I’ve collaborated for two years with South Carolina’s Earth Sciences & Resources Institute (ESRI,) making educational videos about soil and water conservation. I’ve learned a ton, and each project gets better in depth and quality.
My chief collaborator is Dr. Buz Kloot, a brilliant soil scientist who has turned himself into an accomplished video producer. We’ve had a lot of fun teaching each other our trades.
Our latest project “Soil Stories: A Journey Beneath the Soil’s Surface” hit the Web in July. http://vimeo.com/26081356
Healthy soil is as important as clean air and water. We wanted to raise soil conservation awareness among people who care about the environment, but may not know how to care for America’s soils. We documented Buz’s own journey as he learns new information about a topic he thought he knew well. Our narrator is Francine Davis, but the experiences came from Buz’s own life.
For this project, like our previous projects, I worked a lot on the front and back ends. Buz’s concern is making deadline and budget, my concern is getting people to learn and care about the topics. It’s a healthy tension, but it works most of the time.
Buz brings me a topic and the client’s ideas. We brainstorm about how to best communicate it to the intended audience. He helps me understand the key science concepts, and I repeat them back to him in layman’s terms. I deal the with big themes and how to handle the overall treatment of a project. Will it work best in documentary style, or does it need a narrator? Can the concepts be conveyed in the time allotted to the video? What graphics will help tell the story? Will it work on the Web and on DVD? If it involves step-by-step technical information, can we create a link to printable instructions? I often get a starting script, and then make drastic changes.
Buz teaches fewer classes than I, so he spends more time in the field filming. Lucky dog. I look at edits from key shoots. I suggest the best time of day, effective angles, I evaluate the interviewees for someone who has a great “story.” In the case of Soil Stories, I suggested that Francine be the narrator, not Buz. That was a tough call, but she is younger and has a fresher perspective. Buz auditioned her, and we agreed she had a great presence on camera! Buz was humble enough to be open to the suggestion.
At the end of a project, I micro-manage the editing (in a good way.) I look for inconsistencies, make sure I understand the progression and order, nitpick the graphics for clarity, double check audio levels, second-guess music choices, and other minutia. At this point, any changes are subject to the countdown to our deadline. Now that we’ve been working together a while, Buz and his team’s quality has increased incredibly. I have fewer last-minute suggestions than I used to.
Let us know what you think.