Ladies and gentlemen, please stand up.

by Tom Hartley

One thing I’ve personally struggled at, since starting as a journo, is my piece to camera (PTC) also known as a ‘Stand Up’. For some ridiculous reason, I’ve always put a bunch of unnecessary pressure on myself.. then get nervous and totally blank out.  I spend ages trying to remember exactly what it is I want to say, then get more and more frustrated every time I forget it. I learnt how to do it the hard way, so here’s some tips I learnt along the way.

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Above: Trying to incorporate a plane taking off into my first ever PTC for QUT News.. took more than an hour to get the shot.
Below: Attempting a PTC for a highway upgrades yarn & forgetting what it is I wanted to say.

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There are a few reasons we like to throw a PTC into our stories: To engage the audience; to show them we were actually ‘there’; to tell or show something extra, important or interesting; adding new information to the story; taking the story forward; explain complicated matters in an easy way.

“Practice makes perfect” .. or so they say. I still need a fair bit of practice I know. Often, timing is everything. You might have an epic scene going on behind you (more epic than the one above.. at least), or a limited amount of time to do your PTC in. I’ve had plenty of fails… and always try my best to not lose my cool – like this guy [below].


Here are some tips from myself, and other journos, cameramen, etc on how to gain confidence in your stand up abilities.

  • Forgetting words can be daunting, for some memorisation is the key. If you can – write down what you’re going to say then keep reading it, and re-reading it.
  • If you don’t know exactly what you’re going to say, think of what other elements are in your story.
  • If you stuff up. Pause, take a deep breath, read it out loud with your eyes closed.
  • Listen to what you’re saying instead of thinking about what it should sound like.
  • Believe in what you say – or act and make it believable.
  • Talk to your cameraman, even ask for help – many have seen literally hundreds of PTCs so naturally they’ve got the best tips.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE
  • Watch your eyebrows and facial expressions. Your face could be framed tight –  all your movements can be distracting as you take up a lot of the screen.
  • “Decide what you want to get across, the message, decide on the general thrust of your thoughts, shape them to your own way of speaking and then like a frog leaping from one lily pad to another across a fathomless pond, you proceed from focus to thought and to sentence until you are done.”
  • Take a break between takes so editors have enough room to cut in your good take.
  • Use a PTC to link talent in stories, but be mindful you might not be able to directly link one to another.
  • Use it to add a new angle to an existing story.
  • Stand in front of something or somewhere relevant to your story. Don’t do it in front of a bush.
  • If you have time, YouTube it. Check out how the professionals do it. Mimic their style if you like but remember to be yourself and act naturally.

Check out this guy. He’s pretty entertaining.. sometimes a bit questionable. But he does it right: He just stands there talking and you listen and believe what he has to say.

I’ll try and record a couple of PTCs I do this week at work and add them to this post later on.

More great tips can be found at these websites:
http://www.rickgrant.com/blog/how-tv-reporters-can-perform-better-on-camera-by-watching-a-scotch-commercial/
http://www.deadready.co.uk/blog/5-tips-for-great-technique-when-speaking-on-camera/
http://medialearning.in/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ptcsometips.pdf
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/school_report/resources_for_teachers/9542588.stm
http://www.centreforjournalism.co.uk/modulenotes/tv-two-pieces-camera

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