3. Micro-Documentary


Working in assigned teams, you’ll produce a three to five-minute micro-documentary. Your challenge is to effectively tell the story of a person in the social-historical world that is making the world a better place in some way. The work will be evaluated based on technical craft, visual storytelling, and productive collaboration.


The following provide essential background for this project (start with "Visual Storytelling" and "Notes on the Micro-Documentary" and then follow up by reading (or at least scanning) the others during the course of the project): 


  • You’ll be working in assigned teams.  During your first meeting with your team in class, work out communication norms and potential meeting times, and make a preliminary schedule that considers everyone’s scheduling issues. Consider using Google Docs to share information and keep everyone on the same page.
  • The work must consist of original visual and audio elements explicitly created for this project, with the following exception: limited use of sound effects, music tracks from the OBT Music Library, found footage, and archival footage that you have licensed or are using under the terms of fair use or a specific license (e.g., Creative Commons) that permits reuse.
  • Obtain a release form from any individual who appears in your micro-documentary or a material release for any sounds, images, or video you incorporate that your team did not create unless the material is public-domain or licensed to allow the re-use (e.g. Creative Commons share-alike) or used under fair guidelines. Use the release forms listed above and place the completed digital scans of the signed forms in a documentation folder in your project folder. You must have the right to use every image and sound in your work. Use the "Log notes" field in the Premiere Project to keep track of the rights of all third-party assets used in your micro-doc.
  • If you incorporate copyrighted materials without explicit permission, you must follow the best practices outlined in Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use from the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University.
  • Your work will be evaluated based on technical craft (camerawork, sound recording, editing, sound mix, color grading) and visual storytelling (application of applied media aesthetics).
  • A clean sound mix must be performed, and all images must be treated using color grading tools as your vision for the project demands. You are expected to use the Lumetri Tools in Premiere Pro for color correction and color grading. The work should have a distinctive look appropriate for the subject matter.
  • You are expected to do a minimum of two separate shooting sessions for this project. In many cases, a third shoot for pick-ups will improve your work, so choose a topic and approach that allows for iteration over time.
  • You are expected to collect signed releases from your interview subjects and material releases for any third-party material used in this work. These releases must appear in a "Releases" folder in your Project Folder.
  • The MASTER copy of the Premiere Pro project file and all media assets must be stored in a team project folder in the class' shared folder that all team members and your instructor can access. Keep in mind that everyone working on the project must be working with the same version of Adobe Premiere Pro if you are going to take turns editing a Premiere Pro project file.

Deliverables and How to Submit

The project consists of four required deliverables outlined below; deadlines are specified on the syllabus.

1. Project Plan Document

The project plan must be submitted as a response to the assignment in Canvas and must be in the form of a single PDF document.

Your Project Plan should include (but need not be limited to) the components listed below; each section should have its own section header.

  • Working title.
  • The team members' names, the class, the assignment, and the date.
  • Your interview subject. Who is the primary interview subject of this work?
  • Theme.  What’s the idea under the surface that your work will convey? The best themes are delicate, subjective, and never stated explicitly in your work.
  • Logline. A one or two-sentence description of your video encapsulates the premise (starting point of the story) while encapsulating the theme's essence without spelling it out; for example, the logline for Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) is “A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.”
  • Research. What sources have you/will you draw upon to inform your work?
  • Resources needed. What resources will you need to complete the project? Make sure you have a good idea of what you need regarding time, gear, assistance, location access, etc.  Keep in mind that you have access to the Media Studio staff for help determining the resources you need in addition to your peers and instructor. 
  • Timeline and significant milestones. Share your preliminary timeline for the project and include at least two distinct and separate shoots, along with some time for pick-ups if needed after you cut together a rough assembly. 

2. Rough cut video

Submit a rough cut by uploading it to Video 3: Micro-Documentary  (rough cut) folder on our shared server; your instructor will provide a critique; when you have uploaded your rough cut, text or email your instructor to ensure timely feedback. While this step is optional and not graded, it is highly recommended. Using the feedback from a rough-cut critique increases the chances of the work being assessed as complete during the screening and critique session. In addition, requesting feedback from peers during the rough-cut phase is highly recommended. 

3. Fine cut video

Submit your final cut by uploading it to Project 3. Micro-Documentary  (Final Cut) folder on the shared server. This video must meet the file layout and export guidelines outlined in the Video Deliverable Specs handout. This cut will be screened and critiqued in class.

4. Project folder and project file

The MASTER copy of the Premiere Pro project file and all media assets must be stored in a shared project folder that all team members and your instructor can access in our class shared folder. Keep in mind that everyone working on the project must be working with the same version of Adobe Premiere Pro if you are going to take turns editing a Premiere Pro project file. The goal of this requirement is you should be able to deliver projects to clients or collaborators that they can continue working with after you have delivered the work.

Assessment criteria

Each of the following components of this project will be assessed as four separate components and each component will be assessed on a complete/incomplete basis. The criteria outlined below must be met to earn a complete for each phase of the project:

  • _The project plan is thoughtfully prepared and demonstrates originality; it includes all of the components outlined in this document and is handed in on or before the deadline as a single PDF document; no other formats are acceptable; this component of the project is assessed on a complete/incomplete basis and must be submitted on time via Canvas.
  • Rough Cut demonstrates technical and aesthetic proficiency in all aspects of video production, e.g., shots are well-composed, properly exposed, and white balanced, camera movement is intentional and not excessively shaky, etc.;
  • Fine Cut  demonstrates the qualities of the rough cut and effective execution of the proposed concept and is produced along with significant improvement over the rough cut, especially in terms of picture editing, sound editing, color grading, and sound mixing; the final deliverable video file must comply with the specifications and guidelines in the Video Deliverable Specs handout. In addition, this component of the project includes the Project Folder, as described above.
  • Project Folder and Premiere Pro project  are well-organized, with all assets logged and third-party materials identified. All assets needed to export the video are accessible without unlinked/missing media.  All personal and material releases required must be included as PDF documents or JPEG/PNG scans in the "Releases" folder in the Project Folder.

Remember what Yoda told Luke Skywalker, "There is no try, only do," so take time to prepare, plan, and ask for help if you need it along the way; there is no reason you should not be doing excellent work in this class. Please carefully look over the policy for project re-work in the syllabus.


If the project is assessed as incomplete, you may request a rework following the procedures described in the syllabus. Make sure the rework is uploaded to the Final Cut folder on the shared drive. If the rework is submitted before the rework deadline and meets all of the assessment criteria listed above, the assessment will be changed from incomplete to complete.