Category Archives: Video Assignments

Nebraska Poet Ted Kooser

I was watching this interview with singer/songwriter John Prine, which is wonderful in itself and I recommend watching it. But the host of the Prine interview was also so familiar. Who is that guy? I wondered. Then at the end of the interview, John Prine says, “Thank You, Ted Kooser.” Of course, I know who Ted Kooser is.

Years ago, I read a book by Ted Kooser about writing poetry. I even tried doing it for a while, but I didn’t keep it up. But this morning I wondered where is Ted Kooser now? In searching for the answer to that question, I found his homepage with this short documentary video about Kooser and his life and work.

Ted Kooser says a great deal about the creative process in this piece. Every day, he gets up at 4:30 am each day and works until seven. A part that really struck me is his statement,

Once or twice a month I come up with something that was worth my time—the rest of the time, I’m failing.

I was drawn to the video because I often give my students the assignment of making a mini-documentary about someone interesting. How can you introduce someone to the world through video? Do it like the video Passing Through from Straw Hat Visuals on Vimeo.

Tony Adams – Adventure Cyclist

Here is a mini-documentary I made along with the students in my digital literacy class. Everyone was to make a video 2-4 minutes long about someone who is interesting that you don’t know well. (Here is the official DS106 video assignment.) I found Tony pedaling his recumbent bike along my morning commute, so I stopped to see if he would visit with me. This is the result.

I wrote about some of the challenges of making video this in an earlier blog. Needless to say, the shorter the video, the harder you have to work at making it something worth watching. I probably spent over ten hours making this thing, but I like how it turned out.

Cross Country Traveler Tony Adams

Thursday evening near sundown while driving home from work, I noticed the strangest thing. I saw a man a little ways off of the road climbing into what looked like a plywood box on wheels. The box looked like it was a bike trailer attached to some sort of bicycle. Like I said—strange. The next morning I was going to work I saw the man again, but this time he was on the road with his human-powered contraption.

Bike House Trailer

I stopped to visit for a few minutes with the man and asked him where he was going. He said he was heading to Colorado. As I drove off and headed towards work, I thought to myself that I should do the same assignment as my Digital Literacy students are working in their online course – the mini-documentary and that I should interview the cycling man for my project.

Immediately I thought about all of the reasons this idea made no sense. It would be awkward, even scary asking the stranger for an interview. I had some other things I wanted to be doing at work, so it would be an inconvenience. I didn’t have a video camera. I all had on me was a dated iPhone and old iPad Mini, both of which had their storage filled to the brim. I would have to delete some stuff to make room to record. It was freezing cold outside and a stiff wind was blowing.

So I stopped at a nearby convenience store, picked up a few energy bars and water, and drove back to where I thought I would find the man. After driving a few miles, I caught back up to him and asked if he could spare a few minutes to talk to me. He agreed, so we found a spot where we could pull off of the road and maybe get out of the fierce wind for a bit.

I learned his name was Tony Adams and he was returning to Colorado after riding out to Virginia and back. He told me he’s been doing these trips for the past 19 years and that he sleeps every night in his 600+ lb homemade house trailer. It is tiny but has several amenities like a propane cook stove, a DVD player and television, a cell phone and a solar panel for charging his devices. He purchased the recumbent bike he was riding and modified it for pulling the heavy trailer that he built by hand from scratch.

Many of the items he uses he finds along the road as he travels, including the three flags that he flies, various electrical chargers and devices. One thing he always keeps an eye out is for old cellular phones that contain SD cards. One card he found had over 30 movies stored on it, providing him hours of entertainment.

Tony was very inspiring to meet, and it makes me want to try to be a little more like him. Just do your own thing and don’t worry too much about what others think about it.

