Words, Images and Putting Them Together

TV news tells a story in three ways: through words, visuals and sound.

• The script provides facts, background and perspective.

• The video describes the scene, shows an action and injects drama.

• Natural sound gives feeling to the story; hearing protesters chanting at a rally helps put viewers at the scene.

• Soundbites taken from interviews and speeches add a different voice that is personal and sometimes emotional.

The job of a TV news writer or reporter is to make all of these elements work together.

Broadcast News Story Formats

A TV newscast uses several different story forms to present the news. (See TV News Terms in the Appendix if you are unfamiliar with any of these terms):

Reader or Copy Story: Used when there is no video or weak video.

VO: Used for stories that have no soundbites, weak soundbites, or where sound is not needed. A VO can be edited b-roll, a full screen graphic, animation or anything that an anchor voices over live on-the-air.

VO/SOT+TAG: Used only when there is not enough video to do a V/S/V.

V/S/V: The preferred method for doing a story that has both video and sound.

Package (PKG): A self-contained story that includes a pre-recorded reporter voice track, video, soundbites, natural sound and possibly graphics edited in preproduction.

SOT: Used to designate any tape that is self-contained, that an anchor does not have to read on the air. It can be a soundbite, a natural sound pop, a tracked VO or a package.

SOTVO: A sound bite or piece of natural sound followed by video that the anchor reads over.

INTRO: The way every story except copy stories are started in the rundown. The intro is a 5-10 second introduction to the piece that leads into the sound bite or video that follows.

Video Elements

There are a number of different elements that can make your story as interesting, informative and compelling as possible.

Video: Images of a scene, an event, a person.

Natural Sound: Naturally occurring sound recorded at the scene (horns honking, protesters chanting, phones ringing, dogs barking).

Soundbites: Clips of interviews. Full Screen Graphics: A map, chart, diagram, or pictures with text.

CG: Text that appears on the bottom of the screen to identify a location or person speaking.

Animation: Moving or animated graphics can be used to show how something works, routes on a map, how an accident happened, etc.


It is crucial that the words you write in your script correspond to the video that viewers see; otherwise they will be confused or misled.

• Screen the b-roll For each second of video you see in a produced TV news story, a photographer shot many more minutes of raw tape. For instance, for a 30-second story, a photographer might shoot 10 to 20 minutes of b-roll. The news writer or reporter must find the best shots to fill the 30 seconds that appear on the air. Screen the raw source tape BEFORE you start writing. It will be difficult to write an effective story if you don’t know what the video shows.

• Log your tape As you screen the video, jot down specific shots and soundbites along with the corresponding time code. This process is called logging tape.

Example of a tape log:

Time Code Description of shot

10:05:40 WS (wide shot) of Tommy Trojan

10:06:14 MS (medium shot) of Tommy Trojan

10:08:32 CU (close-up) of fountain

10:10:23-10:11:29 Nat sound (natural sound) of fountain Joe Student interview:


• Don’t spend time over-logging when you are on a daily deadline. Look and listen for the shots and soundbites that are best and only log those. Use anything else for informational purposes only.

• Put a star next to shots you think are particularly good or are important to the story.

• If the tape won’t be coming back until the last minute, write the story based on what you think the video will show. BUT, be prepared to change the script to match the video when it arrives.

• Identify your best video and use it as your opening shot. Also identify your best SOT or two.

• You don’t have to transcribe the soundbite word for word, but you should write enough notes so that you know the gist of the soundbite.

You must log the first and last few words of the soundbite to use later during the editing process.

• Always log the incue (IC or IQ) time code, and the first few words of the SOT incue, and the outcue (OC or OQ) time code and last few words of the SOT.

• IMPORTANT: Write down the incue and outcue time code for the SOTs so you know how long they are. Choose Your Shots

• Select shots that are meaningful to your story. Every piece of video should say something about the story. Keep this in mind when you are shooting in the field and get the shots that will help you tell the story.

• Use shots that give a good sense of the scene, that show action and that convey the feeling or emotion of an event or a person. Avoid what is known as “wallpaper” video; pictures that don’t add value to the story and are used simply to fill the screen with visuals.

• Don’t use “talking heads” for b-roll, where you see someone’s lips moving as they talk in an interview, or in a tight shot at a podium, but you don’t hear them speaking. This is known as “lip flap.” A

]• Do not mix up time sequences. Don’t go from nighttime video to daytime video and back again to the same night video.

• Find a variety of shots: tight, medium and wide shots; static shots; cutaways, pans, zoom in and zoom out. (Use pans and zooms sparingly, if at all.)

Write Your Story

• On Camera Lead Most stories start with the anchor reading a line or two on camera, usually with an OTS (over-the-shoulder graphic). The exception is when the rundown indicates TOP or WIPE in the “prod” column.

• Matching the Pictures to the Script

Thewords and pictures in your story must complement each other; they should not conflict or be redundant.

Conflicting Video: Viewers will be confused if the video doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the words they are hearing, or worse, contradicts what they are hearing. If you write that a city council hearing on gun control was packed, but the video only shows a few people in the room, your story loses credibility.

Not Enough Video: There will be times when you won’t have the video you need to write the story the way you need or want to write it. You may have to write more in the on camera lead and/or tag, or use other visuals, such as maps, graphics or file videotape. 

More much more — so much  more — on marrying words and images, see chapter 11 in the ATVN Broadcast Handbook.

About This Site

This is a resource hub to help student reporters at the Annenberg Media Center.

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Annenberg Media Executive Editor, Tess Patton

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