Lights. Camera. Covid.
By Anel Hugo |
How the Pandemic Disrupted Video Production
I joined Construct Education in February 2020. I joined as a Video Producer, with my main responsibilities ranging around everything to do with filming. It was standard procedure: with our Production Team working from Cape Town, South Africa, but most of our client-base sitting abroad, the majority of my time went into planning shoots with freelance videographers, based in whichever country our client was located in. It was an exciting and exhilarating role, especially since it allowed me to meet new creatives from all over the world. At that point, the extent of my time spent on Zoom was purely to plan and organize; to make sure team members had what they needed for a seamless, straightforward shoot to happen. Filming for education is not complicated—the beauty truly lies in the simplicity of it all. We’re filming to teach and for no other reason. Less is more. Quality over quantity—I could go on to explain why I will always believe that filming for education should not be complicated. Never did I even imagine how COVID would change all that. How, suddenly, we had no access to our Sony cameras, only for it to be replaced by the universal webcam. It turned what I thought I knew about educational filming onto its head.
“Less is more. Quality over quantity—I could go on to explain why I will always believe that filming for education should not be complicated.”
The Emergence of Remote Filming
I had spent one month at Construct before the world retreated. One month was just enough to teach me how things used to work. Which, in hindsight, really didn’t matter. The game had changed. Suddenly we sat with courses that needed to be produced, but campuses had closed and faculty members had retreated into their homes. Videographers and their cameras were also under lockdown. Suddenly, the entire world was at a level playing field when it came to video production. At least within the e-learning space, that’s what it felt like. Granted, some got creative with their DSLR cameras at home. But all in all, it suddenly felt like the middleman, the videographer, was removed—a crucial key in my ability to deliver quality footage to our Post-Production team. It took me a few weeks to realize that we were going to have to get creative. My Google Search changed - “What’s the best way to facilitate a remote interview?”, “How do you collaboratively record a Podcast?”, “What are the top 10 Screenrecorders?’. The emergence of what we now call “remote recording” caught me off guard, but looking back on 2020, I can now say that it has most likely been my most valuable learning experience to date.
The Internet is Becoming the Town Square for the Global Village of Tomorrow The above saying is a quote by Bill Gates. I hadn’t given these words a lot of thought until I found myself in the town square in 2020. With literally the whole world working from home, there was only one place where we all resided in the same time and space - and that was online. I’ve always had a fond appreciation for the World Wide Web and what it’s meant for humankind, but during Covid and 2020, that appreciation doubled. We still had one thing that kept us all connected, and for all its faults, we must appreciate the role that the Internet played during the global pandemic.
My job role changed from organizing campus shoots to connecting with Faculty Members and Subject Matter Experts themselves and figuring out what would be the best way to record their content. Many were open to whatever solutions we were suggesting; others retreated from the webcam. I quickly learned that not everyone is comfortable with technology, and we should grant them that right - it’s difficult enough to appear in front of a camera and speak. Telling someone that they also need to play the role of the videographer was daunting for some people, understandably. Therefore, a detailed new checklist formed before we attempted in any way to receive remotely recorded footage from a client.
Are they comfortable in front of their webcam? What kind of webcam do they have? What earphones do they use, and does it have a mic? Are they tech-savvy? Is there a space in their house that’s quiet and that will look good on the camera? Ultimately, we had few Faculty Members and Subject Matter Experts who shied away from the responsibility. Why? Because all of them were committed to getting out their course content, in whatever form, so their students could learn. The dedication from their side was a driving force for me. Who cares about bad lighting? Who cares that you can see what my living room looks like - as long as we continue teaching, then we’ll be alright.
The Level Playing Field and How It Opened My Eyes When it comes to Video Production, especially within the EdTech industry, I was taught and trained to care about quality, as one should. A well-exposed, well-lit, decently framed shot is what you want, with a subject that knows what they're talking about at the center of it, hooked up to a mic with decent sound quality, talking from a location that looks beautiful on camera. The pandemic swooped in and took away my light, sound, camera, and location. All we had was a speaker who was just as floored by the state of the world as we were. However, they still had their drive to get their content out there and keep on teaching. Suddenly, we had what felt like the world being on a level playing field when it came to video production. Everywhere I looked, some of the biggest brands were resorting to the same methods of getting content out there. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams - to name only a few - had taken over from the videographer. The standard quality of the footage was produced on Zoom or one of the other platforms worldwide. Covid had leveled the playing field, and I was humbled to see how the world embraced it. I had Faculty Members who recorded from their living rooms, looking completely at ease as they spoke from their couch. I had Faculty Members who refused to look the webcam in the eye, deciding to focus on their script to get the right words out. I had a client send me a lesson he recorded in his car, all the way from Switzerland. Don’t even get me started on the Zoom background people decided to use. And just when we thought we might be able to organize a campus shoot again, it was delayed due to the West Coast's wildfires in September 2020. By that time, I had made peace with the fact that Mother Nature was trying to say something and that my small mission with the EdTech industry needed to listen and adapt.
I am grateful for 2020. It taught me that there is indeed always a way to get done what you need to do. My solutions-driven mindset now has no boundaries. If Bill Gates thinks the Internet is the world’s town square, I’m willing to stay there, but only if people with the drive and commitment to teach and educate come too. All hail the teacher. All hail the webcam. And all hail the phrase, ‘Can you see my screen?’
Video Editor at Construct