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Examples of "Easy Videos"

School produced videosI started putting my class resources online in 1998 and, while I have not updated each and every project each and every year, I do continue to reflect and revise my work for clarity and more-effective style of production.

The best part about working with today's tweenagers and teens is that they will challenge you to keep learning technology and share many creative insights -- this is what I credit for my success in creating and sharing a wide variety of resources and digital formats.

The following video links are not great productions -- each could be improved -- but each met the needs of my students and each is online and widely used in classrooms around the U.S. and world. The video links below are presented, with a few comments, to let people see that getting started is our biggest challenge

Streamlining a workflow process is the key to success and moving forward with the next video project with what you've learned from previous projects is how we grow as videographers and professionals. This is how our students will learn.

Videos Without Cameras

Mr. B's Guitar Music.  Most of the videos at this website were created without a camera.  Obviously, the embedded video (Swing Guitar Version of On Wisconsin) was done with a video camera.  Other videos done without a camera use  royalty free "stock footage", but most of the time they were created using pictures that pan & zoom ("Ken Burns" effect) or animated gifs. 

(NOTE:  It is getting harder to find free downloadable royalty-free clips, but YouTube once had entire channels dedicated to this).

They were a lot of fun to make -- all are done in Sony Vegas -- some with Movie Studio Platinum and others with Vegas Pro.  How can you tell when I shot video footage, used stock footage, used still pictures (with effects) or animated gifs?

If I am in the video -- it was done with a camera.  If I am not in the video, but you see movie clips in the presentation, I obtained royalty-free clips.  If you look carefully and see that the video's motion is pan & zoom (no motion in the picture's composition), then it was done without a camera.  Some videos have small animations that repeat -- these have animated give as a layer over other video/picture images.

Magic Treehouse Series:  A Night on the Titanic Book Talk: Historic Fiction versus Non-Fiction.   This video uses the script for book talk videos that I hand out at my Easy 1-2-3 video presentations. The original plan was to create an easy video production that would be shot with one camera and 4 short cuts -- asking the presenter to prepare what they would say and then faking A/B roll (2-camera perspectives) by starting and stopping the video camera and moving the camera to a different perspective or moving the presenter to another part of the library.

If this is carefully shot and the presenter makes no mistakes that have to be edited out, this production would not need to be edited, though using video editing software allows a graphic of the book to be cut-in along with text-overs for the author's name and the book's full title (these are not always clear from book jackets).

My video from this script was shot without a camera, using Crazy Talk -- it is essentially the same format of production as the BEAR BOOK TALKS above.

Dewey Bears:  Finding Fiction and Nonfiction Books. This video is now several years old -- it is one of the first videos I created to support my library lessons. Kids gave me a standing ovation! 

I had just started making music videos with my guitar music either using video clips from a variety of sources (I did not own a video camera then) or from pictures using pans and zooms, sometimes called "Ken Burns" effect (Example: L'Amour Est Bleu/Love Is Blue).

This video features Bogey Bear and his friend Scruffy Bear. The video consists of a series of photos from different perspectives and different angles. The narration was recorded with the freeware program Audacity. I assembled the video in Sony Vegas Movie Studio -- it was done with 2 audio tracks (music and narration) and 2 video tracks (photo with main video and text-overs). There are a few video clips I got from an old VHS that DPI's library media unit checks out to school libraries and I dropped in some standard video pieces from CLUB TNT.

There is no animation -- just panning and zooming -- but it works, though kids sometimes ask why the bear's mouths don't move. I have a simple answer: "Maybe they are ventriloquists!"

Bear Book Talks (NOTE:  This website is migrating to a new server and may not be available for a limited time). Created for Madison's award-winning weekly TV show, CLUB TNT, the Bear Book Talk website and video series is done without a camera. I've made it into an entire web ( of my favorite picture books to share with pre-readers in the library and it is a work in progress.

Bogey Bear is a photograph with a solid lime-green background. I record the narration and create an animated bear using Crazy Talk to lip-sync my narration with the animation photo. Using Sony Vegas, I chroma key out the lime green and insert pictures of libraries in the background. I can move Bogey around the screen, cutting to different background pictures to keep the video visually interesting. This fakes A and B-roll video as if this was shot from multiple perspectives with different cameras.

