The Power of Images

The Power of Images

By: Vitor Borba
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After five months interning at Brazil’s largest TV channel, I have lost count of how many times I heard the sentence “image is everything in television.” Of course, when one stops to think about it, it is quite obvious that “watching” television implies using your eyes to take in visual information from a series of images.

Practically, that means newspapers and radio – media that can rely solely on written and auditory information, respectively – are almost always ahead of television when it comes to reporting hot, factual news stories. It’s unlikely that a TV crew can arrive at the crime scene before a writer sends his tweet, for instance. 

One of my first frustrating moments working as a journalist was when I suggested a rather interesting story to my editor, but didn’t have a clever response to give him when he asked, “What images are you thinking about using?” The next day, the very same story was published in the middle pages of a few local newspapers and broadcast on several radio stations. Still, we could never have aired it, as the story would not have been paired with any visual material. Years ago, newscast was simply televised radio, but in an era where screens abound, TV channels cannot afford to be boring visually. Since we have to go through the trouble of collecting images before broadcasting and cannot beat our colleagues in print and radio in the race for breaking the news, we may as well take advantage of our reliance on images. In fact, I would dare to attest that television’s main product is images.

The length of the stories we televise is often based on how good the images we have are. Great images always make great stories on TV, but we cannot say the same about facts that cannot be represented visually. The image of a hydrant gushing water during the dry season captures the attention of more spectators than most decisions at City Hall. If the highway accident our helicopter witnessed is extraordinary, our editor instructs us to describe what we see in the image, thus extending the air time of the story and its visuals, even if the actual information we have about the event is minimal. When the situation is the opposite – a lot of information and very little image – we shorten the story to its essence, televising only what is really necessary. This Co-op experience has greatly deepened my understanding of how television works: shaping its message based on the resources available to fulfill the needs of the medium itself.

Beyond the Article:

  • Connect with Vitor on LinkedIn!
  • Interested in working in the Film & Television industry? Read about SFU alumnus Kelvin Redvers's path from university student to Award-Winning Aboriginal Filmmaker and Television Producer!
  • Considering pursuing an international Co-op? Sam's here with 8 gifs to help you decide "should you stay or should you go?"
Posted on February 06, 2015