[ DRAFT ] Capturing the excitement of the roll out: the shotlist.

I am going to play producer and director for a few minutes. To capture the necessary footage to tell a story of fun and excitement, we need to get a variety of shots (aka coverage) that help us tell what is happening, where is it happening, why is it happening, and how are people feeling during this event. Believe it or not, there’s a grammar to help tell the story.

  • Wide shots tell the story of location and context. It answers where is it happening
  • Medium shots tell the story of action. It answers what is happening.
  • Close up (or tight) shots tell the story of detail and emotions. It answers how are people feeling and what exactly am I looking at. This shot seems to be the hardest to get for many videographers because it involves getting close, real close.

So, with that said, let’s jump into what I need from you directors and technicians for the roll out. I have included a mind map of the shot needed. If you read through it, it will begin to make sense. The key here is to show excitement. Why because it is for the people who will benefit most from the devices– the kids. IMG_0080-1.JPG [ open up this mind map so you can see the detailed information ]

On the left is the deliverable– the end product, after editing. On the right, are the shots needed and below that are some quick questions I need to help you all piece together the video.

This consistency allows me to help edit one big video that celebrates all of the schools celebrations. Agreeing on the language helps me find what I need to make one nice, clean, consistent video.

During the importing, logging process, pre editing process (using Final Cut Pro or iMovie), you can help me by identifying the shots:

1. The type of shot.
W = Wide shots.
M = Medium shots.
C = Close up shots.

2. The content.
Detail/ emotion.

3. The Specifics.
Where exactly.
What exactly.
Who exactly.

This is an ideal “logging” process. We can share the notes between us to compare and learn from each other.

[ video stills examples ]

Ok. I’m done playing producer for now. Good luck!!!!!

The Mobile Storyteller. Part 2: Sound!

digital sound

Sound!  YES! Sound!  The key to a video is SOUND!  Is that clear enough?  When money is returned to a customer at a movie theater, in most cases, its because of the sound quality.  The ear is MORE discriminatory than the eyes.  The eyes sometimes misses details, but the ear doesn’t as much.  Therefore, you need to do what you can to get great audio.

Solution: Mics!

There are several types of mic and they all serve their purpose.  Let’s look at what mics do and what they can do for you.

Lavaliere “Lav” mic. This is a mic that is primarily used for interviews.  Its a less obtrusive mic that is clipped to the collar of the person being interviewed.  This makes the recording of the interview more of a conversation and less of an interview.  It’s more comfortable for the person being interviewed.  It is also used when the recorded host needs access to their hands.  These come in wired and wireless options.  I use the wired option when I need a quick set up and lack assistants.  I use the wireless one when I need more flexibility where I do the interviews. These are a must for the mobile storyteller.

Lav mic
Sony Wireless Lavalier Mic

Shotgun mic.  These are directional mic that focus in on a smaller area of sound.  Think of it like a telephoto lens where it isolates a smaller area.  What this does for the mobile storyteller is it allows her/him to record audio from a directed source and it rejects sounds outside of the pointed area.  Also, Shotgun microphones are most commonly used when you cannot position a microphone directly in front of a sound source. For example, if someone is speaking in front of a video camera and you don’t want them to hold an interview microphone up to their mouth, having an off-screen shotgun mic is a great option. Shotguns are commonly used in film and video production, as well as in live theater, sound reinforcement and in the creation of sound effects. Shotgun mics reject a certain percentage of ambient noise, but retain enough to render a richness that sounds natural. It’s great for quick interviews.  They are mounted on top of cameras using a vibration free mount.

DSLR SHotgun
Shotgun Mic w/ Shock mount.

