Collection Production: Planning a Video
Whether you're doing sports interviews or nature videos, planning is essential. A good plan will save you time when shooting the video as well as in the editing stage.
In the case of a ball game, emergency, or special activity, you may not be in control of the events. Even in this situation, you can brainstorm the kinds of shots you'd like.
Planning a Video Production
First, decide on a topic or theme idea. The topic doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or even special, just something that will be useful in your classroom. Choose something with instructional value. The video program should ideally provide content elements or messages that are not more easily or better provided by other instructional means. If you are going to invest all the time and effort needed to make a good instructional video, the finished program should add something of value to your teaching.
Outline and Storyboard
The next planning step for completing a video production is to make an outline. Begin with just the rough ideas, then go back and fill in details. Decide on scenes, their order, and how you will record each scene. Consider creative and interesting possibilities for your scenes. Think about the coherence of your video program; make sure that your audience is not left anywhere in that “what’s going on here?” state.
At this point, you are ready to move your ideas from your outline to a more visual plan, a storyboard.
A storyboard has a picture area for sketching in each scene. Think about the camera work needed for each scene. Consider what shots will be most effective and what camera techniques will be used.
On your storyboard, write in the technical directions that should accompany each scene. Also outline the script or narration for the audio portion of each scene. Consider balance in the audio and video portions of your planned shots. Decide how best to use audio with video to provide interest and information to your student viewers. Remember that this storyboard is a dynamic and changing planning document that will not exactly match the finished production. Your storyboard will probably be modified numerous times during the actual production process. This storyboard can be cut apart and rearranged to change the sequence of scenes or to make room for additional scenes to be inserted. Some people use 3" X 5" index cards for their storyboard outline to facilitate such changes. You could also create the storyboard on the computer.
Explore websites about storyboarding:
- Acting with a Pencil: Storyboarding Your Movie (PDF document) from eejit's Guide to Film-making
Make sure that your video is more than just “talking heads.” An advantage of video is that the picture can make things “bigger-than-life”, the viewer can have a “front-row-seat” to see the action. Video is for action, something should be happening on screen. Video can also be “better-than-life.” By that we mean that video can always work, it can be safe, it can be made to not forget or leave out an important detail. Video can model the correct way. Video programs can be designed to demonstrate, to inform, to instruct and yet still be interesting.
A good "how-to" videos shows lots of close-ups of how the work is done.
One way of adding interest to a video is to incorporate graphics. Start out your program with an eye-catching title. You may have a camera with a built-in character generator or digital titler. Consider the color and size of digital titles. Decide if the title will be placed on a color background or overlay a scene being shot, and consider the contrast. Make sure that the title will be easy to see. Even if your camera does have the capability of making and recording titles, you may choose to make a professional-looking title by more traditional means, such as a graphic sign, a computer display, or some other creative form. Whenever possible, match the title and its look to your program’s content. Consider creating a desktop presentation in AppleWorks or PowerPoint. Then, record the output or shoot it off the screen.
Incorporate other graphics into the program content, building them into the storyboard outline. Would the inclusion of a list, the steps of a procedure, a review outline, new terminology, a diagram or drawing, or some other graphic add interest and information to your video? In some instances, graphics can be used as transitions to move the video from one sequence to another, to chunk content into manageable segments, and to organize the information for the viewer.
If you are making your own graphic materials, here are some production guidelines to remember for video graphics:
- The paper you use should not reflect light
- Use a bold, wide line to outline your graphic/word
- Graphic and title boards should approximate the proportions of a television screen (3:4 height: width ratio)
In addition, consider using short segments of existing video footage. If commercial footage or footage from any source other than locally produced video is to be used, then appropriate copyright considerations and procedures should be followed; i.e. meeting fair use guidelines, securing permission, citing the source, etc. Remember that electronic motion video clip art, “QuickTime” video clips, and graphic clip art can all be incorporated. Images from digital cameras, document cameras, and images shot off computer displays can also be used.
Make your program interesting by incorporating realia, props, and examples. If you're teaching about rocks, have a variety of rocks on hand. If you're talking about a particular country, show exports from the country. Consider adding excitement with the introduction of novel objects and actions such as songs, dance, color, and costume.
Examples are an essential element in learning a new concept. Students need to see both examples and non-examples, good and bad, as well as appropriate and inappropriate. The women in the video on the left showed the correct and incorrect way to card wool.
Don’t forget about the setting. Is the program being shot indoors or outdoors, or both? What about the weather? Visit the setting, think about the visual composition, the visual background, background noise, and other interference. Look at the lighting; is the scene well lit, evenly lit? Will auxiliary lighting be needed; is such equipment available? Will the production need scenery or backdrops to be developed, collected, or assembled?
Another way to add visual interest is to change or add movement to the video. Performers movement or physical movement of the camera or lens will change the view. Use psychological movement through the sequencing or editing of your video. Be sure that your program moves. In other words, performers should change from sitting to standing, from standing to walking, making sure something is happening on-screen. Change the viewpoint by varying the size of shots from medium shots to close-ups. Use a minimum number of long shots, only where the setting needs to be established for the viewer.
