JO706 Digital Toolkit, fall 19

Peter Smith, 
Master Lecturer
Office: B33
Teaching Assistant,  Mateo Venieri
Office Hours: Monday 11-1, Tuesday 1-3, Friday 12-1 
Cell 617 548 0109

Welcome to JO706 Digital Toolkit, an intro to audio and visual storytelling. During the semester you will learn to shoot and edit a photo-story. You will also learn to produce a video story with high quality audio for interviews and natural sound sound. Think of the cry of a gull or the chug of a train. JO706 students will publish their work on a visual journalism blog using Adobe Portfolio.

Goals and Objectives
You will build skill-sets in shooting, editing, composition, and color. You will also learn to develop a visual plan to produce a strong visual story that includes: action, reaction, opening, closing and point of view shots. You will also learn to shoot and edit a video sequence of a process.  When shooting photos or video, students will capture a variety of situations and angles while using various focal length lenses. You will also learn how to work with various types of lighting and understand the effect of color and contrast. Editing skills are key to building a story, so we’ll take a deep dive into editing workflow and learn  to edit with Adobe Premiere and Lightroom.

Gear and Software
You will shoot photos and video with a Canon Rebel, record audio with a Zoom H5 recorder, edit photos with Adobe Lightroom, and edit video with Adobe Premiere and publish your work to a class folder, as well as on your own visual journalism blog created with Adobe Portfolio.

Laptop and external HD: You will need to order an SD media card for the first Saturday class. 64 gigs is currently the standard. You will also need a second SD later in the semester for audio. 

Before you arrive to class, be sure to have a laptop that meets COM’s recommendations. This link also has a guide to help you choose an external hard drive. Make sure that your external hard drive is formatted to either Mac or Windows depending on your laptop type. Mac external hard drives should be formatted to ‘journaled.’

Adobe Creative Cloud:
You will need to download Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Lightroom and Portfolio for this course. You can download them once you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud using your Kerberos username and password. This must be completed at least two days before the first class meeting. Check out gear for first class: look under camera/Canon Kit for JO706 Toolkit.

We will use Slack for our discussion group. 
We will use Media Storm Field Guide as reference throughout the class. It only costs 10 bucks and it is packed with useful information. This is required reading. It works great as an iBook to play video and audio.

Day-To-Day Schedule

Class ONE – shooting with a DSLR 
Saturday, Sept 7
room 217, 9:00 – 4:00pm ~ Photo

  • Class Intro, review syllabus (30 mins.)
    Meet and Greet. Who are you? State experience/goals.
    Pick a partner(30 mins.)
    DSLR Canon camera setup (30 mins.)
    Understanding the exposure triangle (30 mins.)
    Using composition, light meter and histogram (30 mins.)
  • In today’s class we will cover:
    Camera set-up
    Using camera’s light meter and understanding the Exposure Triangle
    Composition and rule of thirds
    White Balance
    Focusing your camera
    Aperture priority, shutter priority and manual settings, freezing action

11:30 am break (10 mins.)

11:40 – 1:00 pm

  • Understanding lighting – soft light, direct light, and artificial light.
    Field trip on campus to shoot Portrait assignment.
  • Shoot wide, medium or tight establishing shots with 20mm and 50 mm lens. (two shots)
  • Shoot portrait in shade, direct light and indoors with 50mm or 100mm – with plain background. (three shots)

1:00 – 2:00 pm, Lunch 
Plan with your partner

2 – 4:00 pm
Lecture/field trip
Shoot stop action with 50 mm or any lens (three shots)
and depth-of-field  with 50 mm  (two shots)

deliverables, ten photos,  due next week in class – 9/14

Lab ONE – Photo
Friday, Sept 13
room B27 

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm, Lab-one
3-5 pm, Lab-two

  • Learn Adobe Lightroom, review workflow 
    Begin edit for assignment-one 
    Review camera settings and lighting concepts

Class TWO – Photo
Saturday, Sept 14
room 217, 9-4 pm – Photo

9-11:00 am

Finish edit for assignment one 
deliverables, ten photos:

  • three tight portraits – sunny/cloudy/artificial light
  • two establishing shots,
  • two DoF portraits,
  • three action shots.
  • 10 PTS.

11-11:10am – Break

11:10 – 12pm

  • Lecture on shooting assignment 2 – a photo documentary of ‘Life on the Charles’
    use 50mm lens, get id(s). Shoot wide, medium and tight, mostly of people. 

Lunch 12:00 -1 pm

  • Planning with partner. Discuss schedules and deadlines.

