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Making The Video

Margaret Krebs
Video frame capture.
Back in 2002, we created a video to highlight how the Stanford School of Education was using K12IRC.org. This description of how we created the video shows how easily you can create a professional looking video with no budget.

Elura small video camera
This is the Canon Elura camcorder we used. It's as small as it looks.
We had been working with Margaret Krebs, Jennifer Wolf, and Charla Rolland at the Stanford School of Education, so getting appointments to shoot the video was no problem.

To give them a starting point, we worked up a list of three questions they could answer...

  • What do you do?
  • How do you use the IRC?
  • What suggestions would you offer new teachers?

On the days we did the video taping, we came in about 20 minutes ahead of time and set up the equipment. For Margaret and Jennifer, we taped them in the S.T.E.P. library. Charla was video taped in her office (at one point, you can hear people talking in the background on the video).

Each person went thru their "talk" twice. When done, we ended up with about 13.5 minutes of usable video footage. That was edited down to the final 5 minute video.

K-12 IRC Helps Stanford Teacher Education Students

Here is a copy of the final video, shot with the simple setup described here

Vimeo URL
https://vimeo.com/107683763

THE EQUIPMENT

Creating video media today is much easier than it was just a few years ago. With the advent of DV (digital video) camcorders and multimedia read PC's, the average person could do today for a few thousand dollars what would have taken large rooms of equipment and tens of thousands of dollars just a few years ago.

a small video camera and microphone
This is the equipment we used to shoot the videos.
We used the following equipment to shoot the videos...

  • DV Camcorder -- Canon's Elura 2
    • the 120v power supply -- the batteries never last long enough
    • the external microphone adapter
  • Microphone -- Shure SM58
  • Tripod for camcorder
  • Boom mic stand
  • Cable from the mic to camcorder
  • Headphones (borrowed from a CD player)
  • 25' power extension cord -- a couple short extension cords are better then one long 100' cable.
  • DV video cassettes -- get a couple. A $15 cassette is cheaper than reshooting a day's video.

video equipment packed in a gym bag
When packed, all the equipment could be carried with one hand.
No additional lights were used. We did position the speakers (and re-positioned them and re-positioned them) under the existing office lights until the lighting was acceptable as viewed thru the camcorder's view screen.

To transport the equipment, we used a gym bag for the small stuff (camcorder, cassettes, cables, etc.) and set the tripod and mic stand on top as shown.

THE SHOOT

shows the setup of a video camera across the table from the talent
You can see here how we set up the camcorder and microphone.
As noted above, on the day of the shoot, we got there about 20 minutes early to set up the equipment. Setup went quickly and there were no problems (that's not always the case). We set up the equipment as shown. The external microphone will pick things up much better than the camcorder's internal mic. The mic was positioned within 20 inches of the speakers and was adjusted so that it was not viewable by the camera.

The interviewees joined us and we positioned them using the best available lighting. Make sure you look at the video screen when setting up! At one point, it looked like a bookcase growing out of Margaret's head. Moving the camera a few inches quickly solved the problem.

We started camcorder recording and let it record thru both takes. This is much less distracting and intimidating than constantly starting and stopping the camera. At this point, the final adjustments were made to the picture and we started talking with the speakers, getting them to relax and forget the camera was there.

video camera shooting an interview
Notice how the microphone is just outside the view of the camera.
Margaret and Jennifer had worked out what they wanted to say and just went thru their talk -- two times each. There were slight differences each time and the best shots were chosen for the final video. Charla requested that we ask her the questions and she would answer them. In the final video, we selected the best parts of her answers, editing out sections where we're asking the questions.

In addition to the "formal" interview, by leaving the camera on, we got a lot of candid footage of the speakers. Short sections were used in the introduction to the video. Having the extra video made editing much easier and was defiantly not a "waste of video tape". If you were doing less formal project, the extra footage would make a great start for a bloopers (outtakes) video.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

Shooting the video tape is only half the battle. Putting together the finished video after the shooting is done will take as long or longer.

close up image showing connectors going into the video camera
A detail shot of the camcorder showing where the microphone and earphones were plugged in.
We identified the sections of the raw video that were of interest and copied them from the DV (digital video) camcorder into the computer. We also recorded an audio introduction and selected a picture of Stanford University and the K12IRC home page for use in the video.

