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Art of the Video Essay


MDST2508 – Fall 2021

T/Th 5:00-6:15 PM

Video essays are an increasingly popular and accessible form of media criticism, explored and analyzed in podcasts (The Video Essay Podcast) and academic workshops (Scholarship in Sound & Image), and produced by practioners ranging from professional editors to scholars to film and media students and fans. This course will introduce you both to the range of video essay styles and to the mechanics of video essay production. By the end of the term, you will have a basic understanding of how to communicate your ideas about film and media audiovisually.

What are the technical requirements for the course?

Since this is a media practice course with a lab component, you are required to have

1. A laptop you can bring to every class, on which you can run…

2. DaVinci Resolve video editing software (ver. 16 or 17): DaVinci Resolve is a comprehensive and FREE editing suite (Windows, Mac, Linux-compatible) that I’ll be using for instruction. You do not know how to edit video to take this course, but you must be able to run DaVinci on your laptop.* If you’re unsure whether your laptop can run DaVinci resolve, you can download, install, and open the program (make sure to download Davinci Resolve, not the paid DaVinci Resolve Studio). When you open the program, it will do a system check to see if your computer will run it. When installing, please select “Final Cut Pro” as your interface, as this is what I’ll be using for instruction.

*if you already know how to edit video and prefer to use different software for your work (Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, etc.), that’s fine

3. A portable external hard drive: this will be the only purchase required for the course, and it should have 500-1000 GB of space (a thumb drive is fine for this)

4. DVDs/media files of two pieces of media you want to work with throughout the semester: if you have access to a DVD drive and do not have experience ripping DVDs, I will show you how to do this using Handbrake (a free, open-source download compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux). If not, I can rip them for you using my own equipment and provide you with the files to work with.

5. A phone and the Dolby On app (for use as a microphone; if you have an external microphone already, feel free to use that): download on Google Play/on the Apple App Store

I’ve never edited video before! Can I still take this course?

YES. This course is intended both for students who don’t have video editing experience and those who do. Video editing is not nearly as complicated as it seems at first glance, and it’s the first step towards being able to communicate your ideas about film and other audiovisual media in an entirely different way.

What’s YOUR background in video essays?

I’ve produced several scholarly video essays and am a reviewer for the journal [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies. I also make fanvids in my spare time, playing with the intersections of Serious Criticism and fan affect. I taught myself to edit video about five years ago and, honestly, if I can do it, anyone can do it.