Video Workload Survey results

So, the responses to my second little survey about video have slowed enough for me to put out some results.

I tried to expand on some of the areas from the first survey that had caused debate, in particular points raised by the Newspaper video Yahoo group. So here are some of the headlines just to get people wound up:

  • Video is commonly shot and edited by the same person
  • Reporters are expected to shoot video and file copy on the same story
  • Photographers are expected to shoot stills and video on the same story
  • You should allow 4 hours to produce 1 minute of video
  • There are no clearly defined roles in newsrooms for video

Production Times

The last survey asked the simple question, “On average, how long does it take to produce video“. On average this was around 2-3 hours. Coupled with an average running time of 2-3 minutes, I made a bit of sweeping statement that 1 minute of video would take 1 hour.

In this survey running times of 2-3 minutes where still the overwhelming norm. But I tried to be more specific about what production time was by splitting it in to three areas.

  • Pre-production – *On average how long does it take plan and prepare (storyboard, set up interviews etc.) for a video shoot? *
  • Production – On average how long does it take to shoot your video?
  • Post-production – From the point you return from the shoot to the point it is ready to upload to the site, on average how long does it take to edit your video?

Taking the average figures for each of these sections a rule of thumb time would be more like 4 hours production for a minute of online video.

The 1hour for one minute time was a surprise to me in that it mirrors the kind of production times I would expect to see in a smooth running broadcast news set-up. The 4:1 ration brings the production time more in line with the kind of times I see in longer form broadcast productions (over 30 mins running time)

This would tally with the kind of video that people are producing:

What kind of video

Most newsrooms surveyed seem to be happy with the amount of breaking news they generate. I think this is sensible. Most editors are committed to the idea that the web is a breaking news medium (I’m not too sure about that, but that’s me) but recognise that video is not the way to break it.

Multimedia seems to be the way that people would like to develop their video output. I didn’t put too much of a definition of what multimedia actually is apart from saying ‘part of a multimedia package’. I was thinking along the lines of things like Being a black man or Reporting for Duty.

On a side note this would make me think that a lot of newsrooms need to consider a serious look at the skillset required here in terms of training and staffing.

The editing bottleneck

What is clear, both in terms of the time and type of content, is that the area that has the most impact is the editing time. I don’t see a premium on editing times a problem per se. Stories are often made in the edit suite and a lot of time is taken discussing how a story fits together – hence the off-line and on-line paradigm. But experience and some of the comments raised around this and the last survey would point more towards a lack of experience and skills in this area slowing things down. As one responder commented:

Beginning video producers can take upwards of 8 hours or longer to edit a short piece. Advanced shooters (>1 year experience) can edit in 1-4 hours.

But lack of experience is not the only factor here.

The upload tax

There is also the issue of compression/conversion to consider here. The larger percentage of post-production times over 4 hours suggests that most responders included the time it takes to convert the video in to a workable web format. As the respondent above pointed out:

The flv encoding/de-interlacing/uploading process takes an additional 1/2 – 3 hours depending on the quality desired.

So perhaps a strictly accurate ratio for actual production would be to assume a generous 3:1 of person time with a ***4:1 ‘to site ratio’ **– * the time from idea to appearing on the site.

Who is doing it?

Video is shot and edited by the same person in 84% of newsrooms who responded. But looking at the breakdowns of who shoots and edits, there seems to be a contradiction.

Looking at the numbers, the US bias is clear here with photographers dominating the production. But dedicated multimedia producers dominate editing.

In none US newsrooms the division of labour is much more even.

So what’s the reason?

Who am I right now?

One reason is that there are photographers and reporters who have dual identities. They are also digital editors or producers.

But looking through the comments I would guess that this goes one step beyond simple multiple roles. I think it’s people answering some questions based on the task they are doing at the time rather than their absolute job description. In reference to another question one responder noted

I’m actually a dedicated multimedia producer and I guess I self assign about half of my stories. I consider myself to be both a reporter and a photographer … So the answer to that one may not be exactly what you had in mind.

So I’m wondering whether people engaged in an element of multiple personality when answering all the questions in the survey. This, assuming job titles based on activity, is something that interests me and I will return to in another post.

Spinning plates

Sticking with the idea of multitasking there’s an alarming, but not surprising statistic, about the numbers expected to produce multiple versions of a story. In a majority of the newsrooms (71%), reporters would be expected to shoot video and file print copy on the same story. Photographers would be expected to shoot stills as well as video for a story in 66% of the newsrooms who responded.

If we take the headline that the same person will be shooting and editing video these figures are pretty scary. You’re going to be very busy.

But the more specific figures would suggest that reporters and photographers would produce content and hand it over to other people to edit (although I accept that in the US that is likely to be another photographer). They would be part of the chain. But the apparent contradictions would suggest that there needs to be more specific study in to the workflows in newsrooms.


There is a lot more information in the survey and I do think that is a better ‘finger in the wind’ than my previous effort. But I think it’s only going to make sense, and be really useful, with a lot more work around those specific workflows. (hey, I may be getting closer to actually doing some proper academic research!).

But here are two responses that I think define the boundaries of the debate. This one from the UK .

Training, training, training, training – get the picture?

And this one from the US

Our viewer numbers were way higher with photo galleries, even before soundslides but we are whole hog into video with nothing but declining numbers and tons on extra work to show for it. Our publisher thinks Utube should be our standard, I don’t know why we wasted the money on the XHA1, when we could have used much cheaper gear for this standard.


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