1-2:30 pm

  • Photo field trip, ‘Life on the Charles’
    Documentary learning objective: bring back one portrait with id and title/occupation, and one action shot. 

2:45 – 3:15 pm

  • Edit two shots and publish.

3:15 -4 pm Review results on Smugmug site

Lab TWO – Photo
Friday, Sept 20
room B27

Attend assigned lab
1-3 pm Lab-one
3-5 pm Lab-two

  • Assignment three: Introduce Neighborhood Project for photo final.
    Edit Assignment 2 ‘Life on the Charles.’ Due in lab today. 10 PTS.

Class THREE – Video
Saturday Sept 21
Room 217, 9-4 pm

9-10:30 am

  • Intro to Video Editing
    editing in Adobe Premiere. Storytelling starts with the edit.
  • Here is a great editing guide from FTV – click ‘tools’ scroll to Adobe Premiere
  • General Lecture on:
    • workflow
    • setting preferences, audio, project folders
    • browser windows
    • import files, organize bins
    • setting in/out points and adding to timeline
    • moving and timing clips
    • creating new sequence
    • adding b-roll
    • adjusting audio
    • export

Break 10 mins.

10:40 – noon,  Premiere Editing 

  • Edit a one-minute story using provided interview and B-roll footage
    Homework assignment: edit a one-minute story with provided video files
    Due in lab on Friday, 9/27

Lunch noon-1 pm

  • Planning with partner. Discuss schedules and deadlines.

1-3:30 pm

  • Review camera and audio recorder – settings and technique
  • Review MediaStorm Field Guide
  • Review audio capture for interview and ‘nat’ sound
  • Video shooting workshop (Life on the Charles – the movie)
    10-clip assignment including tight, medium, wide, action, reaction, and POV shots.
    Due: Friday, 10/4,
  • 10PTS.

3:30 – 4 pm

  • Review shooting and audio recording experience.
  • Review final video project info: deadline, topic, goals + objectives.

Lab THREE – Video
Friday, Sept 27
room B27 

Attend assigned lab
1-3 pm Lab-one
3-5 pm Lab-two

  • Review audio settings and technique.
    • select wave 24bit, 48kHz, 320
    • select folder – of ten folders, use first one
    • select time/stamp
    • select stereo
    • adjust gain -12 to -6
    • adjust headphone volume to 50%
  • Assign neighborhood photo essay.
    • ten photos, include scene-setter, two portraits, three action
    • find situations that are unique to the neighborhood you cover
    • include at least two shoots, total time 3-5 hours shooting
  • Review video export and upload to Smugmug.
  • Get YouTube/Vimeo account for publishing.
    Review  two minute story on a public place (rough due Friday Oct.18)
    Final video story idea needs approval. Send email to by Oct.4
    Finish edit of one-minute video of provided video footage
  • Choose H.264 for codec and destination folder.
  • Adjust data throughput for best playback.
  • 10 PTS.

Lab FOUR – Adobe Portfolio
Friday October 4 
room B-27

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm 
3-5 pm

  • Setup Adobe Portfolio Visual Journalism Blog
    Write ‘about’ page that identifies you and what your audience will see on your blog.
    Add portrait to your ‘about’ page.
  • Finish one-minute video of ‘Life on the Charles.’ 10PTS.
    • use lower thirds
    • grade color

Lab FIVE – Photo
Friday, October 11
room B-27

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm 
3-5 pm

  • Live interview demo, learn how to create sync-clip.
  • Edit neighborhood photoessay – rough draft slideshow
    of 10 well-edited and well-sequenced photos due. 5PTS.

Lab SIX – Video
Friday October 18
room B-27 

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm 
3-5 pm

  • Finish rough draft of video story – due today.  5PTS

Lab SEVEN – Photo
Friday October 25
room B-27 

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm 

Final Due: photoessay 20PTS.

Lab EIGHT – Video
Friday, November 1
room B-27

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm 
3-5 pm

  • Final Due: video project 20 PTS.

Lab NINE – Screening
Friday Nov. 8
room B-27

Attend assigned lab.
1-3 pm
3-5 pm

  • Screen Projects

Total Class Hours: 21
Total Lab Hours: 18
Office visit 01
Online Forum 06
Total contact hours: 46

Deliverables, Due Date, and Weight

Sept. 14
Photo Assignment one: Ten full-res photos; three sunny/cloudy portraits, 
two depth-of-field portraits, three action shots, two silhouettes
10 PTS.

Sept. 20
Photo assignment two: Ten documentary photos from field trip/homework of ‘Life on the Charles’
10 PTS.

