From the 1st to 5th July 2013 10 media students from Denbigh School participated in a Media Training Course at the Open University as part of the RCUK-funded Engaging opportunities project. The training was led by staff from the OU’s Open Media Unit.
Over the five days of this practical course the students developed and practised new skills, such as working with digital tools and technologies, producing pieces to camera, and editing footage. Six short films were produced over the course of the week. Here three of the students—Alice Rose, Connor Bean and Heather Stone—describe their experiences. Links to the completed films are embedding throughout the post.
Day 1, by Alice Rose
The first day involved us all being introduced to the production team with Janet Sumner as the Executive Producer/Director, and Andrew Rix as Head of Camera, Sound and Production.
During an introductory meeting, we learnt about the purpose of the course and the types of equipment that we would be using before going out to film. After splitting into two groups, we were asked to film short two-person interviews which would help us gain confidence on camera as well as skills off it, such as where to position the speaker on screen to get the most effective looking shot.
This proved to be very useful advice and it will now help us with our camera work during our final year of A-level media. In the afternoon, we divided into groups again to film short pieces-to-camera (PTCs), involving walking and using props. This also helped us when using the camera as we had to learn how to film steadily whilst the actors were moving, enabling us to gain in skills and experience.
Day 2, by Alice Rose
The second day consisted of fairly similar activities to the first as we were split into two groups and asked to film short documentaries. In our group, the first film we created was a video explaining our week at the OU and what we would learn.
We assigned ourselves roles within the group, such as: Camera Operator, Operating Assistant, Director, Presenter and Interviewee, and filmed footage at various locations around the Open University’s Walton Hall campus. The leader of the course, Janet Sumner, was also interviewed for our piece, explaining how she worked her way into the media industry.
In the afternoon, we storyboarded and filmed our second video creating a focus and title of our choice; our group decided to film a short informative video entitled “Helpful tips for new Year 12 media students”.
Head of Production, Andrew Rix, worked alongside our group and decided that the video would work best as a comedy, so we each filmed short pieces-to-camera showing what to do and what not to do in order to film a successful piece of footage.
Overall, the second day was very enjoyable as not only did we spend a lot of time being creative with our ideas and filming, we also improved our camera work and confidence in front of the camera which will help us in our further studies.
Day 3, by Connor Bean
On Wednesday, we went back to Denbigh School for a day to film a research café on ‘smart drugs: a right or a responsibility?’ Ellie Dommett, an Open University lecturer, led the discussion with support from Ann Grand and Richard Holliman.
As the film crew for the day were put into pairs either with one of our peers or one of the staff from the OU’s Open Media Unit. We were then assigned roles, one person took on the task of being Camera Operator, and the other person took on a variety of small roles such as, Operating Assistant, Camera Spotter and Interviewer.
We captured a variety of footage from general views, to interviews with the students and lecturers following the café. Soon after this, we were split into two groups and each group was given a different task. One group had the task of shooting a promotional video for Denbigh School (see above), whereas the other group had the more challenging, improvised task of shooting a ‘Behind the Scenes’ type documentary (see below).
Again, each group assigned themselves a role, including Camera Operator, Presenter, Director, Operating Assistant and Interviewee. Janet Sumner worked along our group as we had the task of shooting the promotional video. She gave us helpful tips and advice in order to make the piece more professional. We stuck to a strict organised shooting script, which enabled us to shoot everything, and lead us to have a choice of creative footage to edit from.
The other group’s task was to shoot a ‘Behind the Scenes’ documentary, working alongside Head of Production, Andrew Rix, Matt Rawlinson and Tom Ryan. They also successfully shot a well-ordered piece with the added bonus that it was a lot more comical than ours.
Overall, the third day was a great day. Although we had strict shooting scripts we were still encouraged to contribute creative ideas. This gave us a better experience of how to film a short documentary video.
Day 4, by Alice Rose
We returned back to the Open University on the Thursday to begin editing the footage we recorded at Denbigh School. We separated into the same groups and started work, using the software programme we use for our media projects at school, assembling the footage into two short films.
After working with media experts, we were able to extend our knowledge using techniques that we had never previously used in order to make a better quality film. For example, we used transitions between the footage, copying in separate parts of audio to sound like a voiceover, thereby narrating what was happening on screen. We also used computer-generated imagery (CGI), working with a green screen to edit our presenter’s head onto pieces of footage, adding another comic element to the film. We gained a number of new skills in terms of editing the footage and piecing together a well-made film, which was also (we hope) very entertaining.
Day 5, by Heather Stone
Friday was our last day on the Open University course. We started the day off by finishing the editing of our ‘Making Of’ video. We perfected the audio quality using the new skills we learnt from the previous day, including: audio gain and filling both channels and cross fades, to ensure that the sound was consistently good throughout the video. After we finished the editing, we then showed the finished piece to the whole group who seemed to enjoy it.
The main task of our last day was to edit one of the other films we shot earlier in the week. One group edited ‘What NOT to do in AS media’ whilst my group edited our ‘News Show’ which was about animation and YouTube.
Whilst we were editing, some members of the group were pulled away at a time to do an interview/vox pops with Janet and Matt. Janet asked various questions about the week and what we have learnt and gained from the experience.
Matt filmed the interviews as they are going to be used to make a promotional video about the course. At the end of the day we all sat down and watched the two finished videos. They both looked very professional. After that we were given certificates to say that we have completed the week long course.
All in all, it was a great experience. To say thank you to the team that helped us throughout the week, we all signed a thank you card and gave them a box chocolates.