Teachers have no difficulty in finding examples of unlimited video techniques and effects to show to their students to reinforce concepts that fall under the category of “best practices.”
They can find examples of these by recording broadcasts or examining DVD programming.
However, while students may have been taught “best practices,” those same students fall short of following these practices. The results are evident when students turn in videos which have many common errors in them; Errors which could easily have been avoided. Oftentimes, the students even are aware that they didn’t do “it” exactly right but feel that what they turn is “good enough.” Well, as teachers, we know that “good enough ….. isn’t!”
What kind of errors are we talking about? These errors are the common mistakes that teachers constantly harp on students about. Here are some examples:
• don’t shoot when you have insufficient light
• out of focus, not using a tripod
• forgetting to white balance
• make sure you balance the tripod
• earrings which appear and disappear in a single sequence
• music on a news program
• black and white shots in an otherwise color production
• reusing shots because you didn’t shoot enough b-roll
• improper mic technique
• clipping lav mic to a t-shirt, pullover, or sweater
• interior shots with a window in the background
• up-cutting and down-cutting too tightly on the editor chopping words
• cutting music rather than fading music up or down
• mood music in a news story
• letting talent hold mic
• shot too close that shows eye movement reading teleprompter
• improper use of fonts, sizes, colors, and drop shadows on titles
• and dozens more
It is nearly impossible for a teacher to find instances of these common errors by showing a clip from a movie or TV show which contains this kind of error in order to really examine in detail WHY this error is wrong. Why are these errors so hard to find in professional video? Because the professionals rarely make these errors, or if they do make the errors, the errors never make it into the finished product which the public sees.
So what to do? You can’t take Johnny’s video which has one or more of these errors in it and show it to the entire class as an example of what not to do. Ethically, that’s wrong because you are virtually humiliating Johnny in front of his peers. That’s not your intent. You are genuinely trying to teach students NOT to do something and why. But humiliation is the result.
It would be wonderful if you could produce a video of your own with all these common errors in them which you can show without hurting anyone’s feelings by humiliating them. Yeah, right. Television production and broadcast journalism teachers have lots of spare time to do this sort of thing. Don’t you?
We always wished we could get our hands on a “worst practices” video, containing most of the most commonly made production mistakes found in student videos to show to the students. Teachers could point out what not to do because the error will look or sound like the mistake it is.
To our knowledge no such worst practices video teaching aid existed—Before now. Once Phil Harris retired, he was able to make this project a reality. He wrote a script for a legitimate news story about the weight of textbooks in an average student book bag and the effect that weight has on young people’s spines. In the extremely detailed word for word script he placed specific directions to the video production crew which, if followed, would cause a multitude of errors to be in the final product.
He solicited teachers on both the STN and RTDNF listservs to try to find a school which would be willing to produce the video per his script. He was lucky to find the excellent production class at Saugus High School in Saugus, California. Their crew was good enough to be able to produce something as bad as my script directed yet still not make a video so bad it would be awful to watch if teachers used it as a teaching aid. You can imagine how good you really have to be to force yourself to intentionally pull of major errors.
The resulting video is just under 7 minutes in length. The recommended way to use it in a class is to wait until students have already covered in class most of the kinds of errors found on the video. Then the teacher shows the video to the class, showing the entire video at once. Expect the students to laugh in a few spots because some of the errors are literally funny when you don’t know the people involved. After showing the entire video to the class, the teacher then shows it again pausing at every cut and having the students call out all the errors they saw in the last few seconds. This can be done several times and elicit more and more errors. Each of the errors can be discussed at length, the teacher even playing the same bit of video over and over. Students can really “SEE” what previously they could only hear about from the teacher. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a video clip is worth a bundle.
The script used for the production can be downloaded for no charge from www.video-educator-training.com. The video may be ordered there for only $20.