Thursday, February 19, 2015

Advanced video sequencing

The six-shot system and video sequencing is the best thing I have implemented in my broadcast journalism classes.

Here is a simple example of video sequencing and the six-shot system:

As you can see, this is one subject doing something that is repetitive. The six-shot system allows you to tell a simple, short story with a variety of shots.

Now, let's take this concept to the next level.

In this next story, the student used sequencing to connect together different characters to make it appear that there were multiple cameras filming at the same time. Check it out:

There are several sequences here that act as little short stories within the scope of a bigger story.

Let's break down one:

The sequence starts with this student looking to the left and slightly behind her. It poses a question: Who is she looking at? The next shot answers.

This student turns his head to look to his right. Whether or not they were actually talking to each other is really irrelevant. That is the power of editing. Who is he talking to?

It appears that he is talking to these students.

The next shot is this student again answering a question. He has a great expression on his face. He is talking to...

...the moderator. She turns back to the student from the previous shot and tells him "I can't accept that answer." This completes a simple five-shot sequence where we have multiple characters appearing to interact with each other. 

This looks simple, but it is complex editing. It takes a plan both in shooting and editing to make it happen. It doesn't happen by mistake.

If you want to take your editing to the next level, think ahead next time to how you can film and sequence shots to tell short stories within the context of a full video package.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Challenge: Feature story

Here is a challenge I am giving my convergence journalism students for next semester. Feel free to use:
Next semester, you will create a 3-4 minute short feature about a subject of your choice. Use what you have learned about the 6-shot system, sequencing, editing and storytelling to create your film.

Think about interesting people or ideas here at ONW. Talk to your friends. Ask around. Come up with original ideas.

This feature will be due by the end of 3rd quarter, just before spring break.

Step #1: Watch 3 stories and fill out a "beat sheet." Download the beat sheet here.

This website has great short features and documentaries.

Step #2: Write a project proposal as a blog post. Use this template for your proposal. 

Steps #1-2 are due before you leave for Winter break!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

English nerd to Journalism geek

The transition

SID Students film GameDay: Northwest
Eighteen months ago, I embarked on a new journey in my teaching career: transitioning from English teacher to a Convergence Journalism instructor at Olathe Northwest High School.

For 10 years, I taught English at Olathe South and ONW. I feel like I came a long way teaching English from my early years when I didn't know how to teach Julius Caesar or Close Reading strategies.

I majored in English and Journalism at K-State, and it was always my dream to teach Video Journalism. It was just a natural move for me to go from English teacher to Journalism teacher, while incorporating my love of video, technology and social media.

However, last year I felt like I was behind the learning curve of my students. The software, technique, studio and cameras were all foreign to me. I felt like a brand new teacher all over again.

Washington, DC bound

Last February, I traveled to Washington, DC to learn the concept of Backpack Journalism from Bill Gentile. Backpack Journalism is the idea that anyone can film, edit and tell a story with equipment that will essentially fit in your backpack. 

Working with Jerry Gardiner on his backpack journalism video
I elected to do my story on one of the workshop participants, Jerry Gardiner, who came from Liberia, Africa to learn video storytelling. I followed Jerry on his journey for two days, documenting his mission to film and edit his story. Here is my finished documentary:

This experience taught me so much about video storytelling. I learned the six-shot system and the concept of video sequencing.

It was such a great experience that we brought Gentile to Olathe Northwest High School last summer to work with 15 of our students. The students learned a great deal, and I took away even more ideas for my students.

Bill Gentile working with our students in the summer

Tri-ing new things

Last year, our studio and equipment was falling apart. It had not been replaced since the building opened 11 years ago. 

This year, we tore out the old set and changed our studio into a green screen, infinity wall. We also ordered a new tri-caster system that allows us to produce our ONW...NOW! shows in a much more efficient and up-to-date way. We use a virtual set for our anchors, and we can produce the show with fewer people than we did before. Overall, it runs much smoother than our old set-up.

Students producing ONW...NOW!
Here is an edition of a show from this year:

Sophomore redesign

One other change we made this year was to redesign our sophomore video curriculum. I was excited to share what I learned from Bill Gentile, and I saw many of the ideas were applicable to our sophomore class. 

We started the year with "Cutting Carrots" which is a filming and editing exercise that implements the six-shot system and sequencing. Here is an example:

We took this simple concept and applied it to the rest of our projects: AB Sequencing, Chase Scene and music videos. The last two projects directly applied the ideas of backpack journalism, where students filmed each other putting together legos and told the story of the blood drive.

Sophomores filming the Lego Project
I feel great about the direction our sophomore video class is going, and I believe our students will be much more prepared for my Convergence Journalism in the future.

Looking to the future...

I have a vision for where I would like to take this program. A few goals I have for the future are:

1. Learn more about the tricaster. I am hoping to attend a workshop in New York City this spring where I will learn how to use the tricaster to its full potential. I know it can do much more than we already do with it.

2. Implement more writing in the class through news articles and student blogs. I spent most of first semester working on the video portion of the class, and I feel great about the progress we have made. I want to improve our writing and begin creating stories for our Raven Daily website.

