Digital Storytelling

A Historical Video Documentary (Sensitive Content Warning)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My first project this week is actually a bit of a crossover assignment. For this reason I created an assignment worth five stars called “Create a Short Documentary” in the assignment bank, and I will explain why. This project was originally assigned to me in HIST 471G4, otherwise known as History of Mental Health in the U.S. For this class we were told to complete a digitally enhanced research project, and were given the choice of digitally annotated primary sources, creating a digitally enhanced essay, or creating a short 10-15 minute video documentary. I choose to do the final option, and created a short documentary.

Now, this documentary might be a bit upsetting to those who choose to watch it. This project is about the history of mental health, and the means I had to cover potentially upsetting topics. The project topic I choose was John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematician and Nobel Prize winner who had schizophrenia for most of his adult life. Some of the things I cover in the video are a bit upsetting, but it is meant to be a short informative video on Nash and his experiences with schizophrenia. Seeing as this was a 400-level history assignment, I did a lot of thorough research and have cited all my sources I used in the Chicago Manual of Style.

Making this video took quite a long time. I have been doing research since the beginning of the semester, and been working on the actual video since Fall Break. Putting it together was not that hard, but doing the research and writing the script took me forever. We had three phases concerning this project: initial bibliography, annotated bibliography, and final project. It just so happened that the week the final project was due is also video week in DS106. Thankfully I had already written out what I wanted to say and had gathered clips to complete the video.

There is not a lot of information about John Nash that isn’t in the form of interviews, videos, documentaries, or that one Hollywood movie about his life based off his biography. This is part of the reason why I decided to make a video. Most of my sources ended up being videos, so I choose the project that best reflected my sources.

After I got everything together, I recorded the script I wrote for myself in Audacity. I divided the script into sections, so I was less likely to mess up and have to start over from the very beginning. I then used OpenShot to layer the audio over a blank scene so I could estimate how long the video was going to be, and if I had to cut anything. When my professor for this class said 10-15 minutes, he means 10-15 minutes. No more than 15, because he has a bunch of other assignments to grade and needs to manage his time. As a result, I had to cut some sections and decide what I wanted to keep. For instance, I had an entire section where I talked about electro-shock therapy, but cut it in favor of discussing other treatments because I had interesting clips to include about them. Once I figured all that out, the video ended up being roughly fourteen minutes long, which was comfortably in the middle of my required time frame.

Next, I began taking a 2002 PBS documentary apart, because it had a lot of interesting clips I wanted to use. I isolated a lot of clips from various documentaries and interviews to possibly include. I created a title slide and lined up all the audio clips so they flowed okay. Then I edited video clips and pictures together in a cohesive way that followed my narrative. This part took a long time, because OpenShot is very finicky. I couldn’t leave OpenShot open for a long time because it likes to crash when left unattended. Thankfully it autosaves most of the time, and I was able to put everything together without messing up.

An interesting thing I’d like to mention is that I started this project three different times to get to this part. I first tried to use DaVinci Resolve to create this video. However, despite downloading the free version, I could not use any transitions in the video. Since I was using a lot of video clips and photos from different media sources, I needed transitions to adjust brightness and volume, and to ensure the cuts weren’t so sudden. DaVinci Resolve prompted me one too many times to pay for a basic feature and I uninstalled it. I then tried to use the Windows Video Editor, only to discover transitions do not exist in it. I installed OpenShot as a last resort. While it does crash from time to time, and lags horribly if you leave it open for too long, it was actually the easiest one to use. Plus it’s completely free and had all the transitions and effects I could have ever wanted.

Once I finished the video in OpenShot, I actually exported it to use in the Windows Video Editor. I did this so I could use the royalty free music that’s available in the editor. The Windows Video Editor has a feature that automatically aligns music to the length of your video. I’ve never seen this feature in another editor, and it’s one I enjoy using a lot. I had to split my video a few times, export them, and then put them back together with the uploaded music. This was honestly the easiest part of this entire project. Unfortunately, I ran into a bit of trouble with the editor glitching out at the beginning of my video, but it was a minor discoloration issue on a black screen, so I kept it in since it didn’t really disrupt anything.

After I did all this, I put a copy of my video transcript on the page I uploaded my video on. This part took a long time because I had to go through all my sources and include footnotes where appropriate. I transcribed all the video clips I used as well, keeping accessibility in mind. I also have a full bibliography linked on a second page. These were honestly the most mundane parts of the assignment, but are crucial if you are a history major like me. The very last thing I did was upload the video to YouTube. You know what the best part was? There weren’t any copyright strikes. None. The longest video I’ve ever made, and I managed to do it within the confines of copyright laws! That made me very happy.

I will embed the completed video documentary in this post, but I will also provide a link to the complete project for anyone interested. Follow this link if you want to see the complete project. It can also be found under the “History of Mental Health in the U.S.” sub-tab under “History” in the header of my blog.

EDIT (11/4/2021): YouTube decided, after almost a week of the video being live on their platform, to mute the audio in the last five minutes of the video. This confuses me, because it still has no copyright strikes and passes all the video checks. For the sake of this class, and HIST 471G4, I have uploaded the same video to Vimeo for everyone to view. I have taken down the YouTube version, because there’s no point in keeping it if half of my voiceover analysis is gone.

Please tell me what you think in a comment down below! Also, a big thanks to Professor Bond for allowing me to use this for one of my assignments this week! This project is the result of weeks worth of work and I hope at least some people enjoy it!

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