UFVA 2013 Highlights

Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference.
Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference. Photo taken from a cell phone – excuse the quality . . .

I have just come back from my third UFVA (University Film and Video Association) conference. This year, it was at Chapman University, in Orange, CA. If you would like to see my notes from the past two conferences, here are some useful links:

From 2011:

From 2012:

For 2013, instead of writing up the conference by theme or by day, I’m just going to describe some of the highlights – the workshops/panels, etc., that I found particularly informative – and list some of the web links and presentations that the speakers provided.

Before I do so, however, I just want to express how much I have enjoyed the last three conferences. It has been a great joy to meet and speak with my peers in the field of teaching film and video production and studies. Attending UFVA every year exposes me to new ideas and opens my intellectual, artistic and technical horizons. I am profoundly grateful that I made the decision to sign up in 2011.

I arrived early in California, on Saturday, July 27, and headed out to 29 Palms, 2 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles, to hike in Joshua Tree National Park for a few days. Here are my photos of that trip, and of my return to Los Angeles, where I spent one night in Santa Monica with my old film school friend Savvas Paritsis (pictured above, with me, on the final day of the conference). The first photo in the collection is of me and a college buddy of mine, Jason Patent. Upon landing in the Orange County airport, I posted my status on Facebook. Amazingly, Jason, who lives in China, and whom I had not seen in years, had also just landed (his wife’s family lives in the area). He saw my posting, replied, but I had already put my phone away. Not to be deterred, he guessed, correctly, that I might be renting a car, and tracked me down at the Budget desk. His wife Colette showed up, and we ended up having a wonderful conversation for over a half hour. I knew then that this was going to be a good trip.

So what were the highlights of the conference, for me? You can take a look at the full program and see what you might have liked, but here is what I found most interesting, from what I saw, in order by day . . .

Screening 2C, 10:30am-12:15pm: 

The University SitComSeasons 1 & 2 (F, 90 min., NR)
“The University”, a SitCom produced in the Film/Video Department at Stevenson University, was created in 2011 to bring traffic to the university’s website. Produced by faculty and students working together, it follows the misadventures of bumbling videographer Hank Howard as he makes a promotional video for the school.
While my screening – like so many – was sparsely attended – it was nevertheless a great pleasure to showcase the great work my students have done over the last two years working on this extra-curricular project. You can watch the series on Vimeo.

Panel 4E, 3:30-5:15pm: 
Best Practices In Documentary Storytelling – Teaching Beyond Talking Heads and B-Roll
The panel will explore successful techniques and exercises for teaching documentary storytelling at both the undergraduate and graduate level in an effort to elevate students nonfiction films to a place of engaging narrative.
Yes – this was a panel on which I served, but I’m listing it because I was so very fortunate to hear my illustrious fellow presenters. What follows are my notes:

1. I went first, and I offer you a pdf of my PowerPoint presentation.
2. John Schmit
Talked about the utility of of Michael Rabiger‘s “Scenic Intentions”
John likes to plan in-class activities for students to film, which teaches them how about coverage.
  • Tent Setup
  • Table Games
  • Climbing Wall
3. Aubrie Canfield
With her students on study-abroad trips, these are the steps she uses in the filmmaking process:
  • Step 1 – Define World
  • Step 2 – Story Summary
  • Step 3 – Outline Structure (five-parts, thinking in scenes: character, conflict, stakes, arc, resolution) – Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
  • Step 4 – Shoot Scenes
  • Step 5 – Paper Edit – recreate outline from footage actually shot
They bring narrative story techniques to doc filmmaking
4. Melinda Lewin
There are no longer just linear distribution outlets (multi-platform distribution)
Identify “the engager” in story
Presented trailers for 2 films made by her students: Unhappy Country and The Revisionaries
5. Jan Krawik
Shooting ratio is a problem, more so now in digital world than on 16mm – too much footage
Always ask, “Why does this want to be a film?”
She doesn’t like word “b-roll.” How about “Foundation footage” or “visual evidence” (Melinda Lewin)

WORKSHOP 5L, 8:30-10:15am:
Futureproofing for Filebased Workflow
File-based workflow is here and 4K is right around the corner. This workshop will help you prepare for and use file based workflows including 4K editing, monitoring and playback”
Jeff Way, AJA Video Systems / Sebastian DiStefano, Adobe
This was a really useful technical workshop where I learned a terrific amount about the file-based workflow systems offered by AJA and supported by Adobe. All photos were taken on my iPad in a dark room, and so are not all that great.
1. Jeff Way
Use Ki Pro Rack as a VTR in a broadcast set-up. Hook up to a broadcast switcher.
Stand-alone device, but can also hook up to a computer or monitor.
Migrating away from PCI Express slots to Thunderbolt
Already, USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 2.0 are on their way.
New Apple Mac Pro will be a Thunderbolt device, with no slots (PCI)
AJA IO XT is Thunderbolt device
AJA T-Tap – thunderbolt in, HDMI/SDI out
“Debayering” – get RGB data from RAW image
4K monitor out of China, for $999, due this Fall – amazing possibility!
4K is supported (Apple Pro Res 4:4:4) by AJA devices
H265 compression is on its way – to be used for 4K Netflix streaming
With 4K, you can get “2 shots for the price of one” (shoot wide and then reframe): end of cinematography as we know it?
Ki Pro familyKi ProKi Pro MiniKi Pro Quad (dual SSD drive bays), Ki Pro Rack
You can record, simultaneously, an HD file to camera’s internal CF/SD cards, and a 4K file to Ki Pro – nice!
Kona cards = MAC on a PC
2. Sebastian DiDtefano
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) = 2 new codecs over CS6
In box with Premiere are Apple and Avid codecs
In SpeedGrade, ProRes 4K can be slow, but in Premiere, you can reduce viewing resolution to play back in real time.
In SpeedGrade for CC, you can make color-grading “look files”
LUT = Look-Up Table for color definition of a color space: complete color gamut of space you’re working in.
Issues for students shooting in 4K: hard drive speed and storage
Putting 4K footage into 1080 timeline – you get all that extra frame, and it plays like 1080
CC has audio syncing built in (PluralEyes like capabilities)

