Friday, March 18, 2016

Iowa Blogger Conference PowerPoint

I recently gave a presentation at the Iowa Blogger Conference held at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  The topic of my breakout session was "Video Production 101 for Bloggers."  I am sharing my PowerPoint presentation here so that the attendees can access it at their leisure.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Art of the Interview

As I write this article on a snowy Tuesday morning, a high school student is working on his History Day project in the PLAEA video suite.  One element of his project will be an interview with a patent attorney, so he and I have been discussing how to conduct a successful interview.

  When shooting an interview to be part of a video project, you have to visualize how it fits in the entire project.  Rarely is the entire interview shown in one continuous segment.  Rather, the interview is cut into smaller segments, often called “sound bites”.

Before the Interview

  Select a quiet location for the interview.  Turn off the radio, close the door to block out external noise, do what it takes to eliminate unwanted sounds.

Write open-ended questions.  Avoid asking “yes or no” questions; try to ask questions that will draw out the person being interviewed.

If possible, share the interview questions with your intended subject beforehand.  That gives them an opportunity to formulate their replies.

Explain to your subject how you plan to interview them.  Ask that they give you a second or two of silence after you ask a question and before they reply.  That gives the editor a quiet spot to begin the video clip.

Ask the subject to restate the question or include it in their answer.  In most instances, the question asked is not used in the final version of a video project, so the subject’s answer needs to stand alone.  If you asked the subject what it was like the first time she went skydiving, she might answer, “It was fantastic!”  But that sound bite would work better if the answer was, “The first time I went skydiving was fantastic!”

During the Interview

You should sit near the camera, just off to one side. Ask your subject to ignore the camera and look at you as the interview proceeds.  

Make your subject feel comfortable.  Having that one-eyed camera lens pointing at you can be unnerving, to say the least.  Explain to your interview subject that you two are just going to chat for a few minutes.  If anyone makes a mistake, you will just go back and answer that question again.  “So relax and let’s have a good time while we talk.”

With the camera recording, have your subject say and spell their name and job title (if needed for the project).  This video clip won’t be used in your project but it is an excellent way to immediately identify the person in the clip as you work on your editing.

Ask a question and then be quiet while your subject answers.  Give encouragement in the form of non-verbal feedback.  Smiles and nods of encouragement from you are fine, but the audience doesn’t need to year you saying, “Uh-huh” in the background.

If your subject’s answer is too long, ask them to re-phrase it and answer it again.  Your goal here is to keep the sound bites short.

Listen to the answers and be prepared to ask follow-up questions.  Years ago, I was the camera operator for an educator who was interviewing a stunt woman.  The stunt woman answered a question about a movie she worked on and finished her answer with, “And that was the time I broke my back during filming.”  The interviewer nodded and then asked the next pre-written question.  It would have been better for the interviewer to ask a follow-up question like, “You broke your back?  Tell me more about that.”
 Ask what you didn’t ask.  Most times, the person being interviewed has a story or anecdote they are just dying to share.  All they need is for you to ask the right question.  So at the end of your interview, ask them what you didn’t ask.  Your question could be, “What else would you like to share?”  Or perhaps, “What is the one thing you are dying to tell me about today?” Or even, “What did I forget to ask you?”  

  As is the case in all video production, the secret to success is in planning before you shoot.  So plan ahead, write open-ended questions and make the actual interview a fun and positive experience for everyone.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Do It Yourself Tripod for your iPad

  Next week, I will be visiting with a teacher who wants to shoot classroom video using her iPad.  Now, the iPad makes a pretty good video camera, shooting in 1080 resolution with the entire screen as your "viewfinder".  The only problem is that the stock iPad won't fit on a tripod, so somebody has to hold the darned thing while it's recording. 

  Our friends at have all sorts of iPad tripod mounts for sale, starting at $7.99 and going up from there.  Very good if you have a few dollars to spend and a week to wait for it to arrive from the warehouse.  What if you want a quick and free solution? 

  Mivil DeschĂȘnes has produced a short video showing you how to turn a cardboard box into a functional iPad tripod.  Take a look!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Presentation to PLAEA Behavior Strategist meeting

Here is the PowerPoint that was shown to the Prairie Lakes AEA Behavior Strategist meeting on August 27, 2015.

Planning, Shooting and Editing Video - Common Denominators Across Multiple Platforms

Sunday, June 15, 2014

From the t.i.c.l. Conference 2014

  Here is the PowerPoint presentation that I used at the 2014 t.i.c.l. Conference at Buena Vista University.  The previous post has links for both training videos mentioned in the PowerPoint.


Any Video Converter training

Video Slimmer for the iPad

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make it so!

  It seemed so simple during the planning sessions.  Teachers would shoot video in their classrooms, upload the video clips to the web and then our PLAEA consultants would review the video clips.  As long as the teachers have access to a smart phone or an iPad, it should be easy as pie.  Shoot, upload and view.

  That was our plan.  Now, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say, "Make it so!"

  Then we started getting phone calls and emails from the teachers who were attempting this feat.  The videos they shot were taking forever to upload, sometimes several hours.  Sometimes, the website would "time out" and the entire process would come to a screeching halt.  What is the problem here?

