Thursday, April 30, 2009

Telling Your Story with Video & Your Video Camera

Yesterday, Bob Epp, Sr. Analyst (Johnson County Community College, Educational Technology Center), presented a Technology Brown Bag on "Telling Your Story with Video." Bob shared his experiences as an attendee at the Travel Channel Academy's 4-day boot camp led by Michael Rosenblum.

Bob discussed the required steps and planning required to effectively communicate a concept in a video format. He briefly touched on storyboarding, script writing and pre-planning for a video shoot, as a brief summary of the 4-day boot camp.

His presentation reminded me of a recent discussion on the New Media Consortium (NMC) list in response to the question: "How good of a camera do you need to videotape for web delivery? Should you still get as good a camera as you can afford or are the cheaper consumer cameras all you need?"

Here are the points I gleaned from the postings (slightly edited).

  • As long as your video image size on the web is something on the order of 320 x 240 pixels, you'll do fine even with old non-high definition (HD) cameras, and certainly with a moderately good consumer HD camera. (Hertz)
  • The little FlipVideo cameras are good for talking head interviews and field news. Actually, I just sent in a video from home that was aired on the local TV news (using) my FlipVideo. The FlipVideo is good for that and for moving around outside. Good because you can quickly upload to YouTube, without needing that much video knowledge. In my opinion, that is the best use of the cheaper consumer cameras: field use. (Laur)
  • In a classroom setting using a FlipVideo or similar camera with no external mic might not provide the quality you need. Recording location and target destination (YouTube, iTunes U, streaming video server) are all considerations. When our target is iTunes U, we use a wireless mic with a digital video camcorder on a tripod. Most of our classrooms are large with people making noise and moving around. You do not notice it until you actually try to record a class lecture and edit the resulting video. (Laur)
  • If you plan to do a lot of editing, you'd be best served by something a little more traditional in terms of a camcorder. A FlipVideo and its peers create video files that are designed to be delivered as-is for the most part. They aren't suitable for frame accurate editing. Scrubbing through these types of files can be an exercise in patience even on a nicely equipped machine. (Saunders)
  • If you use a cheap consumer camera in a big classroom with students coughing and shuffling around, you are going to have audio problems.” (Laur)
  • Your “videographer’s kit” should include a good quality video camcorder, a wireless mic, an equipment bag, tripod, backup hard drive, and editing software. I would suggest (a camcorder) that allows for external mics and either uses a miniDV tape or solid state built-in memory with sufficient storage to record a complete class without needing a recharge or swap power or storage mid-way through. (Laur)
  • Good audio can make not so great video look better. Good audio also compresses better, and delivers content more effectively. (Hertz)
  • Good quality audio quality may require one of the better cameras. An external mic or various mics fed through a mixer (mic for lecturer, mic for audience) can really improve quality of the recording. A camera with good mic/line audio inputs is essential. If you can get a balanced audio input on the camera, even better, but consumer models tend to have just a simple mini-plug input. (Hertz)
  • If you are not working with a good camcorder and a tripod then the best bet might be to only record audio and then use something to capture the presentation on the computer (Camtasia Studio or other screen capture tools). For instance, a chemistry class is best recorded with only audio with a PowerPoint slideshow synchronized with the audio. (Laur)
  • You need to determine what value is added by including video over just using an audio recording. Video adds extra editing time and extra download time. If video is mostly someone talking in front of a class, then the audio plus photos, the so-called enhanced podcast, might work pretty good. (Laur)
  • If you do get a solid state camera, consider getting one that records in the MJPEG format instead of .mp4 or .wmv. I'd personally recommend a better quality SD DV camera that accommodates the audio concerns others are addressing. That way you get a tape backup, which is a good place to store the video long term (those FlipVideo HD files pile up quickly on your hard drive), you get frame accurate editing that performs well on even a moderately equipped machine, and you'll still be well above the level of delivery in terms of quality. (Saunders)

Special thanks to John Kingsley (Instructional Media Developer, University of Virginia) for posting the question and to Paul Hertz (Senior System Engineer, Northwestern University), Don Laur (Digital Media Systems Specialist - Web Dev & Tech Support, College of Mass Communications & Media Arts , Southern Illinois University) and Grover Saunders (Web Media Design Engineer, Center for Instructional Technology, James Madison University) who posted responses.

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