Friday, January 24, 2014

ASTD TechKnowledge - Day 2

Well, it seems Thursday was my big day for sessions as I managed to fit in 5 today. Hooray! On one hand, there was a ton of great content today. On the other hand, all the live tweeting has made my right arm HATE me. Ah well... it was worth it.

1) General Session 2
Speaker: Amy Jo Martin
The day started with a talk on how to humanize our social media brands. The spin was on doing this to monetize our social media presence, which, to be honest, made me feel like this specific talk didn't quite fit in with the overall conference. Martin was an enjoyable speaker though, so there was a lot to be gained from her session even though the angle she took on the topic wasn't ideal.

She started by referencing a Simon Sinek quote: "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" (I highly recommend this TED talk in which he elaborates on this idea). This is a core component of building a compelling brand, both from a company perspective as well as from a personal one. It's even more important when you're dealing with social media. Social media isn't a one-way media... it's collaborative. Because of this, your presence on social media needs to have a real personality and presence in order for people to want to follow and interact with you.

Unfortunately a lot of companies and people new to social media don't get this. They just push out content, are confused when that doesn't seem to lead to any results, and then write off social media as a fad. This is why, Martin suggested, social media education is so important these days. Really "getting" a social media tool is like trying to learn a new language... and just because you've mastered one tool doesn't mean you're a master of all of them. To make her point Martin shared this video from Jimmy Fallon where he and Justin Timberlake hilariously speak in hashtags. Sure, it's funny, but it also points out how drastically different the way communication on social media can be from real speech.

Social media education can help a person or company learn to communicate in the "language" of different social media tools. It can also reduce social media mistakes, help employees become brand ambassadors, be a professional development tool, save companies money, and make social media seem less scary (and more valuable too).

2) Transmedia Storytelling: A Hero's Journey Through New Media
Speaker: Anders Gronstedt
Gronstedt started off by immediately sharing the link for the Prezi presentation he was sharing in the session (you can check it out here). Hooray for showing your work! I'd recommend checking out the full presentation if you get a chance, but here's the high level summary for now.

Transmedia storytelling is simply using multiple types of media to tell a single story. Each media channel should contribute to the overall story, but also be able to stand on its own. Want to see a fantastic example of a deep and effective transmedia story? Check out The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice told using YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr (my love for this series is epic).

While transmedia storytelling comes from the entertainment industry, there's no reason this technique can't also be leveraged for L&D as well. But why use stories to teach information? Because our memory is itself so story based. Stories are exceptionally memorable and persuasive because of this. That means you can make training that's both easy to follow AND easy to remember.

But how do you structure telling a story this way. Gronstedt suggested a tried-but-true structure that humans have been using for ages: the hero's journey. Thanks to a recommendation from @oxala75 (hooray for Twitter!), you can learn more about this story structure with this fun (and short) video. Another great video introduction (also from @oxala75) that will appeal to my fellow gamers is this intro from Extra Credits.

Once you've figured out your compelling story, what media is appropriate to use with transmedia storytelling? Why, any and all of it... from paper posters to videos to podcasts to written stories and so on. Just make sure each story component plays to the strengths of the media you're choosing to create it in.

3) Apply the Skills of TV Directing to Your Learning Video
Speaker: Jonathan Halls
Halls opened with a rather grand statement: "The future training professional will be a media producer." Essentially, he feels that video is going to become even more important in L&D in the upcoming years, so if you don't get how to produce it (and produce content with it that's actually useful) now, you're going to get left behind.

Hall was yet another speaker who made his slide deck and resources available online (and for that I'm grateful), so rather than retell the whole session I'm going to recommend you check out his site for all the details and I'll just fill you in on the highlights.

First off, not all media is great for all situations. Because of this, you need to know the strengths (and weaknesses) of video to help you decide if it's the right fit for what you're trying to teach or show. Second, video is primarily a visual medium, so take advantage of that to make the story you tell with it is both easy to understand and compelling. Use techniques like camera angles, shot types, and framing appropriately in order to help your audience's comprehension and keep things interesting (related note: for an example of how making mistakes with basic framing can completely derail the story you're trying to tell, check out this scathing review of Les Miserables from Film Crit Hulk). Third, create visual tension to keep your audience's attention, for example through the Rule of Thirds.

Hall emphasized how important it is to pre-plan both your individual shots as well as your sequences of shots. Doing this assures that you get all the shots you actually require, and also keeps you from filming more than you need or recording less effective versions of shots because you didn't quite know what you wanted beforehand.

But all these tips are useless if you don't get one thing straight right at the beginning: don't start creating videos until you actually have a learning objective. This helps you know exactly what story to tell.

4) Making Time Lapse and Stop Motion Video
Speaker: Stephen Haskin
While this session was supposed to be about making both time lapse and stop motion videos, we spent nearly all the time on time lapse techniques. Fair enough... I'm not really sure how you could tackle both effectively in only an hour and 15 minutes.

