To create a good video narrative for a close reading, you should remember some of the following best practices:
2. Keep it lively. The key to good audio narration is to remember that your voice (or voices) must engage the listener –must convey emphasis, emotion, atmosphere. It’s not easy and not everybody is a good “narrator,” but keep in mind audience-related issues such as pacing and pronunciation. Nothing helps more in this process than using different voices for different parts of the podcast. That’s also why we’ve been creating free “Lincoln” podcasts at our Soundcloud channel using the voice of actor and professor Todd Wronski to create audio-quotable versions of Lincoln’s documents. Feel free to plunder them at will!
From Michael van Wambeke, Letter to Ulysses Grant, July 13, 1863:
From Susan Segal, Letter to George Meade, July 14, 1863:
From Andrew Villwock, Remarks to Ohio 166th, August 22, 1864:
From Rhonda Webb, Letter to William Sherman, December 26, 1864:
All of these efforts were posted at YouTube and edited in either iMovie or Windows Moviemaker by total amateurs. None of these participants had any real experience in documentary film editing before they began work. Hence, there are rough patches and occasional problems, but overall, you should be able to see and appreciate from these efforts the potential power of merging new technology and old-fashioned close reading in a modern-day classroom. Here are the video tutorials that these participants used to help prepare their work:
Windows MovieMaker tutorial (by Russ Allen, Dickinson College, Class of 2014)
iMovie tutorial (by Leah Miller, Dickinson College, Class of 2014)
You should also check out these FAQs pages from the House Divided Project, which provide a host of resources for the budding documentary filmmaker, including access to public domain images, music, sound effects and other tools:
And, of course, if you want to consult the professionally produced close reading videos created by Matthew Pinsker and Lance Warren specifically for Understanding Lincoln graduate course, you can check out the full Vimeo album here:
There is no single checklist for a great video close reading, but always remember that the digital tools should enhance the reading / analysis experience, and not detract or distract from it. Also, the same usual rules of research and evidence apply. Don’t use a picture of Lincoln from 1864 when you’re discussing him in 1854. Provide proper credits and acknowledgments at the end of all videos. Try diligently not to violate copyright or trademark laws –video is a more restrictive format in that regard than text, even with the usual “fair use” exceptions for educational purposes.