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Where, when and how to use video in e-learning and corporate communications …


Jonathan Vernon has produced over 165 videos for learning and internal communications. View his CV here: http://jvtvcv.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/jv-tv-cv/

Web 2.0 Tools for Learning – what I recommend

It isn’t for lack of overwhelming, immersive and engaging content online, especially ‘how to’ movies and ‘clips’ in YouTube, its how you as an individual cope with this inexhaustible choice.

Armed with an 3G tablet and sim card will we find we are learning more on the fly, taking it with us, much of it free, some of it guided and paid for?

Taking advantage of participation (John Seely-Brown), learning on the periphery (John Seely-Brown), vicarious learning (Cox) and if you can get your tongue around it ‘serendipitous learning.’ (me I think).

I’m finding that 18 months in, and having really started this gig in 1998 when from the agency end we were migrating interactive DVD based learning to the Web, that I of necessity must balance the tools I can play (musical instrument metaphor), compared to those I play with (sandpit, training pool metaphor) … and I suppose those ones I am obliged to master whether I like it or not (prescriptive tools for work and study – in at the deep end metaphor?!).

Conole (2011) invites us to use ‘metaphors for meaning making’.

I always have, often visualising these metaphors. Just search this diary on ‘Metaphor’ to see what comes up. Also try words or phrases such as ‘traffic light’, ‘nurture’, ‘gardening’, ‘swimming’, ‘spheres of influence’, ‘hub’, ‘serendipity’ as well as ‘water’ and ‘water-cycle’.

I therefore offer the following:

Linkedin (For Forums, like this, in groups and networks)

WordPress (for blogging, sharing, wiki like affordances, training, updates)

iPad (or Tablet) (Whilst PCs and Laptops have considerable power and versatility

Twitter (only for niche/target live discussions or quasi-synchronous conversations.

The rest of it is ‘Twitter Twaddle’

Spam of the worst kind being pumped out by pre-assigned links as CoTweets or random disconnected thoughts. This is killing some forums where RSS feeds of this stuff overwhelms any chance of a conversation).

I’ve seen two Forums killed, temporarily I hope, by this stuff, the largest victim being the Oxford University Alumni group.

I believe it is simply the case of a new moderator niavely permitting Twitter feeds in on a discussion, ie. having the conversations between 30 disrupted by the disconnected chattering of 300.


Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Production Experience

As a Producer, Director and Writer working in corporate communications Jonathan has amassed substantial experience co-ordinating and leading all kinds of projects for Government and Blue Chip clients in the UK and France.

Skills & experience embrace video, interactive CD & DVD, live TV and Live events, websites, webinars and social media. Jonathan has cast and directed actors, reconstructed bank robberies and car accidents, shot multi-camera in studios and live on location, even from helicopters, inside the Sheer Cave of a nuclear power plant and at Paris Fashion shows. He has moderated and developed substantial social media networks too. He has attended and spoken at global events, including the World Education Market, while pitching projects at Cannes & NABS.


Productions include short film ‘Listening in’ which was bought by Channel 4.

Jonathan has produced, written &/or directed projects for production houses and agencies, Jacaranda, Talkback, TVL, BBS, 2Cs, Complete Communications, Chancery Communications, The Post Office Film Unit, Final Touch, Imagicians, Robson Brown and the Open University.

In the Financial Sector (for city PR companies, the FT, investment banks, clearing banks and city lawyers).

Celebrating 25 years in video production


How I presented myself to clients in France when I was working for French news agencies, animation houses, broadcasters and corporate producers. Once again actively seeking to blend video production with communications and learning.

Do movies such as ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ inspire the desire to paint or study art history?

Fig.1. Images of the portrait ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer and stills from the film of the same name directed by Peter Webber

E–learning supposes that it is online and interactive, this doesn’t prevent the use of narrative.

If I watch the film, Girl with a pearl earring’ then a BBC 4 Documentary in Johannes Vermeer and I go online to interact with fellow viewers, undertake research and write a blog entry or two – this is interaction; it engages me.

Not that any learning institution has the funding to produce a movie that cost many millions. I wonder though how an executive producer might exploit the assets in this movie, certain scenes or still images.

Fig. 2. Girl with a pearl earring by Johannes Vermeer (1665-1667)

I like to paint and draw so the way the film demonstrates the skills of painting fascinates me, in this film, shot with the eye of a Dutch Master we get some key moments because of the way the  director shot the film, from first inspiration, to the first presentation, the first layers and the art of mixing paints.

