The long period of stagnancy (7 months!?!) on the blog is broken. Thanks to two future film directors/producers for giving me the impetus to write. The students in question recently represesnted NBCHS at the provincial Skills Canada comptetion for Saskatchewan, competing against teams from other schools across the province in the category of TV Video Production. This is the first time I’ve sent students to the Skills competition, the Communication Media program being a relatively recent addition (2 and a half years) to the school’s program offerings. Given that, I was somewhat surprised that they returned from competition with the gold medal in the category. I wasn’t completely shocked – they’re very talented film-makers.
Having earned the gold, they will now be heading to Edmonton in May to represent the province of Saskatchewan at the Skills Canada national competition. I have no doubt that they will do well – as I said, they are very talented. Check out the videos on their film production web site – Overactive Imagination Studios – for samples of their work. Will they win a medal? Maybe. Will they be better for the experience? Definitely!
Here’s their winning video:
Secrets of their success
I wasn’t at the competition in Regina (family obligations took precedence) but the boys told me a few things about the competition that I found interesting. A disclaimer – these are my thoughts on an event that I did not attend, but was told to me by someone else.
- Our Communication Media program was a relatively novice competitor. Many of the other schools had well established programs that have been running for several years longer than we have, including one that is a school within a school specializing in media production. (I don’t want to be misconstrued as running down their program or saying that ours is better. On the contrary, I respect the work they do their and the amazing program they have built). Despite that, the students that went were of the same calibre as students from established programs and large urban centres. The talent that we have in The Battlefords is world class. The notion that the most talented and creative people are only in large cities is a myth.
- To put another myth to rest, it’s not about the technology, or at least not about the quality/cost/brand name of technology that you have. The boys told me that they were feeling a little outgunned when they saw that other teams had Canon 5D Mk II cameras (the gold standard for HD SLR video production) or professional ENG cameras. We have very good prosumer cameras, but they certainly don’t have the cachet of the big name equipment. They also have a lower price tag so I’m able to have more students working on simultaneous productions. Despite our lower status technology, they obviously did quite well. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. The recent interest in iphoneography (using Apple’s iPhone camera as the primary tool, either as a hobby or simply out of fancy, in capturing and creating photographic images – from Urban Dictionary) has grown from the quality photographs that can be taken with an iPhone (or other smartphone camera). Another example I’m exploring of the use of iOS devices to produce “serious” work is a grade 9 optional course in which we use iOS devices to take photographs and video. You can see the results for yourself – some are decent quality photographs and fairly prosaic in quality, but some of their photographs have notable artistic merit to them. The most important tools for creating great photographs or video are your eyes and your brain. The external tools are of a secondary nature. This idea probably deserves a blog post of its own – maybe I’ll get around to it in the next 6 months.
- Planning is key. The other teams were transferring video onto their computers by 10:30 a.m. (competition started at 8 a.m.) at which time my students were just starting to get out the camera and record. Up until that time, they were planning their video so that when they did pick up the camera, they already had the end product in mind. The results were that the other teams (according to my students) had fairly similar, derivative videos – talking head interviews with standard “this is what a widget looks like” B-roll. Their video (go re-watch it above if you want) had a narrative to it despite the time limitation of the competition. Proper sequencing of the shots so that the product has a beginning, a middle and an end is the result of good planning, and that is what makes the difference between a video and a funny cat tricks video. My program might be a new one, and my experience as a media production teacher might be limited, but this is the one constant rule of media production that I constantly emphasize to students, regardless of the media they work in – your work will only be as good as the planning you put into it before you pick up your camera (or microphone or whatever else you work with).
So for now, we wait until May then onward we go to Edmonton. Regardless of results it will be a high-level learning experience for my students and me.