LMW2 Syllabus

Living in a Media World 2 – Storytelling for Nonfiction

COURSE OVERVIEW: Living in a Media World 2 is an introductory course to non-fiction storytelling and how it relates to media. Students work on a group project in which they are asked to produce a short non-fiction piece. Topics covered are video production for non-fiction, audio for non-fiction, motion graphics, editing for non-fiction, and developing a story.

Students participate in critiques and discussions. LMW provides a structured, professional approach to critique, requiring thoughtful analysis of other people’s work as well as one’s own. The focus is on learning to articulate one’s thoughts in a constructive and thoughtful way.

COURSE LENGTH: 7-8 weeks (varies based on how credit units map to term schedule).

GOALS & OBJECTIVES (as a result of this course, the participant will):

  • Use WordPress and Google Docs as tools for professional pre- to post-production HD workflow to organize, develop and produce a 7-minute short documentary in 3-4 person groups.
  • Use the Panasonic HPX-170, Canon T3i, and GoPro HD video cameras to shoot a short documentary.
  • Learn the video production pipeline, including video and audio codecs appropriate for professional grade work, import/export methods and transcoding methods. Project footage includes P2, DSLR, archival and stills.
  • Create motion graphics for the documentary using the Adobe Suite (After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator, Bridge).
  • Learn a professional workflow for nonfiction post-production, including assembly, paper edit, rough cut and final cut.
  • Use Final Cut Pro to edit a short documentary.
  • Use Final Cut Pro to create a professional audio mix for a documentary short, including dialog, voiceover, music, ambient sound, sound effects and sound design.
  • Participate in discussions and critiques for a rough cut and final presentation.
  • Present a short documentary at a public screening.

As part of the Gainful Employment federal program, each class you take at Ex’pression requires 2 hours of homework for every hour class. This breaks down as follows for the eight week term:
Semester Credit Units:  03
Lecture Contact Hours: 31
Lab Contact Hours: 28
Hours Outside of Class: 65

25% Project website & homework (individual & group)
5% After Effects Animation (individual)
10% Preview Assignment (individual)
20% Rough Cut (group)
30% Final Cut (group)
10% Participation (individual)
PARTICIPATION: The school’s participation policy can be found in your student guidebook. LMW follows this policy.

TEACHING METHOD/CLASS FORMAT: LMW2 will use a variety of teaching methods during classes and labs including lectures, guest speakers, hands-on computer training, independent and collaborative projects, group critiques, and blog interaction.

CLASS MATERIALS: Each student received a sketchbook for the LMW sequence. Sketchbook, headphones, all media relevant to lab and a pen are required for all classes.

LIBRARY RESOURCES: The Wintzen Library and Learning Resource Center is open Monday – Friday, 9AM – 10 PM, Saturday, 12PM – 5 PM.

Useful library links:
Library catalog – http://library.expression.edu/
LIRN – http://www.lirn.net/       Handout: LIRN 2013.pdf
Ebrary – http://site.ebrary.com/lib/wintzen

TEXTS and REQUIRED READING: There is no textbook for LMW 2. All handouts and information for assigned readings and viewings are located on the LMW syllabus. Students will be graded on their participation in class discussions of these readings and viewings. The instructor can also give a pop quiz to make sure the material is being read.



LEC 1:

Introduction to Class and Syllabus

LAB 1:

  1. Form groups: for the films that have been chosen, create a group of three to four (max. four).
  2. Spend ninety minutes working on a brief (5 min) group presentation to take place in the second half of the lab. Your group will present:
    • Your production team name
    • Working title of your film (or best guess)
    • The LMW1 final pitch media piece (and project website)
    • Answer to the question: what’s your film about?
    • What APPROACH (or approaches) will you use for your film?
      Handout: Developing your APPROACH
    • What OBLIGATORIES do you have on the list for your film?
  3. Give all production team members access to add/edit content on the project website. Add member login names under Dashboard > Users. Change member status to “Editor”.
  4. Change the “About Me” page to “About Us” on the project website. Add bios for all members. Include in the bio what each member knows about the topic and why they are interested in making a film about it.
  5. Make a Post describing the approach you presented in class. (Due as part of the finished project website).
  6. Designate a home base computer. Make sure everyone in your group knows where all of the images and sounds collected last term are. Put those assets on a media drive in the lab room. You can never use “so and so is not here, so we don’t have footage to work with” as an excuse. Every team member is responsible for the media at all times starting today.
  7. Checklist: using the LMW2 Checklist, start pre-production on this project as a group. During this lab fill out the checklist Preproduction Part 1 (Group Contact Info through Equipment Planning). The checklist is due at the end of the term.
  8. Story development: your first order of business is to work on the story for your documentary. Try to narrow your focus to a small set of core questions about your subject. Next lab you will work on the proposal for your project.

