When to use two shots.

This seemingly simple technique is misused all the time.  Too often you watch a story about a difficult situation like a murder or serious health issue and when the story ends, the next image is a two shot.  Then the, visibly, uncomfortable anchors try and transition to WX, teases or a story about puppies! 

Two shots are not throwaways used just to get to WX or sports or to make sure you do not have disappearing anchors.  Two shots have a specific, and key, purpose in a newscast:  Building your team. 

Two shots are best used as transitions between subjects that have a similar emotional appeal.  In other words:  Use them when discussing a serious subject (when you have team coverage for example) or a break out on a story.  You can tag out on a two shot, when discussing a story about a bank robbery and have second anchor say a line about another crime story.  This type of handoff is fine, and at times quite effective. 

Too often two shots are used in the same spots in a newscast every day:  At the top of a block, then just before teases.  If you do not consider whether the subjects you are discussing are related, you are setting your anchors up for a lot of uncomfortable transitions.  No good team building there.

So when planning two shots in a rundown, you really need to think of your anchors as having a conversation and look for places where one anchor can say something, and the other can add a little extra.  Let’s go back to the bank robbery example.  Let’s say Joe, reads a vo about the robbery.  The last line is a two shot, Joe:  “Police are hoping someone will call in a tip about that surveillance video.”  Then Jane can say, in the two shot:  “Police wish they had more tips on this case… (car crash, fire, a burglarly..etc..). If you base two shots on transitions, instead of setting up face time, the number of uncomfortable moments will go way down. 

A final thought:  Two shots do not require that both anchors speak on camera.  You can have just one actually speak.  This is especially true if you are wanting to quickly re-establish team during continuing coverage, breaking news or in the middle of a news block.  Two shots can get uncomfortable if one has to read a line, then the other sits and waits their turn. This is especially true if the sentences are long, or the first person actually is reading more than one line.  Keep two shots tight.  Keep the emotional pulse the same.  Let it seem like one anchor finishes a thought, and the other picks up the idea to add more.  That’s how people talk.  It will create natural flow and your anchors will thank you for it.