Chronic Wasting Disease: A Visionaery And Michigan State University Video Production Case Study
Updated: Jul 31
FRAMING THE FIGHT AGAINST CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE
In this case study, we spotlight the remarkable collaboration between Visionaery Productions, a leading video production company, and Michigan State University (MSU), showcasing the painstaking research on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Michigan's deer population. CWD is a highly contagious, fatal neurological disease affecting cervids like deer, elk, and moose. This complex prion disease is an insidious enemy - its slow-acting nature and the ability to survive in the environment for several years make containment efforts an uphill battle. Our project aligns with the tireless efforts of MSU and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to stop the spread of CWD. The video content we co-created not only emphasizes the severity of this disease but also shines a light on the intricate battle waged by researchers and wildlife conservationists to protect Michigan's beloved deer population.
Recognizing the importance of transparency and public engagement, Michigan State University sought to develop an educational video series highlighting the array of taxpayer-funded research projects focused on Chronic Wasting Disease. These studies were not merely academic exercises but vital undertakings aimed at safeguarding the health of Michigan's deer and, by extension, the local ecosystem. They understood that a lay audience might not readily grasp the breadth and depth of this work from dry research papers. To bridge this gap, MSU needed a creative partner to interpret complex scientific information and transform it into compelling, accessible content. Enter Visionaery Productions. With their expertise in storytelling and high-quality video production, they worked closely with the university to assess the project's needs, brainstorm ideas, and plan an effective video strategy to bring the remarkable endeavors of these researchers to the public eye.
The solution was as creative as it was enlightening. Visionaery Productions took on the challenge of capturing each researcher's journey, starting with in-depth interviews where scientists described their projects in simple, understandable terms. This way, the viewer could gain an insider's perspective on the exhaustive research being conducted. The filming didn't stop there, however. We brought our cameras on-site to various locations, encapsulating the researchers in their natural habitats, whether in labs, in the field, or interacting with local hunters. One project centered on the analysis of deer behavior and its implications on disease spread, while another delved into a unique approach of composting deer remains to eliminate the harmful prions. The aim was to showcase the wide scope of research and educate the public, especially deer hunters. A substantial part of the project focused on illustrating best practices when handling deer, which is essential in curbing the spread of this relentless disease. This comprehensive approach gave viewers a nuanced understanding of the immense work underway and their crucial role in combating CWD.
The meticulous process of filming the video content began with extensive pre-production planning. Working closely with MSU, we drafted a schedule over two days that fit seamlessly with all parties involved: the Visionaery production crew, MSU representatives, and the engaged researchers. We dedicated Day One to conducting and filming interviews, capturing the researchers' stories and insights. Day two was focused on B-roll, shooting sequences of the researchers immersed in their work, enhancing the narrative with visually compelling footage.
A week before the filming dates, our team conducted a thorough location scout. We intended to conduct interviews in an environment that reflected the nature of the research - the great outdoors, where the researchers interact with deer populations and other environmental factors. After a careful search, we selected two distinct outdoor locations, each offering unique aesthetics to the project. However, considering the unpredictability of the weather, we also identified an indoor location as a backup plan.
This intensive planning phase, pre-production, is a critical part of any video production process. During this stage, the project begins to take shape long before the cameras start rolling. This rigorous preparation ensured a smooth shooting process and allowed us to focus on capturing the most authentic and impactful moments for the final videos.
Embarking on the production phase, our team arrived in East Lansing brimming with energy, ready to capture the day's first light. A jug of coffee ready to go ensured the crew stayed alert and ready for the long day ahead. Our goal for the day was to interview six researchers, dividing our time equally between the two filming locations.
Armed with a two-camera setup, one with a wide-angle lens and another for closer shots, we were set to capture diverse footage for fluid cuts during post-production. Our first setup leveraged the natural morning light, using an 8x8 silk to diffuse the sun and soften the light on our interviewees' faces. We strategically placed bead-board to bounce light onto the back of the interviewees, providing an edge light that distinguished them from the background. We then added black duvetyne to create shadows and add depth to the face.
One of our biggest challenges during this part of the shoot was adapting to the shifting angle of the sun. As the sun moved, we adjusted our setup slightly before each interview to maintain consistent and optimal lighting. We decided that we should change the setup for the last interview because of the position of the sun. Conducting the interviews was an engaging experience, delving deeper into each research project and encouraging the researchers to communicate their work in layperson's terms, avoiding industry-specific jargon that could potentially alienate our target audience.
After a successful morning, we had to disassemble the first setup and transition to our second location for the afternoon interviews. But not before we took a well-deserved lunch break - this time, HopCat was the eatery of choice, and their sumptuous burgers served as the perfect fuel for our hardworking crew.
Rejuvenated from our lunch break at HopCat, we arrived at our second shooting location - a secluded area nestled between the river and the botanical gardens at Michigan State University. The sun was behind and slightly to the side of our chosen interview spot, calling for a different lighting approach. We used a powerful light to mimic and balance the sun's intensity, diffused it with the 8x8 silk, and added an extra backlight for depth.