HW – DUE BEFORE NEXT LAB (turn in to the LMW/Assignment Drop Box):
 watch a documentary and write a 1 page response.
 You may view a documentary from the library or one of your own. Here’s List of Documentaries in the Wintzen Library.

Answer the following questions (one paragraph):

  • What is the documentary’s title/director/year?
  • What is this documentary about? (one paragraph)
  • What approaches do the filmmakers use to tell their story? (one paragraph)
  • Why do you think this documentary was made?
  • What do you think was successful about this documentary? Unsuccessful?


LEC 2: Technical Tips for Nonfiction

LMW2 Project Proposal Guide

Keynote: TECH TIPS.pdf

LAB 2:

LMW2 Mini Doc Workshop PDF

  1. As a group, begin writing the proposal for your film. Create a page on the project site called Project Proposal.
    • LMW2 Project Proposal Guide
    • Post the proposal on a new page of your project website. Reminder: original website authors must add their group members in WordPress as admins so that all members can post to the blog.
  2. Continue preproduction with your team. This includes filling out part 2 of your checklist, working on your interview questions, your story, and setting up appointments.
  3. Make a Post on the blog with your interview questions. Your interview questions act as a script and allow you to have an informed conversation when you shoot your interviews — make them good.
  4. Shoot an interview with every member of your team.
    • Use the HPX170 and a lavalier mic, make sure all camera settings are correct (use the Field Guide in the camera bag).
    • Set up a strong composition. Each person answer the question, “What’s this film about?” and any other questions you have about the story you are telling.
    • Rework the questions until you get good, usable answers – you will use this footage for an assignment in Session 3.
  5. In FCPX, create a new Library and import the footage from your camera.
    • FCPX Media Management
    • Name the Library according to your production team name, your initials and the date. For example: “Team_JS_7-22-12”. Use this naming structure for the class.


1. Work on your ‘Project Proposal’ page.
2. Make appointments for interviews, plan & schedule shoots.

Printable handouts:
Interview Tips from NPR


LEC 3: Storytelling for Nonfiction


FCPX Media Management

LAB 3:

  1. As a team, use the footage you shot during Session 2 to create a 1-3min edit answering the question, “What’s this film about?” In your edit you can use any other footage you wish, copyrighted or otherwise. We will show all the films an hour before lab is finished. Turn in your edit to the Assignment Drop Box as a 720p/H.264 .mov.
  2. Open work time for story development, shooting footage outside of school with an established reservation or available equipment, gathering any other material (stills, archival media, etc.), working on storyboards and your proposal.
  3. Get organized with your media. You need footage for next lab to begin editing the preview assignment.
  4. Plan your future shoots, be clear and organized about interview appointments with all of the people who will be in your film, and all production team members.

Use the 3-act structure described in the SHORT_DOC_OUTLINE.


LEC 4: Editing for Nonfiction

LAB 4: Preproduction and project website clean-up and Preview

Part 1: Preproduction development, project website clean-up. Two posts (at least).

  • Make one post stating your Core Concept. Make sure your entire site supports the Core Concept, with the header and background, titles/text, sidebars. Make sure menu navigation, categories, etc. are cleaned up and well-organized.
  • Make a post discussing your story elements. Refer to this handout: Session 4: Story Structure
    • What’s the narrative spine of your piece?
    • What are your main characters? What are your plans for getting footage besides boring talking head shots?
    • How is conflict driving your story?
    • What kind of change do you wish to unfold within your piece?
    • What’s the inciting incident and point of entry in your story?
    • What issues do you foresee making your piece visually strong?

Part 2: Get set up to do the PREVIEW assignment. 

  • Individual assignment, 45sec to 2min in length.
  • Delivery: H.264 .mov
  • Assignment Drop Box and embedded in project site Media page (YouTube or Vimeo).

Now that you have footage, let’s get ORGANIZED!

  • It is a good idea to set up FCPX on an external drive. This allows being able to work in FCP suites, and allows being able to share projects across multiple computers.
  • Make sure everyone has the media they need to do the preview assignment. This includes any assets collected last term including audio, stills, etc.

