Monday, September 27, 2010

Reflection on Collaboratively Producing a PSA: Be Careful What You Post Online

In a talk given at the 2008 Apple Education Leadership Summit, Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University, defined collaboration with these words:
Collaboration for Pixar means amplification. The amplification you get by connecting up a bunch of human beings who are listening to each other, interested in each other, bring separate depth to the problem. Bring breadth that gives them interest in the entire solution. Allows them to communicate on multiple different levels. Verbally, in writing, in feeling, in acting, in pictures. And in all of those ways finding the most articulate way to get a high fidelity notion across to a broad range of people so they can each pull on the right lever.
Having just participated in a group project which produced a one minute video public service announcement (PSA), Nelson’s words resonated with me as an excellent description of the collaborative process. Collaboration done well takes the individual contributions of invested team members and results in the amplification of those contributions as they become part of an end product that is more powerful  than the individual contributions themselves.

I believe each of the members of our PSA team, made up of Kim G., Alma G., Brian P., and myself, brought their strengths to the pre-production, production, and post-production processes while maintaining  their interest in the entire solution. In pre-production, I offered  the topic of helping educators remember they should be careful with what they post online because it could impact their careers. Although not everyone on the team works in a school district, they all agreed it was a timely topic. An initial storyboard was drawn up and shared for comment via an online Google document that we would continue to use to record our project’s progress over the next three weeks. From the very beginning, everyone was engaged in offering encouragement and ideas for improvement of the initial story idea. To discuss our ideas, we met via a phone conference and continued throughout the project to communicate via email and through our Google document.

As we moved into the production phase, Alma stepped up with her video staging experience and suggested camera shots that Kim, Brian, and myself would not have thought of on our own. Although she lived two and a half hours away from the rest of us and could not make our video shoot, her shot list sent via email was invaluable to the three of us who had much less experience with videography.

In production, Kim, Brian, and I took Alma’s shot ideas, tweaked the dialog I had initially written and Alma had added details to, and shot multiple takes of the scenes we felt would be most effective in the video. On “shooting day” I was primarily an actress, so it was fun for me to watch as Brian and Kim took the ideas the four of us had developed and transform them into scenes for our PSA.

One of the most difficult parts of post-production editing was selecting the best shots because we had so many to choose from. It was a good problem to have as we sorted through the clips, selecting the ones which balanced best delivery on the part of the actors with best overall sound and setting. A second challenge in post-production occurred after Brian had done most of the editing which brought together our video segments, Alma’s graphics, Brian’s narration, and our “camera-shutter” sound effect. Kim was tasked with adding credits and finalizing the video, but we found that Kim’s version of Movie Maker was not compatible with the aspect ratio that our video was shot in. Fortunately, I had a newer version of Movie Maker that could handle the wider aspect ratio, and I did not mind taking over the finalization of the movie. Because of the features of my version of Movie Maker, I was able to format the final .wmv video in a high definition, wide-screen aspect for posting to YouTube. It was just another example of each of us stepping up and jumping in where needed to make the final project a success.

Overall I believe our final PSA is a high-quality product for what was a first effort at video production for most of our group. Most of our video elements were original creations, but we were careful to provide links in our credits at the end of the video for elements from other sources. Credits for the graphics point to http://www.shuterstock.com/ where Alma has subscription access to the graphics files she used as backgrounds for the text elements in our video. Credits for the “camera-shutter” sound effect point to http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=42862 where we downloaded an audio file posted by user crk365 and licensed for free creative transformation under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/sampling+/1.0/).

One improvement I would like to see in the PSA would require the graphic elements to display a little longer on the screen, perhaps a second or so after their words are narrated to give time for additional visual impact on the viewer. We were exactly at the one minute time limit, though, and we had to sacrifice some on-screen time for the graphics to fit all of the dialog in. We could have shortened our dialog in spots, but we really wanted to make some points about how easy it is for inappropriate content posted to the Internet to be shared and how students, parents, and administrators might react in those situations. I suspect with experience we would be able to strike the right balance on these aspects.

The creation of this PSA was a very positive experience for me. I feel our original idea was indeed amplified by the collaborative process. I am also encouraged to know that everyone on the team enjoyed and learned from this experience, as evidenced by our debriefing at the bottom of our collaborative Google document.

This blog post would be incomplete without our final project. I hope you enjoy watching Be Careful What You Post Online as much as we enjoyed making it!



Reference

Nelson, R. (2008). Learning and working in the collaborative age: A new model for the workplace. Edutopia. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from http://www.edutopia.org/randy-nelson-school-to-career-video
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