Thursday, May 21, 2015

ONW...NOW! year in review

My Convergence Journalism and Sports Information students just finished the 2014-2015 school year.

This year brought many new changes - from a new green screen studio to an updated tricaster. We also expanded from a weekly show on Wednesday to three shows a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In all, we produced 39 editions of ONW...NOW!

However, the biggest change had to be the quality of the students' work. We made huge leaps this year from a year ago. Storytelling and shot composition/sequencing were the things we focused on the most - and it paid off. I believe we had more visually compelling and interesting stories than ever. It is a huge celebration.

Here is our 2014-2015 year in review show with five of our top stories:

Our sophomore A/V class also came a long way this year. As freshmen, they used flip cams and edited stories on iMovie. This year, they moved to professional-grade Panasonic cameras and edited on Final Cut Pro X. Here is the final show that they produced:

I am already making plans for next year. We are going to have a "boot camp" this summer to get a head start on the year, and I am excited about the work we will produce.

Cool video: Diving sequence

I wanted to share a great video that one of my sophomore A/V students created for her final exam.

This is a story about a champion gymnast who took her skills to the diving team this year.

I love this story because she has great sequencing throughout the video, but especially at the start:

Over-the-should shot
CU of her feet climbing the ladder
Another CU of feet
CU of feet
The jump itself 

She did a really nice job of filming from the same spot (maintaining the 180 degree rule), while making it look like it was one continuous dive. You can't really tell that she filmed several dives to get the footage.

The only thing I wish this sequence had was a close-up of her face as she prepared to jump. That would have added more emotion to the sequence.

See my previous post about "Advanced Video Sequencing" to learn more about sequencing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Music video assignment

This year my sophomore A/V students created music videos.

First, we watched a variety of music videos and talked about some of the common elements. They all tell a story, they have tons and tons of shots, and the shots change every couple of seconds and are synced to the beat.

We worked on editing to the beat using the Marker (M) function in FCPX, storyboarding, and filming lots and lots and lots of shots.

Here are some examples:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crafting a story through editing

When I work with my video students, teaching them to tell a solid STORY is probably the most difficult thing to do.

We all know that stories should have a beginning, middle and end. When you are a great storyteller, that comes naturally. However, students need to follow a formula to take them through the process of telling a story through editing. Telling a story chronologically is one of the easiest formulas for students to follow.

I want to share an example of a video one of my sophomore video students produced:

For this video, he set out to produce a story about a fashion show at our school. He went to the show, filmed, and came back to class to review the footage. He called me over to look at what he filmed. It looked nice - but it was basically medium to wide shots of models walking on the runway. There wasn't much to work with to tell a compelling story.

After a discussion, we talked about changing the story angle to show the PROCESS of what goes into putting together a fashion show: the beginning, middle and end. The end was easy - the fashion show itself. However, he needed to go collect footage of the creation process of the clothing to have the beginning and middle of the story.

He went to the fashion design class to collect footage. After returning with the footage, the storytelling process naturally fell into place.

What is the first step in the process? Probably designing, but the students weren't designing on the day he filmed. Instead he started with the creation process: sewing.

He started with this shot:

He loved this shot, so he decided to lead with it. This shot is great for two reasons:
  1. Visually it is interesting because it intrigues the audience. We aren't really sure what we are looking at.
  2. It also has great NAT NOISE. I always want my students to use nat noise to start their story. It draws the audience in with sound.
Following are just basic sequences of the creation process. I talk to my students all of the time about shooting and editing in sequences. Check out this blog post to learn more.

Over-the-shoulder shot
Close-up of the hands
Structurally, we have the beginning and middle of the piece put together. We see the beginning (symbolically the thread on the sewing machine), and we see the clothing being put together. The clothes they were making were not the ones worn in the fashion show, but that doesn't really matter at this point. We are crafting a story through the magic of editing. This is the middle.

The natural ending for this story is the fashion show itself:

This worked ok as the end, but it lacked a sense of finality. However, he found it when looking at the footage from the START of the show:

How does a fashion show naturally end? With applause! He captured applause from the start of the show, but didn't have it from the end of the show. Doesn't matter. He used this clip as the end of the story. It gives it a sense of closure.

This story exemplifies a great first step for this student in the storytelling process. It has a natural arc. It has a beginning, middle and end. Story.

Think about this easy process when telling your own story through video. Other ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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.