So what exactly are these video styles? Well, time lapse is a type of video that's created by using still shots taken over time with an interval between them (for instance, one image for every 4 seconds of time) that are then stitched together as a video to show a sped-up version of events. You've probably seen this kind of video used in science and nature documentaries (here's a great example from YouTube). Stop motion, on the other hand, is created from shots taken over time with a deliberate movement between shots that creates an animation of sorts. The most likely place you've seen stop motion is in movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline (my favourite example of stop motion animation is this music video for the Kenna song Hell Bent).

So how do you create these types of videos? Well, we only got in to time lapse because of the short amount of time we had, but here are the details on that...

This is the math you can use for figuring out how many shots you need to take for the time lapse project you want to make:

Start by determining the total number of frames you need: (time in seconds) x (your frame rate)
Then calculate your frames per minute: (total frames)/(# of minutes)
Finally, use all this to calculate your length of time between shots: (frames per minute)/60

Here's the example we got in the session: to make a 30 sec time lapse of a 1 hour event, you would take 900 frames over the 1 hour event. This equals 15 frames per minute, which will mean you need 4 seconds between each frame.

So that's the math for the timing and number of shots. But how do you go about taking the shots? Haskin recommended using the Interval Timing settings on a DSLR. This makes it easy to set up the camera to take just the right number of shots of the right length of time without you having to monitor it the whole time. Also important: keep your camera stable for the whole shooting period by using a simple tripod.

Once you have your shots, keep the file names as the camera has created them (the camera will thankfully number them in chronological order for you), and move them all into a single folder. From this folder you can use Photoshop or Premiere Pro to compile them into a video. Here's the process you can use for each tool:
  • Photoshop: Open Photoshop and use it to open your image folder. Select the 1st image. Check the Image Sequence box. Click Open. Set your frame rate. Click OK. You now have your time lapse video set up. To publish your video click File, then Export, and then Render Video. Choose your settings and you're good to go. Cool bonus: you can use Photoshop filters to add visual effects to your video. Obnoxious downside: Photoshop takes a long time to render video. 
  • Premiere Pro: Open Premier Pro and press Ctrl+N to create a new project. Set the preset to Digital SLR and choose either 720p or 1080p. Click Import, navigate to your image folder, click the 1st image, click the Image Sequence box, and then click Open. You've now got your time lapse video. When you're done, just publish as you would any regular Premiere Pro project. Plus side of this tool: it has a MUCH faster render speed than Photoshop. Minus side: it doesn't have filters like Photoshop does.
5) Keepin' It Legal: Free Stuff to Spice Up Your Training
Speaker: Michelle Lentz

Surprise, surprise... this was my third session of the day where the presenter, much to my delight, decided to share their full slide deck online. You can check out Lentz's excellent presentation here. It's definitely worth spending some time with if you want to find out more about Creative Commons licensing and/or are looking for a large number of useful links to free media resources. Because you can see the whole deck yourself, once again I'm going to go with the key points review for this blog post.

To start, in order to use something legally you need to understand copyright. But when is something copyrighted? Why, when the idea is committed to paper/screen (not when the idea comes to your mind, but when it's actually created in a physical or digital form). A term you might have heard regarding copyright is fair use. Fair use is the idea that you can use something within copyright if you're parody it or critiquing it (this is the legal way, for instance, that shows like SNL can get away with their spoofs).

When it comes to free resources you can legally use without violating copyright, there are two groups of media you'll want to be keenly aware of. First is public domain. This refers to both old media where the copyright has expired as well as some government materials as well. You can use anything in the public domain for free.

The other group is the kind of licensing this session focused on leveraging: Creative Commons. What exactly is Creative Commons? It's a type of license creators can release their creations under if they want to allow it to be used for free (but possibly with some limitations). If you want a simple overview, I recommend checking out this comic explanation. This type of licensing structure was created by a group of people who were passionate about sharing information and content for free, but also wanted to give content authors a simple way to have some say over how that free content was used by others.

There are currently 6 easy-to-understand types of Creative Commons licenses a content creator can choose to use for their creations. The licenses are all in plain English and the differences pretty much centralize around whether the author needs to be attributed, if the content can be altered, if it can/can't be used for commercial work, and if the content user has to also share their work under a Creative Commons license too.

So, long story short, this means that there are a ton of people online who are making and sharing content that you can use for free (as long as you respect the easy-to-follow license they're sharing their stuff under). If you want to find Creative Commons media to use yourself, there are thankfully a bunch of services that can help you locate this type of content easily, and Lentz cataloged many of them in her slide deck. I've used quite a few of her website suggestions in the past and can vouch for the fact that they're a great resource to have at your disposal.

One final word based on some of the questions asked in the session. Creative Commons licensing works on a lot of trust, particularly in the case of attributing the content you're using to the original author. While you could usually easily get away with not attributing content, I think it's important to keep to the spirit of Creative Commons when thinking about attribution. Remember, someone was nice enough to share that content for free. The very LEAST you can do is credit them as a thank you.

That was one full and productive conference day filled with a bunch of content on learning media! I had a lot of takeaways from today, but none more than this: I am so glad more and more presenters are sharing their slide decks and resources online. It makes it so much easier to review the content and share it with others, which is what many of us come to conferences like this for.

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