Our original plan was to use the three questions as a "script" for the video -- maybe creating three separate videos using a minimum of editing. Once we reviewed the video clips, we realized we needed a much more focused presentation, and started selecting portions of each interview to include in the final video.

In deciding what to include, we reviewed each take for each speaker and identified the segments (or talking points) that we wanted to include. For each segment, a start and end point was identified, giving us a list on paper of about 20 short video segments. It was then a matter of selecting an order for these segments and deleting the ones that were way "off topic" or were redundant. We then went back thru the original videos one more time to see if there was anything we had missed.

With our plan for the final video on paper, we used the video editing software to slice the videos into segments, then arranged them into the correct order. After a review of the "rough cut" and some minor changes, we added the transitions between speakers and created the opening introduction sequence.

In reviewing the video, we found that it was hard to hear the speakers -- the sound levels were too low. Created a louder audio track and merged it back with the existing video track. The video was now ready to go.

The "master" video ended up as a 113 MB file -- way too big for delivery over the Internet [in 2002]. We compressed the master video into smaller files that would be playable. There was a lot of trial-and-error to select the best compression settings for each clip.

Once the Internet video files were created, they were uploaded to the web server and the Stanford School of Education Video web page was created.

NEXT TIME

There are a few things we would do differently next time...

  • Because we were plugging our microphones directly into the camcorder, the audio levels were low and we had to clean up the audio. Next time, we would add a simple audio mixer, a mic preamp, or (best option) a compressor/limiter to ensure good audio levels.
  • Small camcorders are easy to carry, but usually have tiny batteries that last less than an hour. If I were buying equipment, I would get a slightly larger camcorder with the biggest (longest lasting) batteries available.
  • Editing the raw video and creating the final product is 50+% of the entire project. For anything more complex than what we did here, we would get a copy of Adobe Premiere (or it's equivalent). Premiere, while more complex to use, makes editing videos much easier and includes easy-to-use, smart file compression software, saving hours of trial-and-error at the end of the project.
  • While not needed for this project, some lighting equipment would make it easier to shoot in less than ideal locations. Rather than having to move the speakers around until the lighting looked OK, you could move or add some lighting instead. Check out photographic magazines for articles on how to create inexpensive lighting solutions.

While we now use YouTube & Vimeo to host videos, back in 2002 we needed to provide many different file formats and sizes to meet the varied needs of our visitors.

Here were the original video formats from 2002...

Click To View The Table
  CONNECTION SPEED   SELECT THE FORMAT YOU PREFER...
Slow / Modem QuickTime
(1.3 MB)
Real Player
(1.2 MB)
---
Medium / DSL --- Real Player
(2.9 MB)
Windows Media
(3.6 MB)
Fast / Cable QuickTime
(5.6 MB)
Real Player
(12.7 MB)
Windows Media
(8.2 MB)

... POST SCRIPT

Since 2002, things have changed immensely.

With the advent of inexpensive hardware (think web cams & cell phones), and YouTube and other video sharing sites, it is now easier than ever to get your message out in an entertaining format.

While the original video files were "long gone", we were able to get a good copy up on YouTube by uploading the high bandwidth Windows Media file.

In 2014, we went back to the Windows Media file, added a new version of the opening graphic and a better view of the at-the-time home page "lobby", then re-loaded it to both Vimeo and YouTube.

Using the current technology, making a quality video has become easy. You will find that professional or prosumer equipment can be borrowed or rented at minimal cost. And the impact of video over other mediums "speaks for itself".

Our total "out of pocket" expenses back in 2002 for creating this video, not including our time, was a tank of gas, $30.00 for two DV Cassettes and $4.00 for some CD-R's to copy video files between computers. The current generation of video cameras and cell phones now include built in hard drives or memory cards, and videos are now shared via the Internet, making the costs of creating a video next to nothing.

Our thanks to Jesús Acosta for giving us access to his DV camcorder and computer to allow us to make the original video.

larger image of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgM1VWtsqaU

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