Setting Up Soundbites

Lesson Details

Subject: Shooting

Title: Setting Up Soundbites


How to Get the Best Soundbites for Your Stories

The very best and most powerful videos are the ones in which the viewer ‘feels’ that they are actually ‘in the moment’ that you have captured for them. Never forget that the video you are making is for the viewer – not for you. We must always have the ‘viewer’s experience’ and the ‘viewer’s perception’ in the forefront when we are creating content. The more the viewer has the sense of ‘being there’, the more they will be captured by the story. And that is the whole idea.

In order to achieve that sense of being in the moment, a number of different elements are essential and one of them is having great soundbites that are in the moment that they were filmed, rather than feeling as though they were done separately at another time and place entirely.

This style of filmmaking has become more and more popular as viewers want an authentic experience. It is being used in making news stories much more now and also in commercials. Your viewers are incredibly sophisticated when it comes to how much television and video they have watched and they are looking for great storytelling, compelling characters and a sense of being there, as the story unfolds.

An essential element of learning videography is about how to elicit good soundbites from your subjects and you can use The Michael Rosenblum 5 Shot Method® as a way to embed those soundbites into the action in a way that feels real and engaging. 

To learn more about this take a look at our Beginner Shooting course, our courses on Storytelling and Characters & Casting. These will all help you in the acquisition of good soundbites in your filming. You will also find more instruction about using the soundbites you film in our courses on editing your footage.


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OK so you understand the notion of using small cameras to create a sense of intimacy. You understand the notion of spending time with the subject and imbedding yourself into the story, all of this is possible because of what these new technologies of small cameras and digital can do. Let’s take it one step further in terms of how we can leverage off the potential of the technology. For creating even better video and filmmaking.

In traditional television and traditional filmmaking, documentaries and stuff like that, what we generally do is we shoot a bunch of b-roll. We tell the story and then we’ll sit down with the subject and interview them, either at the beginning or even at the end. We put the camera on the tripod and we talk to them for maybe an hour, elicit soundbites from them.

That’s’ the whole idea is to elicit soundbites. Then we’ll go back into the edit at the end of the process which can be weeks or months away and we’ll marry up those soundbites to the footage that we shot before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. When it works it’s great and when it doesn’t work, we kind of manipulate the thing by using cutaways in network television. We shoot what’s called “noddies” where the correspondent goes like this and we marry sentences together and in an attempt to get the subject to talk about what we’ve put on the screen already. This is understandable because when edits had to be done in expensive CMX edit rooms or even edit suites that cost a million dollars well that’s the best you could do. You book the edit room for when you would finish the initial shooting and you’d written the script. You tried to get out of there as quickly as you could. That was the best efficiency you could make.

That efficiency sort of circumscribed by the cost and complexity of the equipment made for mediocre and difficult at best television and films. Today the technology not only the cameras are smaller which allows us to imbed the cameras in the shooting. Guess what? This is the edit suite. And now for the first time we can actually imbed the edit suite into the act of shooting which seems like a very radical and somewhat crazy thing to do but actually it works extremely well and it creates also a much better and stronger and more powerful piece at the end of the day.

This is obviously not for when you are making a one-minute video. That’s why it’s in the advanced shooting as opposed to the introductory or the intermediate. But this is a fantastic technique and one that has never really been available before. Let’s start with the idea of doing an interview and marrying the interview, interweaving the interview into the final piece. Obviously this is something we like to do all the time. This is where we elicit soundbites. This is where we allow the subject to talk about what’s happened. This is where we create a kind of verbal intimacy, in terms of the subject discussing what they’re doing. In conventional television we would shoot the entire piece, and have that raw footage sitting somewhere generally in our heads or on cards somewhere.

And then at the last day or last two days we would take the camera and set up an interview and interview the person and hope that they would talk about the thing and then marry it together in the edit. This is no longer necessary, we’re going to talk about imbedding the edit. So we take the edit suite in terms of a laptop and in terms of Final Cut or whatever software we’re using. We take the edit suite with us into the field. And now, what we’ve done is we’ll put the subject with the edit. That seems like a crazy thing to do in some ways but it’s actually fairly simple. So what I want you to do is, if you’ve gone out and you shot a sequence of a woman running out of a building with her child. And you cut together just a rough cut, just that little bit on the timeline, put it on the timeline. Now you take her and you put her in front of that cut timeline piece. You put a microphone on her like I’m wearing on me and you say, “I want you to watch this thing this is that sequence we shot yesterday, the day before remember when you ran out of the building with your baby”?

I want you to watch that thing and tell me, what do you feel while that’s happening? And she’ll go “Oh I’m really scared, I didn’t know if my baby would live”. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What you’re doing here is you are eliciting soundbites that directly match what she’s seeing and more importantly, what your viewer is seeing on the screen. Instead of pretending and massaging an hour-long interview with just talking to her, you now actually have her narrate the piece actually how it’s going to appear and the way it’s going to appear. The soundbites are clean, they’re perfect and you can say “Is that what you want to say? Could we do that again?” You can do it as many times as you want. But now the subject is speaking to the pictures and the actualities and that’s where you’re getting the soundbites from. A much better way to do it, much more efficient and much faster.

© Michael Rosenblum & Lisa Lambden 2015 to 2020