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Old October 6th, 2010, 09:20 PM   #1
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Continuing Education Course?

I've been asked to present a 2 or 3 evening, 1.5 - 2 hours each, course on "taking better home video" aimed at familys, high school students, new parents.

I'm concerned mostly about getting too technical or making recommendations so hard or expensive to do with your typical $200 home camera that folks would be turned off or scared off.

Any thoughts on what to cover or outlines for similar courses you have come across?

Thanks
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Old October 8th, 2010, 04:11 AM   #2
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The first time I ran one of these was around 1994 - and I was amazed how much knowledge I assumed they'd have, that was totally absent. My first 'lesson plan' got ripped up in about two minutes.

I'd start by concentrating on the faults amateurs always make. So starting with the do's and don'ts - as in trombone zooming in and out. Using the camera like a torch, simple things like how to hold them, and importantly, move with them. Set up little cameos of typical clusters of people and ask them to shoot twenty seconds - have the camera connected to a big monitor. You'll spend quite a while adjusting their framing and stopping the wobbles. Show them how physically moving in closer and staying on wide is much steadier than zooming in and keeping still. Tell them about batteries and how charging works properly so they can maximise lifespan/time between charges. Show them how autofocus sometimes fails, give the problems such as shooting in front of a window - but don't start to show them clever ways to change exposure - tell them this comes later when they're more comfortable with the basics, and in the meantime suggest changes of position or framing to allow auto to do a better job. Let them hear the differences in sound when you record close in and from a distance. Let them make the mistakes, laugh about them, and then show them how to do it better.

If they're up for a giggle - then make an obstacle course in the space you are in and get them to follow a subject, documentary style, through your course. Replay the results and everyone will laugh. If they are a little reluctant, do it for them first, bumping into chairs because the camera is jammed up against your eye. Then get one of the shyer ones to hold the camera out in front, and get them to do it again, 'steadicam arm' style and they'll get the idea.

All the clever ideas I had were wrecked because their basic knowledge was amazingly poor. To get to the level I though they'd already be at, took 6 weeks of 2 hour sessions. Also be aware that some things they won't be able to even see. Colour balance. I'd set up a demo with 3200 lighting on 5600 setting. "As you can see, there's something wrong with this picture" I started. They all nodded enthusiastically. Thinking they were with me, a started explaining what was going on and they all looked confused. They all thought I was talking about the background being out of focus. In the end I twigged. "What colour is the object?". "Yellow" they all said! "er, look at the object, not the screen" - "ooh it's white".

You could be lucky and have a pile of gifted amateurs already with plenty of knowledge, but don't bank on it at all.

One of my students was a lady who had a Doctorate in Philosophy - she took ages to even get the tape in the camera. Really intelligent, but no practical ability whatsoever.
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Old October 8th, 2010, 08:14 AM   #3
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Paul, I think you just saved me a lot of prep time! I was already thinking of the technical aspects without planning for an assessment of their current level. Working with the auto-focus and auto exposure settings, getting them to understand the limitations and how to work within the limitations is a great way to do it - long before jumping into manual settings.

Thank you. Hopefully other will jump in!
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Old October 8th, 2010, 08:42 AM   #4
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The rule of thirds should be useful at some point early on and is easy to demonstrate.
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Old October 8th, 2010, 11:46 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
The rule of thirds should be useful at some point early on and is easy to demonstrate.
I agree with not just this, but starting with composition and sequence in general Frame a long shot first (establishing), then medium or close up. Suggest they not zoom during important times and not to zoom often. Try to get good lighting, and use it. Don't put a subject in front of window, and if they are try to move so window is not in background from cameras POV.


For what it's worth I've taken a few of these type courses for various things. To be honest, almost always the instructor over prepares & lesson plans. The one exception for me was FCP, since I already knew editing I just wanted to learn the Mac platform. However unfortunately for me most others knew zero about video and editing. I was very patient, and got what I needed out of it. One participant imho asked WAYYYYYY to many questions though. The first night ended up entirely as a Q&A since he chose to jump ahead & ask about podcasting, Quicktime etc... before we even got started. However the others I was admittedly a novice, in Flash and After Effects. AE class went good, but was solely about still photos & graphic motion, whereas I was hoping for a little video out of it. Flash was awful. It was a 4 or 5 week 1 night a week class at my community college. Good grief the instructor knew his stuff, but assumed we all were intermediate graphic designers at this point. I struggled to keep up & the last day I asked a few others & they all said the same thing. He knew his stuff, but wasn't good at relaying the basics & establishing a foundation in the software. Just a printout of steps & a follow me & do this approach. Ok good. Let's move on to the next task.

My advice, the first 15-30 minutes ask them their background & what they hope to learn & what they already know about video. Then finish that day with composition, lighting etc. Then, day 2 if they're ready speak about manual setting, DOF, manual focus etc. Try to bring up editing & importing in the final hour or 30 minutes of the final class, so they feel they got alot more out of it. Don't teach it (obvi) but explain it & give them a website or two (lynda) & cheap software (vegas) for them to work with. So they can do continuing learning out of it.
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Old October 8th, 2010, 01:36 PM   #6
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Good thoughts everyone. Primarily covering camera technique right now. I don't think I'm going to get into editing, except to mention the differences in shooting style between in-camera editing and shooting for the edit later. If I do cover edits, I may just use one of the free software (Window Media or iMovie) as examples.

Keep those cards & letters (OK - posts) coming and thanks to all.
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