During the year of 2020 the staff at the Museum of Arts & Sciences stepped out of their comfort zones and became our on camera talent. Take a peek behind the scenes at what sparked our ideas, obstacles during video creation, the process of filming, and more!
What sparked the idea for the MOAS baking tutorial videos?
The MOAS baking tutorials were the result of binge-watching The Office during quarantine. I was approached to create a craft tutorial video, but I knew that we already had our very talented Education Associate, Nicole Messervy filming our craft content. I wanted to provide something for our audience that steamed from my own personal interests, or something that was unique or unexpected from MOAS. It just so happened that National Pretzel Day was just around the corner, and after watching The Office's National Pretzel Day episode, I had planned on making soft pretzels from scratch! I decided that this could be some fun and entertaining content to share on our social media channels. So, I filmed my first attempt at making soft pretzels.
What other baking tutorials did you end up filming?
After such a positive response from the National Pretzel Day baking video, I decided to try filming another tutorial, this time tied to something we showcased within the Museum. I decided to focus on cooking with Coca-Cola to highlight the Root Family Museum. We made a Coca-Cola cake, and despite a potentially disastrous cake de-panning experience, it was delicious! With total surprise to how well these tutorials were being received, we decided to keep going! I tried to think of themes and bakes that would be fun for kids and families to try at home and would do my best to decorate my kitchen to theme. We mentally took a trip to French Quarter, New Orleans with a fun copy-cat recipe for Cafe du Monde beignets and celebrated summertime with a variety of bakers in the MOAS Summer Baking Series.
What were some of your favorite parts about filming these baking tutorials?
This was such a fun opportunity to celebrate some unconventional holidays like National Gummi Worm Day, National Sweet and Salty Day, National Lemonade Day, and Shark Week! Filming these videos was such a wonderful experience for me and something that I really enjoyed sharing with our MOAS audience during a time when the only way we could connect with everyone was virtual. It was exciting to see how many people tuned in and baked with me. With my role at the Museum being more behind the scenes, it was great to feel connected to our followers. Who knows, maybe we will have a few baking videos sprinkled throughout our social media channels in 2021!
What was your favorite thing to film in 2020?
Since March 2020, the Museum staff has been hard at work creating online programming. One of my favorite programs that I have put together for virtual viewing is Afternoon with Florida History. I have filmed several segments such as the Volusia Bar Lighthouse, a trip down the Old Dixie Highway, the history of the Brock House Hotel, and others.
What was it like filming these videos?
Although most of my videos fall between five and eight minutes long, they are surprisingly complicated to create. A great deal of prep work goes into these productions even before the first video segment is shot. One of the first things I do is a find a historical site that I believe our members and community would be interested in learning more about. There are so many in Volusia and Flagler counties that it has been hard to just pick a few! Once I decided on a topic, I begin to research the site to learn the historic narrative. I put together a storyboard and write out a script for scenes on and off camera and use the Florida Memory Project website to find historical photos for overdub narratives.
Did you run into any obstacles while filming these videos?
Since most of what I do is outside, weather can definitely be an issue. When I produced the history of the Brock House Hotel, a historic grand hotel on Lake Monroe that no longer exits, I had to wait several weeks to safely venture onto the lake in my kayak. On my first several attempts it was either very windy which affected the sound quality, or the lake was too rough and threatened to capsize. Eventually, I realized that I need to be on the lake at 7:00 a.m. in the morning when it was at its calmest.
What are some things you had to take into account to do your own filming?
Careful and detailed planning is a must as you do not want to be out on a 40-minute grueling kayak trip in August heat only to discover your batteries are not charged, you brought the wrong adaptors, or you are missing other essential equipment. Water, sunscreen, bug spray, a life preserver, and letting others know of your intended location are essential because you are going to be on open water. Recording on a kayak is very difficult as you tend to float away on currents, nearby boats cause outside noise, and the threat of dropping equipment into dark tannic water was always a constant danger. I learned a lot through trial and error and became much more efficient the more segments I created.
How long would you say it takes to create one of our videos?
Three minutes of recorded content on the lake took four to five hours in travel time and recording a sufficient number of takes. A five to eight-minute video production could take 10 to 11 hours of editing, voice overdubs, titles, and reshoots. Since I was working from home, I had to learn a lot of new skills, like how to transfer a large gigabyte video over the Internet. I used a program called "WeTransfer" which allowed for quick and simple transfer of large files. I also had other issues to overcome, like storage space. Running low on computer storage or storage on the filming device was a constant issue. Many hours were spent with an Apple representative solving storage issues. In the end, I learned a lot of new and valuable skills in creating the segments for Afternoon with Florida History. It was very frustrating at times, but also a lot of fun and very interesting. I hope the programs were enjoyed as much as I enjoyed creating them.