Some of the challenges:

  • It was so frustrating to get the video off of my iPhone. It took me forever, and I don’t think it should be this hard.
  • It is scary talking to a stranger. I really had to psych myself up to even do it.
  • I planned to do several other things on Friday morning. It was inconvenient to change my plans. I had many excuses in my mind not to go back to talk with him.
  • Didn’t have my best camera for recording, only an iPhone and old iPad Mini, both of which were completely full. I had to delete apps & podcasts to free up storage for this project on the fly. This was rough because as I’m trying to work the recording quits so I’m trying to delete more stuff so I can record some more.
  • After listening to the recording, I have more questions I wished I had thought of, but it was freezing cold. Probably around 30 degrees.
  • My batteries drained quickly in the cold. And I kept running out of space and had to delete more apps and content.
  • I hoped to get the video edited over the weekend, but that didn’t happen. It is going to be a challenge to get the thing edited during the week to my satisfaction.

Benefits of doing this:

  • It was very fulfilling talking with Tony. He’s an inspiration. He only moving 2-3 miles per hour but he’s traveled to Virginia and back.
  • In theory, I should be doing the assignments I give to students right along with them, but in practice, it isn’t feasible to always do it. I feel like doing the same challenging assignment, I am reminding myself of exactly what it is that I’m asking my students to do.

I’m still working on the video editing part of the assignment, but the hardest part, meeting a stranger and getting the recordings is done.

Most Heartwarming Advertisement Ever

A year and a half ago, Gillette Razors released this short video, but it took me a year to discover it in my social media feed. It is probably the most heartwarming “commercial” I have ever seen. It is a perfect example of short-form digital storytelling. I often give an assignment to my students called mini-documentary and going forward I plan to show this to my students as an example of how it is done well.

The pacing, the lighting, the sound, the music and the story all flow effortlessly. It quickly draws the viewer in and you become absorbed in the story. That, my friends, is good storytelling. Please watch first, then come back and read what else I have to say after the video.

Did you watch the video? Read no further until you do. I will wait…

You’re back? It is really good, right? Ok, I have more to say, but that will come in another post. Click here to continue…

Happy 50th Star Trek!

Fifty years ago, one of the best television shows ever made was first aired – Star Trek! We love Star Trek at my house. A few years ago I made this video of myself and I thought it appropriate for today.

But then I saw this tweet:

So we made this video in our Digital Media class. Sulu, get those shields up!

Thanks to Paul Bond for sharing the idea with us and the commentary.

PS I made a vector of Spock in celebration of Star Trek 50 too!

Spock Vector Drawing

Napoleon Gifs

Pull me to town Tina you fat lard

Tonight, I did the Say It Like Peanut Butter assignment on DS106. I used to make a lot of animated gifs, but have gotten away from the practice. But apparently, ,the tools have gotten a lot better. I used Photoshop CS6 to do mine. I actually have Photoshop CS5 and CC on my Macbook, but either of these gave me an error saying that video import was not supported on Mac. For some reason, the CS6 version was happy to import a video clip.

For my 2 gifs, I chose scenes from Napoleon Dynamite. My kids & I love this movie, but my wife, and plenty of other people just don’t “get” it. To me, it is a lot like a non-sensical Monty Python film, but come to think of it, my wife doesn’t care for those either. It takes a special brand of humor, I think.

As for my process, since it’s been a while, I googled for an animated gif tutorial and found this one that told me what I needed to know.

*** Edit – Ok, I looked at this and decided I could tell you a bit more about the process I used. I was in a hurry and wanted to get this post made, but I’ll tell you more here.

I used Handbrake to rip the movie DVD. Handbrake is hands-down the best tool I’ve used to make a video file from a DVD. It’s free, and simple to use. It works on Mac, Windows and Linux.

Once I got the entire film into a digital file, I brought it into my favorite editor for quick video projects, Camtasia. It is $179 with an education discount, but really powerful andwell worth it if you make a lot of video projects. It is best known for screen capture, but also has a really nice, simple-to-use editor. If I needed to, I could have skipped the Handbrake step and just recorded the scenes I wanted directly from the DVD in Camtasia.

But I already had the fully ripped film so I brought it into Camtasia, and edited it down to the scenes I wanted to use. I rendered to a new file a smaller video that had only these scenes. Once I had this digital file, I imported it into Photoshop using the “import as layers” command. After it was in Photoshop, under the “Window” menu, I selected “Timeline” so the video frames were visible. From there, I deleted any frames I didn’t want, and used “File -> Save For Web” to save the project as an animated GIF.