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Making Your Video Clips Appear as Though They Are News Reel Footage

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/7/2010

Here are some tips for shooting, and then altering, video footage so it looks like news reel footage.

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    Visual Assumptions

    The natural appearance of a film clip when it is viewed by an audience will often categorize itself simply based on the expectation that audience has about different aesthetic points. If a film has a certain color schematic that is similar to Italian westerns from the 1960s this will affect the way that they interpret the footage, even if they are not consciously making the connection. Some footage characteristics are so iconic that people will notice the way they are presented and assume they are a certain type of footage, even though they know it was not created in this original context. News reel footage, which originally referred to the news clips shown before movies in the early parts of the twentieth century and now often mean any news clip, are something that are immediately recognizable to all audience members. There is a specific stylistic structure to news reel footage from any generation and you can often channel these styles when making alterations to your video clips.

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    Filming News Clips

    The first thing you have to remember when attempting to alter your video clips so that they mimic news reel footage is that you will only really be able to do this to clips that were filmed with this in mind. Full narrative scenes with coverage and inserts will never look like news reel footage. News reel footage is often simply of locations, short montages of events, specific people talking on occasion, and other moment by moment miniature clips. Make sure to arrange a series of clips into a montage that may look as though it came from either a singular situation or is a collection of a general event or period, such as a war or election. Really keep in mind that you are filming news clips when you are out there even though they are not necessarily journalistic in purpose.

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    Video Effects for Old News Reel

    Once you have your clips selected in your non-linear video editing software you are going to have to apply a series of video effects and video generators to the clip. The specific ones that you would apply are determined specifically by the type of news reel clip you are trying to mimic. If you want a news reel clip from the period of the second world war you will start by adding video noise, grainy filters, and desaturation to the video clip. In between the clips you are going to want to put title cards with brief text blocks informing you of what was happening. These are going to need a border so that they look like clear place cards. You may also want to add period specific music and enthusiastic narrative to mimic that of conventional news readers.

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    Newer News Reel in Video Editing

    If you want to mimic news reel footage from the last twenty five years of the twentieth century you are simply going to want to use video effects to make it look as though it was filmed on older VHS systems. This can usually be done by using color correction to highlight yellows and alter dark areas to add video noise. If you really want to make an entire segment look as though it is from this period in news you may want to accompany these pieces with specific title cards utilizing lower thirds and bright colors, therefore mimicking cable and network news.

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    Contemporary Footage

    More recent news clips are recorded on high end HD cameras so it is best to try and simply improve your video clips by using standard color correction and any type of image repair that you can do. This can include noise reduction and other elements, but you are often going to be limited by the footage you have.