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NNPS-TV keeps balance for wetlands video

NNPS-TV keeps balance for wetlands video
spokesperson in canoe NNPS-TV recorded JRA representative Emily Cope on the water at Powhatan Creek.
Images: NNPS-TV video capture

The NNPS-TV production team is known for going wherever they must to capture video of the many different ways NNPS students learn and grow.

So when their job was to create an introduction video for the Middle School Engineering Design Challenge sponsored by the James River Association, of course they loaded up in a canoe and paddled off.

The James River Association is a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the health of the James River and its tributaries. They provide ecology trips for NNPS students as part of their science education, and have also hosted NNPS teachers for a team-building/professional development outing.

According to their website, The James River Association's education program "connects youth with river-based learning experiences that inspire confidence, ecological understanding, nature appreciation, and conservation action. The James River Association provides interdisciplinary learning experiences that are correlated to the Virginia Standards of Learning. Activities are field-based and use the context of the James River to bring complex concepts to life."

Station Manager Jim Anklam and Producer Nik Long found a way to set up their tripod, camera, and teleprompter in a canoe - and still fit the JRA spokesperson, and themselves!

drone footage of creekNNPS-TV shot this image with their drone.

The team got excellent footage of two different representatives from JRA: Education Manager Nat Draper and Regional Outreach Coordinator Emily Cope.

"Once the theme was set, and we knew the JRA was involved," said Long, "our production team felt strongly that we had to do something creative on the water."

"And since JRA staff had to come down from Richmond, and they had close, quick access to the Powhatan Creek with their canoes," he continued, "the location was only natural."

"Pun intended," he added.

The production team decided to use a tripod to keep the shot steady with the movement of the canoe. For one shot, Anklam was situated facing backwards in the bow of the canoe, monitoring the audio and script accuracy; cameraman Long sat on the floor of the canoe (not in a seat); and Draper delivered his message while paddling in the stern of the canoe.

For Cope's shot, she was recorded paddling in another canoe a couple feet away from the videographers.

The shoot took place on Powhatan Creek near Jamestown on a warm albeit breezy day in November. The recording went smoothly, as all involved were careful not to shift their weight abruptly or make any sudden movements. Precautions were taken to avoid any mishaps, and of course life jackets were worn while on the water.

To keep wind noise at a minimum, the canoe was repositioned between takes, since the wind and current continuously moved the vessel away from the best position. The team had to factor in the direction of both the sunlight and the wind to keep the lighting favorable and the wind from blowing into the lapel microphone, which was positioned inside clothing in a way to keep it protected.

"Simply using a windscreen wouldn’t have given us clean audio," said Anklam.

Before the day of the shoot, Long worked on the script with NNPS Science Instructional Supervisor Dr. Rodney Culverhouse, who with his staff designed, organized, and hosted the EDC at Crittenden Middle School.

Engineering Design Challenges are held throughout the year for elementary and middle school students. Student teams compete in a challenge that requires them to put their STEM know-how to work, designing and building something. NNPS-TV's video is played at the beginning of the event to give the students background information.

The JRA challenge, called "The Amazing Wetlands," involved students working as environmental engineers to design an efficient wetland that would absorb water to prevent flooding and also improve the water quality.

NNPS-TV has worked with the JRA and of course the NNPS Science Department many times before. According to Long, their mutual love of science and education made for "a lot of trust and mutual respect among everyone involved that created a great atmosphere during production."

Production Specialist Aaron Moore edited the video. The JRA provided some good quality drone footage for him to use, too. The NNPS-TV team also had its own drone footage of the land and waterways of Powhatan Creek in their archives, as well as plenty of great shots of students and staff on the water in other area locations. Moore and Long went to Huntington Park Beach for a few additional shoreline shots and drone footage of the James River Bridge and the river itself. As the editor, Moore knew exactly what kind of extra shots were needed to create the look he wanted.

The science department, sponsor, and video teams got the right balance during the production of this video - everyone worked together and no one rocked the boat - so the video came out wonderfully and everyone stayed dry!