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JO710 Digital Toolkit C1

JO710 Digital Toolkit

Peter Smith 
Master Lecturer
Class meets 3:30 – 6:15pm
Office Hours: room B33
   Tuesday: 12-1pm in-office, 2-3pm Zoom meeting
   Friday: 11am-12pm in-office, 12-2pm Zoom meeting
Book here:
Cell:  617 548 0109
Grad Assistant, Mohan Ge
Mohan’s email:


Course Intro
Welcome to JO710 Digital Toolkit, an intro to visual journalism. During the semester you will shoot and edit a photo story, produce a high quality video story, and publish best work online.

Goals and Objectives
You will build skill-sets in shooting, editing, composition, and color. You will 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 learn to record an interview on camera, edit a b-roll sequence and learn 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 and Lightroom, and publish to Adobe Portfolio.

Gear provided by BU
Students will shoot photos and video with a DSLR and record audio with a Zoom H5 audio recorder. Cameras will be provided. Tripods, flashes and a variety of lenses are also available for you from FPS.

Gear provided by you
Laptop and external hard drive: You will need to order an SD media card, 64 gigs. You will also need a second SD media card later in the semester for audio, 16 mbs is large enough.  Be sure you have a laptop that meets COM’s Recommendations. Choose an external hard drive that works with your laptop (I prefer the Lacie Rugged external drive or an SSD external drive) 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, Lightroom 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,,

Learning Outcomes

 • Shoot storytelling photos 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, copyright and tags.

Media Management:
  • Understand how to organize media for effective workflow.

Video Shooting:
  • shoot well-produced interviews and strong b-roll visual storytelling.
  • conduct well mic’d interview on camera
   • understand 180 degree rule

  • capture important soundbites and ‘nat’ sound to advance your story and use with proper gain and well positioned mic.

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

Storytelling Outcomes, how to:
  • develop strong interview skills
   • shoot and edit visual story
  • advance story and 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,  engagement and portfolio creation. (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, when, where and sometimes what and why. (20%)

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

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

Online Portfolio
grade is evaluated by the quality of your editing, the resolution, and size of photos and video displayed.
Your ‘about page’ must include: a photo of you and at least three graphs that include a statement of what your audience will find in your portfolio, info about you – your accomplishments and aspirations.  Links encouraged. 

Week-to-Week Schedule

Class One:  Sept. 7
DO NOT COVER ANY ASSIGNMENT THAT MAKES YOU FEEL UNSAFE! Alternative assignments can be arranged. 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
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:  Sept. 14
Shooting Photos with a DSLR 

Shooting with a DSLR Camera set-up
Using camera’s light meter and understanding the Exposure Triangle
Review composition, rule-of-thirds, white balance, focus, manual settings.
Understanding workflow.
Homework: Shoot Exercise 1 – Photograph a person with direct and indirect light. Use a plain background.

Class Three:  Sept. 21
Shooting with a DSLR, intro to editing  
Review: depth-of-field  PW: 706
Editing portraits using Abobe Lightroom Classic
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 – Shoot two sets of depth-of-field photos

Class Four: Sept. 28
Shoot Action
In-class edit and delivery of DoF photos with captions (include who, when, where).
Homework: Shoot Exercise 3 –
Shoot three action photos (PW: 706) of subject walking down stairs, jumping, riding a bike.
Shoot each situation wide, medium and tight for a total of nine photos.

Class Five:  Oct. 5
Photographing Place  
Lecture: How to photograph a place. How to Find and Pitch a Story.
Homework: Shoot Assignment One, five photos/125 words, due next week. Complete rough edit before class.

Class Six:  Oct. 12
Pitch Event Coverage (single shoot) or Photo Story (three shoots)
Assignment #1 on Place is due. Edit and deliver in class – one hour.
Lecture:  Assignment #2 – Event or Photo Story.
Event: Election, Street Performer, Protest Farmer’s Market, etc.
Photo Story: Unique Neighborhood, or  interesting person.
Homework: Shoot Assignment #2 – Deliverables: 10 photos and 125-250 words.
Bring Zoom audio recorder and two AA batteries to class next week.

Class Seven:  Oct. 19
Digital Tools
Fifteen minute Adobe Portfolio workshop.
Post Portfolio link to Slack.
Assignment #2 on Photo Story or Event, ROUGH DRAFT due.
Review Lightroom edits in class.
Lecture: Shooting video with a DSLR – review settings.
Audio recording(video) with Zoom audio recorder – review settings.

Class Eight:  Oct.26
The On Camera Interview (audio slideshow)
Assignment #2  Photo Story or Event due (BEFORE CLASS).
How to conduct an interview. Watch Terry Gross.
Class Exercise: Interview partner.  Ask, ‘What’s it like to photograph a stranger?’
In Class, Live Interview
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 60 second video on Photographing a Stranger.
Upload to  Exercises Page in your Adobe Portfolio

Class Nine:  Nov. 2

Review: Photographing a Stranger
 Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro. Edit clips provided for you.
Homework: Prepare pitch for two-minute video, due next week.

Class Ten:  Nov. 9
Pitch Final Project
Class exercise:
Pitch one-minute video story of news event or profile with news peg.
Review the 180 degree rule, framing and continuity.
Lecture: 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:  Nov. 16
Video Editing
Assignment #3 video B-roll sequence due today.
Progress report on video story.

Class Twelve:  Nov. 23
Video Story
Homework: Rough Draft Due 
In-class Peer Edit.

Class Thirteen:  Nov. 30
Final Edit Due, finish portfolio and final updates.

Class Fourteen:  Dec. 7
Screen Final Video, present Adobe Portfolio 



Assignment 1: Photograph a Place. (10 Pts.) Due: Oct. 12
five photos and 125 words

Assignment 2: Photograph an Event or Photo Story. (30 Pts.) Due: Oct. 26
10 photos and 125-250 words

Assignment 3: One-minute video,  b-roll sequence with interview. (10 Pts.) Due: Nov. 16

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

Portfolio (20 Pts.) Due: Dec. 7



Assignment 1: Photograph a Place
Photographs must show a variety of situations, camera angles and camera distances. Photos must be sharp, well composed, exposed, toned and edited. Captions must be complete, with accurate spelling, and 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 and storytelling requirements. Events must capture key speakers and organizers, crowd size, close-up of expressive attendees, good reaction and meaningful and unique detail 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 storytelling 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 the 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


GPA conversion
























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