If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many would a video be worth? We live in the age of digital media, with many opportunities for the capture and sharing of our daily experiences. If we get creative with the medium, say by introducing stop animation and music, there is no limit to what tales can be told.
The Digital Content Library (DCL) staff set out to do just this. We knew we had a head start with a filmmaker already available. Justin Schell, a graduate student in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, has been making films for quite some time. His latest effort--We Rock Long Distance--documents the experiences of three Twin Cities hip-hop artists who come from Ghana, Puerto Rico, and Thailand. Justin also brought with him a network of musician friends who contributed original music for the soundtrack. In addition, the DCL had high-end cameras, scanners, computers, and the right software to produce different types of content. We had the raw materials. All we needed was a story to tell.
Luckily, Susanne Gabrielsen, a DCL Fellow from Psychology, started us out with a very clear idea. She wrote up a scenario detailing how CLA faculty can submit content to the DCL (more on what we do can be found at dcl.umn.edu). We knew we couldn't cover all that we did in a 3-minute video, so this focus allowed the crew to quickly get to work. Initially, most of us knew very little about stop animation. So we gathered some examples; everything from Common Craft to more elaborate options like RSA Animate to music videos. Once you start looking for stop motion examples, you can't stop seeing them everywhere.
We also gathered information from some local experts. Our colleagues in CLA Video Services have much more experience in video production, including green screen creation, and have produced content for other units including CLA Student Services. They advised us to plan as much as we could ahead of time to keep to a timeline and to designate a producer to be in charge. We chose Justin for this role and he developed a shot list based on our story. We collaborated using Google Docs, and everyone was encouraged to contribute, comment, and suggest ideas.
We were very lucky to get Jane Blocker from the Department of Art History to be our example faculty member. Her unfailing good humor served us well as we took over her office and filled it full of various kinds of media. We knew her schedule would be the tightest one, so we planned the other shoots around when she was available.
Vivian Poon, one of our talented undergraduates, used her animation and Photoshop skills to produce two of the stop motion sequences singlehandedly. Hardly before we thought of something new, Vivian was right there figuring out how to do it.
As a group we developed the narration into a script. Sarah Lageson, from Sociology, has worked on a number of podcasts, and is also a musician and singer. Her talented voice gives the narrator both personality and the necessary clarity for an instructional video. Karen Majewicz from Geography figured out how to use Google Earth to display DCL content from all over the world. She also found maps already available in the DCL for the sequence showing where we are located. Alphonce Nicholaus of Geography and undergraduate Emily Walz helped set up the sequences (we had fun piling things high on Jane's desk), worked as actors, and assisted with photography. Staff members Ginny Larson, Denne Wesolowski, and Rebecca Moss contributed where we could (mostly cheering the students along). This was an all-hands-on-deck effort.
Now that we know we can produce work like this, we hope to create others. We think that there are many stories out there to be told in this fashion. Videos can be used in the classroom to illustrate a point, to demonstrate a service or procedure, or to share information with the outside world. The DCL and all of CLA-OIT have many talented students and staff ready to help figure out what you need, and how to accomplish it. Please don't hesitate to ask!