Personal Essay Video Project Description

This project description is also available as a PDF document.


Create a two to three minute personal essay video. You may approach this as a self-portrait, or take a different approach as long as your approach is personal. The primary objective of this project is to become familiar with basic camera operation and location sound recording. The project should include a wide variety of shots that demonstrate your ability to frame, focus, set white balance, pan and tilt gracefully, and record clean sound. The project will be evaluated primarily on technical craft. All video and audio materials used in this video must be created specifically for this project.


  • The use of video effects, compositing, or non-diegetic sound is prohibited.  
  • Use minimal (cuts-only) editing without dissolves or other transition effects.  
  • Focus on smooth camera movements using a tripod with a good fluid head, and hand-held shots that are not sloppy.
  • Do not zoom within a shot, move the camera instead.
  • You may mix footage shot with your smartphone and footage shot with the Panasonic GH4 or a comparable camera if you have you own camera. All footage you produce will be held to the same technical standard.
  • Use location sync sound or post-sync sound that is free of excessive background noise or wind noise.
  • You are expected to follow the composition and shooting guidelines outlined in the Kalow Visual Storytelling reading and be familiar with the topics in the Zettl “Depth and Volume” and “Motion” readings as you complete this assignment.
  • It’s important to become familiar with the operation of the Panasonic GH4 or comparable camera if you choose to shoot with your own camera.  Give yourself time to do some initial shooting, reflect on your work through creating and viewing a rough assembly, then do additional shooting before completing the final version of your video.
  • From a content perspective, this is intended to be an open-ended project that encourages experimentation and exploration.

Deliverable and deadline

  • Export a video file from Premiere Pro CC following the export guidelines in the “Project Deliverables Guidelines” handout.
  • Place the exported video file in the deliverables folder designated on the course schedule and/or syllabus no later than one hour prior to the start of the screening and critique class session designated for this assignment, otherwise it will be considered late.
  • The video file must meet the layout specifications, video format specifications, and file naming conventions described in the “Project Deliverables Guidelines” handout.

Grading rubric

This project contributes 10 points towards your final grade and will be evaluated based on the following criteria and weightings:

  • A variety of shots are edited into a cohesive sequence that is discernible as a self-portrait or personal essay, 2 pt.
  • Work demonstrates good technical craft in terms of proper focus, exposure, and white balance, 2 pt. 
  • Work demonstrates good production craft in terms of composition and smooth camera moves, 2 pt.
  • Soundtrack includes clean audio edits and sync and/or post-sync sound free of excessive background noise, 2 pt.
  • The video file adheres to deliverable specifications and guidelines, 2 pt.

[v.2, updated 12/14/2018]