3. Win awards. e-Magine is our spring film festival that we host every year. Last year, we didn't win any awards in the news story category. After the competition last year, I told the class I was making it a goal to win awards at e-Magine. I feel great about the work we have done, and feel we can be competitive this year.

Final thoughts

I feel like I have come a long way in the last 18 months as a convergence journalism teacher, but I know I still have a great deal of work to do. I am constantly reading other blogs, websites and communicating with other journalism teachers. It has helped me grow a great deal. I am excited about where I will be a year from now when I look back again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Audio Slideshows

This year I started off my Convergence Journalism class with a project called Audio Slideshows.

The audio slideshow is a way of telling a story over a subject using:
  • Sound bites from an interview
  • Nat noise
  • Photographs. 
These three elements are weaved together to tell a story. 

1. The first step is to choose a subject for your project. The person should be a good character. For a subject to be a good character, they must fit the following criteria:
  • They must WANT to be a character.
  • They must be articulate
  • They must have a good story to tell. 
I had my students pick a subject and create an Audio Slideshow over how they contribute to the Raven Nation (our school's mascot). 

3. Next, students conducted their interviews and recorded the entire thing using a voice recording app on their phones. We are working to use devices at our school, and this was the perfect opportunity to teach students how to record interviews that we will use later on in the year.

4. Using their phone's camera, the students then took pictures of their subject doing the activity. It should be something very visual: playing basketball, working on a computer, creating art. They used the 6-shot system to compose their photos. Read this post to learn more about the system.

5. The next step is to capture NAT NOISE of their subject performing their activity. If the story is about playing basketball, sounds of the ball bouncing, game noise or whistles blowing would be appropriate. These sounds will be layered underneath the audio to help tell the story.

6. Finally, it is time to edit the project together. We used Final Cut Pro X to edit the audio and video. Soundslides is another option to create the Audio Slideshow, but it costs money to purchase.

I tell my students to always start with nat noise to draw the viewer in.

Check out: "What makes a good audio slideshow" for more tips and tricks.

Here are some examples my students produced:

This project is a great way to teach students several skills:

  1. Interviewing
  2. Nat noise
  3. The 6-shot system
  4. Composition
  5. Editing audio and video.
Questions about this project? Please post in the comments below!

Friday, November 14, 2014

6-shot system for video journalists

Last winter I learned the 6-shot system from Bill Gentile for video storytelling. This system gives videographers a game plan for shooting video.

There is a list of six shots to get, and you can keep cycling through those shots to get everything you need to tell a story.

The shots are:

1. Close-up of the hands
2. Close-up of the face
3. Over the shoulder
4. Medium shot (Waist up)
5. Wide shot (Feet up)
6. Extra-wide shot (Establishing)

The first exercise I have my students complete is called "Cutting Carrots." This exercise asks students to film someone doing something routine, using the 6-shot system. They then will edit it together in a SEQUENCE to tell a short story.

Here are some examples:

This is what it looks like when applied to a complete news package:

This method for shooting video has given my students a game plan for shooting video. No longer do they go shoot and "Spray and pray." Shooting everything around and hoping to have something great. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Awesome interview tips

I asked my students to come up with five tips for awesome interviews. I received some great responses. Here are some of their tips with a link to their blog post:

Isabel Lauby: It is important to determine the location of the interview that is pertinent to the story line.  For example, when I did my package over boys on the drill team, I interviewed their coach while the band and drill team was practicing, providing a relevant background.  If you capture your interview in an interesting setting it will make your package better.

Pedro Von Simson: Use your first questions to make the subject feel comfortable. Incorporate easier questions about subjects such as their background that do not make the interviewee defensive. If you immediately start off with your tougher questions, your interviewee with be less likely to feel comfortable and therefore provide worse answers.

Tougher questions should close out the interview. These are the "meat" of the package where you get the important and controversial answers that lead to the soundbites that you will most likely incorporate into your package. The first questions are more important to develop background information about your subject for your voice over instead of being used as sound bites.

Quen Barkyoumb:  Prepare everything that you'll need to conduct an interview. Make sure your camera angle is on point, audio is at the right level, your computer is charged, the lights are in the right spots, and every setting is at its correct degree. This will give your interviewee a sense of importance because you're all ready to proceed without any distractions. If you're messing around with your technology during the interview, then your respondent is likely to be annoyed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cool Video: ONW A&E Electrathon

I wanted to share this cool video that a couple of my students produced:

Two things really stood out to me in this video:
  1. Storytelling. This video has a clear beginning, middle and end. The video starts with an unassembled car. Throughout the video we see students working on and building the car. The final shot is the finished car driving away out of frame. Story. It is so simple, but something that is so hard to do.
  2. Shot composition. We have worked hard on the six-shot system and sequencing. This video is textbook in my opinion. We see a student turn the steering wheel, and the next shot is the actual wheel turning. Another sequence has the student being interviewed while we see a shot sequence of him: close-up of his hands and face, a medium shot and wide shot. There are more sequences throughout, but this does an excellent job.