PANEL 7E, 1:30-3:15pm:
Anatomy of a Film
Story is told through many prisms in a collaborative endeavor like the production of a feature film. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
three members of a production and post-production team (participants to be announced, pending their availability) will discuss how they interact with each other to create a complete and successful story. 
Randy and Norman brought in filmmaker Destin Cretton, along with his producer Asher Goldstein and his composer Joel P. West, to talk about their latest film, Short Term 12 (opens 8/23/13).
AMPAS has lots of resources for students and educators, including the Nicholl Fellowship, which Destin Cretton received in 2010.
Destin Cretton first made short film about the experience of working at center for at-risk teens, also called Short Term 12.
He made 8 shorts, of which the last was Short Term 12, which won a jury prize at Sundance.
Producer Asher Goldstein’s script notes to Destin didn’t try to solve problems, but were vague enough to point out issues and inspire, instead.
     • You should never give a note based on what you would do, says Asher.
Destin was having trouble finding investors, even with Sundance win for short and the Nicholl Fellowship, so he made I Am Not a Hipster first, to prove he could do a feature.
These guys were smart and funny, and the clips and trailer from their new film look amazing. Looking forward to it. It was inspiring to hear them talk and tell their stories.

PANEL 9E, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Storytelling in the Transmedia Landscape
As interactive digital stories gain more prominence with mainstream audiences, do we, as media makers, need to alter our narrative strategies to accommodate this growing form? In this panel we will explore the effectiveness of audience engagement in online interactive narrative, followed by a robust discussion with attendees.
This was a really well-conceived panel with thoughtful presentations that each gave a different perspective on transmedia storytelling. Since everyone of the presenters uploaded their PowerPoint presentations to the UFVA website, I have linked to them, below, rather than providing my own notes.
1. Jennifer ProctorThe Problems of Interactive Narrative
Twitter handle = @proctor

Jen’s presentation was far-ranging, far-reaching, and fascinating. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

2. Kari BarberOklahoma’s All-Black Towns

Kari used her own recent experiences creating interactive online materials as research for her new documentary as a template for her thoughts on the subject. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

3. Jane McKeever: Interactive Storytelling for Theme Parks and Gaming

Taking the panel in a new direction, Jane gave us a fascinating look at how interactive storytelling works in theme parks and gaming. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

4. Kemp LyonsThe Princess Is in Another Castle: What Can Conventional/Online Interactive Storytelling Learn from Successes in Gaming?
Finally, Kemp ended the panel by continuing the discussion of gaming and its influences on narrative. Here is a pdf of his PowerPoint.

WORKSHOP 13K, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Tools for Teaching Production and Film Studies
This workshop will introduce attendees to interactive, online tools to enhance teaching both media production and media studies courses. Tools covered include Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker (video mixing, annotation, and interactivity), Voicethread (video commenting and annotation), and Zeega (interactive authoring).
Again, Jen Proctor came through with a brilliant summary of a fascinating topic. I had actually gone to another panel first – one that didn’t work for me – and I am so happy that I got up and left (sorry, panel presenters!), as Jen’s presentation of the materials, below, will be extremely useful to my teaching this fall.
Here are the four main web links that formed the basis of the workshop:
Voicethread allows comments on video.
Jen uses clips from YouTube, but you can upload your own content directly
It also allows public AND private comments
One can use keepvid.com for ripping clips from YouTube and Vimeo.
Voicethread costs $99/yr/instructor or $999/yr/dept.
Mozzilla Popcorn Maker – launched in London in 2012 at the Mozilla Festival.
Hands-on annotation of video clips
Allows one to have pop-up windows at specific spots. Jen’s students thought that this made for a good pre-writing exercise.
100% cloud-based
Media/events columns contain tools for annotation
You could make audio commentary in SoundCloud and then upload it to Popcorn Maker – you can then lower volume of original clip.
You can add maps and logos to the video – work in layers, as in any video editing tool.
Assignment – have students prepare a Popcorn video as a pre-production document.
Popcorn has no privacy settings.
Zeega – less useful than it used to be (they made it more mobile friendly)
You can add animated gifs. You can create animated gifs in Photoshop. You can also find online resources – there is even a gif tool in Zeega.
You control pacing of presentation.
You grab your audio and video from other sources (I believe you create text within the program, however).

PANEL 16E, 3:30-5:15pm:
Creating and Teaching the Web Series
In this panel, we will discuss the benefits of having a web series project in the curriculum, particularly the web series as a good vehicle for teaching students how to create in the short form and how to embrace a larger, serialized structure. 
I came late to this panel, as I had, once again, started out in a different panel that did not work for me. My notes, therefore, are brief. As a faculty member who oversaw his own students’ production of a SitCom series (see the beginning of this blog post), I was particularly interested to see how other people do it.
Cal State L.A. is a grad program with many already-working professionals from the local Los Angeles area. They produced the SitCom as part of a structured course.
The SitCom they presented is Weather or Not (www.itsweatherornot.com)
School signed contracts with students and the students retained the rights.
Alan Bloom suggests I try reading Directing and Producing for Television: A Format Approach, by Ivan Curry (Focal Press), for my own SitCom productions.
Wish I had seen more of the presentation, but what I saw was worth seeing. The conversation that followed the panel was highly participatory.
Thanks to all who gave of their time, brilliance and energies to make this year’s UFVA conference a success.

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