Handheld mic.  These are easy to connect directly to a camera or to a recording source like a field recorder or digital audio interface (DAI– a device that converts analog audio to digital audio for computer editing).  Handheld mic are also wired and wireless.  They are used usually with a host interviewing people.  Handheld mic allow the host to hand or point the mic to someone on the field.  If you want to include a dynamic, fun host to your recorded video or show– handheld mics are a great choice.

handheld mic

Field mic. With iPhones and Tablets– recording audio interviews is easier.  The quality of these handheld mics are amazing.  You can use more pro-like options like the Zoom H Series mics (about $200-$400) to your iPhone.  You can add the mics mentioned above to most field recorders, too.  You’ll just have to look at the compatibility requirements on the mic to make sure.  I use both a Zoom H5 and my iPhone to record podcasts, interviews, phone conversation interviews.  I attach a wired Rode SmartLav+ lavalier mic to my iPhone/ iPad and use Garageband to record and monitor the audio in many situations. Or, I record from it as a back up.  Later, in post production, I can edit the clips, sync the clips to video (using iMovie and/ or Final Cut Pro).

oom H Recorder

ode Smart Lav+

ADVANCED TIP: If you want to monitor or listen to what is being recorded into the iPad or iPhone or tablet– you’ll need one more device to help you. You’ll need a portable DAI like the Apogee Jam.  What this does is that it gives you another option to input audio.  Instead of taking up the headphone port to connect the microphone and hope that audio is sounding great– you can connect the Apogee Jam to the iPad/iPhone using the USB charging port/ cable.  This frees up the headphone/mic port  to connect headphones to listen and monitor what’s going in.  This ALWAYS makes me feel less stressed.

pogee Jam DAI

Later, we’ll talk about levels and editing audio.

We should rethink grades. They’re not great measurements anymore.


You can get an A. That’s the best grade you can get. Some schools add a “+” after the A. I still don’t fully understand it. Then there is the B. “You’re doing a great job but just not enough for an A.” The next one is probably the most misunderstood grade: the C. This is when you do all of your work and you turn it in on time. That’s it. However, according to many of my high school students, they believe that doing all their work and turning it in on time should be an A. Showing up on time is enough. Then, comes the D. For me, this one sometimes hurts more than an F because it shows that you’re trying to get a C but you fell short. Ouch. Finally, the ugliest Mark on a piece of paper. The Scarlet letter. That stain on your white dress: the F! Simply put, you failed! As a teacher, I have had the unfortunate experience in issuing many of these. It hurt every time because of what it meant in school. And the message it was delivering for life.

Reflection: why don’t we rethink this process? We’re obviously rethinking many other things, however, we sometimes forget to rethink how we measure because what we’re measuring is changing so drastically. Historically, we measured knowing-the accumulation of knowledge. We didn’t have a measurement tool for learning. Think about it: we can look up most of the questions that were asked of us while we went through our schooling process. We can look at up without even typing it. We just ask Siri. If Siri was available to me going through school, I would’ve used her as many times as possible. This would’ve had a major impact on my grades. So now that we have access to tools like this that affect knowing and the measuring of knowing, why don’t we rethink how we measure.

I recently saw a video of a scientist explaining scientific philosophy. He found that people who are failure adverse, do not perform as well as people who are more error/recovery minded and directed. People who are open to try, to risk, to not succeed, however, learn from that experience and make adjustments along the way, do much better in the science fields. In fact, he mentioned that they are even much more fun to work with. They are less stressed out.

Error recovery. Let’s think about that. What a great concept. Think about it. This is how we learn best. Isn’t it? There’s a wonderful measurement tool that coincides with this. You have a base of information, a result, feedback, and adjusting. This is a natural framework that we have failed to incorporate into our pedagogy and thus measuring. People who are good at error recovery, are good at talking about it. This is an important trait. Thinking out loud. Talking about I’m talking through the process, the journey, the story. Athletes look at hours and hours of video looking at what errors they made so they can make adjustments. I doubt many of them look at their highlights just to high-five themselves. They want to know how they can improve, get better.

So, let’s reflect on how we measure learning today. What tools do we have available to us to assist us with measuring what really matters.

Think about it from a big picture perspective as well. How can the world benefit from a learning environment that measures learning as opposed to knowing. Is in a the right way to tell the story of that lesson, project?

We have to leverage the powers of the new mobile and connected technologies to help us rethink fundamental questions about measuring what learning (and learning from) looks like today. We need to think about adding the letters “ER” for error recovery as a new grade for our learners. I know what It stands for emergency room for now, however, for now it’s just a thought.

