Category Archives: Assignments

Transcribe a Podcast

In this assignment, I want you to listen carefully to a podcast and be able to “walk the dog backwards” — to understand how the producer put together different clips of audio.

  1. Choose a podcast from the Third Coast International Audio Festival Shortdocs. These are generally 2-3 min long and very fun and creative. There are a lot of options.
  2. Listen with your headphones to the podcast once all the way through.
  3. On a piece of paper or on your computer (whatever is easiest), map out a timeline and mark down maybe every 10 sec.
  4. As you listen again (and again?), draw blocks for each type of audio that you hear. Indicate when the different blocks begin and stop, and how many layers are happening at once. For example, a block might be “sound effects of pans on stove” or “interview.” Don’t write down what they are saying. Just transcribe the different layers of audio on your timeline.
  5. Post on your blog three things: 1) the link to your podcast, 2) three things you like and three things you don’t like about this podcast, 3) an image or copy of your transcription (or, you can give me your transcription in class).

Due date: Wed., Sept. 17, 6 p.m.

Questions? Add a comment below!

Record an Event or Person

In this assignment, you’ll experiment with recording different types of audio and work on finding a story within an event. If you need an audio refresher, check out my audio resources page. Remember that you’ll return to this subject in a few weeks, for photography.

  1. Find an event or a person that interests you and has some kind of story that other people will care about. “Event” here is broadly defined — it doesn’t have to be a lecture or tournament. It could be dinner. It could be a ride on the ferry.
  2. Record three types of audio: 1) a short interview with someone (minimum 5 minutes, but should probably be more like 10-15 min to get good content), 2) targeted environmental sound, eg, action sounds — what are people doing? (minimum 5 min), 3) general ambiance or room tone (minimum 5 min). If your piece needs a voiceover, record that also (optional).
  3. Make sure this audio fits together to tell a story of some sort. Why should we care? Don’t just record a list of things that happened. Step back and think about the larger significance. In your interview, ask people why they care. Listen to what they say and then dig a little deeper.
  4. Copy all the files from the SD card onto your external drive.
  5. Bring all this audio to class on your external drive.

Due date: Wed., Sept. 17,  6 p.m.

Produce your Audio Story

This week, you’ll use Audacity to produce the audio that you’ve already recorded into a story. I will grade this assignment primarily on your successful completion of the steps below. Follow the steps here, and you will do well.  I will also factor in technical proficiency with your use of microphones and edits, and the general impact of the story.

  1. Arrange all your media files into one folder. Open Audacity and save your .aup file in that same folder.
  2. Import your interview audio first and normalize it. Listen carefully to this audio and decide what parts of it you want to include. Do a rough edit of the interview — chop it up into themes, and then arrange those themes into the storyboard that you want.
  3. Import your environmental and ambient recordings. Fit those into your storyboard to create a multilayered story. You final piece must include interview, environmental, and ambient audio.
  4. Ask yourself: do you need to record more audio to complete the story? Does this piece need a voiceover? What kind of music is appropriate? Check out the YouTube audio library or Free Music Archive for music you can use. Import that content into your Audacity project as needed.
  5. Now that you have the rough storyboard worked out, fine-tune your piece by editing out the “ums” and irrelevant content. Smooth out the transitions. Adjust the volume so that the audio fades in and out without abrupt breaks.
  6. Export your final piece as a .wav file. It should be 2-3 min long. Save this file in the same folder as the rest of your media files.
  7. Upload the audio file to your website, and embed the audio player onto your page.
  8. Write a brief reflection (4-6 paragraphs) about your experience recording and producing this piece. What went wrong? What worked well? What will you change next time? Are you confused about anything?

Due date: Sept. 24, 6 p.m. Please talk to me if you’re having trouble with Audacity.

Audio Production

Photography Editing

In this assignment, you’ll practice the Photoshop tools that you learned in class, and apply them to your own photographs. You’ll also tell a very short story in a looping animated GIF.

Tone five photos

  1. Select five of your favorite photos from last week’s photo roll assignment.
  2. Open them in Photoshop (most computer labs on campus have this program) and make the following adjustments to them (not every photo needs — or should have — every adjustment, but between your five images, you should cover all of these): crop image to 16 x 9 dimensions, adjust the shadows & highlights to adjust the light balance, add a new layer and add some text, select a specific area and make that section black and white, and inverse a selection and add a different adjustment.
  3. For each image, save for web & devices and decrease the image size (1000 px wide should be ok) and quality (try 75%).
  4. Post the before and after photos on your blog, and include a caption for each to explain what you did.

Animated GIF

  1. Take a series of photos of a repeated action. You should have 5-10 images from the beginning to the end of the action. The end should take us back to the beginning, to create a loop.
  2. Bring these images into Photoshop as unique layers and, using the animation palette, adjust the timing for the loop. Here is a detailed tutorial.
  3. Click save for web & devices. You’ll need to save this as a GIF. You should decrease the quality a bit, and resize it to maybe 500 px wide — otherwise the file will be huge.
  4. Post this GIF to your blog. Make sure you insert the media at 100%.


How-to Video

This week, I want you to experiment with our video equipment, get comfortable with using tripods, cameras, and lights, and shoot an effective how-to video. Each of you should shoot your own footage, but you can help each other out with audio/talent/etc. 

  1. Decide what you want to explain in your video. This can be simple or complex, abstract or practical. Write up a storyboard that breaks down the main points and indicates what visuals are associated with each point.
  2. Shoot the following sequences:
    1. Interview. Make sure you’re lighting the subject properly, using a tripod and the lavalier microphone,  and using good composition. Use your headphones!!
    2. Establishing wide shot. Include the wider context of where you are.
    3. Master/medium shot. Have your talent go through the storyboard one complete time with your camera on the tripod and this simple composition. Use the boom pole and shotgun microphone to pick up detailed audio.
    4. Close-up. Get within 10 inches of the action. Take your camera off the tripod and hold the camera by hand.
    5. Point-of-view. Position yourself from the talent’s perspective. Use the shoulder mount to stabilize the camera.
    6. Over the shoulder.
  3. Copy your footage from the camera’s card onto your external drive. Bring the drive to class next week. 