On this score which films do I rate as showing the artist’s craft and which do not?

Titanic. Kate Winslet – Drawn by the director James Cameron. What do you make of it?

La Belle Noisseuse. Emmannuelle Beart – Brilliant

Stealing Beauty. Liv Tyler – OK? Or exploitative

There are many, many others. I’ll add to this list and fix any inaccuracies as I go along.

Please do offer your suggestions.

Back to the use of narrative, a story well told, that is memorable, relevant and inspirational. This takes craft skills that producers (production managers) and clients (sponsors) need to be reminded cost a good deal to get right. It matters that the words spoken ring true, that characters are cast with imagination, that the direction is subtle and professional. Even with a photostory scripting requires care if it is to appear authentic, and we must remember, as shown in ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ that we communicate a great deal through facial expression and body language rather than by what we say.

La Tete du Travail

I used this character very successfully in France when developing my freelancing directing career.

‘J’ai la tete du Travail’ was the expression I used, ‘the head for the job’. I went on to work across the country for the French Ministry of Culture visiting every corner of the country, to work on a Saturday Night Variety Show, the haute couture and pret a porter fashion shows (video and vision mixing the live events) and agency work for international broadcasters.


Oxford University taped 1982-1984: Forty hours of video of undergraduate life and activities

From early 1982 to graduation in June 1984 I used a Sony Betamax kit to video undergraduate life at Oxford University.

The 18 tapes and some 40 hours of content I am digitizing includes:

  • The Oxford Union Debating Society (featuring Hilali Noordeen) The day I was in the Union Chamber I was sitting next to Susanna White and Steve Garvey who were shooting a documentary about ‘Women in Oxford’.
  • The Oxford Theatre Group at the Edinburgh Fringe (Featuring all the plays: 13 Clocks, The Hunger Artist, Edward II, Titus Alone directed by Patrick Harbinson, produced by Nicky King and the Oxford Review)
  • I shot this over three weeks while helping out behind the scenes at St. Mary’s Street Hall (the OTG venue) and kipping in a Free Mason’s Lodge by the Castle. Nicky King and Matthew Faulk edited in my Balliol Room (now the Oxford Internet Institute) cum edit suite the following term.
  • The Oxford Student Union elections.
  • The Lightweights Boat Crew in training with David Foster et al (11th March 1983)
  • Torpids (various)
  • Romeo & Juliet (in which I played Mercutio and lost my pants during the fight scene)
  • The Taming of the Shrew: an OUDS production  (in which I played Baptista) And the rehearsals.
  • Abigail’s Party (directed by Anthony Geffen)
  • Various other plays and boat crews
  • The May Day Celebrations 1982
  • Training for the Oxford Students Union president
  • Oxford Television News (Various episodes of OTN in which Hugo Dixon does a Jeremy Paxman and we are introduced to the Chicken Pal Society at the Gate of India + TCG, PWG and CJP) (9th May 1983)
  • OTN. Visit of Prince Charles (18th May 1983) + ‘Exter guy in glasses’ or is this in fact a Jesus guy doing a ‘party political broadcast’.
  • Oxford University Boxing
  • A workshop on how to shoot video (10th February 1983)
  • A corporate promotional film for the language school ‘Speakeasy’
  • Windsurfing
  • The Oxford & Cambridge Varsity Ski Trip to Wengen
  • perhaps a play produced by Tessa Ross directed by Clive Brill
  • perhaps Andrew Sullivan directed by Alex Ogilvie in ‘Another Country’
  • and perhaps the Women’s Eight.

and various other antics around Balliol College and the university that will reveal themselves in the course of being downloaded, graded and digitized.

I believe my aim should be to use this as the foundation for a documentary.

I need to raise £2000 to digitize/archive this content and am therefore looking for backers.

P.S. It is six weeks since I was behind a camera. I may be about to shoot some swimmers for a swimming e-learning app but if you have anything immediate let me know.

The ubiquitous presence of intelligent video

I attended an IVCA Freelancer event last night at DRP in Covent Garden.

I was spotted by someone I last worked with in 1994. I first joined what was then the ITVA in 1982 as a teenage undergraduate. I attended meetings when the organisation become the IVCA a few years later.

It is shocking how quickly these three decades have sped past; though no surprise that I don’t have a BAFTA or OSCAR. I have at least filled them with 165+ video productions as producer and/or director and/or writer. I have moved in and out of London, married, two children, the dog and guinea-pigs (yawn, yawn).

