Intro to Media Writing – A “Flipped” Model

No matter what career discipline students are pursuing, effective writing is paramount for success. Introduction to Media Writing is a required course for all students in the Gaylord College for Journalism and Mass Communication. Judy Gibbs Robinson, the lead instructor coordinates multiple sections and recently adopted the “flipped”  model of instruction. This model encourages more active learning and writing during the face-to-face sessions, moving traditional lecture content online with short modularized videos that students watch outside of class.

Professor Robinson crafted over 30 videos addressing different writing concentrations.
Topics include: Writing Across Platforms, Writing with Accuracy, Writing Broadcast Leads.

Harnessing the expertise of the professorate in the Gaylord College for Journalism and Mass Communication, professor Robinson invited guest lectures, including: Melanie Wilderman, Meta Carstarphen, Fred Beard, Mel Odom and Scott Hodgson. These guest lectures combined with professor Robinson’s knowledge core offers students a diversity of writing trajectories, combining industry experience with academic research.

Concise scripts were written, helping target student engagement and retention. Video duration ranged from six to ten minutes and videos were embedded into the Canvas learning platform.

Production Workflow:
Camera: Blackmagic Production camera, EF mount with a Canon prime lens
Format: 4K ProRes HQ (Ultra HD)
Audio: 16 bit, 48kHz, H4N recorder, Samsung wireless mic
Color Grading: DaVinci
Editor: Premiere Pro, latest edition
Server: EditShare HT, 3U, 32TB, RAID 6


Performance Tips when Lecturing to the Camera

faculty in the studio

Stand still. Most of us, when standing normally, see the same thing when we look down at our feet. A V-shape, with each foot pointing a bit outward and our heels closer together. This stance can lead to swaying – both side to side and backward and forward. Moving one foot in front of the other, and shifting its angle a bit, will make it almost impossible for you to sway.

Take stock of your habits. These are the habits that might distract your audience. These include: excessive blinking, flaring nostrils, over-active eyebrows, flipping hair, touching face, licking lips, sighing, crossing-arms, hands in pockets – the list is endless. Tape yourself and carefully self-scrutinize.

Don’t beat up on yourself! We are all imperfect creatures. As an actor, it’s your goal to choose which imperfections to showcase in your characters. Just don’t let your own habits, affectations, and mannerisms get in the way of giving a great performance.

Eyes open. Start each take with a smile with your eyes open.

Check your start volume. Try to start each sentence with the same volume and pitch as the rest of your takes. Often amateurs start a take at a much higher voice volume level than the rest of the take.

Listen for “Cut”. Keep going, even if you make a mistake. The director will tell you when to stop. Often editors can use segments just prior to and just after mistakes.

Practice in front of the mirror. Even pros have to practice. So, if you are not a pro, practice. Arriving with script familiarity, appropriate attire and performance practice will speed up the recording process, offering you time to experiment with other options at the end of recording.

Record yourself and critique. Almost all faculty have access to a video camera, most likely on your phone. Record rough takes of yourself performing and critique your performance.

Continue looking into the camera. At the end of a take, when you think you are finished, continue to look into the camera. Don’t immediately look off camera to the director for feedback, asking, “was that okay”? Often editors will fade out dissolving to another image. Holding your gaze and eye contact with the camera will not cause a distraction when fading out, or fading to another shot.

Avoid lipsmack. Avoid starting each take with an audible tick, or lipsmack. Try for a smooth and silent take off, clear your throat, count to five and start, or wait for the director’s countdown.



Dressing for the Camera

illustration - clothes hanging in closet

As higher education institutions move toward the implementation of video for full scale flipping or only as supplements to instruction, faculty are quickly being placed in front of the camera. Becoming comfortable with your camera avatar, being yourself, moving away from the nervous, cardboard cutout representation of yourself can be tricky. It combines mastery of content, good scripting, theatrical techniques, cadence of speaking, and voice intonation into a performance that engages learners. This performance needs to be authentic to be believable.

Organized content, a good performance and professional delivery require good coaching and practice. A good production crew will help with this process, helping move the “faculty star” toward success, increasing learning and student engagement using video.

An important component that is sometimes overlooked when creating a professional media product is the consideration of dress code and the proper use of good fashion. Yes, clothes do matter. The first 15 seconds sets the stage of professionalism and professional representation of a given discipline, an institution, geographic region and country.
Students want you to be yourself, they respect your academic freedom and depending on your discipline might even expect you to wear tie-dyes, shorts and sandals when you lecture. However, as higher education moves toward offering “open” content, delivering to a global audience, taking the video production endeavor professionally is worth the effort. As you prepare, don’t forget to plan your attire.

