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T351 Week 9 - Spring 2015


  • Review Midterm
  • Art Videos / Story structure / Dramatic scenes
  • Review scripts & treatments
  • Production tips

Reality check

  • Drama/Storytelling Projects - Due the week you return from Spring Break. Everyone will need a proposal and treatment (turned in via Oncourse). This component will be individually graded. Please be prepared to quickly & succinctly pitch your story idea. We will choose teams and projects. Once you decide on a project, your group needs to submit one completed, polished script. Supporting materials (E.g. shot sheets, schedules) will earn you brownie points. Your group will share a grade for this- so be sure it's solid!
  • Your Art Video storyboard or script are due (via Oncourse) this week. These should provide enough detail to serve as a guide for production / postproduction.
  • Next Week: No labs Monday & Wednesday (October 27 & 29). The time is for you to work on your Art Videos.We will watch them starting at
  • Following Week:
    • Be prepared to pitch storytelling projects in lab. Everyone needs a proposal and treatment (not a script) turned in to Oncourse by the start of lab.
    • We'll watch your Art Videos the week after next starting promptly at 10 AM the following week.

Review Midterm

Art & Music Videos

What are they & why are they made? (Who is the audience & what is the objective?)

A good Art Video should have a purpose:


  • To make an artistic statement
  • Embed a political or social message (E.g. Invisible Children campaign)
  • Often part of a marketing strategy (sell a song/performer)
  • To show off beauty, skills, production artistry.

Many hope for a viral video (Who hasn't seen Wrecking Ball or an OK Go video?)

All different genres including: time lapse, animation, puppetry, live-action, and experimental videos.

While a few make money producing music videos, most producers/directors work on other genres and types of projects. A few good videos can lead to larger projects. Michel Gondry gained a reputation from his creative and elaborate music videos. This led to commercials and films. The same is true with Spike Jonze, who was first known for his high-art music videos. Jonze later went on to direct movies like Being John Malkovich.

Production Techniques

Keep in mind an underlying theory which applies to the montage:

"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts"

One can juxtapose two separate shots together and get a much more intense whole.

Live action music videos often employ parallel editing (cross cutting). This can be a performer in different locations, a connected storyline, or abstract representation.

To capture repetitive takes in the field with consistent tempo, use pre-recorded audio playback via a boom box. This will ensure perfect timing.

For multi-take live performance, consider where the "line" is and what camera shots you want to use (E.g. Wide shot, medium shot and close-ups). Have your performer run through the song three times and capture (without stopping) each of the camera perspectives. It's usually easiest if you pull the audio from the close-up camera as this is the trickiest to match.


Storytelling Projects

About our class storytelling projects: Everyone is pitching a story in lab this week.

Once you select a story your group then have to refine it and then create a shooting script (group grade). Please note that now is the time to secure talent, locations and props.

Everyone is expected to turn in their own edit. However, you can make a case for a single edit is you tell me in advance your plan for how you will collaborate. This must be done in advance.

This is a perfect project to try our your cinematic creativity. Think creative lighting and camera.

Keep your storytelling projects short & sweet! It's much better to have 4 minutes of gold than 10 minutes of yuck.

A good goal is to always try to make the viewer wonder, "What's going to happen next?"

What are the elements of a good story?

Conflict is essential to storytelling. People never live happily ever after until the end of the story, after the conflict has been addressed. Conflict by itself (unexplained) is pointless. The viewer has to understand the nature of the conflict.

  • Lovers who can't be together
  • A dog who is trying to find his way home
  • A boy battling a giant
  • Two nations at war

Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Your conflict must be resolved (happy or sad). If you don't have an ending or resolve it in some way you are not telling a good story.

An interesting scenario is NOT a story. (a man wakes up in a rowboat, in the middle of a lake.....) Once you introduce the prime character and the conflict, you need to resolve it.

Your story doesn't have to revolve around a person or an animal. A former student wrote one about a pen. It started on a CU of the pen hanging in the bookstore. A hand picked up the pen and purchased it. The pen was then passed around to different people and used to solve mathematical equations, create art, write papers, and pen love letters. In the end the pen was tossed into the trash. It was a bit sad, but there was another pen in there as well- and they ended up rolling up next to each other.

Terrible ideas / things to avoid - The fewer characters the better. The less dialog the better. Find people who can really act (not your friends). There is time to line up talent, but you need to start now. FYI Recurring themes that have been explored countless times include pointless violence, students waking up late for a test, or someone experiencing the worst day ever.


