Learn from My Successes. . .and Mistakes

Learn all you can from the mistakes of others.  You won’t have time to make them all yourself.  ~Alfred Sheinwold

Believe me; you won’t have time to make too many mistakes when you’re creating videos, especially when you only have a short amount of time to create them.

As I approach the end of the semester, I would like to reflect on the three videos that I have produced.  I hope that my reflections will help you improve your videos.  You can read about my successes and avoid making my mistakes.

I have learned that creating a good video takes time and skill.  Since video is an audiovisual medium, videographers must make sure that the sound is clear and that the images are appropriate and vivid.

The following are critiques of my videos.  These critiques are compilations of my observations and the feedback that I received from

  • Andrew Haworth, videographer for The State newspaper;
  • Claudia Smith Brinson, instructor for Writing 390A;
  • and my classmates. 

That feedback that was helpful to me, and I hope that my video analyses will help you create high-quality, interesting videos.

Please view each video before you read the comments about it. 

Video #1:  School’s In

 What worked?

 Audio: 

  •  The audio was clear and easy to understand. 
  •  The school bell sound effect at the beginning of the movie was appropriate and inviting.

 Visuals: 

  • The images were clear, especially the closeup of the pencils, which appeared at the beginning of the video. 
  • The images were appropriate or relevant to the topic of education.  I photographed objects that are associated with education, such as desks, a chalkboard, books and pencils. 

 What didn’t work?

 Audio: 

  • My voiceover was not animated or engaging. 
  • The music at the end of the video was unnecessary and too loud.

Visuals: 

  • This video contained too many still images.  It seemed more like a slideshow and less like a video. 
  • The video was created by using a template in Imovie ‘09, so much of the editing was not my own.  Using the template prevented me from being artistic and creative, from signing my signature on my artwork.

Video #2:  A Colorless Life

What worked?

 Audio: 

  • The sound effects (clock ticking, alarm clock womping, and boing sound) were appropriate.

 Visuals: 

  •  The titles were short and legible. 
  •  The closeup shot of the girl’s face was inviting and illustrated her boredom.  That shot consistently appeared between each activity.  Therefore, it served as a divider between scenes and main points. 
  •  The cutaway shots of the girl doing chores, such as washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom, were creative. 

 What didn’t work?

 Audio: 

  • The sound effects and the music were too loud.

Visuals: 

  • The format of the text was inconsistent.  The titles and typefaces at the end of the movie did not match the titles at the end of the movie.  That inconsistency can distract the viewer. 
  • The end of the movie did not directly contrast with the black and white nature of the first part of the movie.  It failed to illustrate the colorful life of a student who chose to go to college.  The final video clips should have been vivid and should have shown the girl getting out of bed, putting on her backpack, and smiling while heading to class. 
  • The credits at the end of the movie were hard to read because they scrolled by too quickly.

Video #3:  A World of Experiences at Riverbanks

What worked?

Audio: 

  • It was easy to hear and understand Lindsay Burke. 
  • The background music was appropriate and played at a suitable, rather than a distracting volume.

Visuals: 

  • The animal shots were attractive, especially the ones with the penguins.
  • The cutaway shots during Lindsay Burke’s speech were effective and eliminated the “talking head” effect.

What didn’t work?

 Audio: 

  • The animals’ life support machine was humming in the background while Lindsey Burke was speaking.  (It was hard to find a quiet place at the zoo.  When the animals weren’t making noise, the visitors were, and vice versa.)

Visuals: 

  • Many of the animal shots were stationary, shots such as the one of the cow and the llama, the turkey, the koala and the lion. 
  • Amongthe advantages and purposes of video are showing movement, and this video did not capture much movement.  Two shots that did show animals moving appeared at the end of the video, but they were hidden by text.

 Thanks for reading my blog.

Please post your feedback on any or all of my videos.

I will post a mini-documentary about Riverbanks on April 29, 2010.  So stay tuned for that!

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Enhance Your Videos by Integrating Interviews

Interviewing is a vital skill for any journalist. It is one of the most important ways to gather information and create content for a story,” according to MediaCollege.com.

Good interviews can enrich the story that your video tells.

I learned about the importance of interviewing last semester when I took Professor Claudia Smith Brinson’s introductory course about news reporting and writing. In that class, I learned how to prepare for and conduct interviews.

I have realized that the more prepared an interviewer is, the smoother the interview will flow.

Here are some tips to consider before interviewing:

1. Plan ahead. Decide whom you want to interview. Interview experts, people with certain experiences or officials who are knowledgeable about the topic of your video. Contact your interviewee(s) immediately.

2. Prepare a list of questions for the interviewee. While generating the list of questions, research your topic, experts on it and/or people who have been affected by it. You can review previous stories in newspapers or do a series of Google searches to become informed about your topic. If you come to the interview with background information, you can initiate a conversation rather than an interrogation.

3. Schedule the interview. Before you call the interviewee, know the times that you are available to meet. If you do not reach the interviewee, be persistent. Leave a message; call him or her again later.

4. Arrive at least a half-hour before the interview. Arriving early will give you time to scope out your surroundings for a visually appealing and quiet place where you and the interviewee can sit and talk. You also need time to set up your equipment–your camera, tripod, extra batteries and light source (if necessary).

5. Before the interview begins, ask the interviewee a question and record his or her response. After you have recorded about 30 seconds of video, watch the footage to ensure that the subject is in the frame and that it is easy to hear what the subject is saying.

Have any pre-interviewing tips? Share them by commenting on my post.

For more interviewing tips. . .

• Email me at sataylor@columbiasc.edu.
• Read chapter three of News Reporting and Writing, the easy-to-understand textbook that Professor Brinson used in her news reporting course.
• Read an article entitled “Interviewing” by clicking here.

