Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - Filming

For our Book Week this year, I have filmed six spy training videos and two news reports!  You can find out more about how this came about here.

I have no training in making videos, although I did make a couple years ago.  The image quality is awful, best not to make it full screen.  Fortunately, I have upgraded our video camera since then.

I have learnt a few things from my filming this year, that may be of use if you're ever indulging your Steven Spielberg tendencies:

  • Think about whether you want good actors or "friends of the library".  Every time I film I know the smart choice is to go for actors, but I end up picking "friends of the library".  If you are going to pick library people and not actors, then have personal knowledge of their capabilities, or hold auditions.  It is still really important that they be able to speak clearly and understandably.  
  • Don't be afraid to ask people to be in your video.  I only had one student turn me down, and even the principal agreed to join in.  Author Peter Millet also agreed to film a couple of short videos for me.  Never underestimate the power of a fun project.
  • Be mindful of the times that you are filming:  
    • I chose the weekends to cut down on external noise, but one Sunday there was a netball tournament on and we had to avoid the times they made announcements on their loudspeaker (fortunately they weren't on it constantly).
    • One of my filming sessions was in the late afternoon and during filming the sun moved and started streaming into our library from an angle which affected the quality of the film.
  • If you go outside, take your keys with you!  On one freezing morning, I took the boys outside to film and then couldn't get back in.  Fortunately, the aforementioned netball tournament was running and I was able to go to the other end of the school, beg for a key, and get back inside.
  • After you have hit the record button, use your fingers to count down from three before your actors start speaking, and give another count of three after they finish and before you push stop.  That will give you a bit of leeway if you want to use transitions between your scenes.
  • If you have a student filming, make sure they don't bump the camera during recording and check EVERY TIME that they have actually pushed the record button!
  • Make sure the students understand that they need to be familiar with their scripts!  I had a few tell me they hadn't read them....arrgghhh!  Also, reconfirm times with parents, I had a couple of students still at home when they were meant to be filming.
  • Have fun!  And don't expect perfection.  Don't compare your amateur school video with a professional production.  Depending on the time you have, it may be unrealistic to expect your actors to have memorised every line.
  • Be careful with the words you choose for the script, and don't be afraid to make changes.  One of our girls could not say the word "espionage" so I changed it to "spying".  After that, if I had harder words I spelled them phonetically in the script to make it easier for the students to learn.  I had the word "loitering" in one script and the students didn't know what it meant, which was a good indication it was not the right word to use.  I changed it to "lingering around".
  • Allow plenty of time for everything.  Writing a script, filming it and then editing it will take a lot more time than you think.  My scripts were around about a page and a half long, my videos have come out at about 5-6 mins long and that took about an hour and a half to film.  Editing has taken about that much time again (I'm still learning though, it might be quicker for those who know what they're doing!).
  • Let the students add their own ideas.  The kids were keen to add their own touches.  I was mindful of the content I needed to get across, but was happy to let the kids decide to spin their chairs around at the beginning, or add a sign-off, or create some extras for the bloopers video.
  • Oh yes, have a bloopers video!

The students have been very keen and have been good at keeping their scripts 'Top Secret'.  Some of them don't know who else is participating, some don't even know there is an author and news items involved - it's good to give them surprises as well!

I'm learning as I go and it won't be polished but it is fun and the students will enjoy seeing people they know pretending to be undercover spies with exotic code names!

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