A lesson learned, for the most part, is a story of error recovery. With video, audio, and social media we have new avenues to help tell this very important story that has not had The infrastructure to facilitate this evolution.

Challenge: look around you, look in front of you I think about what you can do to leverage the resources available to you to help tell a much more effective and efficient story of the learning journey.

What’s in my storytelling production kit.


Click image to expand.

Here is a mind map of all of the gear that I travel with.  Although this seems like a lot, it isn’t. I will explain to you what these tools mean and how they help me get the stories I need. The key for me is to make sure I can get all of this on a carry on luggage.

Lets break it all down for you:




Interview tips to help you story tell day one.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.08.20 AM

To make the DAY ONE CELEBRATION STORY shine– You’ll need some reflections/ interviews to help tell the story.  Here are a few considerations to help collect the right stories.

Prep Time.  Ahead of time, identify the key story you want to tell.  It can evolve later, but for now, focus in on a story.  It will help guide who you find and what is asked.  Again, since this is a celebration video– there isn’t a need to get detailed interviews (unless you’re making a HOW TO video).  You’ll need to get three parts to the stories ideally:

1. Victories
What is cool about today!  You’ll get a lot of possibility conversations.  Get examples of how this is going to enhance the day of a student? A Teacher? And, even for families.  Be creative.  Build trust first.  Before shoving a camera in front of their face, tell them what you’re doing.  Create expectations for them to reduce the fear factor.  For example, “Hello.  My name is Marco and we’re making a fun video to showcase how cool today is. We’re collecting video interviews from people who can help us tell this story.  Can you chat with me about what this means to you?”  After you make a connection, you can ask away a question or two, maybe a follow up for clarification, and any other opportunity interview gems.  Don’t get too much. Editing time will sting, if you do.

2. Lessons Learned. 
The second type of questions you can collect from the organizers is what were l;lessons learned during the planning process? What lessons made them make adjustments to make this event better?  What were lessons during this process that can be adjusted to make the next celebration an even better experience for all? What tips do you have for other schools who want to to do this?

3. Needs and Concerns.
Even after the planning, what are questions, needs, concerns, clarifications, myths that still exist that need to be addressed.  A Champion always wants to know what can be improved.  These make for great stories.  TRUST ME.  Dealing with the concerns and needs and getting the right people to talk/ reflect on them helps show progress over time.  It demonstrates a starting point to learn from.  Answers in this category, over time, WILL turn into lessons learned and ultimately– VICTORIES!!!

Get your answers. Listen to them in the editing process and keep a log of your interviews.  Keeping them catalogued in these three categories will help you have access to these clips later for other videos.  A Good producer has a great work flow (a future story on this later) and easy categories will help manage your content.

  • Identify the opportunities.
  • Build trust quick.
  • Ask your questions.
  • Listen and catalogue your answers in post.

[DRAFT] Making waiting for something a celebration!


I’m sure you’ve seen the long lines of anticipation at the Apple Stores for a new product release.  Some people wait for days.  REALLY?!?!?  Wait for days for something they can get later?  YES!  Maybe some of you have done it. You know what I mean.  WHY?  Because its that special for them.  I have seen people wait lines at midnight for Harry Potter books, for a special doll, for a showing of the next Star Wars movie, and for the iPhone/iPad!  It’s the promise they are interested in!  To be a part of a story seems to command these people to wait!  What does Apple do?  They celebrate the people who waited!  They applaud them.  They make this experience worth while.  They make it a day they would never forget.

Question: What can you offer that people would be willing to wait for?  What is your promise?  Deployment day, the day the tablets are given to the students is like christmas, Hanukkah, and a birthday rolled into one if you’re a student.  If you’re an administrator, the day is different.  Fear maybe taking over so you plan according to the fear and it comes across during this missed celebration moment. Think about how you can help make the day a special one.  If you made the celebration the main goal and the logistics on how to make it go smoothly, the “feel” will be different.  Compare that to planning for the worse and set up logistics  as a the main goal.  Empathize for the many students who have been anxiously waiting.  The smiles and the wait will be more worth it.

