Wibbitz's in-house editorial team creates daily Top Story news videos using our text-to-video Control Room platform. We chatted with Brad and Andie, our video experts in New York, to get their media editing tips for creating the most visually engaging short-form news videos.
When a video reaches the editing stage, what’s the best way to approach each frame? Is there a particular pattern that works well between using video footage verses images?
Brad: Before you start editing your video frame by frame, it’s important to visualize how the entire video should look. Understand how the text in your article can be best illustrated by media footage, so each frame can work together to tell your video’s story and keep viewers interested. As you begin choosing footage for each frame, avoid using still images for more than a couple of seconds, and use as many action shots as possible to keep the video moving and flowing. If I were to give a video clip v. image ratio that each video should stick to, I would say 70/30.
Andie: If it’s up to me, I would stick to 100% video. I only use images when I absolutely have to. A video should have movement, and use as many different shot variations as possible. One zoomed-in shot should be followed by an establishing shot, followed by a medium shot - sometimes I’ll even feature two or three different shots within a single frame. This sports video is a great example. Of course, there are times when there just isn’t any video footage available for a particular story. To keep image-heavy videos as engaging as possible, I tend to use a List Video, like we did for this video on celebrity reactions to the recent shootings. The larger text overlays and dynamic transitions in our Listicle video format will add more movement and flavor to the still frames.
Should media be thought of in different ways for different types of content in short-form videos?
Andie: You definitely have to think about it in different ways depending on the story. For breaking and hard-hitting news stories, you need to be cautious about choosing accurate footage - you need to make sure your sources are correct, you need to fact check, you need to make sure you’re using footage that is specific to that particular news story. With the shooting that just happened in Dallas, for example, the video would have to show the crime scene, protests, etc. from that single event. If you get lazy and accidentally feature footage from a different shooting, you risk losing credibility with your audience.
Brad: When it comes to lighter or less time-sensitive stories, raw footage isn’t always available as soon as the story breaks. So for entertainment, business, tech, or health news, you have more flexibility with your choice of footage, and it’s more important to focus on the video’s visual appeal. Our Control Room gives us access to the entire Getty library, which is great for finding generic media or celebrity footage. But you want to keep your video as interesting as possible, so I’ll juxtapose media from the Getty library with screenshots from a relevant Instagram or Twitter post, scenes cut from a music video or concert footage, or the most explosive or vibrant clip from a movie trailer. Featuring relevant soundbites from prominent political and celebrity figures is another way to add more dimension to a short-form video.
What should be the maximum length for a short-form video?
Andie: It depends on the format, or the end goal of the video. I try to keep captions videos between 20-35 seconds, but the shorter the video is the better - users’ attention spans on social platforms are much lower than on news sites. Videos that use a voiceover narration can last a bit longer because they cover more in-depth information, but should not last any longer than a minute. Try to keep these between 45-60 seconds. List Video can actually run a little over a minute - between 60-75 seconds - because they tend to be more informative, and readers gravitate toward listicles when they want to learn more about a topic they’re already interested in. And with a title like “10 Reasons You Should Be Eating Kale,” the viewer already knows how many list items they should expect to sit through, and will be more willing to commit to a longer video until the end of the countdown.
When a video clip is too long, how do you choose the best segment of footage to crop out and feature in each frame?
Andie: It’s important to understand what the point of each frame’s text overlay or list item is, and find video segments that clearly articulate each point. Even if an entire video clip is relevant to your video, there are always going to be some excerpts that fit better than others to feature in a frame. Pay attention to each frame’s action cues - if the text is quoting something Donald Trump said at a rally, then use the part of the video that shows him speaking, and leave out the part where he walks up to the podium. You also want to make sure you’re choosing the clearest and most visually appealing part of the clip - cut out anything blurry, shaky, or low-quality.
Brad: Sometimes I’ll use different crops from the same video clip for multiple frames, which will allow the video to flow since the clips are from the same camera, and use the same lighting. The Control Room’s new video trimming tool has simplified this part of the editing process, and has actually expanded our media selection - now a 1-2 minute video clip can be segmented into multiple 10-second clips directly in the platform that we can pick and choose from when editing the media.
What do you like best about Wibbitz’s media editing capabilities? Which feature saves you the most time?
Andie: I like that there’s such a plethora of media to choose from, and that it dates back to years on end. We have the entire video and image libraries from Getty and Reuters feeding into the Control Room in real time. Before I worked here and had access to the platform, it would take at least double the time to create a news video. You would have to go to YouTube, or find places where you can legally use media, download, edit, upload… now, everything is already in our Control Room platform, and the media is organized by relevancy so it’s easy to find.
Brad: When the platform automatically adds suggested media, especially for a political story, the video will be close to perfect. Basically, the automation helps us get our video 70% of the way to completion. But I really like that we still have the ability to get creative and put our own spin on a story, by adding and editing media how we see fit, until we believe it is 100% ready to be published. The automation saves me a lot of time, but depending on how I write the story and select the media, I can still put as much personality into the video as I like.