My first corporate video was shot on a Sony Reel in black and white on kit by the training department of a PLC … where we lived.

(Don’t ask, it was Westmoreland and a very long time ago, not even the county exists).

An early client was Abbey National when Imagicians took on the internal video contract. Working with the former Money Programme producer we were replacing a slide carousel that until 1985 (or 1986) was the way Abbey National staff received their internal communications. This is not meant to be a memoir so let’s skip to the present day.

An insightful year as ‘the client’ at the Open University Business School (I am also a postgraduate student of both the OU’s Institute of Education and the OU’s MBA programme at the Business School) and I conclude that we are and will replace 500 years of print,  a few decades of wordpressed words and a decade of online text with video.

YouTube says so. Webinars and webcasting says so.

The guy at Microsoft who has a video camera around his neck and records EVERYTHING he does, says so. Along with cameras on cyclists’ helmets to capture idiot drivers and their moment of injury or death.

To capture impromptu interviews with visiting fellows and sometimes the equally rare presence of an academic I kept a Sony Flip and Roland Endirol digital sound recorder in my desk.

All my production training and experience and I am ‘reduced’ to finding a quiet office with some sunlight, propping up the Sony Flip, clipping on a tie-mike and using a stapler as a kind of clapper-board. I load and send the results to someone with as much experience as me (and a postgraduate degree in film) to edit in FinalCut on her MacPro laptop.

This and other interviews festoon the OUBS Testimonials webpage and via YouTube are embedded elsewhere on the OU and beyond.

Not all productions are like this. We had two cameras to cover the inaugural lecture of Cherie Booth, though there were only two of us and I was both client producer and camera operator (I had other plans for the several thousand pounds saved), not least attending an MBA Residential School where I interviewed half of the students attending (Russian,  Japanese, Italian, German, French, American, several East European countries, someone from South Africa via Austria and several from the Indian subcontinent via Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland … and Englishman living in the US).

I have have discussions with colleagues about turning Wikipedia into WikiTVia.

Look at how the FT becomes more like the BBC everyday. We want wall to wall video. It’s not that we can’t read, but we don’t always want to. The answer is video and text. Indeed, many educational and webcasting platforms do this and your eye happily flits between the spoken word in vision and the text from a transcript. It makes sharing into blogs easier. It makes sharing and commenting in other social networks a doddle too. Does this make the consumption of ‘stuff’ too easy? Or are we recreating the hub of the market place, the discourse of the Greek Forum, the Socratic conversation shared for all to listen in, share and comment on?

Where does this leave the ‘Corporate Video producer’?

The same question can be asked of the publisher and music companies. We have entered the world of D.I.A.Y ‘Do it all yourself’.

I didn’t chirp up because I needed a flip chart. I would have drawn a grid with an X & Y axis. I would have expressed everything from low budget, low production values to the big crew, big cost drama-reconstruction in 3D with steadicam shot from a helicopter at locations all over the globe. I would have also put a tick in all boxes.

Everything goes and everything is wanted.

How it is then shared, how distributed, how brought to the attention of an audience is another matter. The best place to lose content is to put it online, like adding another needle to a stack of needles content, like dripping digital ink into a digital ocean is made obscure by YouTube. Content needs a preamble and a long tail: it needs to be promoted, tagged, optimised and analysed. Video needs to be intelligent.

Understandably, amongst freelancers and producers the ‘One Man Band’ is to be feared and dreaded.

For a period in my career I would produce, but not write or direct. Sometimes I only wrote, sometimes I wrote and directed. I might sit in on an edit, or do the ‘offline’ but I didn’t take the edit to a broadcast conclusion as is now expected. I can do sound, and have been a broadcast sound engineer for a period and stepped in to operate a broadcast camera for mainstream output too. Where though the benefit of a collaborative effort? There are a variety of skills needed ‘on set’, not least an extra pairs of hands. A freelancer baulked at the idea of getting stills when out on a shoot for a corporate client, as if it were a request too far despite their having in their hands a camera no doubt initially designed for stills photography that now has a video card in it. These images, better taken separately, with skill, than from freezes of the video content, serve a vital purpose in various online outlets and to ‘mash-up’ content that may be used in a multitude of forms.

I can shoot and edit video on an iPad.

I’d hate to try on an iPhone but dare so I could.