How do we capture the day and storyteller it?  Here is a link to one of these opening days.  See how the flow of the story takes logistics and getting ready and adds it to the feel of a celebration.  The care for every little detail isn’t for Apple– Its for the experience of the consumer.

Check out others online!

Storyteller time: Lets break down the video.

What does that look like? The time lapse wide angles work.  Its shows the building process. Smiles, cheers, great body language. The pacing of the shots are quick– not even a second each. The music is up and happy!  It builds!  Be smart about music (copyright issues and all).

2. The Footage: The shots show movement.  It’s not about waiting– its about moving!  Context is key.  You know you’re in Berlin.  Although the Apple stores have a similar brand feel– they adapt their shapes to the locations.  This is key because its shows we can celebrate anywhere.  I used this video because the producers felt that Berlin may not provide the “enthusiasm” the American openings show.  People in Germany and Asia are much more subdued and reserved.  See the evidence of the opposite here.  YOU MAY FEEL THAT THIS ISN’T YOUR CULTURE, however, plan as a celebration and the footage will showcase those victories.  Keep your shots quick and varied.  Wide shots for location and context. Medium shots for action and movement. Close up/ tight shots for expression, and detail!  The devil is in the details!  No that. Live that!

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.01.34 AM

Wide: Context


Medium: Action


Close Up: Emotion


Close Up: Detail

3. The quality: Get the best footage you can with the best tools you have!  If you’re using a mobile device– keep your shots as still as you can.  Focus on the type of shots you need to capture: WHAT is happening, WHERE is it happening, and HOW is the feeling of the event!  If you do it right– the WHY will be obvious!

Challenge: Make your big deployment day a BIG deployment celebration day! Get ready to capture it!  Storytellers, sit with your “party planners” for the day and help visualize where you and your team need to be to get the MAGIC from the kids, their families, and the school folk!

The Mobile Storyteller. Part 1: Light!


Mobile devices like smart phones and  smart tablets are now capable of producing pro-like productions due to the high end camera attached to the device and the the plethora of tools you can add to it to help get the best story with the best quality, however, the tools alone won’t be enough.  You still need to adhere to the basic rules, commandments of capturing and recording GREAT video and audio.  Here are those rules. Get ready to write this down:

1. Light!  Find great light!
2. Sound! Do everything possible to get the best sound you can!
3. Composition! Frame what you want others to focus on!
4. Light!  Find great light!
5. Sound! Do everything possible to get the best sound you can!
6. Composition! Frame what you want others to focus on!
7. Light!  Find great light!
8. Sound! Do everything possible to get the best sound you can!
9. Composition! Frame what you want others to focus on!
10. Light! Sound! Composition!

Get the idea?  Its key you just focus on the first three!  Lets break it down a bit more for this guide!  For this post, We’ll focus on light!!!!!

1. Light!  Find great light!
Take the time to find the best light.  Best light isn’t direct sun. Diffused light is MORE ideal for video and interviewing people because the light is more even.  There is less contrast when its cloudy or you’re in the shade.  Take the time and look at the difference below.

NOTE: Look at the shadows on the face between these two images)

Take the time to find the good light. Study how the light interacts with your environment.  Again, shooting in a sunny, no shade space can hurt your video or photograph because the camera is constantly looking for the brightest image to auto expose itself– thus, making everything else darker in the image

[contrast image comparison]

For interviewing people, find the great and even light, place them there and you’re ready to go!

TIP: If you’re struggling to find even light, a cool tip is to difusser the light with a diffuser ring or even a white bedsheet.  Just have someone or two people hold it over the interviewee to create a balanced, diffused light situation.

(NOTE: The direct sun is being diffused like a cloud would.  This is why it’s better to have a cloudy day for photographing and capturing video.)

Storytelling Tip: Write down the failures! They make better stories sometimes!

I heard Adam Savage, from Mythbusters, once say, “the difference between screwing around and conducting science experiments is writing it down.”  This is an interesting concept because admitting to a failure for the sake of making yourself a target for criticism HURTS and you’ll do what you can to avoid this pain.  

