Why—and what—journalists must know about video training

If this recent Nielsen study doesn’t convince you that people are streaming more video than ever, you may want to pay closer attention at your next cellphone bill.

The journalism industry is certainly not ignoring this trend, and you can find evidence on everything from YouTube to Facebook, even in places not previously known for visual storytelling: radio, print, web and even nonprofit news outlets.

“Audiences are increasingly interested in written content that is supplemented by imagery—it adds dynamism and can be a more efficient means of conveying certain types of information,” says Jason Jakaitis, director of Independent Media at the nonprofit Bay Area Video Coalition.

“There are times when the audience wants their imagination activated by the written word, but there are other times when the audience wants to have a visually concrete context alongside the words,” Jakaitis says.

Part of the industry push, he says, is due to advances in technology that allow for easier production of high-quality media content. “Through social media and camera phones, journalists—like everyone else—are becoming independent production studios.”

Additionally, a recent Poynter-Knight Foundation survey explored the topic of training in large and small newsrooms. The survey found that journalists listed social media, digital tools, video skills and data journalism among the skills of most importance to their careers. Newsroom managers, hear that?

Eric Newton, of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, explains this in the report:

“The digital age forced the wholesale rewrite of craft and profession, to say nothing of topic education. Classrooms and newsrooms are starting to understand more about numeracy, design, new media forms and community engagement. Yet craft, profession and topic education are no longer enough. The digital age demands a new, permanent category of training and education.

To that end, Jakaitis’ BAVC offers training in northern California—and nationally at client sites—in media technologies, including graphic and web design, motion graphics, experimental web design, video production, video post-production and web development.

And in November, BAVC partnered with the Investigative News Network, with support from the John D.and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to offer a five-day boot camp, where a handful of journalists learned how to use DSLRs, GoPro cameras, mobile phone video, “b-roll” techniques and an assortment of skills needed to produce quality content.

All, Jakaitis says, are skills that carry over no matter the camera or editing platform: on-camera interviews, effective implementation of b-roll and cutaways, basic videography and visual storytelling approaches.

Don’t know much about video editing? Jakaitis breaks down the key software that gets the job done—from pricey to free:

Adobe’s Creative Cloud offers a robust software package, including it editing platform, Premiere, which can be accessed via a monthly fee (with updates immediately made to the software, rather than having to buy new iterations).

Final Cut Pro X is a simplified version of Final Cut Pro 7—far friendlier to prosumer filmmakers (and journalists who are doing this on the side, for that matter) It’s more limited in scope than Adobe’s CC, but it’s just $300 for the software.

And whereas Final Cut Pro X has been “dumbed down” for broader use, Apple’s iMovie has been retooled and is a perfectly viable—and super cheap—tool for basic no-frills filmmaking.

Finally, Lightworks is an open-source editing platform that plays with both Macs and PCs and can be downloaded for free. The interface is similar to Premiere and Final Cut Pro X. But while it is pretty powerful for something so readily accessible online, it is limited and unfortunately lacks some of the elegance of other workflows.