Assignment due: October 15, 6 p.m.

Produce Your How-to Video

The goal of this assignment is to make you comfortable with the workflow, tools, and techniques of editing video in iMovie, as you create an engaging and interesting how-to video.

Set up

  1. Organize your files (audio, video, photo) into a project folder on your external drive.
  2. Import video footage into iMovie using File > Import > Camera Archive.
  3. Organize your events. Go through the footage and mark favorites and keywords.
  4. Sketch out a storyboard for your video. Think about your narrative arch and consider your audience.
  5. Under “Project Library,” select your external drive and add a new project.


  1. Start with your interview as the base video. Normalize this audio track before you start cutting it up. Cut out big gaps, mistakes, etc (like you did for your audio piece).
  2. Pull b-roll clips onto your project based on your storyboard. You must include an establishing wide shot, clips from your master/medium shot, close-ups, point-of-view, and over the shoulder footer.
  3. Add a music soundtrack. Make sure you adjust all audio levels appropriately. Here are some copyright-free music options.
  4. Add titles: at least an intro slide and a credits slide.


Export your final video and upload it to YouTube. Post this on your blog with a brief reflection on the process of shooting and producing this video. What went wrong? What went right? What will you do differently next time?

Due March 26, 6 p.m.

Promotional/PSA Video

For this assignment, you will produce a PSA (public service announcement). You should have a strong focus statement, where it’s really clear what message you’re giving to your audience. Keep it short and simple. The final video should be 30 sec – 2 min long (ideally on the shorter side — try to keep it under one minute).  As usual, I expect you to incorporate audio, video and production techniques that we have discussed in class.

Now, of course I want you to make an awesome PSA. But please keep in mind the time constraints for this project (three weeks to produce a 30 sec video). Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep it simple and focused. Get help from your fellow classmates.


  1. Write out your one-sentence focus statement, elevator pitch (longer version of the focus statement with a clear “so what” message — why should people care?), list of primary characters, and list of shots you need to get.
  2. As you record your audio, video and photos, keep in mind the compositional tools we discussed in class. You should include wide, medium, and close up shots of your subject or story at work. Move your feet and get close to the subject. Get into uncomfortable positions and see what happens.
  3. Edit this footage into a video that is between 30 sec – 2 min long. Add music if you want. Add a voiceover if your PSA needs one. Add appropriate titles and transitions.
  4. Export your video as an .mp4 file and upload to your Vimeo or YouTube site. Embed on your website with a brief reflection on the process of making this video.


  • Due by Oct. 29: Shoot the majority of your footage.
  • Due by Nov. 5: Produce a rough draft of your PSA and bring it to class. Shoot any final footage needed.
  • Due by Nov. 12: Your final PSA video and a reflection post on your website.


Some sample PSAs, curated by YouTube.

Final Feature Video

This last video is your chance to bring together everything you’ve learned in this class. I expect you to demonstrate your best work at shooting and producing high-quality video.

The Video

This will be a 3-5 min piece of your choice of genre and topic. It can be fictional. It can be documentary. You can (and should) help each other, but ultimately everyone is responsible for a unique piece shot and produced entirely by you. I encourage you to get off campus. The important thing here is a compelling story that is shot and produced professionally. Before you land on a definite idea, start making contacts. Spend 4 or 5 hours at the primary location. Talk to people, get a sense of lighting and layout, research your topic, come up with a plan.

Grading Rubric

You will be graded on the following:

  • Correct completion of assignment (15%)
  • Technical proficiency (60%)
    • Audio (20%) — I expect clean, crisp audio without distortion. Voices need to be easy to understand (eg, use the wireless lav or boom mic). Music needs to be appropriate and legal. Environmental audio needs to cleanly add texture to the piece. **If you are shooting a music video, the video and production percentages take the place of audio.
    • Video (20%) — You must use a tripod and/or stabilizer.  Get close to your subject and use the composition and exposure techniques we covered in class. Shoot from creative angles and shoot more than you think you’ll need.
    • Production (20%) — I expect you to have a thorough grasp of clean and smooth editing (both audio and video). Jump cuts should be used sparingly and only when it is for a clever technique. Layer your b roll and audio so you have multiple elements happening at once.  Transitions for both audio and video should be smooth. Use titles and captions appropriately. Make sure you adjust your audio levels so we hear your story clearly.
  • Storyline and artistry (25%) — I want to see a careful storyboard before you begin shooting. Your story should have a narrative arch and carefully consider the formal and social contexts surrounding your video. Basically, I want to see that you have carefully thought about this video and put creative effort into its creation.


By Nov 5: Post your general plan and storyboard on your blog. I expect this to change as you shoot, so you should also update your blog post as you go.

By Nov 12: Shoot the majority of the primary/interview footage for your piece. Start shooting b roll.

By Nov 19: Finish shooting footage and start editing. No class this day but I need to see a rough draft of your piece before Wednesday, Dec 3, so make an appointment as soon as you have a solid draft. Also show your piece to your fellow classmates and get critical feedback.

Dec 10: Post the final video on your blog along with a five-paragraph reflection. For the final, you will show your video and give a brief presentation. You’re allowed 10 minutes total for both the video and presentation. This final will be in the coffeehouse at 2:40 p.m. At that point, all editing of your video must be finished, and the final video must be on your blog. I will not accept any submissions of any work posted after 2:40 p.m. on Dec 10.