Thursday, November 20, 2014

Assignment: Prototyping a video trailer

I'm asking my students to experiment with a hybrid format for their final project in my Literature of the Latter-day Saints class. They are all writing brief personal essays (drafts of which have appeared on this blog), which in some way or another engage the Book of Mormon (though consciously not in a preachy kind of way). Each student will also be creating one-minute videos whose purpose (as I explained to them in class on Wednesday 11/18/14) is to serve as a kind of trailer or teaser, hopefully leading viewers to view other such videos in the set, and ultimately to click on a link in any given video's description taking them to the complete essay the video mentions (which will be published on a separate blog).

Why the hybrid? We are trying to get the best of both the online world and the literary world of creative nonfiction. Many people are willing to view short videos, and those videos can be a conduit to take viewers to additional content, including those personal essays that are unlikely to be sought out on their own, or consumed much if they were posted by themselves. In short, we are making video trailers that introduce the people behind the essays, and that give viewers a chance to become readers of the more formal written content. 

What's the problem? We aren't sure what type of video will accomplish this goal. I made the following video as a prototype, which we viewed as a class yesterday. This allowed us to discuss some variations on the type of video we will try to make (discussed below in the assignment details). Note that this video is set to start at :32 where I begin talking about Savannah's essay. Rewind the video to the beginning to hear the 30-second intro I give to the Book of Mormon project as a whole.

What did you think? How does this make you think about what kind of video you might make?

Making one's own prototype video is the assignment for Friday 11/20/14 (though if necessary this can be posted later, but not so late that it cannot receive comments as usual from other students).


  • Length: 60 seconds
    The video must not go longer than one minute! Seriously! A bit shorter is okay (45 seconds), but nothing over 60 seconds. You'll probably need to practice.
  • Production Quality: Modest.
    Try to have some decent light on your face and pay attention to sound quality. However, do not spend much effort or time in the actual production of the video or you will end up focusing on the wrong thing. (The video above was something I took with my smartphone, selfie-style, with no tripod. It was also the first take, with no editing at all). Feel free to practice or to take several takes, but avoid editing or any fancy post-production stuff. 
  • Variables - As we discussed in class, please create one of the following:
    1. A video that introduces one's own writing and which also brings in the Book of Mormon
    2. A video that introduces one's own writing but which does not bring in the Book of Mormon
    3. A video that introduces another student's writing and which also brings in the Book of Mormon (This is the model I did, above)
    4. A video that introduces another student's writing but which does not bring in the Book of Mormon

  • Content
    • Introduce yourself ("Hi, I'm Gideon Burton")
    • Do not refer to this as a class project, or refer to other students as classmates (Instead, do something like "I read this great essay by _________") 
    • Paraphrase or quote (very briefly) from your / their essay. 
    • Say whatever else comes to mind
    • Invite viewers to read the essay about which you are talking. 
  • Posting:
    • Post this video to YouTube as an unlisted video (This means no one can find the video unless you provide them the link to it, as I have done, above). 
    • Make a blog post on our course blog that introduces your video. You might type some thoughts about the video or the larger project along with the video (link) itself.
    • Embed the video in the blog post, or simply post a link to the video on YouTube. (I went halfway on this, making a link from a screenshot of the video but not embedding the video itself. You can do it that way, or just the link and now video).
    • If you are very shy about your video and don't want to post even a link to it to our class blog, then email the link to me. Hopefully you won't be that shy, but it's an option. 
If you are representing someone else's essay, show interest and enthusiasm, and focus only on one aspect. No time for more.

Finally, try to view as many of these as you can prior to class, and comment! This assignment shouldn't take long to make or to consume. I'd rather see more time spent in discussing one another's efforts so we can reach consensus about best practices. We will view some (and perhaps all) of these videos in class on Monday 11/24/14. 

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