Sept. 27
Premiere Editing assignment – one-minute segment using provided interview and B-roll footage
10 PTS.

Oct. 4
Final draft of one-minute video “Life on the Charles River.”
10 PTS.

Send email with video story idea.

Oct. 11
Rough draft photo assignment three – photoessay on a  Boston neighborhood.
Begin editing process to select 10 photos that tell a story in, or about, a neighborhood. 
Be sure to include a variety of situations shot with a variety of lens focal lengths – wide to tight.
Include action, reaction, portraits, scene setters, of people at work, play and rest.
Add rough captions during your edit, and questions of who, what, when and where.
5 PTS.

Oct. 18
Rough draft of final video story – public place
1.5-2 minute story of, or found in, a public place. Sequencing is important to story flow.
b-roll sequence of process is important, logical b-roll sequence of visual story is essential.
Include two interviews recorded with DSLR and a separate audio recorder.
Timeline should be mostly complete.
5 PTS.

Final of photo assignment three (Boston neighborhood)
Add adjustments of cropping, exposure and color correct.
Refine captions.
Create affective sequence to explain visual narrative.
20 PTS.

Nov. 1
Final video story (public place) 
20 PTS.

  • Final video project, include:
    Well-structured soundbites (word narrative)
    Well-sequenced b-roll (visual narrative)
    include process when possible
    shoot wide, medium and tight shots
    Use sequenced b-roll rather than single clips
    Clips should be 5-8 seconds in length
    Narrowly focus a story within public space
    (Or) Broadly focus story on public space
    Technical requirements:
    no shaky footage
    proper exposure and good lighting
    accurate and consistent color 
    id subjects with lower thirds
    sound bites:
    proper audio levels
    no loud background
    proper mic’ing
    use ‘room noise’ when needed
    must use ‘nat’ sound
    properly export and deliver on time

Nov. 8
Adobe Portfolio
Publish three pages – 1-final video, 2-photoessay, 3-about
10 PTS. (also includes engagement in Slack app and class/lab attendance)

Learning Outcomes

 • shoot storytelling photo coverage to industry standard
 • shoot well framed, well exposed, sharp pictures with clean color
 • understand the basics of light and moment

Photo Editing:
  • learn: effective workflow, image editing, caption writing with copyright and tags

Media Management:
  • Learn effective methods of organizing your media – images, video clips and audio.

Video Shooting:
  • shoot well-produced interviews and and visual story telling track
  • conduct well mic’d interview on camera
   • understand 180 degree rule

  • capture important soundbites and ‘nat’ sound with proper gain and well positioned mic.

Video Editing:
  • understand basics of video editing
  ⁃ edit project in timeline, add b-roll, transitions, titles and lower thirds
  ⁃ create strong storytelling b-roll sequences
  ⁃ adjust audio
   • grade color
  • create a master HD Quicktime movie
  • compress video to H.264 and publish online

Storytelling Outcomes:
  • develop strong interview skills
   • shoot and edit visual story
  • hold audience attention
  • use visual planning and effective story arc

Grading criteria

Your final grade is evaluated based on assignment work. 90 %
Your  grade for participation is evaluated based on attendance,  participation in class and on Slack, and publishing to class folder and to your Adobe Portfolio. 10%

Photo assignment grades
are based on the quality of of images, sharpness, composition and framing, exposure/color, cropping, coverage of variety of situations, angles and focal length, and narrative flow. 80%

Caption info is evaluated by 
completeness of information answering questions of who, what, why and where. 20%

Video assignment grades
are based on the quality of images by evaluating sharpness, composition and framing, exposure/color, cropping, variety of situations, angles and focal length, and narrative flow, and steadiness of clips. 90%

Lower thirds and credits title are evaluated by completeness of information and accuracy. 10%

Online Portfolio
grade is evaluated (by percentage)  on resolution and size of photos and video. 
The about page must include a photo and at least three graphs that include a statement of what will be found in your portfolio, info about you and your accomplishments and aspirations, links encouraged. 
Assignments must also include three graphs that explain and describe your projects.

A          Excellent work that meets or exceeds the requirements. Work reflects solid research, skilled interviews, is accurate, has proper attribution, conforms to industry standard; multimedia elements (video, photos, audio, interactive) are sharp, focused, clear, appropriately edited, properly captioned, tagged and credited. Could be published as is, or with very minor edits.

B         Good work with a few errors. May contain minor problem with focus, spelling/grammar, style, balance, organization; several multimedia elements are subpar (out of focus, poor sound quality, etc.) or exhibit one or two technical glitches. Could be published with some editing.

