Week 2 – PB 1/3 & Audio Workshop

UPDATED Jan 2019 / Sharron Lovell

*Note to tutors – may need to purchase some basic equipment (student budget wireless mics, LED light panels etc)


  • 1) Please complete part 1 of 3 of your production brief. Bring it to class. Send it to Sharron via email. (On Monday Sharron will make an email thread). 
  • 2) Please find a partner and complete the News Value Task (It’s in green further down in the notes). Takes around 30 mins
  • 3) Finally – be sure you know how to function and control your audio settings and levels on YOUR OWN camera. Is it possible to function them manually? Can you adjust them while recording? What various options do you have to control audio levels? Can you get to the controls quickly and easily? Tutors cannot be responsible for knowing the settings of specific camera models – so, dive into your manual; find tutorials on youtube and explore the audio settings and controls on your own camera. This will help with this weeks class as we aim to take your audio skills up a level. 


  • MONDAY – Advanced Audio & Lighting for Videojournalism (focusing on budget solutions for students working alone or in a small team)
  • TUESDAY – AM Video Reverse Engineer. PM Colour Correction Workshop
  • Please note you will all be taken from class for around 12 to 15 minutes to present and pitch your Term 2 story to Rongfei for feedback.

Class exercise – Videojournalism Reverse Engineer (Tuesday morning)

DO NOT WATCH THE VIDEO BEFORE CLASS! These notes are to help you review class. We’ll use this video as a case study in class to reverse engineer the pre-production and research as well as the production needed to produce this video. You can find the video here:

The film is a Vice production, here is the video blurb and ‘nut-graph’:

South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world. In ‘Suicide Watch’ we follow Hyung-Geun Suh who is the Captain of the Yeoudio Water Rescue Unit. His unit is responsible for rescuing people who are attempting suicide by jumping into the Han River. His team faces the stark reality of life and death on a daily bases as they jump into the cold waters of the Han river. Sometimes to rescue a person, sometimes to recover a body.

Reverse engineering is a process of extracting knowledge by breaking a story down to its various components and analyzing them. Think about the pre-production: What research was done? Which sources might have been consulted and how might access have been gained? Do you think pre-interviews were done? Think about the production; What might the shot and question list have looked like? Is there any real candid action and dialogue – how do you think the journalist captured these scenes?

Also, think about the post-production and the storyline. Identify the plot points and story arc – the hook, exposition, rising tension, conflict, climax, and resolution. Think about how the story is told and who is speaking? The Subject, Reporter, Man In The Street, Expert, Narrator? Text Slides? Who was selected to speak about particular information? Why? Think about the transitions. Which sound-bytes and shots were selected and why? How do each sound-byte and visual help to inform, engage and move the story forward? Was there any notable color correction or use fo music and or soundscapes?

You can reverse engineer any piece of journalism try the same technique with a text, an audio or a multimedia feature too:

Today’s exercise 

  1. Read the video blurb – above in blue. Then read this guide 10 Tips for Dramatically Improving Your Videojournalism Stories. In small groups or pairs imagine you were commissioned to film this story take 20 minutes to think about which sources you might want to follow or interview. What key questions might you ask each source and what kind of footage would you try to include or capture.
  2. Now watch the video as a class
  3. In small groups or pairs, take 15 minutes to write down a bullet-point outline of the story arc briefly summarising the hook, exposition, climax, rising tension, resolution, kicker. Discuss as a class.
  4. Class discussion- break down and analyze the pre-production
  5. Class discussion- break down and analyze the production
  6. Class discussion- break down and analyze the post-production


What are the factors that make a story ‘newsworthy’? In pairs, think about the factors that make your story of projects newsworthy.  

“An event, fact, or person that is newsworthy is considered to be interesting enough to be reported in newspapers or on the radio or television.” “Having the qualities of news; timely and important or interesting”

5-Step Guide to Assessing the Newsworthiness of a Story

1) TIMELINESS Is this a story that is happening now? Today? Is this a new story that has appeared recently? Is this a new trend, new phenomenon, new story?


