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April 27, 2017

Library Insider


One Button

As the spring term comes to a close, many of you already are planning for the fall term. As you prepare courses and assignments, you might be considering integrating the production of a video output into your curriculum. Whether it’s interviews, presentations, lectures, pitch videos, role playing or something else, there are lots of ways to incorporate video.

Before the widespread availability of smartphones with good quality cameras and the ability to capture videos as well as stills, the barriers to video production were high. Expensive, sometimes heavy equipment that required a lot of technical knowledge was the state of the art at the time.

Now anyone can shoot video from their phones, but production quality is still an issue. Muddled sound, poor lighting and unsteady hands all can lead to a bad quality output. So, while accessibility is high, quality can be low.

On the other hand, all the bells and whistles of a full-fledged video production studio often are unnecessary.

There is a sweet spot between high accessibility, high quality and low barrier to entry, and that’s the University Library System’s One Button Video Recording Studio.

Located on the ground floor of Hillman Library, the reservable One Button Studio is a simplified video recording setup that does not require any video production experience. The design of the studio allows you to create high-quality and polished video projects without knowing anything about lights and cameras. To use the One Button Studio, you only need to bring your flash drive and push a single button.

• Make sure you have enough space on your flash drive — a 1GB flash drive will record approximately 25 minutes.

• Insert your USB drive into the dock to activate the studio camera and lighting.

• Press the large silver button to start/stop recording.

• When finished recording, remove your USB drive to deactivate the studio camera and lights.

The camera in the studio records in HD. In addition, the studio has fixed high brightness studio lighting and a professional boom mike.

Two other standout features of the studio are the presence of an optional green screen, and the availability of an overhead projector that can be used to project something, such as a PowerPoint presentation, on one half of the screen.

The One Button Studio does not offer any post-production capability but campus computer labs have several video editing tools available. Many departments do as well.

The University’s subscription to is a great resource for getting the basics of video editing; YouTube also provides intros and tutorials.

Hillman Library staff will be happy to work with you to integrate a video project into your curriculum. Library staff can help you design a video appropriate for your course and the One Button Studio can be a resource for your students in creating their projects.

Once you establish your objectives for an assignment, we can decide on the type of project that best fits those objectives. Regardless of the specific type, however, building a successful video usually requires the following general steps:

• Outline: a definition of the overall vision and scope of the project. Who will need to be involved?

• Script: The dialogue or questions to be used. These can be rough, like bullet points, or to-the-word precise.

• Storyboard: A shot-by-shot accounting of the video.

• Rough cut: The first draft of the video.

• Final product: The finished video, including any editing done post production. This can include editing for time or clarity, special effects like dropping in a background over the green screen, or anything similar.

Following this template allows you several opportunities to check in with your students before they get to the actual recording, and helps to provide for structure and feedback as the assignment progresses. In structuring the assignment, it’s important to remember that even a 3-5 minute video can require several hours worth of work for pre-production, the production itself and any post-production work.

The One Button Studio is available for use by any Pitt campus or department, even if you’re not a teaching faculty member. Pitt’s Innovation Institute, for example, has shot several promotional videos in the One Button Studio.

For more information, go to, talk to your liaison librarian, or contact us via the Ask Us links on our website.

Jeff Wisniewski is the web services and communications librarian for the University Library System.

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