Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lessons on Video Production - A project from our high school career education video studio

The career counselor and I talked last year about the possibility of using some of the career budget for video production equipment.  My thinking was that just through the process of making a video we could focus on many careers and good career skills.

She also noted that we could make short segments about careers and play those videos each week in our high school.

In the end we were both excited by the possibilities.  Over the summer I was able to go on a fantasy shopping spree.  We now have two great Panasonic cameras, two powerful HP computers, a quality Datavideo switcher, lights, mics and software.  I still have to wonder if I'm dreaming every time I realize I am paid to work in this studio.

To start using it, I had the opportunity to meet with the students in our Communications and Media class in the early weeks of the school year.  It was great talking to them, showing examples and hearing their ideas forming.

Assignments and Resources

Activities about planning a video
Since we don't have the studio ready, this gave me a great time to focus on planning a video.  (Students always want to grab the camera and jump into the fun part.)  So we started by watching this excellent video by Stillmotion on the Four P's of Storytelling.

Then I gave them this worksheet about planning an imaginary documentary.

After watching Part 2 of the Stillmotion series we completed this worksheet which focuses on the importance of using keywords to hone in on your purpose.  Students enjoyed the exercise of finding the Four P's for their favorite movies.  The Four P's Worksheet 2

Next we talked briefly about creativity and I used my Say Anything flipchart and the Coming Soon Storytelling Game to practice the concepts and explore other ways to describe good stories.  (Coming Soon is based on Donald Miller's Storyline and uses this definition of story:  A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

I also showed the class the top three videos from the Stillmotion challenge.  (Note that on that page they include other resources related to the lessons on Vimeo.)

We discussed some things that worked and what didn't with the three short videos.  This led to a brief look at the Pixar Pitch from Dan Pink's book To Sell is Human.  Some of the book is summed up here, but this is the pitch based on Pixar's great storytelling formula:

  • Once upon a time _________ . 
  • Every day, _________ . 
  • One day, _________ . 
  • Because of that, __________. 
  • Because of that ,__________ . 
  • Until finally, _________ .

Then this third worksheet required students to practice using all three methods to create a short script for a video. The main requirements were that it had to be one to two minutes long, it needed to tell a story and somehow it had to teach a life lesson.
Script Assignment 1

Thinking about the production process
Next we discussed the role of the director in video production.  Students completed a worksheet similar to this one.

I was excited about this whole lesson because I remember when I was in high school and I read about directors, I couldn't imagine what they did.  Wasn't everything all set out in the script?  Of course, I was limiting my ideas to what I saw on the screen.  I hadn't considered the infinite number of ways a script can be interpreted.

So to give an example of how a director can interpret the script, we worked through an activity I have always wanted to try.  First I printed a section of this script from Dead Poets Society.  I love that movie and it proved to be a safe bet most of our students hadn't seen it.  We took the scene where Mr. Keating calls Todd to the front of the room to sound his "barbaric yawp".  It amounted to about three to four pages.

I summed up some of background leading up to that scene, then three of us read the script.  I was the narrator, the teacher played Mr. Keating and a student played the role of Todd.  I told the students to visualize the action in the theater of their minds.

After we finished reading it, we watched the actual clip from the film to see how the director interpreted the action.

During production I found myself repeating (or wishing I had repeated more) my usual advice to directors and actors.  I compiled those 10 tips for video in the classroom in this post.  That list attracted a lot of attention, so I created this video summary that could be presented during class.

After production
We finished recording and editing most videos this week.  There was a ton of learning going on for all of us as we created videos on many devices.  I wrote this reflection assignment so they could evaluate their own learning and consider possible improvements to their videos.

Career videos
Here is our first attempt to assign a career related video project.  The assignment requires students to research a career and report on it.  From a production standpoint, it also lets us test our full studio setup for the first time.  The final videos will be shown to the rest of our high school students.

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