Characteristics of a strong treatment:

  • Each & every scene has a label or some kind of identifier (name, number, etc.)
  • Each scene has a purpose (develop the story or the character)
  • The content will be present tense in a narrative manner and describe the flow of action & dialog. Include only what can be seen or heard. (Describing back-story or thoughts is challenging- you have to figure out how to SHOW it)
    • Scenes are the building blocks of film and video. They can be thought of as mini-stories in that they have a beginning, middle and end.

A treatment for a short story could be as short as three scenes.

[Look at examples]

  • Story & character - A story usually involves one or more person and the conflict they face. Characters should transform (have a character arc). If there is just a situation (I feel sad because my boyfriend died), that's not really a story. Similarly just having people fight or make love is not storytelling. You need to make us care about the characters and the story. We need to know who basic motivation of our characters and why they are doing what they are doing. It's not what happens to us that defines us or our characters- it's how we deal with it.
    • Clearly draw your characters - There's a concept called "first action" that addresses the very first time the audience sees a character. The idea is that we find out something about the person that identifies who they are and that provides insight into their character. Maybe the first time we see "Joe" (the hero in our short story) he is coming out of a building and holds the door open for someone coming in. It takes 4 seconds to show this and establishes the fact that Joe is probably an alright guy. Maybe the first time we see "Pete" (the bad guy in our short story) he is honking at a homeless person slowly pushing her shopping cart across the street.

Stories & Story Structure Resources

Relevant web links:

Scripts & treatments

Start with a treatment, then move onto a script. It's much easier to refine a treatment than to make changes to a script. After you are happy with the treatment, move on to write the script.

A treatment describes the flow of the story. Treatments use the present tense and a narrative manner. The treatment should address individual scenes. The function of a scene is to further develop the plot or characters. Some writers like to put scenes on cards, which they can re-arrange. You can do this with paragraphs.

Scripts - What’s in a script? Read Jim's Script Overview.

Two-column vs. film style

The single column script is best suited for writers who are leaving the visual decisions to the cinematographer or director.

Production Tips

In general I've been impressed with many of your videos. Here are a few tips to make them even better:


  • Nothing saves you more time in production and makes your project better than pre-production- a.k.a. planning. Simply put, spend time thinking about your projects. The more time you spend picking your script and shots apart before production, the smoother and quicker it will go.
    • Visualize every single shot! Beethoven could write his music entirely in his head. You can do the same thing. Imagine the first fade up from black. What do you see? You can do this with every single shot along with the soundtrack. Put it in writing in the form of your script and shot sheets. If you can learn to do this you will have great success producing your projects.
  • When writing a scene - don't forget the basics, such as establishing time and location.
  • Think about how it will start and end.
  • Start with an interesting shot, then reveal the location OR start with a wide shot and move the cmera in.
  • When blocking two-person exchanges OTS (over the shoulder) shots work well.
  • TV is a close-up medium. Avoid using too many long shots and medium long shots. Use close ups and extreme close-ups to to tell your story.
  • Everything, every shot, every sound, every character should be there for a reason. If it doesn't push the scene or the character along cut it out.


  • Lighting - Always plan on enhancing the appearance through lighting. Occasionally you will get some nice locations that don't need much (shooting outside on an overcast/diffused day) but almost every single indoor scene will benefit from at least a little soft fill.
  • Don't use hand held shots - unless they are specifically motivated! Hand-held implies a documentary feel. Many of the hand held shots I've seen have been unmotivated and of marginal quality.
  • Lenses: Occasionally check to see if lens has water drops on it. You often can’t see these through the viewfinder. Never touch the lens with anything other than special lens cleaning paper.
  • Gain switch - make sure it's turned off
  • Remember the 180-degree rule and how to cross it
  • Remember to motivate your edits and avoid jump cuts. For good edits (think about this when you shoot!) I also like the 3- shot rule: Think about the shot you're shooting, the shot you'll use before it, and the shot you'll use after it. Also consider what will motivate your edit. Action? A sound?
  • When shooting B-roll, shoot mini-continuity sequences. These will cut together very nicely.


  • For TV broadcast, always start in black and end in black.
  • Start and end programs with both video and audio. In other words as you fade up on your first visual, we should hear something. (Or viewers think something is wrong with the video.) At the end, your music should end right when we fade to black.
  • Only digitize the audio that you need. In other words if you've recorded your interview or primary audio on track one, don't bother digitizing track two, or don't bring it into the timeline.
  • When using B-roll, don't just drop in one shot, instead use a sequence of 3 or more shots.
  • Spend time on sound design and making sure levels are optimum. Find an "average dialog level" and stick with it- make sure it's consistent throughout your piece.
  • Graphics & visual design - Spend time on this as well. Come up with a "look" and make sure video levels are consistent.


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