Another consideration is the angle of shots. In most cases, scenes are shot with the camera placed slightly above or about level with the subject for an objective point of view. Consider what a more subjective view of the subject does to the visual content. What about an extreme angle from the camera lens? Does a head and shoulders shot of a subject taken from a knee level angle flatter their image or make them more imposing, even sinister looking? However, variety in the angle of shots can be incorporated without changing the viewpoint from objective to subjective. Vary the angle of shots by moving to different positions around the subject. Would an over-the-shoulder shot be appropriate?
Some people write out a detailed, almost word-for-word script; while others incorporate enough script outline into the storyboard. Regardless of the detail that is contained in your planned script information, the following considerations for message design are needed:
- Match the message content with the audience level
- Match the channel(s) to be used with the messages
- Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
- “Chunk” information for understanding
- Organize and sequence the content in a logical pattern
- Design the presentation to be as interesting as possible
- Insure that the message is clearly understandable
- Make sure that the language used is correct and appropriate
The audio portion of your program can also be developed to add interest. Appropriate music can be selected to match the content messages or set a mood. Sound effects recordings can be incorporated to bring in sounds of nature, industry, technology, etc. Sounds can be recorded at a remote location and brought into the video. The video can incorporate character voices, multiple narrators, and live sound effects.
Think about credits. At the very least, a credit graphic should list “Produced By” followed by the names of all persons involved in the production. A professional touch is to have a fifteen to twenty second leader at the beginning of the tape with a one-page “slate” graphic that contains information such as the title, production credits, production date, and the program length. This is very useful if, years later, the title strip falls off the videocassette. Place a slate directly in front of your program.
The completed storyboard outline provides a step-by-step plan for completing the video production. It provides a rough visualization of the finished video product. It contains the technical instructions needed by the production team. At some point though, the planning process must be completed and the
production team members must move on to the production process, the making of their videotape program. Remember that last minute changes can still be made while the video is being shot or even later, if the program is being edited or any post-production processes are completed.
Preparation Before the Shoot
After planning for the video program is finished, several activities should be completed before beginning the actual video production. These activities are (1) equipment preparation, (2) materials preparation, and (3) performance rehearsal and preparation. These areas of readiness can have almost as much impact on reducing the time spent on actual production and improving the program’s final quality as complete planning and a storyboard.
First, make sure that the equipment is ready for production. Practice hooking up and running the equipment. In most cases, you will rely on powering the camera or camcorder unit from a nearby electrical outlet. Make sure that needed extension cords are arranged. If the shoot is to be made on a location without access to electrical current, make sure to check for batteries and recharge them if required. Don’t forget that some microphones are battery-powered.
Materials preparation usually means making sure that all the graphics, props, scenery, etc. are ready to go. If music effects are needed for the production, ready any recordings. All materials needed to complete the production, such as titles and signage, should be prepared and ready for the shoot. Secure a new videotape. Videotape is relatively cheap and you don’t want to risk marring your production by using an old tape that may contain a “drop-out” area or some other damage. Be sure the production schedule allows reasonable amounts of time for this preparation segment.
Finally, rehearse the entire production, first without videotaping. Stage and walk through each shot, finalizing the performers’ positions, the actions, camera positions, and lighting. Insure that on-camera performers maintain eye contact with the camera position, that they project their voices, that their narrative follows a logical pattern, that ideas are completed, and that the performers speak with enthusiasm and avoid the huhs, okays, and umms. Performers should work toward the delivery of natural speech and avoid reading their notes and scripts. Be careful that nothing hides the action, that bodies and hands do not block the view from the camera. Work toward the performers appearing comfortable in the setting. Check the program's continuity; that it contains an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.
The last preparation needed is to create a test tape, a rough recording of the entire program. Then the entire production team should critically view the entire test tape and examine the audio and video content. Look for ways that the quality of your video program could be improved. In audio content, check that the volume is high enough to be clearly understood, but not so high as to be distorted. Check that the performers speech rate is not too slow or too fast to be understood and that the message is delivered in a lively, enthusiastic fashion. Look for speech distractions or needed improvements in pronunciation and enunciation. Can the volume be varied to add emphasis and interest? In the same fashion, examine the visual quality of the test tape. Are the shots tightly framed and positioned to give optimum and interesting views? Are the visuals focused clearly? Examine the lighting of each scene and decide if changes or additions are needed. Overall, does this rough video program maintain continuity and interest throughout, or does it drag in some sections? Brainstorm possible ways for improvement and decide who will be responsible for each remedy.
When all the equipment is available and prepared, conditions are ready at the setting, all materials are produced or secured, and the performers rehearsed, then you are set to complete the actual video shooting.
Shooting the Video Program
Today with remote controls available for cameras, it is possible to plan, prepare, and produce a guerrilla video solo; however, such attempts at creating quality instructional video programming are not recommended. When attempted alone, these programs are usually not optimum. The types of camera shots are usually limited, tightness of framing of scenes is lost, and critical attention to diverse aspects such as lighting, audio levels, and movement is generally lacking. Small-group productions work best with two to four production team members. With three team members, you can have one person operating the camera, one and sometimes two people performing on camera, and the third person serving as the director/setting manager. Larger production teams usually have about three team members doing most of the work, learning the equipment and processes, and the other persons not getting totally involved in the project and its inherent learning.
Plan to shoot more than one take of your video program. Then you can choose the best shots to incorporate into your final video production.