Month 8: Internal Improvements & Video Training Advice


Feb-Mar was a time of organizational self-assessment. I was part of, or led, several discussions about needs for the IMC, including grants, involvement with social justice issues locally, more public-access computers, reliable building maintenance, and perhaps, most importantly, the consistent presence of volunteers to be available to staff the main space meeting areas to answer visitors' questions. This was the month when early winter conversations started to yield actual volunteer mobilization, in the form of a Community Connections group, to assess the relevance and accessibility of the organization to visitors and members, staffing of the building for increased hours, a functional library with more public computers (running Ubuntu), and 1-day projects to inspire people to work together.

I planned and facilitated a volunteer workday with the University of Illinois Alternative Spring Break club, who came to the IMC to help a) catalog our library collection; b) catalog and organize our radio station's music collection; and c) move boxes of books for our twice-a-year Books to Prisoners book sale. Trainings on video and audio editing continued, culminating in another set of productions for UPTV. Even though the IMC hosts many concerts, a real highlight this month was Roy Zimmerman, a clever and entertaining singer-satirist who was kind and fun to work with.

In all, this was a month of vision, mobilizing others, and meetings. The IMC is filled with people who have more ideas than they seem to be able to implement, and as a VISTA I am often the person they share every new inspiration and request with. It is, in turns, distracting or informative.

Due to our members being so over-extended and busy, and due to the DIY ethic of the IMC itself, I have relied upon a very simple format for teaching video editing, which I would like to share. This is crucial if you have people asking you for training who are also expecting to immediately begin working on their pet project. I often receive these types of requests from activists and academics who have already filmed a bunch of events, or long lectures, and want to turn it into an informative video after the fact. I just tell them that there are essentially only five elements to editing a digital video (outside of planning a video, which is different):

1) Cuts: Cut the scenes that you need to include to tell your story; nothing more, nothing less.
2) Arrange: Re-order the scenes creatively to maximize your message, or merely arrange them chronologically for a simple educational video.
3) Transitions: Decide the types and lengths of transitions between scenes (i.e. crossfades, dissolve, etc.)
4) Captions or Titles: Add text and/or still images for clarity and information, or to break up scenes.
5) Audio: Normalize, remove or gate unwanted noise, clean up hum/buzz; then add any necessary music, overdubs, or voice-overs - making sure to keep levels balanced. Also, make sure audio is in sync with video!

This is a really simple approach that is ideal for quick learning and for basic, educational videos that are not aiming to be grand cinema - perfect for citizen journalism, YouTube, event documentation, and anything that prizes speed and accessibility over perfectionism and budget.