Timing for a broadcast script

It’s helpful to know how long the voiceover is going to take before you record it. A common estimate in broadcasting is 180 words per minute. News anchors read at about 150 to 175 words per minute.

Let’s say you have a sequence of three shots, total 15 seconds. How long can you make a VO to cover that?

Some math: 180 (words) divided by 60 (seconds) equals 3 words per second. To cover 15 seconds, you can’t say more than about 45 words. Never try to speed up your talking — that won’t communicate effectively, and you know it. Notice that broadcast anchors read MORE SLOWLY than 180 wpm.

How long is 45 words? What’s something you know or remember that uses only 45 words?

I happen to know that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is exactly 45 words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, you might not be able to intone that intelligibly in 15 seconds. (It takes me 22 seconds to do it.) Time yourself and see!


Errol Morris’s new documentary

I have to see it:  “Standard Operating Procedure” (view the trailer).

Now read about the ethical questions it raises: Errol Morris – re-enactments and truth (a blog post by Peter Ralph, videographer).

What you need to know to make better video

Colin Mulvany of The Spokesman-Review has been writing many great, great posts about newspaper video and online video in general. In his latest, he has just about condensed everything you need to know into one single post. Here is the outline:

  1. Speed up the pacing.
  2. Define your story — in the first 20 seconds.
  3. Start it with a very strong visual.
  4. Start it with natural sound.
  5. Stop zooming and panning already! What are you, 12 years old?
  6. Use a wireless microphone.
  7. In and out, in and out: Mix nat SOT in with narration.
  8. Be diligent in the fight against wind noise.
  9. Shoot creatively.
  10. Edit to include surprises.
  11. Leave the viewer feeling fulfilled.

Isn’t that a wonderful list? Now just remember to do all of that!

Video dimensions (important!)

You need to know what the aspect ratio of your video is. If no one has changed the settings on your camera, your aspect ratio in this class is 16:9 (widescreen). I set these myself, so I know all of the HV20 cameras started out with that setting.

The first time we captured with Windows Movie Maker, I told you which settings to select — BEFORE you captured — so that your video would have the correct aspect ratio. The default setting in WMM is not 16:9! (So you must change it! Change it every time — because the lab computers reset themselves.)

Six of you did not set the aspect ratio correctly when you captured the second video. As a result, your videos look a bit squished, as if someone pressed the left and right sides toward the middle. Not really what you want.

I expect you to select the WMM settings correctly for your final video!

Aspect Ratios

16:9 (widescreen) is 720 x about 400* pixels; however, WMM will output a file that is 720 x 480 pixels with black bars (letterbox) at top and bottom to make this right (if you selected the correct settings).

4:3 (old style TV) is 720 x 480 pixels.

*For a scary level of detail, see History of Aspect Ratio.

Settings in Flash Video Encoder

Because the output from WMM will be 720 x 480 no matter what (well, if you selected the proper output settings, that is …), you will use 720 x 480 in the Flash Video Encoder when you are converting the .wmv file to an .flv file.

THEN you will CROP the video’s black bars, as I demonstrated in class on April 3.

Download the notes from class about how to select the Flash Video Encoder settings (PDF file, 100 KB).

Making an FLV If You Do Not Have Flash

The image and sound quality might NOT be as good, but there are several Web sites where you can upload a .wmv file and have it converted to the FLV format, free. One is Zamzar. Another is YouConvertIt. If you find others that work well, please add a link in the comments to this post.

If you have access to the Flash Video Encoder (as all UF students do, in the labs), then please use that — and NOT the online converters.


All the stuff about the FLV Media Player and SWFObject is linked on the Week 13 syllabus page!