The Production Process
3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Once you have the basic tools assembled, it's time to get to work. Implementing a video project into your classroom takes time and planning. To get a feel for what the process requires, start your students out with a topic they know very well. My first full-motion video project had my middle school students scouring the campus for examples of simple shapes to use in a movie for a kindergarten audience. Because the concept was a simple one, we could focus on the process of making the movie — planning scenes, editing content, and presenting the final product to the rave reviews of an audience of 6-year-olds.
Here's the process I use with students and teachers when planning a project. Be sure to download this Movie Planning Sheet to help students organize and schedule the steps in the production process.
- Introduce the Project. Provide students with the project objectives and minimum requirements. Assign students to production teams or allow students to divide into groups. If you have enough equipment, teams of four to six students usually work well. I often select project directors who are then responsible for assembling a production crew. Depending on how your project is organized, each director and their crew can either work on their own independent movie or complete a smaller part of a class video. Each production crew may include students with the following job descriptions:
Director — Team leader responsible for organizing the remaining crewmembers and communicating with the teacher.
Scriptwriters — Students responsible for writing any dialog or text to be used in the video.
Producers — Students responsible for filming scenes, taking still shots, and bringing video into the computer.
Video Editors — Students responsible for incorporating text screens, transitions, background music, and sound effects.
- Brainstorm and Outline. Once students are assembled into teams, provide time for a brainstorming session. Begin by asking students to define the purpose of their movie - what message do they hope to convey? Then have students list ways that they can use their video to get this message across. Concept mapping tools such as Inspiration can help students focus their ideas and record their thoughts. For some projects, using an outline format can help students organize the video into "first, next, last" order. At the end of this process, it should be clear to both you and your students what direction their video will take.
- Create a Timeline. Help students "budget" the time required to complete each task by providing them with a list of deadlines for each step of the process. For a simple project, the timeline may include deadlines such as:
Day 1: Brainstorming results due
Day 3: First draft of storyboard completed
Day 5: Final draft of storyboard and script completed
Day 8: Filming completed
Day 9: Film clips imported into computer
Day 10: Voiceovers, title screens, and sound effects completed
Day 11: Film clips cropped and organized
Day 12: Video first draft ready for critique
Day 14: Video final draft completed
Of course, the number of days required for each step will depend on the depth and complexity of your project as well as the amount of class time available each day.
- Create a Storyboard. A storyboard is to good video production what an outline and note cards are to a good research paper. This is your students' chance to tell you exactly what they hope their finished project will look like. While storyboarding takes time, skipping this step is not recommended! A good storyboard helps you to see that students get the "big picture" before they spend days (or weeks) filming a video that is completely off topic. I make sure that each storyboard includes a sketch or description of each scene to be shot along with location information, a list of props needed, and a copy of the script for the scene. There are several examples of storyboard planning sheets available on the Web. My favorite storyboard resource is the freeware package video Storyboard Pro. It allows students to enter scene titles, descriptions, and times as well as import images or video clips to describe each scene.
- Begin Production. Now's the time to put all that equipment to use! Assign a student from each team to be responsible for checking equipment in and out. If you have limited access to equipment, set up a rotation schedule so that each team gets time to film each day. You may want to ask students to rehearse a scene for you — you can help them work on location and lighting issues they might not notice until they finish filming the scene. I usually have each team film and download one scene at a time, so that others can film while they prepare for the next scene. It also helps to purchase a videotape for each group — if scenes need to be re-imported, they won¹t have to worry about another group accidentally erasing their work.
- Digitize and Edit. Here's where the power of digital video shines through. Once students have their scenes on tape, it's a pretty easy process to connect the video camera and download their work to a computer. At this stage, students also work to add title screens and other text elements. They may also want to record voiceovers — audio that plays on top of a previously recorded scene. Transitions and background music are the last elements added to the video. If you add transitions such as a crossfade (where one scene dissolves into another) too early you may have to re-create them if you later decide to rearrange your scenes.
One note: If you're saving several projects on just one computer, hard disk space can become an issue. An external drive might be a good investment for storing projects and can be used to move projects from computer to computer.
- Preview. Once you and your students watch the video from beginning to end, you'll probably find that there are corrections to be made. Minor changes — spelling errors and the like should be cleaned up during this step. You can help students critique their own project by asking questions such as "Which part of your movie do you like best?" "Do you think your movie gets across the message you intended?" By encouraging students to look at their product critically, you'll often find they know just what to do to make it even better. But be warned, this can be a never-ending cycle for some students. Set a firm deadline for the final project and stick to it!
- Present. Send out invitations, dim the lights and grab a box of popcorn! After all, the final presentation is the time where you and your students get to share the fruits of your labor. While watching the video on the computer is an option, you may want to save the project back to videotape by connecting the video camera back to the computer and saving the project. This allows you to show the video on a classroom television or make copies to send home with students.
Some of these resources are in PDF format. To open these files, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 software. If you do not have this software, it is available for free download.