Department of Communication and the Arts
Visual Analysis – Video Annotation
My Introduction to Visual Theory & Technique course has always closed with a visual analysis assignment that asks students to formally analyze one of several short clips pulled from the semester’s required films. More specifically, the assignment asks students to carefully dissect each shot of their chosen clip, analyzing elements of mise-en-scène, cinematography, and editing. Typically, I have asked students to do this analysis in PowerPoint, making a new slide for each shot in the clip, and then using the notes section of the slide to add comments. While this PowerPoint method has the appeal of using software that all students have access to, this process can also be cumbersome for students. Although the clips are short, they can still contain upwards of 50 individual shots. Students, then, have to devote significant time to collecting screenshots of the shots and then pasting them into PowerPoint – a burden that potentially distracts from the broader goals of the assignment.
Attempting to streamline the assignment while maintaining a similar structure, I investigated tools that would allow students to directly annotate the film clips. After looking into the features of several media review tools used within the film and television industry, such as Frame.io and Wipster, I eventually settled on SyncSketch. SyncSketch has an attractively simple interface that allows users to easily upload media clips and then add comments to individual frames of that clip – thereby removing the time-intensive task of gathering screenshots. Appealingly, too, it also allows users to easily add text and drawings onto the frames themselves. Moreover, it permits users to create free accounts, thereby ensuring students would not have an extra cost barrier.
In the Fall 2020 semester, I piloted the use of SyncSketch by allowing students to either choose to do the assignment in PowerPoint or with SyncSketch. While most still chose to complete the assignment using PowerPoint, a few did venture into SyncSketch. As it appeared to work well for those students, I will further encourage students to try that option in future semesters. Again, my hope is that in moving students from PowerPoint to SyncSketch, they will be able to spend more time focusing on the visual content of the clips rather than on the annotation process.