As I’ve recently blogged about several contests where students create “pitch” videos for learning, some teachers probably want some advice on creating such a “pitch” video. This blog post will give you several tips for making great student pitch videos.
1 – Get clear on your focus
Look at the rubric for the contest. What are the judges looking for in their judging rubric? Have you clearly answered all of their questions?
Additionally, make sure that you clearly describe your solution and that you demonstrate that you’ve used the process asked for in the contest.
Remember to encourage your students that they can demonstrate some of these things by showing what they are doing as much as saying what they are doing. The power of video is seeing what is happening. Additionally, if students can make it look as if a product or invention already exists or help the viewer picture a world with this solution, it will help cement the idea in the mind of the viewer.
2 – Shoot B-Roll from the Beginning
After you shoot your film with students speaking, you may need extra footage to be shown while the talking is happening. Film producers call this “b-roll.” (The a-roll is where the action is happening but the b-roll is shown often while the speaker is speaking but not on camera.)
Teachers can help students by filming their teams working. If a teacher has multiple teams, then get a simple slate tool like NoBuSlate.
Then, have each team type their team name on the slate and before you film a team, have them hold up the slate and capture that as the first frame of the film so you can easily organize film by a team and give it to them to make their final movie.
Actual footage will be more believable than the footage they have to recreate. Look for the moments of excitement and joy. It is hard to tell which teams will be the ones to progress further, so capture film from every team.
3- Storyboard and Script
Students should sketch out their ideas for shots and can write the script under each shot. While some students will just want to ad-lib it makes it very hard to include everything from the rubric in the shot. Remember that if you use b-roll, students don’t have to be looking at the camera at all times, so write a great script and try to include everyone in the team.
4- Shoot with editing in mind
If you’re under a tight deadline and will have to use a “teleprompter” you can find free teleprompter software but you’ll still want students to practice. But there are two tricks you can use when you know that you’re going to have to edit on a tight deadline.
High resolution. Your first choice is to shoot at a very high quality like 4K. The final video will NOT be in 4K, but if you shoot in high quality, you have the ability to zoom in with jump cuts like “youtubers” make.
If you shoot in 4K, then when you have to edit, zoom in on the shot. Or, if this isn’t an option, then you could shoot with two cameras.
Steady camera. Additionally, shoot with an inexpensive tri-pod. If you’re using a smartphone, you can get a smartphone tripod for around $30 from a local store. To make the jump cuts look good, you’ll want the camera to be still.
Good sound. Not every school has a good sound capture device, but if students will be far away from the camera, you can take another smartphone and put it near the students to capture their sound. (Just make sure you use a tool like NoBuslate to give you a sound spike to sync the sound.) Additionally, you can look for sound capture devices that work with smartphones.
Run a test. Shoot some simple film with stand-ins to look at lighting and check sound. You can do this early in your project.
5 – Give yourself time to produce the final film
You do not have to wait for the project to be complete to start shooting and editing. In fact, you shouldn’t wait. There can be a learning curve for students who are new to film. You’ll want to give them time to make mistakes and learn. If a project has a film due at the end, I appoint student videographers and editors from the beginning of the project and have checkpoints when their film is due.
First, I encourage students to come up with the name of their solution. This is first. Then, the videographers can work on the opening trailer for the product and include the name of the product.
Additionally, students can edit the credits and other parts of the final film. Sometimes students may end up with different film altogether, but if you require a rough cut of the project a week before it is due, sometimes they will change their choices in video altogether.
At least give yourself several days from when you think the project is done to completion so that your students can render the film.
6 – Have a test audience
Sometimes students (and their teachers) can be so close to a project that their knowledge makes them blind to something missing in the final film Screen the film with test judges, other teachers, and other students to give feedback. Sometimes a quick voiceover that is added in or just one more shot can add great clarity and get you the winning video.
7 – Share your video
Share your student videos with your school and community. Your students may not win the contest but your school can still win big in PR when people in your community see your students pursuing goals and creating meaningful work. Work with your school marketing department to share the videos and make sure that you email the links to parents at home – many of them want to share them.
Student video contests can be fun. Good luck!
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