C         Average work. Failed to meet some of the requirements of the assignment. Shows lack of news judgment, accuracy, balance, etc., technical errors, subpar multimedia elements, poor selection of interactive elements. Could only be published with significant editing or a complete overhaul.

D        Below average work that shows little or no understanding of the requirements of the assignment, numerous grammatical, style errors, major factual errors and failure to use assigned technology and tools properly.

F (0-59.9)        Failure to turn in by deadline or significantly flawed work.

From the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA):

‘The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society that promotes the highest standards in visual journalism, acknowledges concern for every person’s need both to be fully informed about public events and to be recognized as part of the world in which we live.

Visual journalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As visual journalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.

Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect, inspire hope and understanding and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.

This code is intended to promote the highest quality in all forms of visual journalism and to strengthen public confidence in the profession. It is also meant to serve as an educational tool both for those who practice and for those who appreciate photojournalism. To that end, The National Press Photographers Association sets forth the following.’

Visual journalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work:

1.   Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.

2.   Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.

3.   Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.

4.   Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.

5.   While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.

6.   Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

7.   Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.

8.   Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.

9.   Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

10.Do not engage in harassing behavior of colleagues, subordinates or subjects and maintain the highest standards of behavior in all professional interactions.

Ideally, visual journalists should:

1.   Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.

2.   Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.

3.   Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.

4.   Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.

5.   Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.

6.   Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.

7.   Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Visual journalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.

Percentage-based Grade Scale

A: 93-100

B+: 87-89.99

C+: 77-79.99

D: 60-69.99

F: 0-59.99

A-: 90-92.99

B: 83-86.99

C: 73- 76.99




B-: 80-82.99

C-: 70-72.99



GPA conversion





















Class Policies

How to Get an ‘A’ in This Course
•   Be here each week, on time, ready to engage.
•   Complete all reading and assignments on time.
•   Exceed expectations!
•   Participate in class and any online discussions.
•   You get extra credit for: being enthusiastic, inquisitive, and open to learning new things.
•   Think ahead. Anticipate upcoming requirements such as BU News Service assignments and the final project. Structure your time to do your best work.

Please restrict unrelated internet browsing, e-mailing, texting or other unassigned online activity during class. When we have guest speakers, please, no loud typing. Tweet, yes, but be discreet about it so as not to distract our guests and the rest of the class. Points will be deducted for spelling and grammatical errors.

Professionalism: you will be called on to critique the work of your classmates and occasionally discuss ethical issues. There may be times when you disagree with another students’ comments. You will be expected to deal honestly but professionally with your classmates and the instructor of this course.

In addition to the assigned reading, you should read and watch “traditional” news in order to be able to discuss and analyze differences between the mediums.

Class Attendance

You are expected to be in class each week, on time. Roll will be taken. If you are ill or must miss a class for another reason, please alert me as soon as possible BEFORE class via email (preferably) or text. If you have an illness or emergency, which can be documented, your absence will be excused. However, you will be expected to complete any assignments that you missed during your excused absence. Missed assignments are due by the next class. Multiple unexcused absences will affect your final grade.

Deadlines are a key concept in journalism. If you miss a deadline in the real world you might lose your job. Get used to filing assignments on time. Unexcused late assignments will not be accepted in this class. Grades are based on quality, content, and punctuality of work submitted.  Late assignments lose one grade (A to B) for each week they are late. Assignments that are not turned in receive zero credit. The final grade is an average of all grades received during the semester. Assignments are DUE at the end of class.

BU policy on recording in classes
Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.

BU has strict guidelines on classroom behavior and practices when it comes to treatment of students and guests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, military service, national origin, or due to marital, parental, or veteran status. Discrimination for any of these reasons is prohibited. Please refer to the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy for more details.

If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 617-353-3658 to coordinate any reasonable accommodation requests. ODS is located at 19 Deerfield Street, up on the second floor.

All student-athletes should be provided with a sheet from Student-Athlete Support Services regarding absences throughout the semester. These sheets should be handed in as soon as possible to avoid potential conflicts and so arrangements can be made to provide for missed lecture notes, classwork, or discussion.

The College of Communication rules on plagiarism are applicable to this course.


“Plagiarism is the act of representing another person’s creative and/or academic work as your own, in full, or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures, or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those words, pictures, or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources other than those created in a work of fiction is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension, or expulsion.”

Academic Code of Conduct

Be sure to read and comply with Boston University’s Universal Academic Conduct Code for undergraduate students.  It is available at:   Recording of Classes Statement Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.