A video sequence is a group of shots edited together in a way that clearly shows a process happening, a way to help your viewer understand that time is passing as the action unfolds. A shot begins when you press “record” and ends when you press “pause” or “stop.” A well-edited sequence creates clarity and allows viewers to understand the action taking place on screen. In order to create a seamless sequence in the editing room, you need to understand how to capture all the necessary footage.
There are different methods of putting a scene together. The following is a basic list of shots you’ll need in order to create a coherent sequence of action. As always, this tutorial is just a basic place to begin, not a definitive guide. You may find you have a different technique that works for you, but this is a great place to start if you’ve never shot a sequence before.
The stills from this example are from a video produced by Jerome Thélia for The New York Times Op-Docs. We won’t be covering editing here, but when you watch the video, pay close attention to how the series of close- ups, medium and creative shots are weaved together in order to make the action clear and provide continuity.
1. Close-up shot of the action. Here, it’s the hands. (Jerome Thélia/The New York Times)
2. Close-up of a different part of the action. Here, it’s the person’s face. By cutting the hands out of the frame as you film, you can use the close-up shots in succession with these shots without worrying too much about making them match perfectly. (Jerome Thélia/The New York Times)
3. Medium Shot: You can fit all the action, and some of the environment. (Jerome Thélia/The New York Times)
4. Different Creative Angle: Something you haven’t done yet that adds some visual appeal. In this shot the camera is positioned low and facing upwards. (Jerome Thélia/The New York Times)
The 10-second rule is another good principle to adhere to when filming sequences. This is a guideline that stipulates that you should hold the camera on a shot for AT LEAST ten seconds after you begin recording. Ten seconds or more gives you plenty to cut with when you edit.
There are other ways of creating sequences in your projects, but this is a good place to start for video journalists. Once you’ve grasped this concept, you can continue your growth by researching other methods. It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes things will happen quickly in the field. Your ability to anticipate action will develop with time and practice, but as journalists we never recreate scenes- it’s artificial and unethical.
If you’re interested in more information about creating sequences, this article from Poynter is informative.