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Telling stories on social media using video and stills

The use of video in social media is on the increase.  Vine, Youtube and Vimeo are popular services and video increasingly is being used in blogs, on twitter and Facebook.  It is easy to make high quality video on mobile phones and increased internet speeds now makes it possible to zap out a quick video post as part of social media  activity.   This explosion stills and video we have seen on-line is a really important shift in the way we communicate with each other.

The advice  we’re getting now is that if you really want to connect with people in the social media environment incorporating video and stills can have a bigger impact than text alone.  However, as more people are using video clips the novelty is bound to wear thin and so my thought is that canny social media users will need to pay more attention to the quality and relevance of the content.  By quality and relevance I mean is the story told well and is it of timely interest to the audience.

Questions for reflection

  • What does telling a story mean for the way we take our pictures and video?
  • How important is it that we publish our post at a particular moment in time?
  • When we publish stills, video and text are we contributing to a story which will be engaging for our particular audience?
  • What insights does our story provide which will be of fresh interest to our followers?
  • Is it our small story or is it part of a much bigger story?

 

 

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Cutting the costs of ITV regional news. Perhaps more accessible?

itv calendar newsI’m very interested to see how the professional media world is merging with consumer level media. Calendar News, part of the ITV news network, is using online tools that are accessible to everyone.

 

The ITV online news channel is basically a blog populated by videos hosted not by ITV but using Vimeo. Vimeo is a free video orientated social media channel a bit like Youtube.

I’m not sure what this does for the brand image of ITV as a big player, but it may be seen as a means of making the service feel more accessible and “ordinary”. I don’t have a problem with this especially if the journalism stands out as being excellent. ITV‘s great strength in Yorkshire is its approachability in my view.

The great news is that for any aspiring journalists, you can create a news website which follows this model and uses these very tools. The next step, I imagine, is to encourage the participation of citizen journalists in ITV’s news coverage – a step we began to take when my team established ITV Local Yorkshire a few years back but proved too expensive at the time.

Another interesting aspect is that if you have a Vimeo account you can get statistics about how many people have viewed the videos and for how long – introducing a daring competitive element.

Calendar News website

Calendar News Vimeo channel

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Why do school media departments buy poor video camcorders?

I've been helping three schools in the Leeds area record interviews for a Leeds Council project.  The schools have enthusiastic and able ICT teachers and the children are engaged with the project.  Among the interviewees are some high profile political figures including Peter Hain MP. The process of researching, preparing and conducting these intyerviews is a superb learning experience.

One of the schools is even equipped with nine Final Cut edit workstations so you'd think that they were well placed to capitalise on this opportunity.  But there's just one problem – there's been little or no investment in decent video cameras that can capture sound via an external microphone.

So if you are a school wanting to go out and conduct video interviews can I recommend a video camera with an external microphone input and a microphone on a long lead.  Google these suggestions:

Sony XR550V Hard Disk Drive camcorder

JVC Memory Camcorder GZ-HM1SEK

Canon LEGRIA FS200

For higher end semi-professional, The Sony HVE AE1 is probably too expensive.

Microphones Audio Technica   The high quality boundary mic is an interesting option for table interviews.

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Shooting People – schools and businesses

On an ITV camera course I was on a couple of years ago the point was made that the most common shooting situation was the interview. So what are the skills?

Shooting people being interviewed is one of the most fundamental activities of TV production.  Of course shooting people doesn’t only require technical skills – soft skills are vital.  How do you get someone to feel comfortable? How do you ask the most important questions in the right way?  There are many other considerations like appropriate locations and potential legal problems.  The technical aspects of shooting interviews include lighting, sound, angles and composition; use of cutaways and cut-ins.  There’s a huge amount of skill and planning required to get even a simple interview to look good.

I’ve been doing some edits on a promotion for the dating site Christian Connection.  This involved me shooting interviews solo with my Canon 5DMk2 camera.  The challenge of shooting solo was that I had to really concentrate on all aspects both soft and hard.  I’ve been quite pleased with the results, but mostly the learning.

In the schools I have been working with, interviewing workshops have been great ways of introducing this range of skills to children – planning, speaking and listening, photography, vocal performance and a whole lot more.

Since the activity of shooting interviews is such a rewarding and fundamental activity I’ve decide to focus much more on this and I’m actively looking for opportunities to explore this in both the schools work and the commercial work.  

So this really is a pitch to any schools, businesses or production companies who would like me to shoot some interviews or facilitate interview workshops.

Here you can down load a PDF of a few prompts for the preparation of a filmed interview.

 

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How to do green screen movies in school

The interest in Green Screen seems to be gathering momentum.  I think it's one of those techniques which is a mystery to many people but once you know how it works is really simple.  The coloured background is replaced by another image using software; dead simple.

