Starting a Video Production Department - Part Two

 

Besides morning announcements, there are many additional segments and features that can be incorporated, depending on production time and available crew.

Here are just a few of the possibilities:

· This Day in History/This Week in History: Highlight one or more historic events from the day or week of the broadcast. To add a twist, the anchor could introduce a “teaser” for this segment near the beginning of the newscast – such as asking “On this day in history, what battle was fought that helped America win its independence? Find out later in the news.” Then, reveal the answer toward the end of the show along with brief background information on the topic. When searching for events to mention, consider covering events in a range of topics, such as science, history or math. In addition, if possible, using events related to units or subjects students are studying is a good way to boost the educational value of the program.

· Word of the Day/Word of the Week: Introduce viewers to a new word they are unlikely to encounter in everyday life. It’s a good idea to display the word on-screen, either via a graphics system, if available, or printed on a large piece of paper or chalkboard behind the anchor.

· Book reviews: Have a student review a book available in the school library, giving a brief overview of the plot, characters and his or her overall impression. Consider coordinating this segment with the school librarian to find appropriate seasonal books or ones that have a connection to current curriculum. In addition, librarians may want to stock up on extra copies before a title is mentioned on air.

· Student or teacher spotlight: Interview a student or teacher about his or her background, likes and dislikes and other informative or entertaining information. An easy way to do this is to ask each person the same set of questions (different lists can be used for students and teachers). The question can be displayed on-screen as a graphic or read by the anchor or reporter.

· Trivia contests: Ask a general knowledge trivia question and ask classrooms to submit answers. This type of segments requires a little technical backing but can be accomplished via e-mail or telephone. If a computer is available in each classroom, teachers can be instructed to have an e-mail open and addressed to the address specified, ready to type the class’s answer and click send. If the school building is wired with telephone extensions in each room, teachers could call the designated number with the class answer. The first class to respond with the correct answer can be award some kind of prize – a pizza party, certificate, bag of candy or even ten minutes of extra recess.

· Sports: Update the student body on the latest scores of the district sport teams.

· World and national news: A short update on the major stories making news around the world or country, pulling information from Web sites or newspapers (be careful to rewrite stories and credit sources). Another option is to include local news headlines from outside the school.

 

There are a potentially endless number of features that can be used during the morning news. Obviously, the quantity and selection of what is produced lies heavily on the available equipment and crew. One good system is to select five segments and assign each a designated day of the week.

In smaller productions, the anchors could present each segment just as they do the regular announcements. However, if possible, more students can be put in on-air positions by assignment a rotation of students to each segment; or, for smaller pools, one student could be assigned to one segment.

Content for segments can be prepared by the student reading it, the entire class or a group of writers.

Establish and post a schedule of who is slated to present each day and who is responsible for preparing the material. Optimally, it’s best to require the scripts for these segments to be turned in a few days in advance to allow for screening by the adviser and to give padding if a student forgets to prepare his or her material. As the crew settles into the routine, encourage students to plan segments in advance.

One thing to remember when preparing content: The more opportunities you have to mention, or better yet, show, students and staff members, the more you’ll be able to hold their interest.

Along those lines, you may want to include short congratulations to students who have won an award or achieved other recognition as well as birthday greetings to students and staff members. Usually a list of birthdays can be obtained from the school office or district office databases.

In addition to segments, students can also be sent to school activities, such as dances, competitions, sports events or fundraisers to videotape short reports or clip montages for airing. If voiceover narrations aren’t possible or practical, just showing 30 to 60 seconds of short clips is sufficient – and helps meet the goal of getting students’ faces on TV. Don’t overlook sending crews on field trips or other out-of-school activities for unique coverage opportunities as well.

The more planning and advance preparation that can be done in every area of your newscast, the better coverage you’ll have. It’s often surprising how much coverage, segments and stories can be planned or even produced ahead of time. Consult your school’s activity calendar and other faculty members for upcoming dances, field trips or activities that might be worth covering and plan to have a crew at it. Often, interviews or preliminary taping can be done days or weeks ahead of time.

Another stalwart of the morning news is a time for the Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence. Some schools run a videotape of a flag with a narrator, often the principal, reading the pledge in the background. If the school observes a moment of reflection, a simple on-screen graphic reading “Moment of reflection” is frequently used. Some schools also chose to use on-screen text during the pledge rather than a video clip. One quick note: If you’re using a videotape to display these segments, be sure to have a backup copy filed away. Depending on the media used, tapes that are played every day tend to degrade over time. VHS tapes may be unusable after a few months of use.

At the end of each broadcast, allow the anchors to sign-off and wish students a good day. If available, they could also announce a feature coming up the following day on the newscast.

If multiple cameras are available, consider ending the newscast with a five to twenty second shot of the control room or wide view of the set with some of the crew visible. This method, which can be combined with credits and music, allows your camera operators to have some fun coming up with new shots each day and gives the behind-the-scenes crew a chance to be in the limelight, if only for a few seconds.

Finding and developing content for your video productions is a vital step of the process that requires some careful planning and preparation. Don’t be afraid to be innovative and come up with new segments or features – if it doesn’t fly, it can always be pulled from the rotation. As you get more experience under your belt, e-mail suggestions for segments and advice on what works and what doesn’t to .

Watch for Part Three in this series: Equipment and Technology in the August Issue of School Video News


 

Michael Hill graduated from the University of Scranton cum laude in December 2005 and, after a stint at The Ithaca Journal in Ithaca, N.Y. as page designer/graphic designer, he joined the staff of FX Group, a broadcast television set design, fabrication and installation firm in Orlando, Fla., as a marketing assistant/Web specialist, later adding graphic design to his responsibilities.