Video in situ

I’ve only recently stumbled upon La Blogothèque, a French website / YouTube channel that produces fantastic films of music being performed. They have beautiful concerts like this one of The National, ‘Live in Cork’.

The National, ‘Live in Cork,’ produced by La Blogothèque

Even better are their “Take Away Shows” where they get a band to perform a song or two in unusual places. Phoenix is a really popular band from France, and they have done a bunch of these videos. Here’s one of them performing a couple of their songs on a double-decker bus as they pass by the Eiffel Tower.

Phoenix, “Lisztomania” & “One Time Too Many,” produced by La Blogothèque 

Jack White’s performance from the Château de Fontainebleau trades the gonzo hit and run style of the Phoenix performance, for a beautiful, acoustically rich chapel.

Jack White at Château de Fontainebleau, produced by La Blogothèque

Watching these videos got me thinking about how we film educational video for blended and online courses. The worst of these videos are shot from a camera set up in the back of a lecture hall. Unfortunately, this has been common practice since we started putting lecture content online. 

The Blogothèque videos above help to illustrate why this is such bad practice. Compare these videos with static-cam concert footage shot from the audience at a Jack White show.

I was talking about SAMR with Keegan yesterday, so I’ll borrow that language for this analysis. The back of the concert / back of the classroom footage uses technology as a substitution for the actual experience, and it’s fairly obvious how the substitution fails to live up to the authentic experience. The best you can hope for, is that the viewer wishes they were at the actual event.

The Blogotheque videos sail through augmentation and modification, landing instead on redefinition. Without the technology of video, wielded by a director with a great eye (Colin Solal Cardo), it is inconceivable that you could listen to Jack White from the roof a French Château or hear the acoustic differences of Phoenix performing under a bridge.

There are a few programs playing with instructional video in really interesting ways. At OU, we have moved away from back-of-the-class lecture capture, producing instead sets of short videos where the instructor explains the key concepts. We have built a light screen so instructors can write like the would on a white board while looking into the camera and talking to the students. I think this takes us passed the poor substitution standard and into augmentation. 

William Farrell explains how we produce instructional video at OU

What I would like to do more of is move into the field, both with faculty and through the lens of student and partner cameras. We were able to do that a bit with the Chemistry of Beer course here at OU. Mark Morvant, a professor of chemistry and at that time, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, lined up interviews and opportunities to film brewers to walk us through the various stages of making beer.

Chemistry of Beer video shot on site at a brewery

We were also able to take people into chemistry labs when we were putting together an introductory chemistry textbook in iBooks.

Recrystallization experiment as a demonstration of the chemical concept

While the Blogothèque videos are generally highly produced, the video of Phoenix performing on a bus shows that part of the appeal of this type of video is the feeling of unvarnished realism. In the chemistry lab videos, we can see how students can benefit from seeing instructors in their research environments, even with relatively low-production video. Here the technology again achieves that high goal of redefining lecture for online/blended students, taking them out of a classroom and putting them on-site with an expert.

I would love to see more faculty take a camera with them to shoot short instructional videos as they visit field sites, research labs, and historical landmarks. Taking it a step further towards putting you on the roof with Jack White, Ashley West and the emerging technologists in the OU Libraries are now teaching faculty how to use 360 degree cameras to create experiences that students can dive into with VR headsets.

1 comment

  1. Aaron Davis

    I enjoyed your reflection John. Long time fan of La Blogothèque.
    I have written about the Take Away Shows before, discussing the possibility of redefining the whole pedagogical experience. Also, your reference to capturing field work reminds me of an early Google Glass exercise capturing CERN. Might be worth checking out.

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