  After some investigation, we discovered that the file sizes of those video clips were just too darned big.  For example, an iPad shoots video in high definition, so even a 20 minute video clip is nearly 3 gig in size.  That's right, 3 gigabytes for 20 minutes.  How can you shoot a 50 minute classroom presentation and then upload it to your Dropbox account that has a maximum capacity of 2 gig?

 My suggestion was to use video conversion software to convert the video clips to a more compressed format.  Using video conversion software also lets the user downsize the resolution from HD to SD.  Changing the format and downsizing the resolution will shrink the size of the video file, sometimes dramatically. That 3 gig video clip became a 725 meg clip after conversion and downsizing.  That's small enough to easily fit in your Dropbox or Google Drive account.

 Different cameras and computers require different software to achieve this file compression.  So I'm producing videos to address that.

  What if you are using a Flip camera and transferring that video to your Windows 7 computer?  I suggested our team use Any Video Converter.  That's freeware that is available from CNET.  Then I recommended the converted clip be uploaded to a Google Drive account.

 Here is the video I created to explain the process. 

 If you are using an iPad, then it's even easier because it can all be done with your iPad.  Two apps, GDrive and Video Slimmer, allow you to compress your video clip and then upload it to your Google Drive.

 Again, I produced a video to demonstrate the process.

  That's not all of the camera and computer combinations out there.  But these two procedures and the accompanying instructional videos should help our classroom videographers to successfully shoot and upload their projects.  As additional instructors contact us, I'll search for solutions that apply to their specific hardware and computer operating systems.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Sound Advice

Combo headphone-mic headset

  Video conferencing is amazing.  The idea that we can turn a meeting room into a makeshift television studio and broadcast to the world is astounding, even to a veteran media person like me.  In order to have a successful broadcast, we need to use the right tool for the job. 

  When we’re dealing with video conferencing, we are broadcasting two things: picture and sound.  And while everyone understands that the video camera needs to show what the viewer wants to see, it can be a challenge to have the microphone pick up what everyone wants to hear.  

  Audio rarely receives the attention it deserves, even though so much of the information conveyed during a video conference is actually heard rather than seen.

So, what tools do we use to gather sound?  The microphone that is built in to your laptop does a pretty good job if you are the only person on your end of the conference.  However, using the built in mic and speaker can often set up a feedback or echo effect, where your mic hears and rebroadcasts the output of your speaker.  You will avoid that problem by using a combo headphone-mic headset like the one pictured. 
Blue Snowball mic

  If you have a group of people gathered around a table, you need a different kind of microphone to hear everyone clearly.  The Blue Snowball microphone can be switched from a cardioid pattern to an omnidirectional pattern, which means it can be used by a single person or set in the middle of a table to pick up an entire group of people.  It connects via a USB cable to your computer and is compatible with Skype and other conferencing software.

  Another style of microphone that is well suited to gathering sound at a meeting is the PZM or boundary microphone.  It sits flat on the table and picks up reflected sound.  This is the style of mic used with a Polycom and AVer video conferencing system.  Some models, such as the MXL-404 (pictured) also connect to your computer via USB. 
MXL-404 PZM Mic

  My father always told me to use the right tool for the job.  So use the right microphone for your next video conference. Your audience will appreciate being able to hear you better, and that’s sound advice.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Links for Technology Friday attendees

Here are the links that are mentioned in my "Introduction to Video Editing" class.  They are seen in the PowerPoint as well, but it may be easier to find them in a separate post.

Any Video Converter:
Windows Movie Maker tutorial from Kent State:
DVD Flick:
Sources for copyright-free music, clip art,
stock photos and more :
 Check with your Teacher/Librarian if you don’t know your user name and password

Videomaker Magazine

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tech Friday Presentation on Basic Editing

This Friday will be the first Tech Friday at Prairie Lakes AEA.  It's an opportunity for staffers to receive training on various types of technology available to them.  I will be talking about basic video shooting and editing using Windows Movie Maker.  While it is not my favorite editing package, it is available on all staff laptops here at the agency.  It's here, it's let's use it.

I'm embedding the PowerPoint I will be using so it will be available to attendees and anyone else who may get some mileage out of it.  I'm sure you'll find better tutorials out there, but this is the one I'll use to begin our conversations about media production.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NEW FCC Rules on Closed Captioning for Web TV Content

An article seen on advises us that "Web TV needs to have captions starting next month, FCC rules".  This was established with the "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010" and reaffirmed by an FCC ruling just a few days ago.

Does this apply to you?  Are you legally required to CC all content you upload to your YouTube or Eduvision website?

First off, a caveat:  I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV.  For legal advice, always consult your attorney.  All right, moving on.  From my reading,  it appears that this applies to programming that has been shown on television and does not apply to "web-only" content.  If you are producing content in your home studio or school media center, this law does not legally require you to add Closed Captioned content to your video projects that you upload and show online.  That's my take on it, anyway.

  However, this does not answer if you should provide CC or subtitles on your video projects.  Does it serve your audience to have this content available to the hearing impaired?  Is it a good idea even if it's not legally required?  That is something you need to consider with your current and future video projects.