2) IMPACT OR CONSEQUENCE Does this story matter? Is it important for people to know about this story? Will it change lives? So what?!

3) NOVELTY OR RARITY Is this story about some special or unique? Does the story reveal something that’s happening nowhere else? Is the story topic unusual?

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4) CONFLICT Is there a conflict in your story between two sides, or more? Is there a ‘David Vs Goliath’ situation? Are there sides that are opposed to each other?

5) HUMAN INTEREST Does your story tell people’s stories? Are there real characters that your story follows? Are your characters interesting and/or unique?

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6) VISUAL IMPACT Don’t forget visuals! Is this a visual story? Can the story be told entirely through photos and/or video? Is there any action that your story will follow?

In pairs, consider each of the 6 criteria and apply it to your Term 2 story pitch/idea to assess the newsworthiness. How many of the 6 criteria does it meet? Can you shift the story idea or focus to make it more newsworthy?

Advanced Audio for Video

This session is about giving you more options and more solutions to capture audio in the field. A wired lav mic like you’ve been using so far gives great sound but can be very limiting. You might be using single system audio (plugging mics straight into camera) or double system (plugging mics into a separate recorder and syncing files in production) Or a mixture of both depending on your camera, your budget and the situation you are filming in and your preference – single or double system is fine but whatever you are using you will need to learn and practice a few more audio techniques. Try them all in class and think about the ones that most suit your future story, practice and perfect before you get to the field with friends and family.

Set-up 1 – Wireless Lav – A great option that allows your subject to move around freely and allows you to capture more candid interview and dialogue. The drawbacks are that decent lav mics are expensive – we suggest borrowing or hiring. We’ll buy one for class use in February.

Set-up 2 – ‘Poor (wo)mans’ Wireless Lav – Plug a lav into an audio recorder and pop it in the pocket of your subject – cheap and easy! The drawback is that you are unable to monitor so be sure to pay careful attention to mic placement, use full batteries and do a sound check.

Set-up 3 Shot Gun on a Boom Pole -A great options and a mainstay of documentary filmmaking. It allows for untethered and super versatile sound which can quickly be moved quickly to capture an interview or dialogue or ambient sound depending on the situation. The drawback is that it’s an expensive option and requires at least a tw0-person crew. Perhaps a bigger drawback is the fact that a boom makes things feel like a production and can make some subjects uncomfortable.

Set-up 4 DSLR Shot Gun on a Lolipod – I used to use this technique before I could afford a pro shot gun, especially for commercial shoots. If used well delivers very high quality sound on a budget. You need to get a 3.5mm to 3.5mm extension cable and twirl it around the ‘pole’ (We have lolipods in the classroom for you to borrow). Remember quality sound depends more on proximity that expensive equipment. Used well budget options can deliver excellent sound.

The first set up here uses a rode video mic on a boom in the same way you would with a lolipod.

Set-up 5 DSLR or Pro-Shot Gun attached to the camera – This is a great option for a one (wo)man band. You don’t need to tether anything and can control things easily. The drawback is that you need to be pretty close to the subject to pick up decent quality so you might need to use a wider lens and be a little closer to things that you sometimes want. You won’t be able to capture decent interview audio or dialogue on a long shot. See the videos below for more.

Filmmaker Matthew Cassel almost exclusively used a shot gun attached to camera for his documentary The Journey
This set up is great for interviews where you want to maintain eye-contact with your subject

Set-up 6 Mic Dropping – Another technique is to simply drop a mic into a scene (you can even use a phone) For example maybe you want to capture some candid dialogue at dinner, simply drop and hide a mic on the dinner table. You can also do this when recording an important interview. Sure it’s not the best quality audio, but it should give you a useable back up so long as it’s close enough.

Monitoring interviews – make your own headphone jack

Not all DSLR’s have a headphone jack If you want to add a headphone jack – you could try these hacks. They cost around 300 RMB, well worth it.