How did you come up with your craft ideas?
Most of the crafts that I picked were ideas that I saw on Pinterest. I also put together some crafts that we do during the Summer Learning Institute and our Family Craft Days. Since we were on a stay-at-home order and there were a lot of restrictions on going out, I tried to select crafts that families could do together with items that they may already have at home. There were a few times that I would find a craft that I would really want to film, but I did not have the proper materials and figured that most families would not have them either unless they went out to buy them, so I would try to substitute the materials with something else that might be more easily accessible. This would usually work out, except for when I tried to make a cute little Ewok craft for Star Wars Day. They were made out of toilet paper rolls and felt material. I did have some pre-cut felt pieces but they didn't cover the whole toilet paper roll so I substitute construction paper. It was a mess! It looked nothing like an Ewok when I finished it. So instead, I came up with the Crayon Resist Death Star craft which ended up being one of my favorites!
Did you have anything funny happen to you while filming?
One of the things I had to deal with while filming craft videos at home was keeping my incredibly curious cats from messing with my supplies. One time I was cleaning up from one of my crafts and I thought my cats were not around. I went to rinse off my paintbrush and when I came back there were green paw prints on my table. Luckily, I was using washable paint so that came off and I quickly washed his paws before he could do any more damage! For the most part, though my cats would leave me alone after a while or watch from a distance. This was not the case however when I was filming my Pinata Popper Craft for Cinco de Mayo. The moment I started putting the streamer paper around the toilet paper roll, one of the cats would not stay away. I eventually gave up and just let them be involved in the video. If you go re-watch the last few minutes you will get a glimpse of what it was like filming with them most of the time.
What was the first video you created for enjoyment virtually?
One of our popular programs at MOAS is our daily "Sky Tonight" tour of the night sky. We believed it was important to provide an alternative version of this program since everyone would have more time at home to explore the skies above. Fortunately, I have had a lot of experience using the free planetarium software, Stellarium, which became very useful for this endeavor. This software is a wonderful resource that anyone can download on their computer (stellarium.org), allowing you to explore all of the amazing celestial objects you can find from your given location. Using Stellarium, coupled with a simple screen record function built-in to any Windows 10 computer, I presented our first virtual "Sky Tonight" episode, and it quickly garnered many views and was well received by our followers online.
How do you prepare to record a new virtual Sky Tonight video?
When it comes to creating an episode of the "Sky Tonight," I follow many of the practices I have learned over the years performing countless live shows in our Lohman Planetarium. For the week I am recording for, I will look up various sky calendars accessible online to check if any significant celestial events or objects are coming up. I like to emphasize things that would stand out to anyone that is casually looking at the night sky - an approach I take for our in-person shows. I then choose one or two objects, or concepts, that relate to what can be seen or is occurring that week and I provide a little more detail for those who may want a deeper dive on the subject. This may be telling the ancient mythologies of a particular constellation, highlighting an upcoming meteor shower and why it occurs, looking at an interesting star and what makes it tick, or honing in on a deep sky object that may only be visible with a telescope. Each "Sky Tonight" episode then becomes its own unique story, with something to look forward to that week.
Did recording the virtual Sky Tonight videos prepare you to start presenting live virtual content?
Many of lessons I have learned while recording the virtual "Sky Tonight" videos have proved useful in other virtual lectures and programs we have completed this year. Upgrading to using a streaming software to record our "Sky Tonight" has been quite helpful in hosting live content, either on Facebook or ZOOM. I also use a portable green screen behind me if I am on camera to digitally transport me to other celestial destinations while I speak to our viewers, hoping to create a fun atmosphere and aesthetic during the program. I like to plan one of these digital lectures as I would be presenting in the actual Lohman Planetarium, but with a frame of mind that our viewers are seeing the content from their computer monitor or cell phone screen. For this reason, I like to use Stellarium, along with our planetarium software, Uniview, and the free and open source program known as Open Space (openspaceproject.org). Open Space is also software that anyone can download for free, which provides 3D visualization of our universe that is scientifically accurate and updateable. Utilizing these programs that offer a 3D perspective, can make watching on a flat screen much more intriguing and immersive, along with traditional slides and images. These digital programs have been a joy and a challenge to make, and we plan on continuing them in the future, even while the Lohman Planetarium is open an operating safely. They have helped us reach out to a bigger audience and connect with so many different communities, allowing us to bring the universe down to anyone.