I was asked recently to compile a report looking at what was available online in the way of Video Tutorials for university media production students. The idea was to see what was out there, how relevant and useful it was, and identify any potential areas where the university might produce it’s own original tutorial content. Obviously there’s no need to replicate something that already exists and is freely available. That said, the student context and the university environment have specific demands that perhaps are not addressed by existing materials.
What i thought might be a rather dreary bit of research turned out to be rather interesting. The findings are being compiled and likely to form the basis of a new online student resource but I thought it worth posting some of the things I found and decided upon for those interested in self-directed learning and a initial survey of Video Tutorial landscape.
In broad terms the range of online video tutorials related to the media production (with a focus on hardware rather than software) can be divided between the three groups:
Those tutorials developed by a company and intended as much for promotion and customer support of a product as for education and training. Such tutorials are most often highly specific to the functions and operations of a particular piece of equipment rather than more generally to processes and techniques engaged by that equipment.
Tutorials made by hobbyists and enthusiasts rather than professional practitioners. These form the overwhelming bulk of online tutorials and the vary enormously; from those particular to a specific tool or model of equipment through to more broad concepts and processes. Production value of these tutorials is generally poor and there is a high propensity for incorrect or mis-information. Amateur tutorials tend to be discreet one-offs or loosely connected small groups rather than cohesive collections or series. They are also most likely to be distributed solely from open public systems such as YouTube.
This large category encompasses those tutorials, and collections of videos, that are professionally produced but which are not dedicated to a particular brand or the products of a specified company. This category includes universities, non-government agencies, non-profit organisations and commercial ventures focused on training as well as online magazines and publishers. Such tutorials are more likely to be produced as a collection or series and distributed from dedicated websites - though they may also be re-published on, or utilise, hosting services such as YouTube, Vimeo and BlipTV.
The list of resources discussed below are by no means intended to be exhustive - the landscape of online reosurces is just far too large - but they are representitive of the range, form and nature of he more dominant or propagated providers of online video tutorials. Particular those from the Corporate and Instition catagories named above. They also focus of cost-free resources rather than paid-for subscription services such as www.lynda.com
Current TV - http://current.com/make/training.htm
CurrentTV is a hybrid US cable and online broadcaster focused on citizen journalism and user generated content. In supporting this approach to media content generation CurrentTV provides a dedicated online learning resource covering a range of fields; from conceptual development of stories and pre-production - to equipment and production processes.
The tutorials are of a very high production standard. They are focused and clear combining animatic diagrams with live-action and direct address presentation. The tutorials are backed up with downloadable documents in the form of PDFs.
Some of the technical information is dated and is not equipment, brand or model specific so may not be wholly useful to students needing specific details. However the sections on Shooting and Production tips (particularly regard to release forms and techniques) are universal and presented in an superbly efficient fashion.
Videomaker is a popular US-based magazine catering for both consumers and video professionals. Adjunct to their website is an education resource of articles and video tutorials. The quality of the videos is relatively high (though it can vary widely depending how old the video is) Videos are also often unfocused; either being too broad or else too highly specific, limiting usefulness to students in either case.
Some of the Videomaker resources are specific to a particular model of equipment and this is obviously very useful if that particular piece of equipment is one to be used by a student and possessed by the institution. However, there is a large degree of hit and miss in this regard as the tutorials generally cover products in review by the magazine and so are diverse and not always mainstream tools.
Many videos are also presented in a ‘discussion’ style with multiple presenters and the tendency for banter limits the efficiency and effectiveness of the tutorial. However many of the ‘tips and tricks’ style tutorials are very useful for dealing with common and generic issues and challenges of production equipment and process.
Howcast is video hosting and streaming service much like Vimeo or BlipTV but where all videos are focused on learning and tutorial. As such Howcast contains video tutorials on all manner of topics but includes a wide range of tutes specific to digital production.
The Howcast sub-categories of ‘Film Production’, ‘Making Music Videos’, ‘Special FX + Stunts’ and ‘Television production’ all provide good quality relevant tutorials though the sheer volume and diversity of tutorials mean searching or filtering is required. Most of the tutorials have been produced specifically for Howcast but others are appropriated from other sites so consistency can vary.
Tutorials range from those focused on a particular task and equipment to broader techniques and processes; however in regard to digital production the many tutorials seem to lack true specificity or direct usability. Similarly Howcast tutorials are largely not made by professionals and consistency and quality of information may be in doubt.
AFI ScreenNation http://www.youtube.com/user/AFIScreenNation
The American Film Institute (AFI) provides film training and education services to the US film industry and in context of this work has produced a collection of video tutorials under the banner of their YouTube channel ‘ScreenNation’. These tutorials range from screenwriting and pre-production through to post and delivery.
For the most part the AFI videos deal primarily with conceptual and production process elements and in this regard they are very effective but they are intended for a secondary rather than tertiary audience so they may be more rudimentary than expected or required.
Tutorials are delivered as direct adress supported by interviews with prominent professionals but are lacking diagrammatic or demonstrative elements. A supplementary set of the AFI videos collectively named ‘Xander’s production Tips’ follow a more practical method of demonstration.
