Carie Cunningham and Jennifer Ware
This media communication activity teaches undergraduates about Eisenstein’s montage theory while building basic video composition skills. Students work on a time-based video recording activity that provides them with practice fundamental shot framing techniques: wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, interviews, tilts, and pans to create a montage.
Students upload their sequences to Vine, a video-repetition online community, for feedback from their peers. When the online posting is complete, students work together to provide feedback and critically examine their framing styles and video communication techniques.
Explanation of the Activity
Students are grouped into small teams in a timed competition. The assignment asks for students to get several different shots (wide shot, medium shot, and close up) of an object or activity edited together in a 6-second (the standard length of a Vine video) video sequence. There are six sequences in total requested (water fountain, door, walking, eat/drinking, cars/parking, and interview). Students were not allowed to shoot at eye level, which encourages creative interaction and produces visuals from a different perspective. The variety of shot angles and views promote interesting shots of and requires students to evaluate their composing techniques. These are the same types of shots and angles that are required for effective media communication in television production, film, and marketing. Additionally, we have found that these actions encouraged self-confidence and public communication, both important qualities for media communication.
- Students watch a selection of news clips and stories that illustrate good and bad framing techniques. Through in class or online discussion they critique the stories as a group to understand the basics of good framing and wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, pans and tilts.
- Next, students are introduced to montage theory through a description of the concept. Then, students watch the video stories again and discuss how the different shot styles are edited together to mean something more than just one shot on its own.
- Students are placed in groups of 3-4 and provided a sequence list. The students have 45 minutes to gather the following: water fountain, door, walking, eating/drinking, cars/parking, and interview.
- Students upload their clips to vine using specific hashtags so that the videos can be found by the class.
- The students then regroup to watch the footage together and critique one another, talk about challenges and opportunities, discuss what they might do differently next time.
- Each team member votes for another team’s Vine video. This voting will continue for each object/activity shot (6 in total). The final score will be tallied and a winning team for best videos will be chosen. Prizes can be determined by the instructor but usually involve candy.
- They then write a reflection about the activity for 3 minutes to internalize what they’ve learned that day and think about how to use montage theory to communicate with their audience through shot selection and editing.
- Finally, students discuss as a class how the hands-on activity helped them understand montage theory and media communication
We use the Vine app specifically for this activity because it requires students to videotape their shots in sequential order, and then the post becomes a continual loop of their 6-second video. Students must make explicit, conscious choices about the order and framing of their shots that convey larger actions or meanings when viewed in looping succession. The looping effect increases the students understanding of Eisenstein’s montage as the automatic playing of the three small clips over and over creates a larger meaning than is possible within the individual clips on their own.
For example, a person is sitting at a desk typing on a computer. The student first videotapes a medium shot of the person looking at the computer pensively, then a close-up shot of the person’s hands typing on the keyboard, and finally a wide shot of the person in her office typing at the desk. Together, these clips show a person working. When Vine loops the clip, however, the act of typing and the succession of the shots becomes a montage of a pensive writer working at her desk with a never-ending load of work to complete.
Students in blended, online, or in-person classrooms can engage in the same learning experiences and develop a sense of community through the attached hashtag to each video. The hashtags allow the Vines to be grouped and viewed together so that the class as a whole can see and critique each other’s works. The limitation of 6 seconds for each video also encourages students think creatively in a restricted time frame and pressures their story development to be fluid to create an overall understandable sequence.
In total, these experiences will allow for learning outcomes of applying, creating and evaluating. Students will be able to create basic video sequences using a variety of framing styles and angles. They will be able to describe and explain how their shots work together to produce a larger meaning beyond the initial shots. They will also be able to form a sense of community in either an in-person or an online classroom by collaborating with their team members on this unique contest-style activity.
Students have enjoyed the team-like nature of working together in a new environment. This activity gives them the opportunity to learn shooting and sequencing in a natural environment through hands-on experience. Students have also found it a challenge to work within those 6 seconds on Vine to create a meaningful story through visual compositions. Finally, students were very excited to see other groups’ projects. This contest-style allowed students to learn and critique from each other’s works.
Carie Cunningham is an assistant professor at Duquesne University and Jennifer Ware is an assistant professor at Wright State University.