Reality TV: A Training Exercise

The Video Scavenger Hunt

The video scavenger hunt is a highly entertaining activity that uses reality TV to teach the students how to work as a team, operate the camcorder, and manipulate the editing software. 

Almost no preproduction, or panning of the video is required, and the results can be rewarding and very entertaining.  This can be the first activity in any videography class.  It could also be used at the beginning of the year as an icebreaker activity that will acquaint the students with each other and the technical aspects of video production for future video-based projects.

The preproduction for this project is handed to the students in the form of a list of tases with associated point values.  Tasks can include activities as diverse as having team members act like a duck for 5 points per person, impersonate their favorite rock star for 50 points, serenade the principal or another teacher for 75 points, recite a poem publicly for 50 points-with a 50-point bonus if the students actually write the poem and people actually stop to listen. (A more complete list of possible tasks follows this article.) Students are given a limited amount of time in which to videotape members of their team completing as many tasks as possible, competing for the highest point total.  Then they are given a limited amount of time to import the video footage into the computer to edit it with titles, music, sound effects, and voice-overs.  The results are frequently memorable.

Intentionally keep the job responsibilities loose by not assigning a director, camera operator, or editor so that the students all get to try a little of everything.  The project is not disadvantaged by this lack of specific crew assignments-as other projects might be-because it does not require the strict adherence to a director’s vision, or consistency of talent and camera work, that most other productions require.  All the students should be encouraged to try their hand at all aspects of the production that interest them.  They will quickly find their niche in the group and be ready to volunteer their unique interests and talents in the next production.

A step by step guide for a video scavenger hunt:
1. Show camera operation and video aesthetic considerations to students.
2. Break the class into groups of four or more students
3. The day before the actual hunt, give the groups the list of tasks and their point values and time to discuss which tasks they are going to do.  Ask them to bring in any props and/or music they might need or want for the hunt.  Music they wish to add in the editing phase should be on a music CD.  Remember to stress the rules on using copyrighted music. (see Copyright and Music, SVN, April, 2008).
4. On the day of the hunt, give a camcorder loaded with media to the designated camera operator who is responsible for its care.  Encourage everyone to try using the camera and to frame and light the picture correctly and record quality audio.
5. Send the students out to capture the tasks with a designated time to return. Points can be deducted for not returning on time.
6. After the time is up, teach the students how to import the video into a computer and edit their segments into a video. Have them start their video with a title shot that lists the members of their team on a black background, then another title shot identifying which task will be shown and its associated point value.  Next, they should show the video of the task, followed by another title shot for the next task, and so on.
7. Encourage the students to add music, sound, and video effects as class time allows.  These elements add greatly to the finished product.
8. Show the completed videos in class and possibly to the whole school.  The students will most certainly want to make copies for themselves.

Time allowed for this project should be brief because the purpose is not for the students to compete a finished work but for them to learn to capture, edit, and export a video. Allow approximately an hour and a half for video capture and two and a half hours for editing.  Obviously you can adjust these times to comply with your scheduling restraints.

The class then watches the videos together and totals the scores achieved by each video.  The students will love the ease with which they can create a video that is funny and fast paced.  Be sure to praise the students as they appear in the video. Discourage the mocking of individuals in a mean spirit, as students are already self-conscious enough, and this first experience with classroom video should be a positive one.

Do have the students pay close attention to the framing of the subjects, the quality of the audio and lighting, and the auto focus-zooming in and out as it searches for its subject.  Have them notice how the handheld camera shakes and how fast panning and zooming induce motion sickness in the audience.  The students will invariably make mistakes in all of these areas.  This exercise is meant to allow them to make these mistakes and learn from them.

If time allows, it is useful to watch the entire video once through and then go back and watch each scene individually, having the team talk about what decisions they made and obstacles they had to overcome to capture and edit each scene.  Have the team identify each shot as a long shot, medium close-up, close-up, or extreme close-up and identify attributes such as a pan, tilt, zoom, or dolly.  Also, have the team talk about the camera angle and perspective, lighting, audio, and sound and video effects choices they may have made and why.
To bring team members’ attention to the aesthetic aspects of the video, you may want to award double the point value if they do a particularly good job of portraying an individual task through camera angles, effects and/or music score.

If you choose to have your students do a video scavenger hunt, your students will enjoy the experience and be technically ready to tackle more challenging video projects.

Video Scavenger Hunt Tasks
Capture as many of the following events as possible to achieve the highest score.
Try to buy something at the bookstore with a foreign currency   100
Find a twin for every member of the team      75
 Bonus for best look-alike       100
Ask students what they want to do with their life     35
Impersonate your favorite rock star       50
Perform as a barbershop quartet with choreography    50
Ask non-team members to name the 13 original colonies, and the one
 they would vote off the island      50
Kiss a fish          30
Change clothes with other team members      30
Breakdance on a cardboard box in public      175
 Bonus for each move        75
 Bonus for getting a stranger to join in     50
Point at nothing and get passerby to look at it     50
Video an animal         30
 Bonus for finding more than three species     75
Get someone on the team to sing and act out the teapot song   50
Get someone on the team to sing and dance the Little Birdie Dance  75
Comment on a student’s behavior as if narrating a nature program  75
Travel the halls as if you were the Crocodile Hunter in the wild   75
Create an obstacle on the sidewalk and then act as Olympic judges, rating
 how well passerby navigate it      40
Take a nap in an inappropriate location      35
Re-enact the “King of the World” scene from the movie Titanic   30
Get in a car “Dukes of Hazzard” style      30
Film an opposing team member standing still for more than 10 seconds 50
In a public area, give your best impersonation of a pro wrestler’s pre-fight
 interview         50
Interview people coming out of the restroom     50
Capture a team member acting like a duck      5/per
Play an air badminton game in public      40
Video team members playing leap frog      15
Video a team member climbing a tree      15
Scoring a goal and doing your best end-zone dance    75
Video a team member dunking a basketball     75
Serenade the principal        75
Recite a poem publicly        50
 Bonus if you make up the poem and strangers stop to listen  50
Have every member of your team hop a fence     35
Come up with a rock-paper-scissors game for your whole team and demonstrate
 how it works         50
Capture team members lovingly running toward each other across a field 50
Ride in the maintenance cart       125
Have a formal meal in the cafeteria       75
 Bonus for candles, etc       50
Enact a dramatic finish to a running race between team members  50
Try to buy something at the bookstore with a foreign currency   
     100
Find a twin for every member of the team      
Bonus for best look-alike   75
100
Ask students what they want to do with their life 35
Impersonate your favorite rock star 50
Perform as a barbershop quartet with choreography 50
Ask non-team members to name the 13 original colonies, and the one
 they would vote off the island 50