Frankenstein Video Projects

Video provides a valuable means of understanding and connecting to the novels of the Victorian period through a digital and social mode in which students from this generation are already surprisingly well versed. It allows students to explore mood, tone, color, images, and sound to convey the meaning of a work in a recognized critical theoretical perspective and to develop a unique interpretation of their own.  It is a delightfully creative project that plays to the technical, visual, and audio strengths of students who may struggle with formal textual assignments, yet it also requires students to understand the tools and techniques of writing, the historical and cultural context of the novel, and the message or meaning of the work itself.  Students report on evaluations that the project “allowed me to see the book in a new way” and was “the most fun I have had in an English class.”  

Students are told they will be asked to create a video which explains and analyzes Frankenstein in a way that would be useful as a teaching tool in a future Freshman English class. They must have sufficient critical analysis to be appealing to a teacher and also be engaging and informative enough to appeal to and explain the work to a student audience that may not know this work or the author.  

The video should have a title slide to identify the author and title. Relevant biographical information can be used, but only to provide context to the work. The basic plot should be presented with explanation and analysis as needed. Most importantly, the video should have a critical focus looking intently at one element or aspect of the work from a critical perspective we have discussed in class like feminism, Eco-criticism, Marxism, etc.  Students can use voice over, text slides, and other speakers to present analysis and explanation as they walk the viewer through the story. They must have music at some point in their video. Students must also have a final citation slide which references all materials used.

We have one class focused on technology.  We meet in a lab on campus for an introduction to free video programs like Moviemaker for PC users and iMovie for Mac users.  I walk through a sample video showing how to create and import audio and images, edit and add effects, and export in both programs. I talk about how to use audio recorders on laptops and smart phones and offer the following audio tips: talking slowly and clearly, staying a hand width from the microphone, eliminating ambient noise, and using blankets to muffle echo in a dorm room.  In the lab, we do a short tutorial on audio editing with the free audio editing program Audacity in which students amplify the volume on a too quiet recording and merge two audio tracks together. We talk about copyright and the importance of open source images and music. Students are encouraged to use Creative Commons and Archive.org and I provide samples of citations to music and images on each site.

We have at least two classes focused on analysis and design.  We discuss the importance of understanding the background of the novel, including any historical, cultural, and biographical features.  We talk about obvious and implied meanings, emotion and reaction, symbolism, and message, and how to emphasize those textual elements visually and with audio. We talk about how to portray gothic style while still avoiding visual noise. We look at contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity in successful advertisements and commercials like the early Apple advertisements as models of good design practice. We discuss the importance of a logical framework and central purpose or perspective for the video.  We talk about how to make the video echo or imitate the structure and organization of the novel. We talk about how to make use of color, font, white space, mood, tone, and placement of images to make each slide visually engaging. We also talk about the importance of consistency and continuity of tone, mood, and language within the novel and in a consistent visual and audio format throughout the presentation. We talk about how repetition, rhyme, word choice, and other poetic devices like metaphors or alliteration can be important within the novel and how to echo and emphasize that visually or with audio. We review the major musicians and artists of the period as well as steampunk artists like Rasputina and discuss why they might or might not be useful in the project. We discuss a variety of framing techniques, including the one used in the novel, that can be used to introduce and end the presentation. In many ways this is like teaching students to do a traditional literary analysis, but the added dimensions of video enable us to think beyond text in exciting ways. Students learn to think of the novel not just as a powerful story, but as a rhetorical device that conveys a message in structure and tone. They come to understand that what they produce is a reader response in which they annotate the text, but also emphasize through their visual and audio choices their own perspective of the novel.

Students map out their video with a story board, essentially a video draft on paper, which illustrates how the work will be framed and broken into specific slides, lists the audio and images to be used on each slide, provides a well edited script for any audio, and lists any video effects like zoom or fade out to be used.

Students Peer Edit their storyboards in class using the following questions:

Is this original and legal?

Do the visuals and audio create a tone and theme that work for this novel?

Do they have a single focus or perspective in their analysis?

Does this presentation and their interpretation seem accurate, complete, and logical?

Do they provide enough explanation that a freshman could understand this novel?

Do they provide enough analysis that a teacher would want to use this video in class?

Are the audio, script, and text slides (if used) cleanly edited and clear?

Students make final revisions and submit their videos to the class's private YouTube channel. I grade videos using the attached rubric, which takes into account my evaluation and asks for student feedback on class projects. When time is tight, I have had students review videos out of class, but usually we are able to have what we call “The Academy Awards of Frankenstein Videos” during dead week when we review the videos as a class. I ask students to go to Survey Monkey and evaluate each video with a 1 (BEST), 2 ( Good), and 3 (Needs Revision) ranking and a vote for most original, best script, best music, best visuals, best videography and effects, best research and analysis, most student friendly, best use of language, most historically accurate, and best all around. Students love this assignment and I feel it offers them an opportunity to analyze and connect to the novel in a new and exciting way.

 

 Video Scoring Rubric

Overall Effectiveness

 

Needs Revision

Good

Best

Is there a point to the presentation?

 

 

 

Does it meet the required length/time parameters?

 

 

 

Is it creative and engaging?

 

 

 

Does it meet the purpose of the assignment?

 

 

 

Is the content and style appropriate for the audience?

 

 

 

Is the tone appropriate for the project?

 

 

 

Are there smooth and effective transitions in audio, visuals, and text?

 

 

 

Is the required content included?

 

 

 

Is it ranked highly by classmates?

 

 

 

 

Images

 

Needs Revision

Good

Best

Are they legal and/or original and correctly cited?

 

 

 

Are they consistent in tone or theme?

 

 

 

Are they effective in conveying the message?

 

 

 

Are they clear and legible?

 

 

 

Is text and narration appropriately balanced for this project?

 

 

 

Is there visual noise?

 

 

 

 

Audio

 

Needs Revision

Good

Best

Is the audio legal and/or original and correctly cited?

 

 

 

Is the sound clear and appropriately loud?

 

 

 

If a script is read, is it appropriate for the task?

 

 

 

Is narration clear and articulated distinctly and with appropriate inflection?

 

 

 

If background music is present, is it appropriate in tone and volume?

 

 

 

 

Design

 

Needs Revision

Good

Best

Is the design legal and/or original?

 

 

 

Is there evidence of a design theme, color palette, and/or organization?

 

 

 

Do all visuals and text serve a purpose?

 

 

 

Is all text legible, formatted consistently, and spelled correctly?

 

 

 

Is there a logical flow to the presentation?

 

 

 

Does it show an awareness of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity?

 

 

 

 

Useful Links:

Audacity Free Audio Editor  http://audacityteam.org/

Microsoft Movie Maker Free Video Editor for PC  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/movie-maker

iMovie Free Video Editor for Mac https://www.apple.com/mac/imovie/

Open Source Music Archive https://archive.org/index.php

Open Source Image Archive http://creativecommons.org/

How to make a private YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qZAfcZx6U0

 

Emily Dotson, University of Kentucky

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