My journey in grad studies continues with ETAD 879- Advanced Video Design for Learning. My first assignment is to find an educational program and critique it in terms of its goals, objectives and production techniques. In essence my assignment is to look at the video through a different lens. To not just watch the program and consume the information within but see how the video was created. My hunt for the perfect video was very unsuccessful. I could not look at the videos and successfully complete the assignment. I just could not see what I was suppose to look for in a way that I was satisfied with. Frustrating!!!
This frustration lead me to the realization that I needed to connect first with what I knew and was most familiar with. Despite the fact that I am a teacher I do not spend the majority of my time watching education videos. Rather I spend most of my viewing time watching and enjoying movies. So what if I started with what I was familiar with? What if I tried this assignment first with what I know?
This lead me to the movie “Dead Poets’ Society” and in particular the Carpe Diem scene. It seemed fitting for me as an educator but more importantly it was a scene that I have always connected with…Seize the Day.
So what are the goals of this clip from the movie? I believe the goals are to:
- Contrast the difference between the traditional education the students are used to and the inquiry based journey they are about to embark on.
- Introduce the audience to an important theme in the movie – Sieze the Day
- Connect the audience emotionally to that theme – Carpe Diem.
As I watched this clip unfold I took note of several production techniques used to reach those goals effectively:
- The use of three locations highlighted the difference between the traditional classroom and the new learning environment they were beginning to encounter. They physically move from their desks to the hall. This is a both a metaphor and a foreshadow of them moving from traditional students to engaged learners.
- Camera perspectives -During the scenes in the hall various shots were used very effectively:
- At the beginning of the hall scene an Establishing Shot is used to give the audience a basic orientation to the geography of the scene. This shot occurs from above and looks down on the students as they take their positions in the hall.
- subjective shots were used to show us what the characters (both the students and the people in the photographs) would see. We see the photographs from the point of view of the students, but we also see the students from the point of view of the photographs. At one point, the director even includes a shot from behind the glass in the display case. In this way he personifies the people in the photographs. They come alive. They are looking at the boys and pleading with them to Seize the Day. This ability of the camera shots to create a sense of life in the photos allows the audience to believe that they are actually whispering Carpe Diem to the students.
- Pans and Zoom Ins were used to allow the audience to see the faces of the men in the photographs as we can hear the voice of the teacher whispering seize the day…make your lives extraordinary. These camera treatments create movement which add to the feeling that the photos are talking to the boys and imploring them to seize the day.
- Shots showing the glass are shown at the beginning of the scene. As the audience we look into and out of the display case. As the scene progresses the glass is removed from the shots. For me this signifies the removal of this barrier and the closer connection between the students standing in the hall and those posing in the photographs.
- Medium Shots (MS) are used extensively throughout the scene in the hall at the beginning. We see the students and the teacher from the waist up. As the scene progresses we move to more Close Ups (CU) which allows the audience to really see the emotion in the students faces and the impact this lesson is having on them.
- Editing– This clip shows three distinct scenes; The traditional classroom, the hall for the Carpe Diem scene and the hall which brings us back the traditional school setting. The transitions between these three scenes are very abrupt and quick. There is no fade out, the audience is just taken from one to the other. I believe this adds to the audiences ability to contrast the abrupt differences between the traditional education of the first and last scene, and the engaged learning in scene 2.
- The Carpe Diem scene was edited in such a way that we go back and forth between the faces of the boys and the faces in the photographs. We get to see the emotion this lesson is creating in the boys as we look at their faces. We are also allowed to create that emotion within ourselves by seeing the faces of the photographs. In this way, the editing is highly effective in creating a feeling and emotion in the audience.
- Audio– the audio in the hall scene is very quiet, which is in contrast to the classroom scene. There is little background sound and no music. All we hear are the words of the teacher as he engages the students.
I realize that this clip is not an educational program per se but I needed this first step to make sense for myself of this new learning in video design. I found that I was much more successful by starting with what I know and am most familiar with. The next step for me is to now see if I can take my emerging understanding and apply it to an educational program.
To be continued…