Detroit News multimedia editor says audio is key to strong videos
By Emily Walkenhorst
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Max Ortiz’s job has gone from visual to aural since he began doing video for The Detroit News four years ago. Once mainly a photographer, Ortiz is now one of three journalists at The Detroit News who works with multimedia daily.
As a multimedia producer, Ortiz has realized that the most important aspect of a good photo the visuals does not hold true for video stories.
“The most important thing I’ve noticed is the audio,” he said in a phone interview.
Ortiz imagines filming in a cafe, capturing all the natural sounds of the place: the cook in the background, the bell above the door ringing when a customer walks in.
If you don’t have good audio, the footage amounts to nothing, he said.
After shooting, the reporter comes back to The News, puts together a rough draft of the story and then consults with the head multimedia editor for that day. The multimedia editor weighs in on the video’s content and language. The reporter then connects with the online department about the video’s play on the website.
Ortiz shoots, edits and often has the final say on the videos he produces, which range from news to sports to features.
“Everyone has their specialty,” he said. “I kind of fit in the middle. I do it all.”
But as an editor, Ortiz has a personal style, like when making decisions about music in video.
“Some of the tones I like may not translate from one person to another,” he said.
Further, The News must pay for any songs put in its videos unless they’re recorded from a public venue, such as a concert. Often, reporters stock up on this kind of music to avoid having pay for it later when the time comes to use it.
But Ortiz doesn’t try to experiment too much. Although newspaper multimedia shooters have more freedom to take the camera off of the tripod than do broadcast outlets, Ortiz said editing is difficult when much of the footage is unusable like when it’s too shaky.
He recommends getting enough solid footage first, when filming.
“That’s the kiss of death when you come back with nothing,” Ortiz said.
But the safest shots don’t make an interesting video. When editing, the reporter needs to consider how to move from frame to frame, making sure he or she has shots that capture different things from different perspectives.
“You don’t want static, straight-on shots throughout the video,” he said. “You have to have somewhere to cut.”
Sifting through clips of different lengths and angles makes the duration of the video an issue in editing. But duration of the video doesn’t factor into Ortiz’s editing. He said as long as the story is interesting, the length is negligible.
“A lot of editors don’t like to hear that because they like it short,” Ortiz said.
Many of these ideas and tricks must be learned by photographers and other journalists interested in video. Cuts, sound and time are not things normally considered by experts in still cameras.
“Photographers are not really in tune to listening for audio,” he said. “If there’s a fire, we run to the fire.”
That same reporting is different for Ortiz now. He wouldn’t run toward the fire.
“As a videographer, you run toward the sound of the people telling the story.”
For more tips from Max on shooting video, click here.