Tag Archives: Video Production

Presidential Campaign Ads Supersized!

Muggin' for the camera during a voiceover.

Muggin’ for the camera during a voiceover!

Forget Cruz and Clinton, the 8th graders at Hannah Gibbons STEM were creating commercials for today’s trumped up rivals, Batman v. Superman! After weeks of instruction in English/language arts and social studies and defining and debating what makes a true hero in our lives and communities, I sat down with one of my favorite partner teachers, Leora Rhodes, to plan a video production residency. It suddenly became clear in the midst of the this crazy political season that the Dark Knight and Man of Steal needed to be reevaluated not as super heroes but as national leaders.

Students would be charged with creating commercials for a mock presidential election to be held in May. The students asked thoughtful questions: “Superman wasn’t born here. Don’t you have to be a U.S. citizen?” “Does Batman have too many demons to be a good leader?” Character became a leading factor in determining which man was better for the job. Three groups created a :30 or :60 commercial for Superman; and three groups were in the Batman camp. Of the three groups, one created a commercial for the lower grades, one for the upper grades and the third a “negative” ad against their opponent.

Like politics, video production is a team sport. Working in groups can be hard for junior high students. They get easily distracted and would rather talk about each other than the work at hand (sound familiar?!) but they thought hard about promoting their caped-candidate in a mere minute or half-minute.

It’s always so gratifying to hear their ideas and watch them use professional equipment to execute them. In the short time I work with them, I am always amazed at how they direct each other on camera, dive into editing software, and pick appropriate text and music to persuade their audience. I’m hoping this project will make them feel more empowered during an election season gone awry. If only there were more real heroes vying for the White House. At least the students of Hannah Gibbons will get to cast their vote.

Check out one of the Vote for Superman ads below:

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It’s what we talk about in Cleveland.

I am writing this during a day off from school (the fifth in less than two weeks) due to ‘continued, dangerously low wind chill temperatures’ or ‘extreme weather conditions’ as some news channels proclaim and am thankful this was a fall residency and not scheduled for now. The second grade students at Michael R. White STEM school scripted, performed and recorded their own weather reports from both their news room and outside. With this age group repetition (each class produced three reports throughout the fall and into the winter) was not monotonous, it was an opportunity to learn new vocabulary, improve upon past experiences and polish the performances. There were less than twenty students in each class and everyone was engaged at all times, rotating through different production roles as the sessions went on.

On our first production day there was a student who seemed less than thrilled to be selected as a news anchor. His demeanor made it apparent that he was frustrated and angry, but it quickly became evident that he was just afraid of forgetting lines and messing up. Through positive reinforcement and witnessing his co-anchor forget her lines a few times (without any negative repercussions from the others in the class) he began sitting a little straighter, his hands no longer covered his mouth when he spoke, his legs lost their jitters and his voice began to project. All of this over the course of ten minutes. He had transformed into someone new. He began to smile when he made a mistake instead of covering his face and putting his head on the desk. From that point forward, regardless of his assignment, he was also the default script assistant, memorizing the words for each production and mouthing them to the new anchors from his role of camera operator or lighting technician. As an educator, it was really amazing to see how much this program impacted how he held himself and I see so many more situations where this confidence can serve him as he grows.

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Camouflage and Green Screens


Painting costumes

In the study of animal adaptations, camouflage provides a natural fit for an arts-integration residency. During their science class time, the 3rd grade students at the Michael R. White school worked in groups to research different ecosystems and the animals that populate them. Around this research project, I walked them through the process of creating all the components for a video that would use green screen to demonstrate the function of camouflage in animals’ survival while integrating the art concepts of pattern, color harmony, and low color contrast.


Applying face paint


We started by painting backgrounds from observation of photographs of different habitats, including wetlands, temperate forests, and grasslands. I explained that after shooting against a green screen, these backgrounds could be edited back in to create the illusion that students were standing in the habitats they had painted.

We then painted costumes that would help students hide from predators in that habitat by using camouflage, as well as costumes for the predators themselves. On the day of shooting, students took turns applying each others’ face paint so that they could be fully hidden within their environments. When the “predator” was off screen, students boogied down with some pretty awesome dance moves, but as soon as the predator could be seen on camera, we paused the music and students froze, unseen because of their camouflage. Once they predator stalked off screen, they could dance again!


Acting like a scary predator for the camera.

This residency was especially rewarding for me because it combined visual and performing arts, as well as traditional and new media, in what I felt amounted to a very rich experience for all of the students involved. Plus, they loved having a real Hollywood experience and being part of a film cast.


Reviewing the footage was a lot of fun!

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“I’m a good director!” – After School Video Production Club at John Adams

What we may lack in numbers, we make up in substance at the new after school video production club at John Adams High School. Students are producing PSAs focusing on issues important to their school community. After a few brainstorming sessions, students broke into two production groups. The topics they chose: “Sex: Don’t Take it Lightly” and “The Voice of Reasons: Don’t Smoke Marijuana.” Taking full advantage of the good weather, and school itself, we enlisted the talents of the football team, basketball team and some unsuspecting students in the hallways, to act as our talent! While everyone kept asking the young videographers, “will this be on TV?” we carried around cameras, tripods, mics and a boom pole for “location shoots” and used another production day to put up the green screen and lights. Editing will commence later this week! Students have even surprised themselves when they stand behind or in front of  the lens. “Hey, let’s try this…,” Carlos, a tall junior with reddish dreads, suggested. After he yelled “cut” he loved his direction and proceeded to direct his fellow classmates through three more scenes. That, is what we call, “a wrap!”

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“Today Show” at Hannah Gibbons!


Never a science major, I certainly learned a lot the past few months working with Ms. Micco’s 8th grade class at Hannah Gibbons Stem School. The students have been studying genetics, focusing on Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). To better understand this disease that disproportionally affects those of African American descent, the class interviewed pediatrician and hematologist, Dr. Connie Piccone, from UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital at Case Western Reserve University. Students worked in four groups to address the demographics, ethics around testing, general facts about the disease, and a human interest story about an 8th grader with SCD. The result of their hard work is “The Today Show at Hannah Gibbons,” a twenty-minute health program written, produced and filmed by the students. The whole class brainstormed interview questions for Dr. Piccone and did an amazing job interviewing her. Students also interviewed “man on the street” style, as well as writing intros to their pieces to be used in the final production. The human interest piece was particularly filmed well. One student acted as if he had the disease and the film crew members were awesome at putting him in situations that challenged him while at school. I know the students were very surprised, as was I, about the many people who have SCD and how a cure still has not been found. Dr. Piccone stressed that the students should talk about SCD with friends and family. I was especially impressed by the acting and filming from my class over our five sessions together. Dr. Piccone was wonderful and even sang a tune (off camera). Students asked her what career she would pursue if she wasn’t a doctor, and she said a singer! Sing out for an end to SCD, I’m sure!


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