OETA/Oklahoma PBS was beyond excited to participate in digital video training conducted by PBS Digital Studios', "Indie Alaska” and "Indie America" producers Slavik Boyechko and Travis Gilmour. The crew visited OETA for a three day crash course in all things digital.
The training delivered unique expertise on production techniques, work flow and filming with a minimal budget. From a marketing/communications perspective, I was interested to learn promotional strategies and how to make more effective, affecting testimonials (like these from Slavik and Travis). In addition to providing a space to innovate better, more engaging content, we want to produce more digital video to take advantage of Facebook’s policy rewarding natively uploaded content with expanded reach. In posts containing directly uploaded video, OETA sees 4-5 times typical reach.
Let me come clean: I’m a video production novice.... like didn't-know-the-difference-between-aperture-and-ISO novice. And I was concerned the material covered in training would be over my head. It wasn’t. Slavik and Travis broke down their process and clearly explained it step by step. I don’t want to leave the impression that the training is tailored for beginners like me; while I was the least experienced person in our six-person class, even the most expert-level attendees learned a great deal from the hands-on presentations. It was collaborative and it was motivating. We have the tools now - as a team - to take our digital content game to the next level.
Before Slavik and Travis arrived for training, they spent a day shooting the first of two “Indie America” Oklahoma installments. They used this footage as the basis for training on days one and two. First, they explained how to organize and manage the large amount of clips; then the importance of transcribing interviews. (After training, a transcription pedal rose to the top of my Christmas list). Combing through the transcript, an 800-1000 word narrative was constructed to serve as the foundation for the episode. Next, they explained their process of organizing and culling B-roll to find appropriate clips. This typically results in 350-500 clips to be used later to fill editing gaps. Finally, using Final Cut X, they showed how to manipulate the clips, choose the best audio source, insert music (which should be 12 decibels less than voice audio), correct for color and properly export the project.
Day two was when the “Indie America” team brought their cool toys and made everyone jealous: Canon C-100 DSLR cameras, lenses, tripods, monopods, key lights, fill lights, booms, lav mics, shotgun mics, and the ‘slider’ (a camera mount used to achieve their signature sliding camera shots) were at our disposal. Slavik kicked off the day with a discussion of how to tweak camera settings (frame rate, aperture, ISO, etc.) and establish shallow depth of field in shots to achieve a cinematic look. Next, the guys demonstrated some shooting techniques they use to achieve the “Indie America” style, gave us a run down on lighting (fluorescent, tungsten, daylight, oh my!) and showed how to properly mic an interview subject. They then set us loose to film on our own. Finally, they showed us how we can achieve close to the same look with our own equipment.
Two members of our production team tagged along with Slavik and Travis in the field for a live shoot on the last day of training. The biggest takeaway from the day was that getting out of the studio and into your subject’s native environment helps create effective, compelling content.
Since training, I can’t watch video without fixating on camera angles, foreground/background shots, depth of field and lighting. While still far from being an expert, I do think the training served as a master class in the art of video production. Plus, the fact that two people who started in non-production positions can make amazing content with minimal investment proves that it is absolutely possible for stations to loop in existing talent from various departments with an interest to make high-quality digital video.
If your station is interested in beefing up digital video content, here are some online resources from the “Indie America” team:
Create Your Own Essential DSLR Video Kit
How to Shoot B-Roll
DSLR Revolution: All About Cameras