Raynville-greenscreen

Below is a little test video we made with the media team at a local school.  It became clear during this exercise that the process was exciting for the children and well within their capability.  Using the software to replace the background and edit the sequence was within the grasp of some year five children. 

The technique can not only help with ICT skills but potentially address teamwork, speaking and listening, writing, drama, storytelling, artwork.  The next project will be a journey to the moon.

The recipe

  • Bought 3 yards by 1 yard of green felt from Leeds Market and used Velcro to attach it to a wall between the photocopier and a desk. £20.  
  • The school already had a MacBook which we upgraded to iLife9 -  iMovie in iLife 9 is capable of green-screen overlay – earlier versions aren't.  £40
  • Came up with the idea of a hiker who couldn't tell his left from his right and ended up in unexpected places  download the script
  • Put the camera on a tripod and connected it directly to the MacBook using a firewire cable.
  • We recorded the action directly into iMovie.
  • Children sourced background images and imported them to the MacBook via a memory stick.
  • Edited the sequence in iMovie – green screen is a simple drag and drop.
  • Imported the music track to enhance.

I shall be setting up green-screen areas in a few local schools.  If you'd like to have one and would like help please drop me an email.

 

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Shortcuts: Framing a TV interview

Poor framing makes a video interview look amateurish. Of course there are many styles of shooting which leaves room for variation.  But if you want to achieve the framing of a conventional TV interview then these are my suggestions.

Looking-room

  • Eyes on the top third line of the frame
  • Eyes looking into a space towards the interviewer
  • You can see both eyes
  • Back of head away from the frame but not too much dead space
  • Little bit of space above the head but not to much

Any other ideas welcome.

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The Brown Cow – a ghost story

This is one of my favorite films from the recent Keighley Creative Partnerships project.  I like this one for a number of reasons but mainly because I didn't have much work to do.  

The children came up with all the ideas, did practically all the filming and editing. In fact the basic editing was done in Windows Movie Maker and Audacity by one of the year four children.  I helped a bit with the special effects under strict direction.

I also like it because it has some stories in it – and spooky ones at that. Whether you actually believe in them or not doesn't really matter. Frankly, I don't.

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Creative Project – order or chaos?

I've been reviewing some of the projects I have been involved with recently and thinking about how they could have been improved.

The conclusion I have come to is that most creative projects are to some degree chaotic and uncertain; You can't always predict how they are going to run. You have to be flexible and responsive to new ideas and directions as they come up.

That said, there is possibly value in at least attempting to structure the management of creative projects around tried and tested ideas. A creative project, like any other, has process steps and milestones. One reason why creative projects often fail is because not enough time is spent understanding the purpose of the project and refining the ideas around that purpose.  Sadly is is all to easy to forge ahead with half baked ideas with no idea of why we're doing it!

Step 1: The brief

Be sure about the purpose of the project and why it has come about. You might call this the creative challenge.

Get down on paper a description of what you hope to achieve, who it is for and why it is important.  For example –  Encourage year four children to take pride in their town by revealing its glorious history. We're doing this because ……

Set out what you want to achieve, how you are going to approach it,  who it is for and  why it is important.  

Step 2:  Ideas

Once we have a brief we can set about coming up with ideas (in the above case for revealing the town's glorious history).  Not enough time is ever spent coming up with ideas or evaluating them.  I would say that this is one of the biggest reason for the failure of creative projects.   The temptation is to settle on the first and most obvious idea you come up with. Often the crazy ideas are sidelined at the outset, and yet these are often the most interesting.

Make plenty time for coming up with as many ideas as possible, even the crazy ones, and evaluate them according to the brief.

There are many techniques for coming up with ideas – here are some.  Thinking Hats for evaluating ideas, Mind Mapping with which I'm sure you are familiar, and a favorite of mine, The Creative Whack Pack

Product_image

Step 3: Planning

Do you decide on the team and resources before you have an idea or after?  I would say that it's sometimes better to come up with the idea first with a small core team and then pitch for people and resources once you have the idea.  That way you'll get what you need rather than having to put up with what you have got.

Careful planning of the resources and the timetable, setting of realistic deadlines and getting agreements.

Step 4: Action

Well planned activity with a great idea behind it should be exciting. Any problems will be quickly resolved because of a solid commitment to the purpose of the project.

Step 5: Celebration

The positive outcome should be shared and celebrated beyond the immediate team. The more external praise and feedback the better. A public film screening, a party for those who contributed, a commemorative web page.  The legacy of successful projects should be preserved so that the benefits can be made available to the greatest number of people for the longest amount of time.

Step 6: Review

A constructive examination of the project should always be part of its legacy.  Did it meet the brief? What were the points of learning and so on.

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This may all seem obvious – in which case I apologies – but I need to remind myself just how important these project steps really are and that to skimp on any of them will weaken the outcome.