I was in the Tate Gallery yesterday morning when the fire alarms went off. I left the building with the Picaso Audio Guide around my neck. I took a photograph or two. It could have been video. Had the gallery gone up in flames and the Picaso’s with it the video content, though less valuable than the Picaso’s in the building, might be worth a fortune.

Some months ago a student of the School of Communication Arts recorded an informal meeting that included Sir John Hegarty talking about ‘The Future of Advertising’.

The production values are minimal, but the participants can be seen and heard. I appreciate this is anathema to all TV production standards, but no one gives a monkey as what is said is far more important than how it is said, better to have the recording to share than nothing at all. And had I been there with two cameras (or more) and a crew would it have been less authentic?

This is what can be lost with the pelaver of video production, the authenticity of the moment.

‘More extraordinary, authentic stories easily shared’

This might be my legacy at the OU; it is the idea I developed and began to share. Such authenticity may be shot with a crew, broadcast journalist on steadicam … or it might be someone with a Smartphone.

The analytics don’t favour high production values over low. What matters is what is said, not how it is said. 

On YouTube go and find the OU Graduates who take themselves to a video booth to record their impromptu reflections on finally gaining their degree. Some of them are magic moments all the more genuine because they are people in a box talking to a mirror, self-conscious often in a British way and unaware even if they sign a release form that they had an audience of tens of thousands hanging on their every word.

My ideal crew? A minimum of three, possibly a fourth as a trainee. We’d take between us the roles of camera, sound, producer, director, reporter/interviewer. We might ALL ‘operate’ a camera in order to capture variety, view points and angles. Someone would write a script, another look after the interviewee and client. It would be lit, as likely by the sun as a set of lights. We’d gather clean sound, the mike and stand, even a radio and tie-mikes now a similar size to the cameras.  We’d be experienced, open, curious, familiar with some of the platforms where the content will be shown and understand how it might be used ‘mashed-up’ into elearning or a blog, grabbed as a still image and printed out, transcribed and edited as a podcast. And we may even stream the interview live as it is gathered, putting into onto a dashboard or platform where messaging or a Twitter feed offers comment, even questions we can put to our interviewee.

Is video coming to life as it becomes part of life?

What gives the content ‘intelligence’?

All of us. The audience have become part of the production team.

Why isn’t this video?

I write as much by talking into an iPad; I had might as well record myself in vision. (Or not. It is very early in the morning. My mind might feel like surfing, but my body is still under a duvet and my face buried in a pillow)

In a twist

Could these images below be used to replace the left and right hands and the right and left feet in order to express the things that I do, the services that I provide? Or does this simply advertise that I am a ‘Jack of all trades’? As I do, a separate expression of each, tailored to different clients is the answer?

+ My Mind Bursts (writer, elearning, ideas, creative problem solving)

+ Blog, Linkedin, Twitter (blogging and forum moderator)

+ Coaching, Tutoring, Teaching, Facilitating & Mentoring (creative industry, swimming, sailing, fine art)

+ Director (TV, Film, news, drama, corporate)

Use of video in elearning (Part Five)

Anyone in advertising or marketing will be familiar with the Creative Brief; it is an industry standard. I see this run to two or three pages. The copy going to the creative team (copywriter and art director) was meant to be kept to a single page of A4 (this was a JWT). I go along with this. Didn’t Churchill when he was First Lord of the Admiralty send away a lengthy document wanting it back as a single page? I like to quote Jonathan Swift who apologised for writing someone a lengthy letter as he hadn’t the time to write a short one. Like this ‘stream of consciousness’ of mine, it pays to edit, to think through and prioritize your thoughts.

In the context of elearning (indeed everything online), I felt it necessary to add the ‘delivery’ approach as an important creative consideration. I wonder if this team of two: words and visualizer ought to be a team of three that includes the programmer?

All things being equal what makes a piece of learning stand out? Who brings it alive? Who makes it memorable? I think an idea will stick if it hits the proverbial nail on the head, though it risks isolating some. Controversy works too, bland learning like bland advertising is forgettable. Inspirational educators count. There are those whose lectures you want to attend and those who you avoid.

Why not the professional presenter?

In corporate training we hire the likes of Carol Vorderman, Nick Ross and others to present our story; they know how to get a point across. Why can’t the academic stand back and accept the role of author? They still get the credit even if someone else speaks the words.

Ideas Endure

  • They make the learning stick.
  • Produce multiple ideas and present them.
  • Let the audience create and present their own.
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