FCPX Media Management

ASSIGNMENT (due Session 7)

Work individually to create a teaser/preview for your film.  45 sec-2 min. Use the footage you shot and any additional footage you like (stills, music, voice-over, etc.). You can also use assets you make in your upcoming AE lab. The goal is to make a CLIFFHANGER for the film!

The preview/trailer assignment is 10% of your grade. You need to export your video using the FCPX Share menu as H.264, then turn in your .mov to: 1) the Assignment Drop Box & 2) post to Youtube or Vimeo and put it on your project site’s Media Page.

PDF from lecture: Session_4_Editing


LEC 5: Motion Graphics for Nonfiction

LAB 5: Individual assignment: After Effects Animation (10 to 20sec in length, ProRes 422 .mov)

  1. Using After Effects, create an animation for your project. This could be: infographic(s), animated logo, titles, credits, lower thirds, transitions, etc. You are all making content for your film — as a group, before you start, decide on a graphic style for the film (fonts/colors/textures, etc).
  2. Use still images, infographics, lists, other text information, and selected portions of images as your footage.
  3. Minimum requirements: must animate Position, Scale, Rotation, Opacity and one effect.
  4. Must include audio (sound fx, voiceover, etc., your choice, rough is fine).

Delivery specs: Quicktime movie (.mov) in 720p/24

PDF: exporting in AE using the Render Queue

Set up the Output Module as a Quicktime movie (.mov) with video codec set to H.264. Note: to have a transparent background (alpha channel) for lower thirds, titles, etc., render as: Apple ProRes 4444, RGB+Alpha.

This assignment is due at the midterm (along with all assignments thus far – midterm is Session 8). Turn in a .mov of your animation to the Assignment Dropbox.



LEC 6: Storytelling for Nonfiction Part 2

LAB 6: (3 hrs) Paper edit



  1. Print a copy of the SHORT_DOC_OUTLINE. Use this as the guide to create your paper edit. Paper, markers and post-its are supplied.
  2. Make a post describing your best guess at a introduction and conclusion for your film. Be thorough, be detailed. Give us examples of the obligatory footage you will show to introduce your audience to your Core Concept. Describe how the Core Concept gets communicated through your audio and visuals.
  3. Work on your roughcut and other assignments. (The Preview and After Effects assignments are due next class).
  4. Roughcut production meetings with instructors.
  5. At the end of term you will take a picture of your paper edit and post it to the Media Page on your project website.
  • For your Roughcut:
    • Bring your audio to a listenable version for the rough cut.
    • Priority #1: your audience needs to hear the dialog. Adjust levels to be even throughout, make sure music does not interfere with dialog).
    • Tip: Mixing in headphones does not give you an accurate idea of how your piece will sound when played through speakers. Use a FCP suite so you can mix audio in monitors.

PDF from lecture 4 keynote on editing: Editing





LAB 7:

The preview/trailer assignment is 10% of your grade, due at lab start time.

Delivery specifications for the Preview assignment:

  • Format: 720p
  • Codec: H.264 (.mov)
  • Post all trailers to the Media page on the project website (Youtube or Vimeo)
  • Turn in your trailer to the Assignment Drop Box (H.264 .mov)
  1. View all the trailers in class.
  2. Work on your rough cut as a group — next class is the roughcut critique/midterm.
  3. Roughcut: 4-8 mins. Focus: core concept, story structure, music or placeholder music for tone, basic lower thirds done in FCP.
  4. ROUGHCUT: from FCP, Export your roughcut as H.264 and turn in to the Assignment Drop Box.




Roughcut Workshop Guide

  • You are required to take notes on the feedback you receive, so that you can complete the assignment to create a Post on the project site discussing the rough cut feedback.
  • The Rough Cut is one of the major deadlines in the class. Make sure your H.264 quicktime movie is in the Assignment Drop Box by the beginning of class. No exceptions.




LEC 9 – Audio for Nonfiction



LAB 9: (2.5 hrs) Production meetings with instructors.

  • Work on your project — the deadline for the final critique is 30 minutes before the lecture two sessions from now.
  • This is the second important deadline in the class: your grade will automatically drop 10% if the H.264 .mov file is not in the Assignment Drop Box at lecture start time.
  • Checklist: final edit, finished soundtrack, motion graphics, color correction.


