December 8, 2013, by Helen Whitehead

Advent calendar #8: Secrets of the video shoot!

Simon Barnett spills the secrets of the video production for the MOOC Sustainability, Society and You starting on FutureLearn on January 6th.

The whole idea for the video shoot was to be as efficient as possible while still making all the content interesting. Much of the interest comes from what a variety of people have to say about Sustainability; whether it’s projects in Ghana or ingenious ways we can all improve our consumer lifestyle. In the filming, the efficiency comes from moving around in a single location.

When Alec (Millward) & I first sat down with Sarah Speight to sketch out some ideas, the one that really resonated was a very relaxed, informal shoot in a single location that led to a ‘big finish’.

One idea was that all the contributors would be seen in the background of different weekly videos and then appear in the final video which was to be a sustainable BBQ using locally-sourced food, possibly from the Sutton Bonington Farmer’s Market. This re-enforces the multi-disciplinary nature of the course and its contributors. The big idea though was that all the videos were to be recorded at a single Sustainability Networking event for staff and students.

After shooting the trailer for the course in early July, attention switched to shooting the weekly videos As Sarah has already mentioned (The award for ‘one-take wonder’ goes to….), we used Cripps House on University Park and eventually we had a plan of sorts…

While Sarah organised the contributors, and worked out when everyone was available (no mean feat in itself) I organised the crew. Both I and Alec would be needed on the shoot and to help things run smoothly we also hired two freelance camera operators.

Sarah and I agreed that we wanted the conversations to be natural so we threw the scripts out of the window and instead we focused on what people had to say and were passionate about.

Our crew of four (Alec, Andrew, Paul and I) fashioned a studio in the living room, dressed one bedroom up so it looked cleaner and tidier, made another bedroom into a video booth so people could record their own thoughts about Sustainability, managed to squeeze two cameras and four people into the utility room and even cooked some food in the kitchen, all while carrying a camera, watching monitors, making notes, listening to what was being said by different people and even, every now and again, having a cup of coffee.

Right at the beginning I promised some production secrets so here goes;

  • We shot over 3 days, but thanks to everyone’s understanding of continuity and the wider ideas behind the shoot, hopefully it looks like a single day (sorry if I’ve just spoilt the myth).
  • We have produced around 70 minutes of edited footage for the course, with at least another 4hrs 40 minutes on the cutting room floor.
  • I like my coffee white with 2 sugars, almost on a constant drip whilst Sarah will only drink one cup of coffee per day – I don’t know how she manages!
  • I think we managed to film in every room of Cripps House (apart from the bathrooms and two of the bedrooms. And the study: but we used that as an equipment store)

You can join the conversation by using the hashtags #FLsustain and #futurelearn

Posted in Advent calendarMOOC TeamVideo