finished VOSOT's on the TV, that what the stations that get this footage want is NOT a finished, polished package, ready to run, including graphics and lower thirds already applied. I can do those packages. In my sleep. But stations repeatedly tell us they don't want them; that's THEIR job.

No news director worth their pepto bismol bill will run that straight out of the can; knowing other stations will have it, too, they run the risk of the scenario where two women arrive at the party wearing an identical dress. You burn a station just once like that, they don't forget you.

Only a few of the most crass and incompetent stations will run that pre-built VNR package as-is. What they NEED is a "construction kit" of shots and elements with "handles" on the ends of them, so their own editors can mix and match the shots and apply dissolves or wipes and have enough footage to make that work. No two editors will cut the raw footage together exactly the same way, if they do the job right they will also add their own footage to what we sent, and this is what we want to have happen; the same general message, but filtered and multiplied thru each independent station's perspective.

That's why our VNR's are 15 minutes long, just to give enough raw material and variations to do a 1:30 finished piece. A construction kit of video LEGO's, with six seconds of silent (only nat sound) raw stuff on either end of the "good bits", enough to do an L-cut with narrator's VO over the incoming shot, before the guest speaks.

Because written notes and emails and the like can get lost on the way to the edit bay, and you can't use a shot you can't identify, we also put up screens with the proper titling ID info for each person in the kit, plus "suggestions" of background info that the editor or producer can freeze-frame and read, right off the tape or disk or file..

If you're a cynical type and have the room, you can edit your own VOSOT anyway, and put it at the very end as an example "user's guide", sort of how food packages have pretty cover images labeled "serving suggestion". In the tape days we kept one audio track "naked", so a reporter could, in a pinch, lay a new VO track into the existing package and call it his own, under deadline pressure. But nobody can takle pride in that kind of work, and it is rare to do more than once.

These days, the technology is such that as long as you don't make two audio or video sources overlap, you've not reduced the editor's options in any way. Sequence the shots and elements you supply in roughly story order as you see it, with spaces in between to hold little slate screens describing each shot. But never super graphics over the elements: every station and user has different fonts and things they want to use, so things that already have supers, titles, logos or bugs on them tend to get thrown away.

You can't force them to edit your exact message; you can influence the direction they take by what is and isn't supplied, but once they have it, they will do whatever they want to it, you can't control that except by not giving them specific things in the first place.

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Nick GriffinRe: VNRs - Thanx!
by on May 28, 2010 at 9:21:23 pm

Thank you for sharing a number of great guidelines. When your "preachy" you have a lot to offer.

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Mark SuszkoRe: VNRs - Thanx!
by on May 28, 2010 at 9:56:59 pm

Pass the plate, then, brother! :-)

Have a great and thoughtful holiday weekend, everybody! They sacrificed, so we can do what we do. Remember them.

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Bob ColeRe: delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 29, 2010 at 12:34:14 am

Thanks Mark. Great post, terrific insights.

question for all: my impression is that the Internet could change the VNR somewhat. It would make sense to have a web page with little thumbnails of each shot that the editor could download a la carte. Sort of emulates the nice bin of image thumbnails/clips in your NLE. Maybe only works for people with a T1 line.

Somehow I got the idea that stations don't like or use VNRs as much as they used to. Wrong? Or, could the stations be getting more receptive in what we fondly call "This Economy?"

Bob C

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Mark SuszkoRe: delivery format for high-def video news releases (VNRs)
by on May 29, 2010 at 2:56:11 am

There has always been a booming business in VNR's having to do with health/medical/science, senior-oriented living issues, consumer tech, child rearing, pop culture, fashion, public safety, outdoor sports, things like that. Simply because small-market stations never have had much of a budget to cover such a "beat" in any kind of depth to begin with. And your instinct about the economy forcing a trend is probably correct. So if you look at broad statistical trends from census data, you can predict a market and serve it.

VNR's got a bad rap in the past decade, and often deservedly so, from bad reporters and producers misusing the footage with made-up attributions, passing them off as things they were not. These days VNR's are still made, but satellite technology got very cheap and made it more affordable and timely to do SMT's, "Satellite Media Tours", which were also popularized by 24-hour cable news networks as a cost-saving device. My sense of things is that SMT's are more popular than VNR's for hot, fast-breaking but short-shelf-life topics that tend to interest a larger geographical region or demographic. They are also popular for political reportage, an area where stations have really contracted their coverage in the past decade as a cost-cutting move. Without a full-time statehouse reporter, VNR's and SMT's and in-studio pundit visits are the best they can do for their government coverage, such as it is.

An SMT is where you get a topical content expert spokesperson in a studio or remote location with an uplink truck, with a window of say a couple hours, and instead of reporters and crews each traipsing to a press junket, the junket comes to you, over the dish. Each station that signs up for a block of access time gets their turn talking live with the expert/guest. So you need an IFB phone number for each participating station and an exact in/out time for each segment served, plus you tell each station the coordinates and precise period they can take the signal. Booking the order of who goes first between rival stations is very delicate and needs someone with diplomacy skills and some moxy. Some SMT's are paid for by a pool arrangement created by the stations that want it. Other times, a corporate sponsor or similar patron fronts the cost as a way to get their message out. A very typical use would be around big holidays like Thanksgiving or this weekend, food sellers like Butterball could book an SMT with a celebrity chef to give out tips on how to cook the bird, make the barbecue, what-have-you, with massive sponsor product placement and mentions going on not so subtly in the background, foreground, etc. SMT's from the consumer electronics show in Vegas would also be a common idea. But you can figure out an approach for many things, just link it to something topical and of wide interest, and *somebody* will use it. A recent one I worked on was about state hunter safety rules and regs, just ahead of the Turkey firearms-shooting season. We added copies of 30-second PSA's to the VNR with a note about them, on the theory that once the news director was done with the VNR footage, he might kick the thing over to his Public Affairs Director to schedule some air time. Alternately, it is not uncommon to use the PSA's as the "news" part of the story. Either way, we got our safety message some free play that weekend.

The SMT in turn I think is slowly getting supplanted by skype broadcasts, which don't have the same quality yet, but also don't have time restrictions or satellite transponder time scheduling gymnastics to worry about. Stations and especially the 24 hour cable news networks, love this remote-delivered punditry of any kind, because it saves the the cost of going out and getting real news stories on their own. I think that's a sad trend, but I don't make the trends.

As far as the web, that's probably another correct assumption. If you look at the continuing fragmentation of audiences, they keep getting bored and fed-up with conventional news casts that no longer seem relevant to their needs, and go off looking for customized experiences in their areas of interest. I know I do. I can get more real useful and personally interesting as well as wacky news in ten minutes off the aggregator site than from two hours of the Today Show. A few google and youtube searches and RSS feeds and you could easily make a very customized and efficient news gathering experience for yourself. Custom news aggregators are the future of serious news consumers. Using something like google adwords or just clever use of keywords, you can plant web based VNR segments of your own out there and they will find their way to the audiences that want that information.

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