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Narrating the Training Video

Written by Ed Nowicki

This is the final installment in this multi-part series of articles on producing a law enforcement training video, from start to finish. You will finally be able to put the many pieces of the puzzle together.

The training video will probably contain interviews with experts, “live” video and re-enactments. However, no matter what basic format is used, some parts of the video will need to be narrated.

Proper narrating is an art. See if you can get a local radio or TV personality to do the narration. The pros know when to pause and what words to stress during narration. If you can’t get a pro narrator, see if you can “volunteer” the chief, sheriff, another officer or someone’s spouse with a professional sounding voice.

A narrator narrates from a specific script and the video shots and on-screen graphics are assembled over the narration. It’s much easier to lay down a narrator’s audio track in your editing program, and then trim the video without its audio or a very reduced audio level to fit the narrator’s audio. It’s almost impossible to put a video track into your editing program, and then try to pace the narration to exactly fit the video track. Narrate the audio first, then place the various video clips on the video track to exactly meet the audio track.

If getting a narrator fails, be prepared to be the narrator yourself. You’ll need to write a script for what needs to be said. Write the script for the listener in words that are clear and easily understood. Slow down and think about how fast you are speaking. A slower pace with a pause can be very dramatic, just as a faster pace can add energy or intensity. An emphasis on certain words or phrases can be powerful. A long pause can be deafening during a dramatic incident, and so can an increase in the volume of accompanying music.

As you assemble your video program, you need to keep in mind the use of on-screen graphics to stress a major point. Understand that the graphics stress the point in just a few words. Use a clearly readably font which should stay on the screen from five to 10 seconds, but gravitate toward five seconds. Be aware of the color of the background, the font color and the contrast.

Remember, almost anyone in law enforcement today is acclimated to seeing broadcast quality productions, and not boring “talking head” droning. You’ll need to keep the video’s pace, the variety of topics, and the intensity in mind when editing.

When editing a video for the first time, it’s awfully tempting to use some special transitions between scenes like page peels, overlaps, scale downs and others. Avoid these since they are the mark of an amateur, music videos aside. Simply use a regular cut or a cross dissolve from one scene to the next.

Don’t try to emulate Hollywood productions. Try to focus the video so that learning takes place. If you miss an important scene, you may be able to shoot it again or look to use narration with an on-screen graphic, a still photo or a piece of relevant stock video.

Make sure your video flows and is easy to understand. Look at the video closely when completed and objectively look at it, although this isn’t an easy task. You may want to ask a few others to also look at it. Don’t have a “Yes” person initially review the video or an officer who complains about everything either. Chances are, you’ll know if it’s really good or not.

Strive for perfection, but don’t expect it. If there are obvious mistakes or mistakes that send a wrong message, you’ll need to make the changes. Changes are easy on the computer. Don’t nitpick your review either. You’ll probably see a few minor things that no one else will see.

Once you’ve completed the video editing, you should show the video to your supervisor before showing it to the officers. Eventually, the head of the agency and maybe a corporation counsel or legal advisor should approve the video for viewing.

You should take your video editing serious, but have some fun and enjoy the learning process. Feel proud of what you accomplished. After all, you’ve just done something that most officers haven’t done. You produced a professional law enforcement training video. Congratulations!

Helpful Reference Books

Digital Maker - Guide to Digital Video and DVD Production (2004)
This book is from the editors of Videomaker Magazine and is 422 pages long. This is a "must have" if you're serious about producing a video. The book covers almost every aspect of video production in 79 chapters, which are written by a multitude of experts. It features an extensive glossary of videography terminology. $24.95. www.focal-press.com


Digital Video for Beginners (2005)
This book by Colin Barret is 144 pages long. It is a "how-to" guide for beginners shooting home movies, but much of the info is easily adaptable for a training video. It has great color photos. $19.95. www.larkbooks.com

Ed Nowicki is currently a part-time police officer for the Twin Lakes (WI) Police Department, and the executive director of ILEETA (www.ileeta.org). He has shot and edited thirteen law enforcement-training videos, and he is currently developing a series of “Train the Trainer” videos for ILEETA. He can be reached at ed@ileeta.org.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2006

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