Friday, October 9, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: VOSOT, A 45 Second Stresser

By Craig Reck

A Brief Lesson in TV Reporting
In the wonderful world of television news, there is a magical way of presenting the news story format known to us as a VOSOT. This roughly 45-second clip of video and interview sound seems like a simple matter of sorts.

Now that's usually correct, but it wouldn't be any fun without the occasional complication - an editing glitch here, some writer's block there. But what happens when Murphy's Law kicks in and you have to be on air in an hour to deliver 45 seconds of news? Allow me to explain.

Assignment Essentials
During our morning news meeting, I was assigned to follow-up the Cold Stone Creamery robbery that happened the day before. I just needed to mosey on down to the ice cream shop to find someone willing to talk on camera.

The most important part of a VOSOT is the SOT--that stands for Sound On Tape which is part of an on camera interview we call a soundbite. Without the sound bite, it's just a measly VO (that means Voice Over--video that an anchor or reporter reads over) that anybody can do. That SOT is what the reporter strives for. But even if nobody would talk on camera, I still had the fail safe of WOUB's Newswatch videotape from the Athens Police Department press conference the day before. Great!

Before I left, I checked with Newswatch about the unedited videotape. No one knew where it was. No worries, there was still the edited video and sound they used for the newscast. I skipped watching it and headed out for Cold Stone.

Cold Stone Cold Shoulder

The place was empty. Apparently nobody buys ice cream at 10:30 in the morning. I approached the gentleman behind the counter and asked him about the person who worked during the robbery. He told me that he was the one. Terrific! Now a few quick questions and I'll be on my way.

Wrong. The store's owner instructed his employees not to talk about the crime. That's fair. A few shots of people walking by the store front would make adequate video, then I needed to get back to the station. I still had to write a script, edit a video and find that soundbite from the news conference.

Back in the Newsroom
Welcome back, Craig, the original videotape from the news conference is no where to be found. Panic! Wait, this is no reason to panic. I just shot some video, so there's no shortage of picturees. But where's the SOT? Oh, it's not on a tape. Instead, the soundbite is saved on the news server and I needed to run up to the sixth floor to ask the engineers for help.

Before I did that though, I had to write the story. We already had most of the information, so I just needed to add what the Cold Stone employee told me to the top of the story. No time to proofread though, because I had to run up and down three flights of stairs a few times to coordinate the transfer of this 20-second soundbite to tape. By now, it's past 11 o' clock and I just realized that I'm still wearing my heavy sweater.

Down to the Wire
I finally had a moment to catch my breath, but all the edit booths were full. Aahhh! It was time to give the sports editor the boot. Lucky for me, it was Brian Boesch and his editing was ahead of schedule. Now I just needed to throw together a few video clips of the storefront, a close-up of the sign and a shot of the back alley from the Newswatch tape. As I finished, Dan Lannon dropped off the SOT from the Athens Police news conference. Fifteen minutes to air, I can do this.

I added the SOT, ran the tape up to control and stepped into the studio. With more than five minutes until air, I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared to deliver the Cold Stone update. But wait, I was going to be in front of the green screen and the collared shirt under my sweater was green. What happens in front of the green screen is everything green is replaced electronically with a graphic for my story--including my nice shirt collar had I left the shirt on! Duh! Needless to say, I looked like a bum on camera. At least my story made it to air.

Thanks, News Team
When all the news has been read and the credits roll, one realizes that producing a half-hour newscast is more than the different parts that make it up. Everyone from Executive Producer to Web Reporter pull together to provide the final product. As frantic as I may have been for the three hour rush of VOSOT Reporter, I would have never completed my assignment alone. So the next time a brief news clip comes up, think about how much effort went in to those 45 seconds.

The Final VOSOT Product of the Day's Effort

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