These videos become short-manageable productions once you get comfortable with the work flow. Once one video is created, that editing file can be used as a template for future videos -- keeping some content the same and deleting and replacing other content. These videos get featured on Madison TVW's CLUB TNT. This project has been fun and I look forward to doing more once Bogey Bear reads more fun picture books!

Faking A/B Productions with 1 Camera

Avoiding "talking head" videos is important -- unless someone has a compelling reason to watch for the content, no one wants to spend much time watching a camera static angle of a presenter. This eventually comes across as "blah blah blah blah blah blah..."

Getting a crew with multiple cameras together is not easy, is expensive, and creates a variety of other challenges when planning, shooting, and editing -- it is much easier to use one camera and FAKE that a video is shot with a crew. Not only is this easier for the people doing the production and post-production, it is easier for the presenters in the video too.

While the concept may sound strange, it is actually extremely simple. Ask presenters to be ready to give a coherent short talk about the subject of the video. Tell them that you will use hand signals to let them know when 30 seconds have expired, then 45 seconds, and finally (if they have not stopped speaking) one-minute.

Get an agreement that no single "chunk" of this video can be more than 1-minute and that 30 seconds is better. When the presenter sees your first signal, they need to find a place to end a sentence (actually, if carefully done, cuts can be made mid-sentence). The 45 second signal (if they are still speaking) means it is time to wrap up that statement.

If the presenter is still speaking at 1-minute, that is too long for our purposes and they must finish what they are saying so that the next "cut" can be shot from a new angle or even from a different location.

Then, simply move the camera, presenter, or both, and have them pick up their presentation exactly where they left off. It helps if the camera operator will assume responsibility for helping the presenter keep track of their train-of-thought. A small notebook or a a checklist of talking points might be helpful.

The advantages to the speaker in following this format are:

  • The video looks better; it visually moves and appears to have been done by a professional camera crew with multiple cameras.
  • Each piece of the video can quickly and easily be re-done./ Tthere is no need to go on to the next short chunk until all parties agree the previous shot was a "take" -- good enough for the video's intended purpose. If a speaker misspeaks or makes a mistake -- NO PROBLEM! They just need to redo a short 30-45 second take instead of the entire presentation.

Marketing 101:  The Basics. I made this video early February 2013 for a middle-school business class. It was fully scripted. Using 1/2" top margins, 1" left/right margins, size 14 font, Times New Roman, and single spaced paragraphs with a double space between paragraphs; a page of text spoken at a comfortable rate (1-word per second) is about 3-minutes.

This video was shot in front of a greenscreen which was chroma keyed out. I dropped a digital studio video loop into the background. When I was shooting the video, I stepped left and right every 30 seconds or so or whenever I made a mistake and didn't want to redo the previous statement!.

I spent 12 minutes filming (a few retakes!) and edited it together to be about 5 minutes -- exactly what my target length was.

The background is mirrored each time I move from left-to-right on the screen, creating the illusion that this was shot in on a fancy news set with a full production crew. If you look carefully -- the chroma key did not work well (issue with lighting) and I could not fully-remove it and make it transparent.

This is why I pan the on-camera subject left-to-right. While this effect could be done in post-production, artifacts in the chroma key create a distracting line at the edges of the chroma key. If this happens, panning it back and forth creates a very distracting effect.

If the greenscreen effect is successfully implemented and the entire background becomes transparent, there is no need to move the presenter or even film the presentation in chunks, but digital chroma keys are tricky because there are so many steps of luminance with each color.

Remember, the camera doesn't actually sees -- it records the light that reflects off of everything in front of the lens. The background may look perfectly lime-green with no variation, but that may not be how a digital camera "sees" it.

The video was shot in short chunks, exactly like the process outlined above -- we create A and B-roll and the illusion that 2 or more cameras were used. This video took less than 10 minutes to shoot with both the A and B rolls. The editing was extremely simple -- there are not special video effects or chroma-keys, and there was no need to drop in additional pictures/graphics because Madison's Capitol Square gave us many interesting camera angles and perspectives to choose from.

If a person is getting started using my fake A/B roll process -- finding an interesting location outside on a sunny day with no wind is the best way to get started.  The Chroma Key/Green Screen effect adds complexity and I would suggest avoiding it entirely.  Digital video has 255 steps between black and white, meaning the camera "sees" far too many shadows & shades of your background's color to easily remove it completely.

NOTE:  Some other video projects I have created that are good examples of this are migrating to a new server.  I will add links to them on this page when they are ready.

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