JO710 Digital Toolkit

JO710 Digital Toolkit

Peter Smith 
Master Lecturer

Classs meets 2:30 – 5:15pm
Office: Zoom
Office hours:
Tuesday: 1-2pm
Wednesday: 12-1pm
Thursday: 10am-12pm
Cell:  617 548 0109
Teaching Assistant – Matteo Venieri

Welcome to JO710 Digital Toolkit, an intro to audio and visual storytelling. During the semester you will shoot and edit a photo-story, produce a high quality video-story, and publish your work online with Adobe Portfolio. There is also an introduction to mobile reporting in this visual storytelling course. 

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 b-roll sequence.  You will also learn how to work with a variety of lighting situations. 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, Rush, Lightroom and Portfolio.

Gear and Software
Students will shoot photos and video with a DSLR and/or a smart phone, and record audio with a Zoom H5 recorder or a smart phone. 

Laptop and external HD: You will need to order an SD media card, 64 gigs is currently the standard.You will also need a second SD media card later in the semester for audio, and be sure you have a laptop that meets COM’s recommendations. Choose an external hard drive that works with your laptop and format to either Mac or Windows. Mac external hard drives should be formatted to ‘journaled.’

Adobe Creative Cloud:
You will need to download Premiere Pro, Rush, Lightroom Web and Classic and Portfolio all from the Adobe Creative Cloud. You can download them once you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud using your Kerberos username and password. 

Media Storm Field Guide
Two Daily News Outlets:, SouthChinaMorningPost,,

Week-to-Week Schedule

Class One – Intro
DO NOT COVER ANY ASSIGNMENT THAT MAKES YOU FEEL UNSAFE! Alternative assignments can be assigned. We can meet to work out the details.
Meet + Greet, pick a partner
Review: Gear, Day-To-Day Schedule, Deliverables + Deadlines, Policies
Download Creative Cloud and Apps and Pro Camera App to your smartphone ($8) 
Shoot a few great shots in manual mode to get familiar with the Pro Camera app.
Clear clutter from your smart phone and update the OS.
Understand the difference between class exercises and and class assignments.
How to reserve gear from FPS.
Bring gear to class next week. Always look ahead to see what gear you will need to bring to class.

Class Two – Shooting with a Smartphone/DSLR 
How to shoot in manual modes with Pro Camera App
Shooting with a DSLR Camera set-up
Using camera’s light meter and understanding the Exposure Triangle
Review composition and rule-of-thirds, white balance, focus, manual settings.
Understanding workflow.
Workshop – shoot a portrait of an object with your smartphone using direct and indirect light.
Homework: Exercise 1 – Photograph a person with direct and indirect light. Use plain background.

Class Three – Shooting with a DSLR, intro to editing
Review: depth-of-field
Learn: Web Lightroom, edit portrait exercise.
Learn Adobe Portfolio – Set theme, add categories – exercises, photo portfolio, video portfolio
Upload two captioned photos (direct and indirect light portraits) to your portfolio
Homework: Exercise 2 – Two depth-of-field photos

Class Four – Action
Learn to shoot action.
Edit and deliver DoF photos with captions.
Write caption info: who, what, when, and where.
Homework: Exercise 3 – Shoot three action photos of subject walking down stairs, jumping, riding a bike.

Class Five – Photographing Place
Exercise: photograph a place. Class exercise cancelled.
Review: How to Find and Pitch a Story.
Homework: Assignment One, five photos due.

Class Six – Pitch Event Coverage or Photo Story Documentary
Assignment #1 on Place is due, edit and deliver in class – one hour.
Review Assignment #2 – Event or Photo Story.
Event: Election, Street Performer, Protest.
Photo Story: Unique Neighborhood, Black Lives Matter, Covid19 on Campus.
Homework: Assignment #2 – Deliverables: 10 photos and 125-250 words.
Bring Zoom audio recorder and two AA batteries to class next week.

