One of the best web 2.0, social media content types that will give your school the most bang for the buck is video. Even if you have never produced before, the learning curve is short, while the excitement that it can generate is unlimited.

To start with, I use a Sony HD camera with 32gb flash drive. This is a better then average model, but certainly within the reasonable category when it comes to budget. You can find great deals on used cameras on eBay, or you can have guaranteed satisfaction for around $1,200 when you buy new. Just don’t get too skimpy, it will give you more problems in production then it will in the actual quality of the video. For voice overs I use my iPhone (iPod Touch works too) with an external mic ($20), and I sometimes use my iPhone for quick videos and still shots. Most times I use a cheap monopod to mount the camera on so I keep things relatively still, and I also have a tripod for filming games and concerts.

A little planning is essential for a video project, and will save you aggravation later on. I break down projects by asking a few simple questions:

  1. What is my goal?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. How long should it be?
  4. What am I going to do with it?

Sometime you won’t be able to answer all these questions, and sometimes the answers will change from planning to production, but give yourself some framework to start with. Once you have an idea of what you are shooting, you can start to plan available resources. Let me provide a couple of examples:

Quick take
During our spirit week, there was a series of activities happening in the gym. I headed over with my camera not knowing what I would get, but expecting it to be something impromptu that I could grab a clip from as part of a larger spirit week project. During the festivities, there was a half-court shooting contest, and after 10 minutes of not making a thing, two kids in a row hit shots. The place exploded, and a great 40 second video was born. I distilled it down to those two shots and the pandemonium, threw on a title screen and final screen and posted on our school portal. The kids loved seeing themselves and the parents loved seeing their kids (win/win). The available audio from the event was fine, without worrying about external mics. (http://www.cbury.org/podium)

Video clip from recent event.

Planned Video
For our Third Form Retreat, we wanted to put together a production that would show parents and prospects what the experience was all about. Working with our in-house photographer, we came up with a quick shot list and approximate length of the finished video. During the event, which ran for a couple of hours outdoors, and then returned to campus for Mass, I shot about 50 minutes of raw video. Our photographer shot about 80 pictures. I made quick decisions on what footage was good enough to look at before downloading anything (don’t download what you don’t want, just delete!) After the remaining footage was on my local hard drive, I distilled it down to the best five minutes. While I was doing this, our photographer distilled his work down to the best 20 pictures he took and sent them to me. We wanted this to run no longer then 3 minutes, so I still had a bit of cutting to do, but at this point I was able to organize the pictures and video into a “story” that would make sense for the viewer. Once I had the story, the remaining cutting was made easier. You will typically leave good footage on the production room floor, that is inevitable, so don’t loose sleep over it. Because there was no audio track, we had to make one. We used voice overs of students and the retreat director to give meaning to the piece and ran a music track in the background. We ended up running this at Parents’ Weekend and sending out a Pushpage email to all our Third Form parents, a huge hit. (http://www.cbury.org/podium/default.aspx?t=129381)

Working at an independent school offers plenty of great opportunities to produce video: plays, games, gatherings, graduations, celebrations, traditions and more. You don’t have to shot everything, but if you pick your spots and produce a couple of pieces, you will strengthen your internal communications channels, and possibly even some external channels as well. Another great benefit is that once you start, the excitement builds. Soon, students want to help, or maybe an art or computer class can provide video footage. These opportunities are a great help, since you can’t be everywhere at once. Also, if you have a second videographer, you can add a dynamic element to concerts and plays by having one camera shot the event from a stationary point of view, while the other camera does some close ups, fades and zooms. Combine this with a few still photos, and you have great content for your production.

One thing that I have learned the hard way is that you can always downsize, but you can never upsize (exception: McDonald’s). What this means is that you should always shot in larger format, or HD mode. You can down-sample the video later. If you shoot too small to begin with, your toast. Same Goes for photography, don’t skimp on size. This will require tons of hard drive space, but externals are cheap these days, and you should plan on having at least 500 gb available to you if you are going to produce multiple projects at once.

Within iMovie, the people at Apple have made it easy to bring in pictures and audio with their photo and music browser buttons that tie in iPhoto and iTunes content. Any content you generate on your iPhone will automatically sync to these applications once you plug in, so using the suite of applications Apple has developed is a no brainer, and frankly, they work well, so why not. iMovie also has built in transitions and title pages that all work well if you use them sparingly.

Once you have completed your video, iMovie give you a couple of options for sharing your video including as a Quicktime file, a tiny, mobile, medium, large or HD video file, direct to youtube, and others. We set up a school youtube account and put our videos there. We can then use the embed feature to re-purpose the videos to our website as well as to a blog site we have. Youtube provides options for framing your video, display size, and including “related” videos (I would suggest turning this off every time, you never know what they will consider “related”.) Once you have completed your settings, you can copy/paste the embed code to you website channel. We use WhippleHill’s Podium product, which make embedding external videos a snap. Most web vendors are onto this trend, but if you are not sure, ask your web manager or IT person for help.

Now, go shoot some video!