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Below The Surface

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I Learned in Vlogging Class

This video was made in a four session class I just completed at our local cable access station Vermont Community Access Media (VCAM), in Burlington VT. The class was on vlogging or making video blogs. The video above was edited together by the class using Final Cut Pro and was recording using a Flip camcorder.

I'm working on learning as much as I can about both video capture and editing for VFL. I have very little previous experience editing video. I had messed around with some footage off my digital camera. That being said, the process of figuring out how to do what I wanted to do with the footage was not fun and the end product was fairly lame.

However, I bought a Flip camera earlier this year for both personal use and for VFL and really enjoy taking video now. The next hurdle was learning how to edit. For a while I used iMovie on my Mac at home and really liked what I was able to do with it in terms of editing. You can see an example from a previous blog post What is a Healthy Lake? and from our video about the Missisquoi River Basin Association tree planting day. But, although iMovie was working for me, I wanted to kick it up a notch so I signed up for the class at VCAM.

It's important for me not only to learn video capture and editing skills, but to note during the process what it's like to be the learner. I'm striving to use simple (and affordable!) video capture and editing equipment and software for VFL to establish a baseline for a project like ours. I think we could easily purchase a fancier camcorder and get into equally fancy editing software, but the project needs to demonstrate that it's replicable. Likewise, I could go crazy with lights and sets and make-up for capturing stories or get really high-tech with editing those stories, but it's more important to get the stories out there. Being a beginner and learning new skills will certainly help me to share this project with other organizations interested in using video capture for their organizations.

I'm about to embark on our first library programs this week to capture stories and I'll be using Final Cut Pro from now on to edit. Come back to the blog again for a post on how the capture sessions work out and some of the things I learn as I launch into this new phase of the project. Wish me luck!

~Bridget Butler, Voices For the Lake Manager

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What is a Healthy Lake?

This spring I contracted the Center for Rural Studies to include two questions in their annual Vermonter Poll. I had to come up with two questions that would help inform the Voices For the Lake project. Just two - that's a bit of a challenge, huh? The purpose of the VFL project is to help raise awareness and inspire people to make a difference by helping improve water quality in their community. As this stewed in my brain, I began to think about what the perceptions were of water quality. How did people in the Lake Champlain basin see the Lake? What were they thinking?

Jessica Hyman from the Center for Rural Studies helped me work through all this and come up with my two questions for the poll. What she helped me realize is that I needed a baseline to start from and then the next generation of the evaluative process for the project could build upon this first poll. I didn't want multiple choice, I didn't want to feed them answers. I wanted the pollsters to tell me something. And they did.

My first question was very open-ended. What defines a healthy lake? Respondents were asked what words they associated with a healthy lake.

  • 42% used the word CLEAN
  • 25% referred to supporting FISH, PLANT or ANIMAL LIFE
  • 17% used POLLUTION FREE
  • 16% said CLEAR

Other words used were SWIMMABLE, AESTHETICS, ALGAE/INVASIVE FREE, DRINKABLE, EDIBLE FISH. And get this - HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM and HEALTHY SHORELINE. Hmm, great answers, right? What I got out of this though is that I still need to ask more questions. Like: What does clean mean? What is pollution? What is healthy?

Again, perceptions. I could tell you what clean water is. I could give you a text book definition of pollution and then again, water pollution. But what I really want to know, what I really need to know in order to have this project reach it's goals is: What do the people in the Lake Champlain Basin think these things mean?

VFL Team member Linda Bowden helped me bring this question to the guests at ECHO during Earth Week. We had a blast running around with video cameras recording responses to the question of the day which was, what three words would you use to describe a healthy lake?

Here's the result:

This exercise of asking one question to a number of people and capturing their answers on video was informative in a variety of ways. Approaching people is tough, some wanted to talk, some didn't. We wanted adults to answer the questions, the adults were more keen on having their kids answer the question. The answers came quick, they were brief (which made editing easy)...and then there's the challenge of editing! So, lots to think about. And lots to think about before I hit the road to capture video at local libraries and other community events. I'm playing with a set of questions and statements to use to frame interviews as we move forward with collecting stories about the watershed. Check back in again to the blog and our YouTube page to see what we've come up with...

~Bridget, Voices For the Lake Manager