HOWEVER, owning the process as a lesson learned. a “bug”, an experiment, a need to get better, improve– Than this is a LESS painful experience.  An explorer (in any field) has a cool job because the danger of failing is embedded in their process, in their thinking, in their doing!  Engineers use “beta” testing…. TBC

People forget that it wasn’t Christopher Columbus discovered America. It was, however, Gutenberg who discovered America. Remember, the New World was discovered in 1492, the same year the printing press was invented. What I’m saying here is the invention happened because someone wrote it down. Someone documented the evidence.

Apparently, the first flight was not in North Carolina– it was in New Zealand. However, it was not documented. The Wright brothers documented their flight and film. There lies the difference. The explore, the scientist, it is critically important, however, without someone to document the experience, proving is much harder.

Documenting learning is super important today. Data alone is not enough to tell the right story for the right study. Sometimes, in my opinion-and most cases-the story is necessary to help communicate the right story.

Think story! Think collecting evidence!

Make small experiments.

About two years ago I had a chance to meet with Tom Kelly from IDEO and he said something to me that really inspired me to take more risks. He told me to “make more experiments. Make small experiments”.

As a storyteller, quick victories come from quick, small experiments. Try new ideas. Share more ideas. Quick ones, too. The more you do, the more comfortable you’ll be to share. Because they’re quick, it’s easier to keep your confidence and adjust for your next idea project. Listen to feedback, yet, consider the source. Some people only see the surface, other see beyond. Find them. Ask them, adjust where needed and apply the tweaks.

Some examples of quick victories for me:

Example 1: at an education conference years ago, I was working with kids in San Diego and we came up with a quick experiment to capture interviews of participants, conference go-ers as they went up or down the escalator. The one question interview worked! The escalator took 1.5 minutes to climb or decent and the kids asked the question prior to the escalator travel, this, a loosing more time for the answer. It was a great victory that created a smart and efficient way to work, shoot, edit, and leverage the new world of podcasts (at the time). By the end of the conference, this interview series was the most popular web showcase for the entire event.

Reflection: there was an interesting catch, authentic interviews, there was content people can connect with, it was visually interesting, it created a buzz (people sought the students for their own interview), and they were short, sweet, and quick.

Consider your quick and small experiments.

Example 2: at a Teacher learning meeting, I was asked to teach a tech tool for digital storytelling, however, I taught storytelling strategies that teach the tools in context. For 15 minutes, I asked the teachers to interview their elbow buddy about those “B-sides”. A B-side is an old 45 record reference. The A-side was the hit song, the song everyone knew. The B-side was the unknown song, many times, it wasn’t even on the album. It was a side you didn’t know. For my teachers, the goal was to find out their B side– what is something people don’t know about you. In 15 minutes, the noise level rose, the laughter, the “oooohhs and awes” were sounds of people connecting with stories. This part worked!

Afterwards, they took turns (at locations of their choice and they were given 1 hr (start to finish) to shoot the interview, edit, and save for sharing in the afternoon. To assist them, I told them to keep it simple– here was the recommended template for the project.

1. A-side: what’s your name, what do you do at school.
2. B-Side: what is your B-side, describe it if needed (but don’t explain too much. Stories love ambiguity). Some examples that came out that day: a goat judge, rail road train hobbiest, judo instructor, former MLB catcher, and a former drummer of a heavy metal band.
3. Why: Why do they do it, why did they do it?
4. Connection: how does/did it help your A-side.

That’s it! Simple cuts in between the parts and save!! Afterwards, we shared! The teachers really enjoyed this! They connected in new ways!

Reflection: Another cool result was during viewing, we asked what could we do to make them even better– people suggested text, fades, and B roll (supported footage: photos, videos of the action/ activities). This was great because day 2 focused on the tech tid-bits needed to add value to their project. Learning was in context!

This too turned into a very successful video storytelling project at many schools. Teachers used this technique to get students to get to know each other quickly in the first week of school. This was a quick victory that built will. These were small and quick experiments that turned into quick victories that helped me build my own confidence.