There’s No Business Like Show Business?

Engineer: “Saturday morning radio address, take 21.”

Donna Moss: “I have a really good feeling about this one, sir.”

President Josiah Bartlet: “Is this still my first term?”

Remember March?  Me either.

But I do have a vague recollection of the need to make more videos.  In particular, I recall a RIPS discussion board thread about short videos. Commenters said, “I wish I had mini-lecture videos” and “(r)ecorded mini-lectures would […] be helpful for the students.”  

What caught my eye was a librarian saying it took her approximately five hours to do a ten-minute video, and that she had underestimated how long producing the video would take.  To some extent that mirrored my experience.  I’ve definitely endured a lot of trial and error.

Now that it’s allegedly September, let me offer some thoughts on video production (and I use “production” loosely).

What’s been my most indispensable technology?  Definitely Adobe Premiere Pro.  Is it expensive?  Yes.  Our university has a license agreement for the Adobe Creative Cloud, so in my case the cost was not a prohibitive number. 

On the Twittersphere, I’ve observed some law faculty who caution against using Premiere Pro because of the learning curve.  Indeed, Premiere Pro could cause you a lot of pain if you’re unwilling to invest time learning how to use it because it’s definitely not an intuitive program. I wasn’t even an Adobe novice and yet I suffered some woe.  Despite having substantial experience with Audition and its predecessor, Cool Edit Pro, I initially was confused by the Premiere Pro interface.  My take, though, is that it’s usually easy to find a YouTube how-to video that gives you step-by-step instructions on what you want to accomplish with Premiere Pro.

One beauty of Premiere Pro is its ability to mask moments that might prompt one to consider a retake.  For one, whenever I’m sitting alone and press “record,”  whether I’m going to remember my lines becomes an exercise akin to Guildenstern flipping a coin.  Thankfully, if there’s a tiny error and the rest of the recording is fine, it’s relatively simple to use Adobe Audition to edit the audio. With Premiere Pro, I can then add the fixed audio to the video.  In another instance, I recorded a satisfactory take and later realized I had my bookmark toolbar visible.  Since I didn’t want my toolbar clutter to be visible and re-recording might have prompted a meltdown, I was able to add the good audio to video from a separate take.  This post-production task was easy. In other words, by investing time watching Premiere Pro tutorials, I’ve ultimately saved time as well as portions of my sanity, and I’ve produced better videos.    

If, however, you want to stick with free tools or a less intimidating editor, I recommend checking out Make a Production Out of It, one of the pre-recorded AALL conference sessions. Joseph Lawson offers a helpful tutorial on Microsoft’s free video editor and also demonstrates the advantage a higher-end editor like Camtasia has over the preinstalled option.     

One last video tip (and I almost hesitate to state this because it might be too obvious): if you’re recording a segment where your desktop isn’t needed for a demo, in all likelihood your camera phone will deliver higher-quality video than your webcam.  Using your phone also gives you the option to go mobile and record in a location where your webcam isn’t accessible. 

Above: 4:3 video captured by laptop’s webcam
Above: 16:9 video captured by LG G5

Sure, if you use Super Panavision 70 your students aren’t necessarily going to become more skilled researchers than the students watching VHS-quality videos.  I get that. AALL doesn’t give awards for cinematography and you don’t need 4K videos to bolster your pedagogical toolkit.  But I see value in students’ viewing experiences not being exclusively a web browser and grainy video. If we need to make videos, why not do it better and add a personal touch.

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