May 19, 2013

Top 5 Tips for Great Web Video

I love to teach because I love to learn.

What I learned from my students this semester is that you should always make the extra effort to make your work better.

Case in point: two students received A+ on their first projects but took my comments and revised. They knew they couldn’t get a better grade but they wanted to make better projects, and they did.


Now at the end of the semester, after I sat through endless pitches, radio cuts, rough cuts, fine cuts and revisions and graded all their final projects, I had a few ideas I wanted to share:

CUNY Grad School of Journalism Video Storytelling for the Web class site

CUNY Grad School of Journalism Video Storytelling for the Web class site. Frame grab from a story by Raed El Rafei & Zara Katz


Video Storytelling for the Web Class

My thanks to you for all your hard work this semester. I’ve learned a lot from each of you and I’ve condensed a bit of what I’ve learned into the following 5 points which I intend to keep with me when I propose, shoot and edit my own stories:

  • 2) Strong stories consist of actions that you can witness. (This is also true of strong written stories) Video is a medium of present tense storytelling.
  • 3) Video needs visual evidence, that is, show, don’t tell. A talking head is not “showing,” rather it’s a boring way to accomplish “telling.” If you can’t “show” the story, video might not be the best medium to communicate your story.
  • 4) Visual sequences are the grammar of video storytelling. “B roll” is like wallpaper: pretty or tacky but meant to be in the background. Write strong sentences; always capture compelling sequences with a beginning, middle and end.
  • 5) Mobile is the future. Close-ups and Extreme close-ups have the most impact on a mobile device like your phone or tablet. Shoot close 85% of the time but remember to shoot one killer wide shot too.

Thanks to all of you for inspiring me! Enjoy the summer.


  1. Hey Bob:

    Always enjoying your work and enthusiasm for pushing, ever pushing, for ways to communicate great stories.
    I took your storytelling workshop a few years ago at Hallmark Cards…and am still using the skills you introduced to me daily in my work.

    Wondering if you have a new favorite clean preamp to recommend to use to input into the main camera…I’m trying to find something with a nice low noise floor!


    Scott Gibbons

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