Aside from whatever fashion statement you attempt to make – tailored suit, or tie dye, there are some clothing specifications that hinge around the technical components of the video and audio recording process.
Certain clothing does not work well on camera. For instance, high-contrast pin stripes, will flicker, moving in a distracting moire’ pattern when filmed because of the NTSC interlaced scanning procedure used in North American production. Also, necklaces, broaches and other types of jewelry can bump lapel mics, ruining audio.
Included is a list of What to Wear for the Camera as well as other resources:

What Not to Wear on Camera
Just What Should I Wear?
How to Dress for Video
Camera Shy? How to Prep for your Big Shoot Day


Captioning for ADA Compliance

Video images with captions

As I teach faculty to create and use video in their teaching I typically introduce the three phases of video production: pre production, production and post-production.

These three phases break video production into manageable segments, helping create budgets, scripts, delegate responsibility, establish workflow, and manage content creation. Making time to work and develop within each phase ensures projects will be successful, targeting the audience, helping to develop learning objectives.
Recently I’ve included the captioning process in both the pre production and post-production phases. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides individuals with disabilities equal access. State, government and education institutions are required to include ADA compliant captions.
Thinking about ADA compliance and captioning during pre production helps secure funding or crowd sourcing opportunities early in the process. Too many instructors gasp in frustration when they suddenly realize they need all course videos captioned prior to the beginning of the semester. I’ve worked with instructors who elect not to use any videos when they realize, late in the game that captioning is required. If captioning isn’t an early consideration time and money might not be available.

Free Captioning Services:
YouTube does offer a computer generated captioning service that is free with 70 to 80 percent accuracy. YouTube automatic captions are easily edited and the process can be shared among, colleagues, students and staff.
Click here to watch a YouTube instructional video about captioning.

Amara is another free captioning service that uses crowdsourcing. They also offer translation services.

Payment for Captioning Services:
3Play Media offers captioning services with a calibrated pricing breakdown based on video length and captioning turn around time. The average price is $2.50 per minute with a two-day turnaround.
Automatic Sync Technologies also offers a similar pricing breakdown and turnaround time.
Both 3Play Media and AST offer captioning services that can automatically upload to both YouTube and (Kaltura). On average the cost for captioning video for an entire course is approximately $6,000.00.
Amara – Crowd Source Captioning Service
Netflix Experiments with Crowd-Sourced Captioning
Automatic Caption Sync – Captioning Service
Dotsub – Translation and Captioning Service
3Play Media


Student Engagement and Video Length

Youtube playlist with video series

The process of engaging learners in higher education using video in traditional lecture, hybrid, blended, or fully online scenarios benefits greatly from good planning and sound implementation. Without forethought and good instructional design, video, as an instructional medium can be a waste of time, money and can fragment learning. Instructional design strategies help guide video implementation, by pairing videos with viewing guides, syllabi, course objectives and assessment. Students appreciate and respect a solid organizational structure that guides learning. They will perhaps be more successful in comprehending and retaining course content if they understand the overall course layout and how videos and other media support their learning.

Successful student engagement with video content depends on the following components:
– Brevity (viewers generally tune out after six minutes)
– Informality, with professors seated at a desk, not standing behind a podium
– Lively visuals rather than static PowerPoint slides
– Fast talkers (professors seen as the most engaging spoke at 254 words per minute)
– More pauses, so viewers can soak in complex diagrams
– Web-friendly lessons (existing videos broken into shorter chunks are less effective
than ones crafted for online audiences)
source: – MIT News

To focus on video duration or brevity, research targeting effective student engagement with video content supports the creation and use of short videos between four and six minutes (Philip Guo.2013). Students engage less with longer videos; engagement times decrease as a videos lengthen. Gou states, “on average students spent around 3 minutes on videos that are longer than 12 minutes, which means that they engaged with less than a quarter of the content.”

If an entire lecture will be available via video, the video lecture will benefit students if segmented into short bursts, creating a video lecture series. Scripting short video segments, breaking lecture objectives into digestible chunks prior to recording, produces better instructional video. Editing a long video lecture into small segments after recording is not as effective as scripting planned breaks. Planned breaks and organized implementation create time and space for learning and synthesis.

If designed correctly a video lecture series dovetails perfectly with course modules and learning objectives. It is often beneficial to create a short introduction overview video explaining course dynamics, goals and how the video series will be organized and implemented in regard to student’s overall learning experience.
Course introductions are a great way to experiment with implementing instructor lead videos. Creating a segmented lecture series takes time and can be overwhelming. Starting with lesson introductions and overviews is a good way to start. Some instructors create video lectures to cover content areas while they attend annual conferences or while they are participating in other scholarly work. Set realistic goals for introducing short, quality videos into your instruction.