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A World of Experiences at the Zoo

Here’s a video about what you can do while you’re at Riverbanks Zoo!

Enjoy.

Post your feedback.

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In It to Win It

Did somebody say “Macbook Pro”? 

You mean the sleek, slim, stylish laptop?

I want one. 

Right about. . .

Now. 

Not tomorrow. 

Not next Tuesday. 

Not for my birthday. 

Not for a graduation gift. 

Or a Christmas present.

I want a Macbook. 

Now!

I can imagine myself reclining in a chair, composing an essay.  Or watching a movie in vibrant color.  Or editing action-packed videos, all with my new Macbook.

I imagine myself sitting in Starbucks, studying and surfing Safari as I sip a Caramel Apple Spice and enjoy amusing applications, all on my new Macbook.

As you can see, I am in dire want of a handy dandy, user-friendly. . .

You guessed it. . . 

Macbook. 

It would save me steps — literally.  I wouldn’t have to walk to the library or the art lab to upload and edit videos.

It would replace my faulty laptop since the sound inconveniently stopped working.  No cash for that clunker, huh?

That clunker will be no help to me in the video editing process as said device decided to take a vacation at just the right time, during the semester in which I would be shooting and editing four videos.

Speaking of videos, I just submitted a video for the College Access Challenge.  I asked my family, friends and coworkers to vote because I am serious about winning a. . .

 Macbook Pro. 

If I am one of the top three winners, I will receive one!

Check out my video, “A Colorless Life.” It looks like a public service announcement and features a woman who washes dishes, cleans a bathroom mirror and washes clothes. She represents the people who do not go to college and have to perform monotonous jobs.  Those boring household tasks show how unexciting life can be without a college degree.

I used imovie ’09 to create it and applied the black and white video effect to make the person appear to be dull, colorless and uninteresting.

I used colorful text at the end of the movie to symbolize the positive impact that college can make in a person’s life.

You can make a difference in my life by voting for my video and then letting me know what you think about it.  Your suggestions will help me improve it and the next ones to come.

Stay tuned!

I want a Macbook.

Now!

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How to Improve the Quality of Your Videos

Over the past few weeks, I have learned several lessons about creating video, thanks to my professor and my co-teacher, Andrew Haworth, videographer for The State newspaper.

Here are a few of the lessons.  I hope that they are useful to you as you record and edit videos.

Narrative

Professor Brinson talked to my classmates and me about creating narrative or stories. She explained several narrative elements, such as character, plot, setting, point of view, scene, imagery, theme and style. I had never made the connection that making a movie is similar to writing a story until I listened to Professor Brinson’s lecture and read chapter five of our textbook.

Our textbook, Digital Video by Tom Ang, says, “Editing in video has many similarities to editing text. When editing text, you manipulate and order the basic elements of words and sentences. . . .You cut out unnecessary words and rearrange them to make them flow more coherently. And you may drop in little surprises to keep the reader interested.”

Creating a narrative for my second video for the College Access competition was difficult. I couldn’t think of a creative way to convince high school students to go to college. I thought, “What is it that a college graduate has that someone else may not have?”

In my opinion, college students are more marketable when job hunting than people who are not college graduates. College graduates have enhanced opportunities to be hired for high-paying, interesting jobs as opposed to high school dropouts and high school graduates, who tend to have limited opportunities, lesser-paying and monotonous jobs. With that notion, I decided to create a video that contrasts people performing tedious tasks and people performing interesting tasks.

Editing

Editing takes time. Cropping video clips, selecting smooth and appropriate transitions and adding appropriate sound takes time — hours and hours of decision-making and mouse-clicking and dragging.

Proper planning can cut some of the time off the editing process, though. Planning the shots and outlining the video narrative are very helpful because the videographer spends less time deleting “bad” clips once he or she begins the editing process. The video is more polished because the videographer has already planned the video and has had time to prevent hang-ups with lighting and sound.

Cameras

I learned that our video camera, the Kodak Zi5 Pocket Video Camera, is user-friendly. The camera has a play button, stop button, record button and a delete button. I can quickly navigate through my footage and easily conduct point-and-shoot video clips.

Technology

In two of my courses last semester, I used iMovie ‘08 to create three videos that were one to three minutes long. This semester, I’m using ‘09, and I love it! iMovie ’09 has visually-appealing video effects, such as cartoon, black and white, aged film and glow. This version of iMovie allows the editor to slow down and speed up video clips and offers more transitions than the previous edition. I hope to become more fluent in the program throughout the semester.

Any tips? E-mail me at sataylor@columbiasc.edu.

Sound and Lighting

Sound and lighting are two elements of video that can make one’s film really great or really bad. One of my teachers, Andrew Haworth, reminded my classmates and me that people who are watching a movie in a movie theater don’t get mad if the picture on the screen is blurry. Instead, they are more irritated if they can’t hear the sound. It is important for people to hear the sound on my videos so that they will be able to follow the narrative.

I have had difficulties recording “talking heads,” people who are speaking directly to the camera. I have had to ask people to speak louder than they normally would so that the camera will pick up their voices.

At the end of my first video, I used a sound clip from iMovie that was too loud and probably shocked many of my viewers. I should have decreased the volume of the sound so that the music would not be distracting.

On the other hand, I successfully used sound to begin my video about my decision to become a professor. To signify the beginning of the movie, I used the school bell sound effect.

Lighting is important to because lighting illuminates the person or object that the videographer is presenting. It’s important that the viewer can see the action that is going on in the frame.

Questions about how to improve the quality of your videos? Email me at sataylor@columbiasc.edu.

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Life Without College = A Colorless Life

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School’s In: Autobiographical Video

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