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Editing for television workflows

Television news packages follow a relatively similar formula for duration, format and style. Here is how to approach the editing process.

Basics of television journalism

Traditional television packages are typically 60-90 seconds long. They are always filmed and edited in ‘landscape’ mode – an aspect ratio of 16:9, the same as a standard flat-screen television – and they include a written script which is recorded as a voiceover.

If your story is about an issue, it is essential to represent both sides of the story. For example, you might include a comment from a government official announcing a new policy at the start of your story, and later on, add reactions from people whom the policy will directly affect.

If you can’t get an interview with one side, you might use a text statement that can be added to a still image and inserted in your story. This guide from the Online News Association provides further guidance on ensuring your story is balanced.

Step 1: Review your footage

When you finish filming, review all your footage to select the shots you will use and the order you will put them in. You should also select any interview excerpts that you plan to use in the story.

Checking your footage also helps you spot whether you have forgotten to film anything important, so you can return to the location for extra filming, or work around the problem by using photos, infographics or captions.

Step 2: Write your script

As you review your footage, start drafting your script. This process of making a script responsive to the footage is called ‘writing to pictures’. Usually, you will start your video package with the most dramatic or powerful footage, to keep the viewer’s attention, rather than simply telling the story in chronological order. This will affect how you organise the information in your script.

If your package includes an interview excerpt, you don’t need to include the person’s name in your script, because it will be shown as text on the screen. But you should put the excerpt in context. A useful rule is to use your script to provide factual information, and interview excerpts to convey emotion and human interest.

Step 3: Edit your package

Once your script is written, record it as a voiceover. You can use an audio app like Voice Record Pro (iOS / Android) or RecForge Lite (Android), or record it directly into your editing app if you’re using LumaFusion (iOS), KineMaster (iOS/Android) or PowerDirector (Android).

Import the voiceover into your editing app. Then split the voiceover at each point where you plan to insert interview excerpts.

Now, add your interview excerpts to the editing timeline between each section of your voiceover. Last, ‘colour in’ the remaining areas of your voiceover with the overlay footage you have chosen before.

Workflow considerations

KineMaster does not allow you to add audio without supporting visual media. You can start your project by adding a photo or background, stretching it to make it the full length of your script, and then recording your voiceover direct into the app. You can then cover the photo or background with overlay.

LumaFusion and KineMaster both display audio as a wave-form, making splitting your audio clips easier. If you’re using an editing app that does not display a wave-form you may prefer to record voiceover sections that will be placed between interview excerpts as a series of separate audio files.

Keep in mind that PowerDirector exports at 30fps only. If you’re a TV journalist in a PAL country, your two currently available editing options are LumaFusion or KineMaster, which both support export at 25fps.

Some journalists prefer to film on a smartphone and edit on a desktop system like Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. If you don’t want to pay for the subscriptions charged by KineMaster or PowerDirector to remove their app watermarks – and if you’re on Android – this is your only option.

The same approach is also used by BBC journalists like Dougal Shaw, who filmed with Filmic Pro and edited in Final Cut on a Mac laptop to create this package.


It’s worth remembering that smartphone cameras get more powerful every year, and equipment and accessories get better. Find the workflow that suits your job, and keep an eye on new apps and kit that will help you do more of your work on your phone.

Examples of mojo for TV

The story below is by Dan McGarvey, who reports for radio and television for CBC Canada. It was filmed and edited on an iPhone.

You can also find lots of examples of mojo reports, produced for regular television, by Irish broadcaster RTE, by the Dutch broadcaster Omrop Fryslân or the British BBC among others.

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