Teen Tech Week 2012 is still months away (March 4-10), but planning for it is well under way at my library, Niles Public, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The deadline for finalizing spring programs at my library is January 9 (gulp) just a month from now.
Fortunately, the official Teen Tech Week website has a planning toolkit that includes ideas for events and activities, including one that I worked on over the summer that called “No Budget, No Time Book Adaptations.” The goal is to create a short movie adaptation (2 minutes tops) of a favorite book. Pull out only the most important parts and write a 2-page script, draw stick-figure storyboards, and put together simple costumes and props from materials you have on hand. Shoot it in order and do just one take of each shot. Edit it using simple software like Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie, or upload your footage to youtube and edit it there (yes, youtube has some editing software built into their site, now).
The idea sprung from a project I worked on with the Niles Teen Advisory Board for James Kennedy’s 90-Second Newbery festival. The TAB members chose to create a 90-second adaptation of The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle. They did everything from writing the script to selecting royalty-free music for it. I was there to serve as an adviser and help with the editing.
The end result is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6GJZZDNsWU. Go watch it right now, then come back. Here are a few things that I learned from working on that video:
1. More Script = More Time
Umm, you probably noticed that it’s a little longer than 90 seconds. The script the TAB-members came up with was about 5 pages; 3 pages too long if you figure that one page of script amounts to about 1 minute of screen time. The dialog was really funny though, and when it came time to edit the finished video I didn’t have the heart to cut out all of those funny lines. A longer script also means more time spent shooting and editing, so if you only have a few hours to work on a video then you’ll need to set a page limit and stick to it.
2. Let the Teens Do All the Work
Besides writing the script, they came up with costumes and props. The locations we used were all in the library, and the teens were in charge of decorating the set. One teen worked the camera while another one worked the microphone. I did a lot during the editing process (more on that, later) but they were there with me, telling me what parts I could cut. The teens have more fun when they are doing everything. Give everyone a job, even if it is something deceptively simple like monitoring the set and props to make sure nothing is missing from shot to shot (this is an actual profession called “script supervising” that is perfect for people who like to pick movies and tv shows apart for continuity errors).
3. Don’t Skip Steps Like Storyboarding
We did, because the TAB members who like to draw were unavailable when we were in the planning stages. I think the video suffered because of it. Storyboards are basically a rough comic book version of what your video will look like when it’s done. They show you what each scene should look like from the camera’s point of view, which makes deciding where to set the camera much easier. Storyboarding takes time in the beginning, but having that visual guide ends up saving time later, especially when you get to the editing stage.
4. Editing Can Be Tedious, Simple Software Can Make It Less So
The more time you spend trying to figure out how your editing software works, the more time editing your project is going to take. My library has Sony Vegas editing software. It’s great software, and can do some cool things like speeding up and slowing down the video footage. It’s also not software that many teens (including our TAB members) are familiar with, and not the most intuitive software available. In my opinion, both Apple’s iMovie and Windows MovieMaker are easier to use. I had the teens help me, and their extra sets of eyes were a great help in figuring out how to do things like speeding up some sections of the video footage. If we’d had iMovie, they could have edited the whole thing themselves, and I would only be there to step in if they had a question.
5. Have Fun
The teens were a little disappointed that their no-budget video didn’t look professional. They were embarrassed to watch themselves on screen, even though they’d had fun when they were acting in front of the camera. To make them feel better, I showed them a bunch of the other crude-looking, badly acted 90-Second Newbery videos on youtube. Making a video with your teens should be fun. Try to inject some professionalism into it by using storyboards and a designating a script supervisor, but remember to laugh at your funny costumes, line flubs and flimsy set (part of ours fell down during the shoot) along the way.