The television news professional must develop skill in presenting the stand-up effectively.
A good stand-up presentation requires proper voice quality, enunciation, phrasing, emphasis, pitch, pacing, tone and pronunciation. Moreover, the reporter must convey the words while interacting appropriately with the camera lens.
Before we give more detail on doing a good stand-up, let us remind reporters that they should not do a stand-up unless it contains important information for the story. Otherwise, the audience will think that the reporter is getting unnecessary attention. When the reporter is confident that the content is important and the primary goal is to provide information, the reporter can proceed in preparing a stand-up.
Use of Clear, Simple Language
The first requirement for a good stand-up is the use of clear, simple language. Convey one idea per sentence. Save the big words for the doctoral dissertation. Why utilize when you can use? Simple language sounds conversational and is easy for the audience to understand quickly and remember. If you are clear and focused about the message you need to communicate, you are likely to be successful. When using clear, simple language, you are also more likely to avoid flubbing words and forcing the photographer to shoot lots of failed stand-up attempts.
When there are several points that must be covered in a stand-up, reporters can develop anxiety about remembering them all. This concern leads to a debatable question: to memorize or not to memorize?
To Memorize or Not to Memorize?
Some reporters insist that memorizing what they will say on camera is the only workable method for them. Perhaps so, and the advice If it ain't broke, don 'tfix it certainly applies to those individuals. However, when you have memorized what you are going to say, if you forget one part of it, you are likely to become totally lost. If you are speaking off the cuff, it may be easier to recover when you momentarily lose your train of thought. Thinking and speaking on your feet are abilities that contribute to successful reporting, and they allow the reporter to maintain direct eye contact with the camera throughout the stand-up. Looking down for prompting on facts can be acceptable in a stand-up and is quite common in the live shots we will discuss shortly. Therefore, reporters often hold a clipboard or notebook with a large, visible list of points that need to be covered.
If the jury has just issued its verdict in a major murder case, it could be difficult to remember all the details. Suppose you want to say, The jury has returned a verdict in the Sam Haiston murder trial. Haiston has been found guilty of the stabbing murder of his wife. This trial has been under way for three weeks here in the Washington County Circuit Court. There's a lot of detail in this information, and all of it is important. If you memorize, it would be easy to forget a sentence or to stumble and have difficulty remembering what's left to say. Instead, a list will indicate the most important information, which you can say in different ways. It's advisable to write the letters large so that you can see them easily.
Jury verdict—Sam Haiston
Guilty in stabbing murder—wife
Washington County Circuit Court
As long as you convey the message accurately, the joining words and phrases, are not important. It is a good idea to practice the presentation over and over the way you want to say it, but don't try to recite it from memory. When you have a list available, you may not need it at all, but it's there in case you do. The list can also help you make sure you've included everything you intended to in a quick glance. Whether you choose to memorize your presentation or use a list, always take a moment before going on camera to think about the message you want to convey.
When the stand-up is intended to serve as a transition or to cover a part of the story where there is no appropriate video, the reporter may stand perfectly still and speak directly into the camera. Similarly, if the stand-up is meant to establish a location, such as that the report is from Moscow, the reporter may stand still with the Kremlin framed in the shot. These circumstances require specific behaviors.
For any stand-up, the reporter will always look directly into the camera for a second or two before talking. If the reporter speaks and the camera rolls simultaneously, there won't be enough lead time on the video to allow the editor to find a good in-point. So, after the camera is rolling, the reporter stands still, looks directly into the camera for a beat or two and then begins speaking.
Delivery of a stationary stand-up is very simple: the reporter simply talks and looks directly into the camera lens. The eyes must remain focused on the camera. If the reporter looks to the side, rolls the eyes up or looks down for any reason, it will look very odd to the viewer. Stand-ups require reporters to talk to the camera lens as if they were talking and maintaining eye contact with one individual. In fact, when we talk to our friends, we don't maintain constant eye contact. We generally talk for a few seconds, look away and look back. The camera in the field, however, requires constant, direct eye contact.
At the end of the stand-up, the reporter must continue the direct eye contact and remain stationary for a few seconds after the presentation. If the stand-up ends with a standard outcue, such as Jane Doe—News 4, Jane will need to conclude the outcue, look at the camera and wait. If Jane completes the words News 4 and immediately looks down, looks away or, worse, begins moving away, the editor won't be able to include the end of the outcue without the distracting action or movement. The shifting eyes or movement out of the shot will make it appear to the audience that the reporter has no more interest in the story and is rushing away. So, at the end of the stand-up, remember to remain still, look directly into the camera and wait. Except in rare cases, the beginning and end of stand-ups require standing still and looking directly into the camera for a beat or two both before and after speaking.
During a stand-up—that is, after providing stationary lead time for the editor—the reporter may choose a variety of actions for the purpose of revealing something or showing participation. Action can strengthen a stand-up. Some professionals advise always having something to point at, show or touch in stand-ups, but the reporter should remember that the action should support the story and add information. In a story about a drought, the reporter may take a step or two, bend down and pick up rocks from a dry riverbed, and explain that the rocks were underwater a few short weeks ago. The action will be sandwiched between the steady, still beginning and a steady, still ending.
To show participation, a reporter traveling with troops to cover a war might open an MRE (meal ready to eat) and take a bite. For a story on police training, the reporter might do the stand-up while sitting behind the wheel of a police car or while demonstrating functions on a radar gun. In one of those rare instances where the stand-up doesn't begin or end with the reporter standing still, the reporter may talk to the camera while moving alongside a person who is walking across the country to protest federal environmental policies. In more typical examples, the reporter may show the difficulty in opening a tamper-proof package, or point out shattered glass from a broken bottle used in an assault, or turn over a leaf of a tree to show a particular kind of plant disease.
In all these examples, the reporter and photographer must plan the exact action and decide where the shot will be focused throughout the duration of the stand-up to maximize the effectiveness of the stand-up. The photographer needs to know how and where the reporter will move in order to maintain good shot composition.
For any kind of action in a stand-up, the movement must be limited. On stage, actors make large movements so they can be seen in the last row of the theater. For the camera, movements are small: a slight nod of the head rather than a movement of the entire face and neck; two steps instead often; a gesture from the wrist to fingertips rather than from shoulder and elbow to fingertips. Notice the action that occurs in any television situation comedy or dramatic program. The actors seldom cover much distance, they keep their arms and hands close to their bodies, and their gestures are typically smooth and slow. Likewise, a reporter walking toward something will take only a few steps.
Reporters and photographers execute a good stand-up with the rhythm of music. Look at the camera and hold. . . speak and hold. For an action, look at the camera and hold, then begin speaking, perform the action. . . look at the camera and hold. Performing a stand-up requires all of the presentation skills required for delivery from a set—plus a slow dance with the camera.