  1. Pull at least TWO .jpg stills (or pull them from your video footage) that could represent your film on the LMW screening poster on the TV’s around the school.
  2. The formatting for the image is 3x wider than it is high. Bigger is better, somewhere between 1280w x 430h and 1500w x 500h.
  3. TOPIC DOES NOT MATTER. WE NEED NICE LOOKING PHOTOS FOR THE POSTER (in focus, good exposure, decent color).
  4. Choose images that fit our extra wide format. Close-ups are good. Humans doing things are good. Faces are good. Groups of people are good. Note: this is about good photography, so make sure the image is in focus, color is decent, etc.
  5. Drop the jpg’s in the Assignment Drop Box “Stills for Poster” folder.
  6. Post your images to the Media Page on your project website.




LEC 10: (2 hrs) Polish & finishing touches

From the FCPX page:
Audio mastering in FCPX
Color correction in FCPX

LAB 10: (2.5 hrs) Putting it all together

Motion graphics & text: logo, title, lower thirds, animations, infographics, credits

Fade in/fade out for beginning and ending?
Is all text title safe?

FCP: Color correction: individual clips & global
FCP: Match color
FCP: filters, looks, stylize

Audio mix:
Dialog audible? Levels even throughout? No chopped-off dialog?
Voiceover in place?
Does the audio story make sense start to finish?
Beginning and ending in place?
Music mixed so it never interferes with dialog?
Sound design? Interesting location sound?
Pacing? Tone? Mood?

If you use After Effects to make lower thirds or graphics and you need to export with alpha channel (transparency), here’s how:
After you add your comp to the Render Queue, set up the Output Module settings (click on “Lossless”). Under Format Options > Video Codec, select “Apple ProRes 4444” (hit Ok). Under Video Output > Channels, select “RGB+Alpha”.


Tip: Use Adobe Bridge to preview AE Text Effects

Final export:
For the critique, use the Share menu to export a 720p H.264 version of your movie. Turn your movie file in to the Assignment Drop Box.


LEC 11: Pre Screening/FINAL CRITIQUE

  • Checklist: final edit, finished soundtrack, motion graphics, color correction.
  • This is the second important deadline in the class: your grade will automatically drop 10% if the H.264 .mov file is not in the Assignment Drop Box at lecture start time.





LEC 12: Wrap-up: Final Production Meetings


Website: make a post about the feedback you received in your final critique.

KEEP WORKING: You are expected to use the feedback you received in the final critique to polish and refine your product for the final screening next session.

Checklist for the Project Website

The site is a polished archive of the project. It is potentially an awesome calling card to show your next client or prospective job interviewer what you have been working on!


  • “About Us” page (updated bio page for all team members. Extra credit for pictures of each member!)
  • “Project Proposal” page (using the guidelines from the PROPOSAL GUIDE)
  • “Media” page, including video and stills for the following:
    • your final edit
    • your rough cut edit
    • all individual Preview assignments
    • all indivdual After Effects assignments
    • the stills you submitted for the screening poster
    • edit of session 3 “preview”
    • a photo of your paper edit
    • any other relevant media
  • A post describing the Approach for your film
  • A post of possible interview questions
  • A post with a pdf of the Production Checklist
  • A post with the Core Concept of your film
  • A post describing the beginning and ending of your film
  • A post discussing the feedback you received for the rough cut and final critiques



LEC 13: Final Screening & Last Day



  1. Make any last minute changes to your film based on things you may have discovered in the final screening. Make sure your instructor has your file for screening.
  2. Deadline is 3 hours prior to screening. Please turn in the .mov files to the Assignment Drop Box.
  3. Please turn in BOTH Apple ProRes 422 (for the screening) and an H.264 version. There are folders for both in the Assignment Drop Box.
  4. Post your final film on Youtube or Vimeo and embed it in the blog.
  5. Optional: Find other places to distribute your film and/or post it.
  6. Finish the website, including:
    • Page: “About Us” (“About Me” page revised to include all team members)
    • Post with your documentary Approach
    • Post with interview questions
    • Post with pdf of Production Checklist
    • Post describing the beginning and ending of the film
    • Page for the Project Proposal (see Proposal handout for guidelines, Session 2)
    • Page for Media with:
      • The Final Cut
      • Rough Cut edit
      • All individual Preview assignments
      • All individual After Effects assignments
      • Stills for TV Poster
      • Photo of your Paper Edit
  7. Post-mortem review. Write an email to your instructor answering the following questions:
    • What part of the project was most successful?
    • What would you have done differently?
    • Peer review (most important): assess every member in your group including yourself.  Base your assessment on professionalism, attitude, contribution to the project, flexibility and resourcefulness. Please give each person (including yourself) a numerical grade 0-100. Be fair and be honest. Feel free to write about how the project went.

Thank you for all of your hard work this term!