As mentioned, I recently completed three videos about Massive Open Online Courses. The videos were part of a research project conducted by four very fine individuals, and, as I understand it, it’s been a success in the community. You can see them over on Dave Cormier’s YouTube account.
The videos feature hand drawn animation, and since their release, we’ve received several queries as to how we made these videos. Here’s how we did it.
The short answer
Experience. This sort of video isn’t really something you want to attempt if you haven’t worked with video much before. Dave has a lot of experience writing and talking (trust me), and playing with video is something I do for a living.
The long answer
- Dave wrote and recorded the narration, and then emailed me the audio file.
- I pulled that audio into Final Cut Pro, and split it up into manageable sized chunks (30 seconds to one minute, usually).
- I created a new Motion project for each one of the chunks.
- Once in Motion, I animated the segments using the Paint Stroke tool and my teeny tiny Wacom tablet.
- Those projects were saved, sent back to Final Cut, and then the whole thing was exported and compressed in Compressor.
A few things I learned whilst animating in Motion
- It was a lot easier than I anticipated. Once you get used to the tablet, things move relatively quickly.
- It can be easier to draw/write slowly (and then speed up the animation) than to try to draw/write quickly.
- I’m not a fantastic artist, so when I couldn’t draw something, I traced. For example, when it came time to draw the schoolhouse, I just found some schoolhouse clipart, pulled that into Motion, drew over top of it, and then removed the clipart.
- Groups are the shiznit. Almost every object or word went in its own group, and those groups were added to bigger groups, and so on. This is probably Lesson #1 in Motion Graphics 101, but having never taken a course in it, I stumbled upon the idea myself.
- Groups also allow you to copy previously created objects and use them in other parts of the project, saving a lot of time. For example, the schoolhouse, computer, and “thingamajigits” appear multiple times across the videos. I only had to draw or write them once.
The idea for Knowledge in a MOOC came about first, with Dave acting as a talking head and having the animations build up around him. It made sense to use similar animations for the other videos.
Also, I tried to use colour (mainly in Success in a MOOC) to break the steps up. The steps are introduced and listed in different colours, and then most of that step’s segment is drawn in the same colour. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it helps to differentiate the content in a visual way.
It was kinda fun
I think the most important thing when creating any video, especially “explainer” videos, is to have fun. The content isn’t always exciting (I’d love to have worked a car chase into these videos, but the subject matter really didn’t warrant it). If you’re planning to do something similar, wether in Motion or iMovie or with PowerPoint, the key is to have fun. It’ll make the creation process a lot more enjoyable and viewers will notice it.
Have more specific questions about how the whole thing was put together? Feel free to ask in the comments or send me a message on Twitter.
So glad you asked.
I was asked a litte while back if I’d help a few Education researchers (Dave Cormier, Alexander McAuley, George Siemens, and Bonnie Stewart) answer that very question. They were doing research into Massive Open Online Courses, and wanted some videos to explain share some of what they were doing with the Education community. Dave wrote and recorded the script, I did the video. We made a great team.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions as to how the animation was done. More on that to come.
(Note: This post was originally written for my work blog, Jumpcut… just so you know.)
While the Canada Games were at UPEI, I, along with my trusty sidekick and host Fraser McCallum, produced a series of web videos around the Canada Games. We managed to knock out nine videos in about two weeks. Impressive, if I do say so myself. During the process, I learned quite a few things about throwing together a short-run web series.
In no particular order:
Get a host
Getting a host was probably the best thing we did for this series. While I’ve worked with “hosts” in the past on a video-by-video basis, never before has one person been the face of nine. The host acts as a familiar face, and makes the editing process much, much simpler. Rather than trying to tell the story with only images and sporadic interviews, the host can tell the entire story in a matter of seconds. Plus, if you get a fella like Fraser, he can help with the production.
Schedule the episodes, but leave it flexible
Before we started, we knew we wanted to create a collection of vignettes, but also knew that we wanted to have the flexibility to create some “news” content. In other words, if one of our students were to win a medal, we wanted to make sure we could add that piece into our production schedule. It worked.
Know when to stop cutting and post
I love to edit, and if it were feasible, I’d take a week to edit a three minute video. But when you’re trying to do one video a day, that’s obviously not possible. When the video had to get up, it had to get up. As such, I had to sacrifice some of my pickier post-production tendencies.
One in the can is worth two in the bush
This depends on how time dependent your content is. If your content is “this is what happened today, and tomorrow you won’t care about it,” then maybe this statement is not true. However, if you plan on people watching this episodic content weeks or months down the road, then deciding to put the extra effort in one video and dropping another is definitely worth the consideration.
Less (footage) is more
This took a while for me to learn, but when I did, it made everything so much faster. Keep in mind that every frame you shoot will have to be logged, captured, and considered for editing. This process, as you likely know, takes a lot longer than you think it should. Thus, if you’ve three shots of athletes jumping hurdles, you probably don’t need a fourth.
Post to YouTube while you’re still waiting for approval
Like all good editors, I had to make sure that someone looked over the “completed” videos before we let them free to the world. Sometimes, this approval process took hours. Perhaps the approver(s) didn’t have time to see it right then and there, or perhaps I was out shooting when it did. Most times, my first edit was the one that was going to go live, so while I was waiting for approval, I posted to YouTube and set the the privacy setting to “Private.” That way, when approval came through, I simply had to change that permission, and the video could be live right away. If changes needed to be made, I could just delete that uploaded video and throw up the new one.
The Sony EX 1 is heavy
I love this camera, and trying to produce this series on tape would have been a major pain in the neck. The tripod we had it on was about two times as heavy as the camera. It didn’t really slow us down, but it sure helped in tiring us out.
So that’s it. Sure, some of it may be common sense, but I hope it at least reinforces the points. If anyone has other tips for this kind of production, I’d love to hear about it.
The 2009 Canada Games are now in full swing Charlottetown after (also being in full swing) in Summerside last week. The Athlete’s Village this week is located at UPEI, as are several of the sporting events (namely indoor volleyball, athletics, swimming, and men’s soccer).
To celebrate (for lack of a better word) we’re producing a pile of videos that shows off the games, as well as the campus, and gives the viewers a bit of a behind the scenes look at how some things work at the Canada Games.
You can check out the videos here:
When it’s all said and done, I’ll post a few notes on the production process.