Luckily, our setup was near the botanical garden shed, equipped with electrical power. This spared us the need to haul out our portable generator. Maintaining our two-camera configuration, we placed the interviewees on the opposite side of the frame from our morning shoot, aiming to introduce some variation into our shots.
As the afternoon temperature soared with little respite from the breeze, we had to ensure the comfort of our researchers. We kept them cool and relaxed in the shade until their turn for the interview. Upon completing three interviews, we received news of a fourth researcher available for an impromptu interview. We quickly reconfigured the setup to give a fresh look to this unexpected bonus content, and the results were impressive.
The researchers were natural performers, requiring minimal coaching to deliver engaging, clear, and informative interviews. As the sun began to lower, we concluded our first day of filming on a high note. With the last interview in the bag, we dismantled the setup and exited the location. Our minds were already focusing on the exciting task of capturing dynamic b-roll on day two.
Our second day of filming unfolded with a lighter, more mobile setup. We opted for a single camera and a small portable light, which gave us the flexibility to traverse the expansive MSU campus and delve into each researcher's workspace, whether it be an office or a bustling lab. We shot handheld to achieve a more natural and organic aesthetic, keeping the visuals dynamic and engaging.
Our shoots took us from traditional indoor spaces to more rustic settings like the Baker Woodlot, a densely forested area at the heart of the MSU campus. We had to don long pants as a protective measure against the ticks that thrive during that time of the year. Our hopes of capturing footage of deer in their natural habitat were unfulfilled, but the Woodlot provided a unique backdrop that reflected the fieldwork component of the researchers' roles.
The day was full of movement, run, and gun, with only a pause for a rejuvenating lunch at Qdoba - mmmm, burritos. We traversed the campus, transitioning between various buildings and gathering as much footage as possible. Towards the end of our shoot, we deployed a drone to capture aerial shots of MSU's wilderness, providing a broader context to our story and establishing the expansive natural environment integral to the research.
Day two was a complete whirlwind of activity, but the excitement of seeing the researchers in their elements kept our spirits high. It served as a reminder of why we love working in video production - we're not just capturing footage; we're learning and sharing compelling stories that broaden our understanding of the world. And in the case of MSU's fight against Chronic Wasting Disease, we are part of a project that can make a real difference.
After we completed the filming, we packed up, and all went our separate ways. The next step was to put all the footage together in the edit.
We returned to the comfort of our editing suite to start the post-production process. First, we offloaded all footage onto our hard drive array, a task followed by an immediate backup to the cloud. In video production, the raw footage is irreplaceable - hence, safeguarding it against any potential loss is paramount.
With all the footage securely stored, the editing process commenced. We sifted through the hours of interview footage, trimming it to concise, sub-five-minute segments. To these distilled interviews, we added the b-roll we had captured on day two, introducing dynamism and variety to the narrative.
Selecting the correct background score is crucial to setting the video's tone. For this project, we sourced a collection of royalty-free music, primarily light acoustic guitar pieces that complemented the nature of the research. Aligning our cuts to the rhythm of the music, we created a smooth, rhythmic flow to the video.
The color grading process followed, where we adjusted the visual aesthetics of the footage. We achieved a unique and appealing visual palette by manipulating the contrast, saturation, and skin tones. Post-production, while integral to the process, can be tedious, involving countless minute adjustments to perfect the final product.
Once we achieved the desired look and narrative flow, we added lower-third graphics to provide supplementary information about the subjects and context. With the videos in their final form, they were ready to be sent off for review and revisions. The meticulous editing process unfolded, transforming raw footage into a captivating visual narrative that embodies the passion and dedication of MSU's researchers.
Michigan State University expressed considerable satisfaction with the videos, necessitating only minimal revisions, most of which pertained to graphics. Before finalizing the video files for MSU, we took one last crucial step. To ensure the highest audio quality, we sent the audio tracks to our post-production audio engineer. Their task was to master the audio levels, optimizing them for distribution across various platforms, and eliminate any unwanted noise. This fine-tuning process is essential to our commitment to delivering polished and professional video content that looks good and sounds excellent.
In video production, every project is a journey, and our collaboration with Michigan State University was no exception. From the planning stage to the final post-production edits, this project underscored our dedication to crafting compelling video content that highlights necessary research. We are immensely proud to have played a part in bringing these stories to life, providing a platform for the tireless researchers at MSU to share their work in the fight against Chronic Wasting Disease.
As you journeyed with us through this case study, we hope you've gained insights into the intricacies of our process and the passion we pour into each project. If our work with MSU has sparked your interest and you're considering video content for your organization, don't hesitate to reach out to us at Visionaery Productions. We are ready and excited to help you bring your story to the screen.
And this is not the end of our story with Michigan State University! In Part 2 of our collaboration, we will take you through our return to MSU nearly a full year later. We had the opportunity to film additional interviews featuring both new faces and familiar ones as we caught up with some of the researchers from our initial project. Their insights have evolved, and their research has progressed, offering fresh perspectives and exciting updates on the fight against Chronic Wasting Disease. So, stay tuned as we document this ongoing journey and delve further into the world of wildlife conservation research.
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