Class Seven – Digital Tools
Ten minute Adobe Portfolio workshop.
Post Portfolio link to Slack.
Assignment #2 on Photo Story or Event, ROUGH DRAFT due.
Review Lightroom edits in class.
Shooting video with an iPhone and DSLR – review settings.
Audio recording with smart phone and Zoom audio recorder – review settings.

Class Eight – The Interview (audio slideshow)
Assignment #2  Photo Story or Event due (BEFORE CLASS).
How to conduct an interview. Watch Terry Gross. Learn to edit in Adobe Rush.
Class Exercise 3: Interview partner online or with iPhone.  Ask, ‘What’s it like to photograph a stranger?’
Subject should recycle question within the answer.
Think about lighting, background, framing, and audio quality.
Ask partner for captioned photographs (crop to 16×9 aspect ratio) of strangers for B-roll.
Use lower thirds title.
Homework: complete edit for 30 second video on Photographing a Stranger.
Upload to  Exercises Page in your Adobe Portfolio

Class Nine,  B-Roll
Edit provided clips with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Prepare pitch for two-minute video, due next week.

Class Ten – The Pitch
Pitch two-minute video story of news event or profile with news peg.
Review the 180 degree rule, framing and continuity.
Review: Shoot a B-roll sequence. Find a repetitive action – shoot four 15 second clips.
Shoot scene setter (opening shot), video portrait, closing shot
Shoot wide, medium and tight – vary focal lengths, angles and distance to subject.
Record three to five minute audio interview of person explaining repetitive action. Edit for one-minute video.
Homework: Assignment #3  Shoot and edit one-minute video.
Include B-roll sequence, opening, closing clips and video portrait, ‘nat’ sound – with audio interview. 

Class Eleven – Video Editing
Assignment #3 video B-roll sequence due today.
Progress report on video story.

Class Twelve – Video Story
Rough Draft due 
Peer edit in breakout room.
Review roughs in class.

Class Thirteen – Screen Portfolio and Final Video
Adobe Portfolio finished 

Assignment 1: Photograph a Place. (10 Pts.)
five photos and 125 words
Due: Class 6

Assignment 2: Photograph an Event or Photo Story. (30 Pts.)
10 photos and 125-250 words
Due: Class 8 (BEFORE CLASS)

Assignment 3: One-minute video,  b-roll sequence with interview. (10 Pts.)
Due: Class 11

Assignment 4: Two-minute video story. (30 Pts.)
Due: Class 13

Due: Class 13 (20 Pts.)

Assignment 1: Photograph a Place
Photographs must show a variety situation, camera angle and camera distance. Photos must be sharp, well composed, exposed and edited. Captions must be complete, with accurate spelling, correct  use of titles. Backgrounds must not be busy. Proper use of lighting and color balance is important. The capture of storytelling moments are a critical factor for a photo to be successful and to earn a high grade. Points will be deducted in all of these areas if not completed to these industry standards. A further requirement of this assignment is to show how people use the space for work, to live, and to recreate.

Assignment 2: Photograph an Event or Photo Story. 
Events or Photo Stories are also required to meet the above technical requirements and storytelling requirements. Events must capture key speakers and organizers, crowd size, close-up of expressive attendees, good reaction and meaningful and unique details shots.

Assignment 3: Video B-roll sequence. 
Video clips should be well focused, use proper white balance, be well edited for color and continuity, they should not be shaky, must not break the 180 degree rule, and show a variety of framing: use wide, medium, tight and close-up shots to show process and explain the scene to your viewer.

Assignment 4: Two-minute video story. 
Your video story include the above requirements of the B-Roll sequence, but must also maintain high quality of sound from interview and ambient story telling audio capture. Your final video project must also have a good narrative flow, with a good opening, character development of main subject, understanding of the story conflict, and a resolution that answers questions raised. It must also have a good visual plan that includes an opening and final shot, storytelling moments, and good visual flow. Visual and sound editing are important so as not to distract the viewer by awkward edits.

Your portfolio should show solid technical and storytelling skills. Subjects should be diverse by culture, gender, age and race.  All assignments and exercises must be published, complete and of good quality.

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



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