[Art-instructors] Advice on student videos

Stephanie James sljames at fsu.edu
Mon Mar 23 16:00:52 EDT 2020

Good Afternoon Everyone,

This helpful post came from Professor Jon AlJon Ahlquist, Meteorology, Dept of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science.


Sorry for the length of this post! I've been producing videos with students since I started our weathercasting class in 1982, and we've been streaming a live half-hour TV show at 6:00-6:30PM called "FSU Weather" for several years at YouTube.com/fsuweather.

Google and YouTube are particularly helpful in learning these skills through targeted searches. Instructors and TAs can even find suggestions for teaching fine and performing arts online.

YouTube has many videos on how to produce videos. Here are two good ones focused on using your smartphone to produce videos:
Important points:
(*) Whenever possible, keep your video device plugged in when working with video. Shooting and viewing video drains the battery. If it is not practical to run a phone from a charger, at least try to start with a fully charged phone.
(*) Turn your phone so that it produces a wide video rather than a tall video.
(*) The "selfie" camera on a phone is not nearly as good as the camera on the other side of the phone, so use the camera where you can't see yourself. If you don't have someone to adjust the camera's view for you, you may need to zoom out more than you would prefer to make sure that nothing is cut off. (I had to do that in this video:
(*) To use a smartphone, you will need a smartphone clamp and a tripod to hold the camera steady. At amazon.com, he "Vastar Universal Smartphone Tripod Adapter" looks like a good choice. (I bought something similar a few years ago.) If you can "set and forget" the tripod, you can get by with a very inexpensive tripod. One possibility at amazon.com is "AmazonBasics Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod Stand With Bag - 16.5 -
50 Inches." (A reviewer suggests setting each leg section at least an inch shorter than the maximum extension to increase stability greatly.) I own two tripods. I use a cheap, lightweight one when I can set the tripod in a single, unchanging position. I use a much heavier metal tripod with a smoothly moving head when I have to change the camera's field of view while shooting video. I do not know whether the AmazonBassics tripod has a sufficiently fluid head to allow for changing the direction in which the tripod is pointed while shooting video.
Someone from the FSU "film school" may be able to recommend a student-affordable tripod that is better than "set and forget."
(*) While many people on YouTube mention table-top tripods, I need a much taller tripod when I record music performances. There is rarely a good place to put a table-top tripod where I record.
(*) You need to be close to the microphone when recording speech, so a separate microphone may advisable in some cases, but the built-in microphone in my Samsung smartphone has been fine for recording violin, viola, flute, and singing. (I haven't tried brass instruments or percussion. I've heard that Prof. John Parks in the Music Dept is an expert at recording percussion, which is much more difficult than what I
do.) Separate microphones come in various styles: lavalier mikes to be clipped to clothing, directional shotgun mikes to mount near the camera (e.g., the TAKSTAR SGC-598 at amazon.com with an adapter:
(*) Don't shoot video with a window behind you. During daytime, the camera's auto exposure makes people look too dark. At night, the window acts as a mirror, and you see everything behind the camera.)

When getting started shooting video, students need considerable encouragement with few negative comments. Students in the fine and performing arts have spent years becoming good at their craft. When they begin shooting video, they are beginners. They know it, and they can see it. I remind my students that "Third time's the charm" means that the first few times usually aren't good for anybody, but you have to do the first time before the second, etc. I'm a firm believer in the work of several educational psychologists: FSU's Anders Ericsson ("deliberate practice"), Carol Dweck ("growth mindset"), and Brene Brown (which I summarize using Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizenship_in_a_Republic), which I further summarize using Martin Luther's statement from 152, "Sin boldly," i.e., don't be afraid to make mistakes.) I also mention what automobile executive superstar Lee Iacocca said when he was saving Chrysler from bankruptcy in the late 1970s and early 1980s: "So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw up, start over. Try something else."

It is easy for students to post videos to YouTube. I won't repeat what they can watch online about how to do this. I'll only add a few comments from my experience:
(*) Upload the full video to YouTube and edit it there using YouTube's online editing tools rather than using a video editor on your computer.
Sometimes I have had trouble deciding just how much time I want at the beginning and end surrounding the "content" portion of a video. If I edit with YouTube's tools, it is quick and easy to change that. If I edit the video with tools on my computer and I want more time at the beginning or end of my video, I have to delete my first YouTube post and upload a new entry. YouTube will not let you replace a video within a given post.
(*) Students can post videos with "unlisted" access so that anyone with the video's YouTube address can watch the video (the instructor, other students, family, and friends), but the video cannot be found by a search at YouTube. (A YouTube “private” video is even more restricted.)
(*) If students do post "public" videos that can be found by searches, I recommend turning off comments and suppressing the number of likes and dislikes. Otherwise, some people may write unjustified, mean comments.

Stephanie James
Chair, Department of Art
College of Fine Arts
Florida State University
Tel: (850) 644-8254
Email: sljames at fsu.edu

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