Face it, most broadcasts in schools are boring, unimaginative, poorly produced, and doing the one thing they are NOT supposed to do...alienate the audience.
So, before I explain how we do it, first a little history of where I came in and the changes I made in order to produce a show that students want to see.
In 2009, Alpharetta High School brought me in to revive their video program. Students stopped taking the class. The instructor, at the time, had been reprimanded for students saying and doing inappropriate broadcasts. And worst of all, the “Morning Crew” was the laughing stock of the school.
I reviewed the broadcasts from the previous teacher and noticed several problems. These problems were the main focus of my taking the video classes over. So, my notes from that time were as follows:
1. Onscreen talent was poor. Their onscreen demeanor was just plain bad.
2. The color of the broadcast was dimly lit
3. The audio was atrocious.
4. The stories were inconsistent
5. The crew was bored
6. It was live (they were recorded for posterity) and the crew often slipped in suggestive innuendo
7. There were multiple spelling errors
8. The set was unimaginative
9. There was no introductions
10. There were no proper goodbyes
11. It was B-O-R-I-N-G
My original crew for the Morning Show was during first period. That first period was supposed to be at school before school started and I was to get the script into the teleprompter. Here’s what really happened. Those upper level students were seniors; seniors who were not taking any advanced classes; seniors who slept late and arrived to school late.
THE BIG BUY IN
By my 7th week in my new teaching position I had yet to produce the first morning show. It was then I decided to work with the drama students for my on screen talent. I brought in three drama students during my lunch, hung a green screen over the ugly mauve studio curtain, and wrote a script that had conversation in it. I also produced an intro for the show and began shooting with the drama students during my lunch hour. I made the students stand and use common hand gestures rather than sitting “praying” at a desk. By the next week, I had a system down and recruited the best students I could find.
The first real Morning Show aired by the middle of October (we started school in August!). The response with the change of format was very receptive. No one at my school had seen a greenscreen before, let alone use a greenscreen. We added music; we added cool transitions; we added more graphics. We realized that the audience needed a faster pace of the show.
When the show aired that first month, I would have a teacher cover my class while I looked in on the students watching the broadcast. I took notes on their reactions. The reactions helped us produce faster segments, more informative segments and, more entertaining segments.
I made students that worked on the show feel proud of their work by demanding that the show be as close to perfect or it does not air! The accountability factor boosted production quality.
And that first class of seniors…well they did not fair well in my class and the class was ultimately reduced from 15 to 5 in one semester. Of the 5 remaining students, two failed my class.
STEPS TO CHANGE
So, that brings me to my changes. The first change I did was produce a show that was NOT live. This allowed me and my students to be creative. We sacrificed a live show over entertaining and winning our audience.
The second change I made was naming my upper level class the Morning Show and moving it to my 4th period. This allowed the crew to capture students during lunch. We realized that the more students appearing in the show, the better they like it. This also removed the tardy issue with my seniors.
The third change I made was making the Morning Show an application only class. Students could only get in by applying to the show through an online procedure and requiring teacher recommendations. One of our all-time high youtube video producers (over 100,000 views) did NOT make the cut for our show because his teacher recommendations did not measure up.
The fourth change I made to the show was picking a producer who oversaw the entire production, an editor who pieced everything together and a scriptwriter who personalized the announcements. I still used drama students as my hosts, but I also used some of my more professional students as hosts to “spread the love”.
So now I was really ready to begin my construction of the show. I convinced students to come up with ideas that could be short segments to insert in between the hosts saying the announcements. The segments developed over time. Once the student had the idea or concept of the segment, I showed them intros to popular TV shows. I got them to name the TV show by its intro…hence the lead ins were born.
The segments or packages, as they were once called, were developed by teams of about two or three people. My students came up with a short intro and used that intro for each and every segment they produced under that segment name. With about 30 students in my Morning Show class, it became easy to stock pile segments.
HOW THE MORNING SHOW TAKES SHAPE
Each team begins production of their segment on Monday. On Tuesday several teams would finish and insert their production into the main timeline by handing a flashdrive or SD card to the editor. The editor builds a show by adding completed segments. While this is going on, the script is finalized to make the show time relevant. The onscreen talent is shot in the studio with a T3i attached to a teleprompter.
The newscasts are then “bladed” and spread throughout the show with segments interspersed. Occasionally, my level two students will produce a :30 spot for special events, class commercials, or even a commercial for the school store. The short segments that my teams produce are typically about :60 to :90. It does not take that long before the show takes shape and is ready to be previewed by administration for subject content.
The editor also adds the appropriate background for the green screen, adds in the bottom thirds as well as room numbers and times if the host says that a meeting of some sort is called in the broadcast. The editor also adds a bed of music from our library to pick up the pace of the show.
THE PRODUCER’S RESPOSIBILITES
Once the show is laid out in the timeline, the producer will check it to see that relevant commercials have been inserted, that host names are correctly spelled, that the audio is between -12 and -6 db, that a bed of music is under the hosts, that a relevant background is inserted for show and that the show has a proper open and close out.
The show is then exported to vimeo. I provide my assistant principal with a link and he views and makes any changes. Typically the changes are minor (an inappropriate song in a back ground) or no changes most of the time. The show is then hyper -linked through my website (ahsvideo.com) and teachers are instructed to view the show on Wednesdays and Fridays. We produce a second show on Thursday for showing on Friday utilizing the same process.
GOALS FOR THIS YEAR
This year I will be appointing a social media director as well as one person working on getting more Facebook presence, one getting more youtube presence, one working on Twitter, and one working on instagram. Our goal is to produce a show that students all over the world may have an interest in watching. The exposure of social media will only grow my program. I physically cannot work with more students than I have right now as I teach with no planning period. We typically have students hard-shipping form other schools to our program to be a part of something that my students have bought into.
SYSTEMIZING YOUR CLASS
Coming from industry, I learned early on to systemize my class. The main focus of the class is built around a very workable website that hosts all our Morning Shows, that shows all the class projects, that provides useful and relevant information. My class has become virtually paperless. Students get to keep all of their productions because I require all students to have a vimeo channel. Their videos are hosted on vimeo and the link is provided via my website. When I grade videos, I can see the date and time they handed the project in. When we watch the videos in class, I simply go to the back end of my site and copy the link of each video to produce a playlist.
Each class is geared toward producing videos for The Morning Show. My level one students have already seen our show in Middle School (yes, I market to my feeder schools). By the time my freshman get in my level one class, they pretty much know they want to move into the Morning Show (level 3 and 4) My level two students have to go through an application process in order to be considered for the show. Since only 12-15 students in the Morning Show are seniors, there only 12-15 spots open for my level two students (30 to 40) apply each year. I have created a demand for the class.
I want to help as many teachers as I can build a system that works for their class to produce exciting and engaging classes for their students. This will be my 7th year teaching and I find myself producing more videos outside of class than ever before. I love helping teachers grow their classes. I also love seeing schools visit our school to “see how it’s done.” I can see myself consulting on how to build a strong media program at their school. Right now the future looks really bright. This is the most exciting time to be involved in film and video.