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Old May 10th, 2005, 08:54 AM   #1
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Video News Release - Advice needed

One of my clients has asked me to produce a Video News Release (VNR). For those who are not familiar with this term, it is basically a short news clip which is sent (via satelite) to hundreds of TV stations in the hopes that they will broadcast it.

Since this is for the "broadcast" medium I would some advice on what format to use (DV, DVCAM, BETA-SP etc), what medium I should distribute the final product on (Tape, DVD?) and what sort of things I should be looking out for in the production of this video.

Any help is appreciated.

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Old May 10th, 2005, 09:16 AM   #2
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Distribution of VNRs can be a real @$#%! pain, and that's why it is often left to PR firms that specialize in their production and distribution. Something to watch out for is if the client has done VNRs before: you don't want to get caught up in his/her unreasonable expectations about what can be done.

Could you say a little more about the areas of production you'll be responsible for. Do they have a script? Are you expected to write it? Do they have talent or are you hiring? etc. Are you treating a product, a service, or an issue? What are the targeted outlets for the finished piece?

It's hard to know what to say without a little more information.
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Old May 10th, 2005, 09:43 AM   #3
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We will have nothing to do with the distribution - only the production. We will write the script, shoot and edit the video.

I guess my only query is with regards to the format and the media. Should we shoot it in BETA-SP or will DV be OK? It's just that "broadcast" (which in my mind conjures up thoughts of fussy broadcast engineers who demand certain standards) is a medium which we are not familiar with.

So the "roadblocks" I refer to are the ones that we may encounter with the broadcast medium - not production, which we are very familiar with.

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Old May 10th, 2005, 10:21 AM   #4
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Beta would be the safe bet, but if some other firm is doing the distribution they should be able to tell you what's needed exactly. The deliverable format should be specified in your contract in any case.

Were I you I would also think carefully about any liabilities involved in writing the script. The client should agree to indemnify you re any claims of misrepresentation with respect to the product or service being portrayed. At the very least, secure written approval of the script by the client.
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Old May 10th, 2005, 10:41 AM   #5
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My opinion on VNR's

I have been a photographer/editor for loth local and network and have been assigned the tasks of dumping the VNR's into the video system for air. Keep the packages short, if it can't be stated in 2 and half minutes then you will lose the producer and your content. All nationally distriubuted VNR's come on betasp in my experience, some local VNRs have been distributed in the format of the station by local PR folks who know the station. Most I dealt with at the local PR firms gave me a choice. I would always take DVC-pro 50 over anything else, most betasp decks in local stations are barely hanging on and you have to use routers to get them on-line in the system. The broad answer is BetaSP.

Content in a VNR.
I will include this info even though it was not asked because it was always a pet peave. It is best to put a slate up with the content and time code. Most news editors are overworked and do not have the motivation or the time to view the whole tape, they will cut a silent VO from a mixed package if they are assigned a VO (which is the way vnr's make air 9 out of 10), if you put a slate up with the content and a map to get there, the editor just might FF to the raw video with nats of a cut VO you provided. Aviod dissolves, they don't hold up well on re-edits. If you include SOTs after the package be sure to leave enough pad at the head and tail for the editor to cut from. Usually every individual item needs .01 sec of pad at the head and .03 at the tail, you will make the editor happy that they don't have to freeze it. Assume your video will be chopped up and shortened, news casts are so tight, pack your VO with the best stuff in the first 20 seconds, that is usually all that makes it. Sound bites need to around :18, most producers I have dealt with like that number and if it is good then .25 is no problem.

I would stack it on the tape like this. :20 black, :20 bars and tone: 20 slate with timecode menu;Package, vo/nats (minimum :40 secs), individual SOT (limit 2), raw vo footage, raw interview. Don't overlook the raw video, more than likely you will have enough tape to use on the VNR and producers can use this raw footage to rationalize that they are not providing free commercial air time if they can customize it so the news director will not get on to them for whoring a VNR on the cast.

Watch your levels, legal broadcast levels are .07 black to 100% white. Watch your chroma saturation, avoid lots of white over 90% because this will cause most cheap sets to buzz. Watch you local weather segments, most WX system graphics use 110% whites and will buzz, usually during the 5 day forecast. Some stations do not care one bit about levels and others will live and die by them. I worked at a place with one waveform in master control and another place with one in every edit bay, all illegal levels were religiously re-dubbed.

VNR' are loved/hated by the news business, the ones that make air the most are health related. The best VNR presentation is from Birdseye frozen food. They have a brilliant PR staff. Did you know that frozen foods have more vitamins then fresh store bought veggies? I don't buy it but they send it out in the middle of June when the news is dead and everyone is on vacation and it makes the lead every now and then. Look for this VNR in your market, they basically send the tease and summary as generic health info with little reference to Birdseye. The producer never looks at the tape unless they have to transcribe sots so when it hits airi it is one long commercial for Birdseye frozen foods. The key to VNR's is timing, the dead times of the year are summer and X-mas. July is a mild sweeps period so it is best to wait, not many VNR's make it during sweeps. The time beteen Xmas and New years is ideal, most news rooms are understaffed with vacations.
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Old May 10th, 2005, 10:18 PM   #6
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I have to be careful in my response to this one as one of my Engineering customers is a long time on-air friend of mine and I have worked with his current crew at various other places here in town but -

VNRs are rather, shall we say, borderline ethical to me.

the point of a VNR is this... Someone that looks and sounds like a news reporter (but could just be an actor without a journalism degree or sense of journalistic ethics) is hired by a major company, like a (totaly hypothetically here) major drug company. They are brought in and given direction and a rough script or ideas and legal terms thought up by that companies PR/legal teams. The VNR producer/director and talent write the "story", shoot and edit it with an intentional bias toward the comapny that hired them.

So far it sounds like any commercial shoot. The main difference is this. The VNR people then send this "fake" news story out to news organizations around the US and other places in hopes they will look and sound enough like bona fide news that the news producers will use this blatent commercial as a news filler piece on slow news days, thus duping the public into believing it is actual news when in fact the producers may have ignored potential life threatening side effects, etc in an effort to promote this, in this case, new drug.

That all aside, there is a great way of tracking the number of vierwers that see this mini-infomercial. Nielson. They make a tracking info box that inserts information in the VITS portion of the video that you normally never see. Nielson boxes are looking for this information and report the shows hits and they are compiled and factored by Nielson for some amount of money for that service.

If you need tracking, it would be a good bet to look into this method for national coverage.

Personally, after working for NBC from over 16 years, about 5 years ago I left broadcast behind and haven't even watched a local newscast for various reasons since. I get it all from NPR and other less commercial and biased sources.

Good luck. I know we are getting on soap boxes over this one but it really needs to be said.

Oh, and to answer the actual question, most stations here in this part of the midwest will accept either Beta or DVCPro. Almost nobody accepts MiniDV and few can figure out what DVCam actually is, although I prefer it personally.

The firm I work with for Engineering shoot DVCam but go to Beta for the final versions for duplication and distribution.

Sean McHenry
ĎI donít know what Iím doing, and Iím shooting on D.V.í
- my hero - David Lynch
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Old May 11th, 2005, 07:24 PM   #7
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Sean, Jerry and Peter,

Unbelievaby useful advice from seasoned professionals. Many thanks to all of you, you have been most helpful.

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