Step 4: Communicate in a Documentary Video
Your goal is to create a documentary video production that communicates your thesis and supporting points.
“Kodak sells film, but they don't advertise film. They advertise memories.”
About this step
This step presumes that after having completed steps 1, 2 and 3, that the student comes to some conclusions regarding the topic and is now ready to share those conclusions in a video documentary.
Producing video requires teamwork. (Think of the credits that roll at the end of all films.) After students have completed the first three steps individually, consider having groups of three to five students work together on creating a video to communicate the results of the research on their topic. In order for this to work successfully, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined for each task- writer, director, editor, camera person, etc.
Communicating in video format requires careful consideration of the technology resources available to your students in your school or district. Review the Technical Considerations and ensure that you know what resources are available and what students need to be aware of.
About this step
Your video should include an introduction to your thesis, your main points, and a conclusion. Everyday we watch hours of television and surf web sites that include video, but how well do we understand how messages are constructed in the language of images and sound?
Every professional video is a constructed message. Producers and their creative and technical teams follow conventions that are well known. Even if this is your first video production, you can learn and apply some of the methods and tools used by professionals to create effective video messages.
As you proceed, remember to
- Keep your focus on your thesis and supporting points.
- Consider how you can persuade your audience using a combination of still images, moving images, special effects, text, speech, music and sound effects.
- Keep your deadline in mind. Video production can take a lot of time and resources.
- Keep it simple, but be creative with the time and tools that you have.
Most importantly, consider your audience and the purpose of your video presentation. Decide what you want your viewers to remember from your video and proceed accordingly.
This guide is intended to give you a sense of the tasks and timeline. Consult available resources (listed below) to learn the necessary technical skills.
Video may be the most important communication medium for the Web 2.0 generation. YouTube and other video sharing sites provide a forum for producers of all stripes. Although there are some real gems, many really lousy videos are uploaded everyday.
Video is becoming the medium for communication on the world wide web. Learning to create effective messages in the language of images and sound is an essential 21st Century Skill.
Create a storyboard
Imagine how you will communicate your thesis and demonstrate your main points.
- Visualize your final video and make drawings of the scenes, using simple stick figures.
- Consider camera positions such as a close up, medium or long shot.
- Make simple, stick figure drawings that help your team see what your final product might look like. For a simple video, you can include the script in your storyboard.
Create a storyboard
- The outline for their video
- The time to think through exactly what, how and when filming will be done
- Where dialog, music and narration can be considered
- When they will decide how to use video to communicate their thesis
Students will also want to assign tasks within their group—the roles of director, videographer, producer, etc. should be designated so that responsibilities are clear.
Write script and shot list
- Write a script that includes dialog between characters, voice-overs, or narration.
- Include camera instructions for shooting and/or a list of the visuals (still photos or other graphics).
- Planning your video before your shoot will save you hours during the editing process—and will ensure that your have the video and images you will need in the editing room.
Write script and shot list
- Decide what they will say, who will say it, when, and why.
- Decide if the script will be read or lines memorized.
- Consider how and where scenes will be filmed.
- Ensure that equipment is available to film what is on the shot list, and that permission is obtained to be where the filming occurs or film subjects not part of the class.
- Decide who will keep track of the script and shot list. Are there extra copies in case someone is ill?
Obtain still images:
- Download from web sites,
- Scan from books,
- Shooting with digital still camera.
- Draw your own or ask an artistic friend to create for you.
- Create other graphics (such as charts and graphs) and save as files that are compatible with your video editing software.
Do your students know how to create charts and graphs?
- Impress upon students the importance of substance over style. Require that they focus on their content and limit special effects.
- Encourage them to consider their audience and the purpose of the video.
What is their message?
- Remind students about crediting their resources, including the people who have assisted them. Have them think about the credits they have seen in major films.
Rehearse and shoot
- Assemble your talent and rehearse scenes before shooting to reduce the number of takes.
- Know your camera.
- Use a tripod if possible.
- Do some in-camera editing, rewinding and recording over mistakes to simplify the next step.
- Check your script and shot list. Do you have all the images and sounds that you need?
Rehearse and shoot
Students will need assistance here finding space for filming. They will also need the necessary permissions to be out of class and wherever they are filming. Will they be off the school grounds? Do you need permission slips? You will want to alert administration and colleagues that this project is underway. Be sure to invite them to the screening!
Equipment will also be a concern. Clear guidelines must be communicated regarding care and security of school equipment, particularly if it is going home or off school grounds. Most schools do not carry insurance on equipment. You will want to have a checkout system in place and you may wish to enlist the aid of another adult. Is your building technology resource free? Is an aide available?
Students must also be responsible for bringing the needed project documents to class. Production cannot stop because someone has the shot list at home. Make this accountability area a part of the student grade. Brainstorm with students ahead of time regarding these concerns so that all involved are in agreement. Ask your colleagues for project/student management tips.
- Gather your video, stills, and audio. (Remember that music and images that you did not create are subject to copyright rules. Obtain permission from the copyright holder or use resources from the public domain. )
- Load your video from your camera to your computer software.
- Order and edit the length of your clips and stills.
- Add titles and transitions.
- Record narration and voiceovers.
- Add background music.
- Save early and often. (Between major steps, "Save As" so that you can return to an early version if you encounter technical problems.)
- Always keep your focus on your message and the goal of persuading your audience.
- Include only the content and effects that enhance your message. Don't lose your message in excessive special effects.
- Don't forget to give credit for ideas or information you have used in a Credits frame at the end of your video. Depending on the scope of your research, you may also need to include a list of resources used.
Again, you will want to consider how activity for this step will be organized and plan accordingly. Students cannot work if they do not have video clips and footage. You cannot individually tutor a classroom full of students.
- Decide upon and communicate procedure expectations well in advance.
- Ensure that the needed equipment is available and working.
- Assure equity—do some students have access to expensive equipment from home?
- Remind students to SAVE and BACKUP their work.
- Anticipate issues in the event that students are using different versions of the same application.
- Teach students to teach themselves—show them Atomic Learning and have them use it. Ask the video whiz kids to help their peers.
- Require that students work step by step. (Music is not added until narration is complete.)
- Stress substance over style. Remind students what the purpose of the video is. Ask them what they want the audience to remember.
- Find someone to assist you in the lab. (Chocolate is always a good reward!)
- Watch your film from beginning to end. Expand to full screen if possible.
- Screen the video with friends and ask for feedback.
- Is your message clear?
When the above step is complete, the students are not done. They have a rough draft of their finished product. The video will need to be viewed and edited at least a few times before it is ready for prime time. Require that they make and spend time on this step. Try to create some enthusiasm. If they are weary of the project, ask them how they think real directors and producers feel after a year long project.
Consult with your teacher regarding the format you will need to show the video to your audience. Your video may be uploaded to a web site or burned to a CD or DVD.
Resources for learning more about video production and guides for video editing software:
- Microsoft's MovieMaker2 web site
- Instructional videos for MovieMaker2 from Atomic Learning (It's free!)
- iMovie: Apple's web site
- Kids' Vid: Video instructions and samples
- Atomic Learning's Video Storytelling guide: Introduction to film making; free preview section available.
- Adobe Digital Kids Club: Digital Video Teacher's guide for creating documentary films.
- Film School: A website for English teachers and their students. Lesson ideas and a glossary of filmmaking terms with video illustrations.
- Listen Up! Network Filmmaking ideas and examples of student films from projects around the country
How final products are exported will depend on your technology resources and your capacity for transferring large files. Check with your technology support team before this step.
Before viewing final projects, make certain that you have the software that was used to create the video. You will need speakers to project sound.