Behind the Scenes: How We Bring Geography to Life

Darren takes a look behind the scenes at our process for bringing geography to life while on the road.

One of the challenges for Trekking the Planet is how to make the sometimes dry subject of geography come to life. Because people respond to different forms of media, we chronicle our trip both in written form (with photos) and video form. The purpose of this article is to give the reader a behind-the-scenes look at our development process, from when we take the photos / video clips all the way to when the final product appears on our website.

The whole process begins when we take a break from sightseeing and have some time to import our photos and video clips onto our laptops to see what we have. After deleting the obvious goofs and duplicates, we perform a two-way synchronization, using a program called Allway Sync, over our pocket-sized wireless router that we brought along with us. This gives us both immediate access to all of the photos and video clips without having to use a USB drive.

The first step in the development process we call “Curation”. Here, we find the “best of the best” photos and video clips to include in the week’s newsletter. Sandy reviews the pictures from the week trying to find the 20 or so that best represent the distinctive human and natural photos to include with her ‘Destination Dispatch’ (the email that she writes each week). In parallel, Darren starts the process of reviewing the video clips taken (though he also uses photos when there is a need and a clip is not available). If there’s a bad two-minute video clip with a good eight-second sequence in it, Darren performs a trim operation and then marks the original clip for deletion. Since all video that is taken is high-definition, this step must be performed or we would quickly exceed the hard drive space we have (Each second of video requires 3.2 MB of storage!). After the clips are trimmed, the best ones are flagged for potential inclusion in the week’s video.

The next step we refer to as “Creation”. We attempt to build a compelling story using photos and the written word (Sandy) and video clips / photos plus the spoken word (Darren). Whether we are talking about the Destination Dispatch (Sandy) or the video (Darren), the key at this point is to come up with the theme. For example, Darren came up with the theme of “Living History” for the video about Lo Manthang, Nepal. Coming up with a theme at this point is crucial because it gives us the ability to quickly narrow down and select the material to include and the words needed to reinforce our overall message. At this point, Sandy reads Darren a draft of the dispatch she has written and Darren asks for input on the screenplay he is writing to describe what is happening in the video. Once the screenplay is complete, the voice over is recorded.

Then we move on to what we call “Completion”. Here, the final version of this week’s update is prepared for publication. Sandy uses Adobe Photoshop Elements to crop and correct the any photos that need updating and Microsoft Word to edit the text. At this point, Sandy normally reads her final version to Darren to find and fix any text that doesn’t flow as it should. Darren uses a video editing program called Avid Studio to create the videos. Video clips and photos are married to the audio narration recorded in the previous step. Effects are added to the videos / photos to, if need be, correct for color or brightness. Transitions are added between the clips / photos to fade in or out. The final step is to add the soundtrack which is built from royalty-free music purchased from the Internet (some royal-free music is also available for free). Darren shows Sandy the video several times during the process for help with the creative process and also, at the end, to make sure there are not any typos in the subtitles or credits.

Editing Video in Avid Studio (click to view larger picture)

The finished product is published in next step, which is “Communication”. This is when the Destination Dispatch and photos and the final video are uploaded to the Internet. For the Destination Dispatch, the photos are uploaded to Flickr and the text is uploaded to our website. Embed code from Flickr is pasted into the text of the Destination Dispatch. When the dispatch is displayed, the photos appear as a slideshow.

The video is uploaded to several sites including YouTube and Vimeo. The upload process is managed by a site called Oneload. Video is uploaded to Vimeo and other sites because YouTube is blocked at some schools. As with the Destination Dispatch, a post is created on our website that includes the embed code from YouTube.

When either a Destination Dispatch or a video is published, a link to the post on our website is automatically created on Twitter and Facebook. We include our Twitter feed on our Live Tracker page. Those on Live Tracker can also see where are, read our latest Destination Dispatches and view our most current video.

Our last step is “Clean Up”. We make a copy of the final photos included in the Destination Dispatch and purge all of the video marked for deletion. We also make a back up of all of our raw photos / video clips as well as the Destination Dispatches / video projects to a small, portable hard drive.

This process has evolved during the time we have been traveling and we will improve upon it as we continue our Trekking the Planet journey.

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One thought on “Behind the Scenes: How We Bring Geography to Life

  1. Lauren

    It would be fun to view your “goofs” or bloopers, too. We hope you’ll consider doing that perhaps toward the end of your trip:)

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