Does working with a group of 20 young creative types, who don’t know one another, are from different cultures, have limited audio/video production experience, and 3 days to create a cinematic presentation sound challenging (or just plain crazy) to you?

The annual SEASAC ARTS festival spans three days, bringing together the ‘creme de la creme’ from international schools around South East Asia. As a teacher of Communications Technology at the hosting school (CDNIS), I felt obliged to leverage the amazing facilities of our media centre and raise the bar for young photographers.

“I decided to focus on professional tools for the post-production process”

My idea was for students to craft 10 stories, one for each workshop at the festival, using still images and audio recordings. These stories would then be combined into a montage to be shared at the finale performance and on the festival website.  Here I document the experience and hope you find ideas or inspiration for something similar.

Day 1 – The Brief

After introductions, I laid down the deliverables for the project and got students into five teams of two. One person responsible for photography and the other audio recording. They would both share responsibility for editing. Each team was then asked to choose a workshop they would like to cover for the duration of the festival. The day ended with essential agreements around time allocation for photography and audio recording.

Day 2 – Crash Course

I decided to focus on professional tools for the post-production process; Final Cut Pro (FCP), Photoshop CS3, and M-Audio portable recorders.  The better part of the morning was spent introducing these applications and reviewing photographic/audio recording techniques. The afternoon was allocated for media collection and review. As the interviews, ambient sounds, and photos gathered, the teams would return to the media centre for feedback and make their selections.

Working side-by-side, one student would be building the project in FCP and importing audio, whilst the other would be making subtle image manipulations in Photoshop.   Once the image selections were made by the photographer they were transferred to a central server and then imported into FCP by the editor.

Day 3 – The Final Cut

After emphasizing the deliverables of the final project, I then began to work on the ‘master’ project – a montage of all videos to be screened at the opening of the finale mixed-media performance for the festival.

The teams were asked to brainstorm tunes from the iTunes store as potential soundtracks. Using iTunes, I downloaded their tracks and placed them on the file server for inclusion into their FCP project. I do not normally advocate this process and always encourage original creation of soundtracks using GarageBand, but given our time constraints considered it the best solution.

To keep within the 3 minute time limit, I used Soundtrack Pro to ‘trim and dress’ many of the students’ interviews removing unnecessary “uhmms and ahhhs” and amplifying the sound to an acceptable range. Teams that finished ahead of time were asked to locate and evaluate a typeface from for the montage titles. I then asked them to use an online thesaurus to find synonyms for ‘metamorphosis’ – the theme of the festival – apply a transition effect, and then export each effect as a Quicktime movie clip to the file server. I used these clips in the intro sequence of the video montage.

In the end, eight of the possible twelve teams successfully submitted their project to me on time for inclusion in the montage. I spent the final minutes before our testing deadline to sweeten the audio and tighten up the transitions. It was proud moment for all involved to receive applause and admiration from the audience at the screening.