Visual Storytelling: A Class Act

An endearing interview with an author. A posh beauty product review. A quirky exercise tutorial. These are the visual stories that students created during the spring semester in the “Role of Video in Publishing” course offered by the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program.

The professor, Marisa Benedetto, Executive Producer at HarperCollins Video Studio, divided the students into three teams. Students fully immersed themselves in the world of video by writing, filming, directing, and even starring in their own videos. “Video was a skill I wanted to have, and knew I should have,” said graduate student Ashley Sepanski.”But I thought it would be difficult to learn about all that intimidating camera equipment and intense editing software. After working with my team, I felt much more confident and capable.”

Each student project was designed to serve as promotional content for existing brands and  gave students the opportunity to experience firsthand what it takes to create  and execute a video strategy. As we all know, this is  a critical skill in the ever-changing media landscape of publishing.

“Digital video technology is quickly evolving; therefore companies are constantly experimenting with different video styles while staying true to their brand,” said Ashley Mercado, whose team created a promotional video for Refinery29 about the benefits of essential oils.

Screenshots from the promotional video for Refinery29 (left) and the author interview video (right) created for the Role of Video in Publishing course.

Megan Zimlich, whose group conducted an author interview, added that while branding is important, messaging is also key. “Video in publishing can be a powerful promotional tool,” she said.

For many students, this course also made the complexity of film seem simple and accessible. The third team learned this by tackling a how-to exercise video for ClassPass, entitled “3 Exercises You’re Doing Wrong.” In the video, Ashley Sepanski, who plays the trainer, shows teammates and fellow actors, Hannah Freedman and Marie Waine, how to properly do exercises such as “inchworms” and “burpees.” Sepanski and crew took inspiration from BuzzFeed. They mimicked the video leader’s quirky and upbeat style through their acting, filming, and editing. Although this was new territory for the team, they succeeded with flying colors.

“It was an awesome learning experience seeing my classmates discover new talents within themselves,” said Mercado.

Through this course, students had the opportunity to learn the latest techniques in Adobe Premiere to add sound and special effects, music, and more to their video stories. In the end, students watched their ideas come to life and enjoyed each other’s unique methods of visual storytelling.

Freedman, who recently interviewed for an internship that required video editing skills, is also taking these new-found skills into the workplace. “Thanks to this class I was able to say that I had that experience and basic video editing knowledge,” said Freedman.

Whether a minute-long book trailer or a 15 second recipe clip, there are hours of work that go on behind-the-scenes to create short videos. In creating videos, students learned the importance of brand standards and strategy behind content marketing, and were able to leave the class with a tangible product to add to their portfolios.

The how-to exercise video, “3 Exercises You’re Doing Wrong,” created for the Role of Video in Publishing course.

by Christina Licud

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