Bringing Your Content To Life - Location Videos

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Ever been inspired by a great documentary on Netflix? Why not produce content like that for your students! This presentation will share the value of, challenges to, and strategies for producing on-location videos in higher education, and get you started on your very own on-location video.

Extended Abstract

In this presentation, we are going to discuss the benefits of on-location videos, as well as when they are an effective option, and when they might not be. We will share our processes and strategies for pre-production, production, and post-production from an instructor or instructional designer’s perspective. This will include tips on how to start visualizing your project, and how to communicate that vision to videographers, multimedia specialists, or other collaborators. We will share some examples of videos we produced that take students to the subject. In addition, we will share the do's and don’ts we learned the hard way. We will suggest some technologies that can help you get started. And before coming to our session, we recommend that jot down some on-location video ideas for your classes or department so we can help you start brainstorming and getting started on your own on-location video project. 

You teach because you want to share your passion for your subject. But I’m sure you have had the experience of standing in front of a classroom delivering a lecture and finding yourself yawning! Do you find yourself wishing you could share the moment that sparked your interest in your field with your students in a way that feels authentic? It is hard to recreate those moments in a classroom or over Zoom. What we have found is adding on-location videos can take students to the content, connecting them to their subjects in a way that can’t be translated in a traditional classroom. 

So what is so special about location videos? Let’s look at the two parts separately. Why videos? Videos offer several opportunities for learning. They engage learners with both auditory and visual information simultaneously. For example, we shot an on-location video for an environmental science course at a bat conservation center. Our interview subject was discussing the morphological characteristics bats have developed for echolocation. In our video we were able to show examples of those characteristics. Rather than simply hearing that bat nostrils are larger and having to imagine on their own, learners are shown examples, and can recall specific images when they are recalling this information. When our interview subject related a success story with an endangered bat species, we were able to show footage of one of the bat species that has bounced back, creating a connection for the students to that unique species. Videos also offer the opportunity for students to view, pause, and review whenever and wherever works best for them. 

On to the second part - why on-location? The main reason that on-location videos are effective is context. The subject I had the hardest time with in school was math. The question that kept coming up in my mind was how will I ever use this in real life? Without that context of how the abstract math concepts apply to the real world, I had the hardest time figuring out ways to memorize them. When we shot horseshoe crabs in Cedar Key with an instructor for an on-location instructional video - they were able to show viewers what shoreline conditions were favorable to horseshoe crabs, and point out the details that they look for when they go out to collect specimens. 

Location videos may not be the right fit for an entire lecture on a particular topic, but it might be a good introductory video to create the context for the material, and then allow students to carry the visuals into the lectures, readings, and other course materials. Even if you can only do 1 location video for an entire course - you could use that video to share the moment you got inspired to learn about your subject and what connected for you. At this point we will break into groups to brainstorm ideas for your own location videos. We will have Google docs created for each group to collect their ideas and share with everyone.

The best on-location videos are carefully planned. This planning should include a location scout to determine specifically where to shoot, the best times, what obstacles you may face, and all of the other logistics for the day of the shoot. Pre-production planning should also include scripting. A script should include any voiceover, pre-planned on screen speaking, and interview questions. It should also include any key audio or visuals that are expected to be captured on-location or added in post production. We typically ask instructors to fill out a 2 column document with the script in one column, and the audio and visual descriptions in the other. This document helps plan out the information in the video, and can serve to make sure you are capturing the visuals you need when you sit down to edit. If you are lucky enough to have a videographer, this document will help them see your vision and be better prepared for the shoot. Two other scripting tools that we use are storyboards and shotlists. Storyboards are rough static representations of the visuals, subject movement, and camera movement. They are particularly helpful when you need to show more complicated ideas to other people working on the project, or supervisors who need to sign off on the project. We use Google Slides for our storyboarding, and have templates created which can be as detailed as needed. The shotlist is a tool specifically for the director and videographers. It breaks a video down shot by shot detailing location, subjects, framing, and movement. It serves to keep a complicated shoot organized and to ensure that the required shots are captured properly. After going over an example and seeing the video that resulted from that script, you will have a chance to work on your script, and share it with the group.

What about gear? While it is great if your department or university has a video production unit (or person) - all is not lost if you don’t. Your phone in all likelihood shoots perfectly acceptable (or even great) video. If you want the audio you record on-location to sound great, you will probably want to invest in a lavalier or shotgun microphone. Tripods and image stabilizers are relatively cheap. You can use free video editing software to edit your footage, add simple graphics and music, and record voiceovers. At this point we will show some examples of free software and music and how to do some simple editing, add music, and graphics. 

Tips, Tricks, and Tools. We will share our planning documents, and demonstrate how to use them as well as examples of finished products. We will share sources of inspiration, and ideas for how to get started. We will also discuss possible options for resources that may be available to you on campus and how to best communicate with those entities to get the help you need. We will share further resources that are free or cheap online and give demonstrations of those resources. 

By the time you leave this session you will have brainstormed, visualized, and scripted a rough version of your own on-location video. You will have your next steps and some ideas for where to find the resources needed to get started on production. Let’s go!