Temple University http://templefma.blip.tv/
Is an example of a education institution producing their own resources both for and by students of media production. The Temple university videos are hosted on a BipTV channel and cover a wide range areas including technical concepts such as Timecode and Colour Temperature through to specifics of using particular equipment and resources of the University.
Whilst the videos contain useful information with the advantage of specific relevance and context for the students the quality and consistency of the videos is seriously flawed. They seem to be wholly produced by students rather than professionals leading to technical inaccuracies and less than ideal production aesthetics. Many tutorials are focused on the dedicated specifics of the equipment in the university and the particular processes unique to that institution but the execution and delivery of the tutes is poor and serves as an example of how Not to do video tutorials in a university context.
IzzyVideo is a site dedicated to tutorials and training in digital production and filmmaking by a specific individual professional – Izzy Hyman. The site is run as a for-profit business with paid-for memberships that allow full access to the more than 150 video tutorials.
Whilst it is not expected or suggested that students would purchase memberships to Izzyvideo the site does serve as a very good example of clear, focused, equipment-specific tutorials with very high-production values. Aside from the subscription videos there are also a number of free tutorials available that cover specific areas of exposure, shooting, sound and post.
IndyMogul is a site dedicated to young and aspiring indie filmmakers and the ‘4min film school’ section of the site is focused on delivering concise and specific advise and training on production techniques and technology.
The range and diversity of the 4min Film School videos is substantial and covers both production and post; process and specific equipment. However the videos are largely produced by amateurs and semi-professionals and so the information is at times incorrect or mis-represented. That said, the videos are engaging and informative and delivered in an efficient and accesible format. They are also of a generally quite high production standard.
CreativeVideo is an equipment sales and rental house in the UK that produces its own training videos and hosts them online for the public. Many of the videos are reviews or overviews of new products and generally ‘higher-end’ than much of the equipment UNSW students will use. However the video tutorial collection includes some detailed examinations of lighting and technology cocnepts. The tutes are presented by knowledgeable professionals and the production standard is high.
VTC is the ‘Virtual training Company’ a comemrcial online business focused on providing online video tutorials and courses concerned with technology. Whilst their complete catalogue is only available through paid membership, they have a significant collection of their more ‘entry level’ video tutes available for free.
Of particular relevance to students is their collection of videos examining audio tools and audio recording. The tutorials are very well produced and presented and utilise diagrams and animatics along with live action. They cover not just practical use but also touch on history and concepts of sound.
BBC Training http://www.bbctraining.com/onlineCourses.asp
BBC Training is a comprehensive course program in media production. There are a number of courses that are wholly online and provide a through overview of media production processes. In particular the courses on pre-production, camera shooting and microphones and audio are very thorough. However the courses appear to be very dated and much of the content refers to cameras and technologies that are obsolete or long superceeded.
eHow, much like HowCast, is a video hosting service focused specifically on video tutorials on virtually every conceivable subject. eHow subsequently hosts a variety of video tutes on media production and processes. The quality is reasonably good and the content well broken down into discreet components focused on specific tasks and techniques. The eHow series’ on Indie Film and Lighting are particularly comprehensive though not equipment model specific.
The DV Show http://video.thedvshow.com/watch/list
The DV Show acts as an aggregator for bringing together video production related videos from across the various hositing services such as YouTube, Vimeo and BlipTV. It collates videos together into playlists around a topic or area. In this regard the DV Show serves as a useful way to search for desired videos on a particular topic or equipment type. As the videos are drawn from a diverse range of sources quality, consistency, detail and usefulness can vary enormously. The Playlists of ‘Lighting’, ‘Production tips’, ‘Audio tips’ and ‘Camcorder tips’ are particularly useful.
Based on this survey and analysis of select available online resources there are a number of conclusions that may be drawn.
1. Online video tutorials dealing with media production technology and processes are popular, numerous and diverse.
2. Available video tutorials online lack specificity to the needs of university students and the equipment they will be required to use
3. Extant resources are inconsistent in quality, reliability and consistency of the information they present.
4. Many of the better online video tutorials are unable to embedded or syndicated to other websites. This severely limits the ability for any dedicated student website to unify resources into a single accessible system.
Despite this diversity and density of video resources online there remain issues with what is available in regard to satisfying the needs of students and the demands of teaching within a university environment.
In this regard there are 5 key identified needs to be addressed.
1. A need for equipment-specific video tutorials that address the particularities of the resources available to students - existing video tutorials online are too generic.
2. Need to maximise the efficiency of teaching technical and technology based elements ensuring face-face hours can focus predominantly on concepts, ideas and creative investigation rather than technical handling.
3. Need to provide specific support resources for teachers who do not possess specific technical expertise.
4. Need to develop video tutorial resources that engage with the specific contexts of student productions within a university environment and which seek to address the particular challenges these contexts encompass.
5. Need to provide resources that facilitate students becoming more self sufficient and self evaluating in their use of media production technology.