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Media Production and Film Studies

This guide will provide information on our media making and films studies resources.

So you want to make a video essay...

What is a video essay?

Christian Keathley, a Professor of Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College & co-founder of in[Transition], defines video essays as

“short critical essays on a given film or filmmaker, typically read in voice-over by the author and supplemented with carefully chosen and organized film clips”

Video essays have found incresased popularity in recent years on digital content sharing platforms like YouTube & Vimeo. Despite their scholarly-focused and argument-driven nature, video essays have since been associated with (and mistaken for) other popular forms of commentary (e.g. movie commentaries, reaction videos, online fan-edits, etc.) shared on the same platforms. The two do have similarities in their accessibility and utilize the same set of creative tools and texhniques. However, the video essay in its academic form does follow certain conventions (a written critical component from the author, scholarly research, and peer review), as opposed to popular commentaries. 

Video essays as a medium are an important audivisual form of scholarship, particularly in terms of expression, creation, and accessibility. Traditional essays may not always lend themselves to the fullest expression of film and how we interpret/analyze visual images. As students of film and media studies, it is important to both understand the medium from a critical point of view, as well as from a creative point of view. 

The Video Essay: How-To

So you've been assigned a video essay for class, or you want to make one on your own...

Where do you start? Like any other form of traditional essay, you will begin by Developing A Topic, whether it's a persuasive argument, a narrative story, or a research question. If you’re telling a story, think about good elements of narrative. If you’re making an argument in your video essay, think about the elements of making an effective argument. If you're drafting a research question, make sure to be specific and answer the following: who?, what?, where?, when?, why?, and how?

For more information about developing a topic or researcj question, please check out the following resources: 

Once you have a well-developed topic and/or research question, then you can Create an Outline and Write a Script for your video essay. Utilizing your background research, evidence from whichever piece(s) of media you are analyzing/discussing, and your own arguments/interpretations of that media, you can build an outline and write a basic script to refer to when filmming and/or recording your video essay. This script will especially be important if you plan to record a voiceover. 

For more information about how to write a script/create an outline, please check out the following resources: 

Now, you've got your script and you're ready to start gathering materials (scenes, images, audio, etc.) to edit into your video essay. The best place to capture images is always from a high-resolution DVD, Blue-ray, or video file. 

There are a couple of different places you can acquire these files. Of course, you can always invest in your own copies of the physical media. This is the best (and most ethical) way to get high quality images, video, and footage.

Should you wish to do a screen capture, you can use platforms like Camtasia or Clip Converter to record images or footage directly from your screen. These aren't always the most ethical means to record footage, so if you choose to do so, be sure to consult Fair Use Guidelines before doing so. For this process, you will also likely need a DVD Drive, whether external or internal. Having one that can read DVDs and Blu-rays is a plus! Resoruces for how to do these technical processes are included below. 

Before you actually aquire any footage or media for your video essay, it's important to weigh the ethical considerations (i.e. Fair Use & Copyright Law) no matter what the media is or your intention to use it. 


As for finding stock photos or images to use that are in the Public Domain, check out this well-curated list of public domain image libraries, websites, and archives at the Tufts University Library Multimedia Production Resource Guide

Use editing software and experiment with available functionality to enhance and support your argument. Add a voice-over, sound effects, music and other aspects of multimodality. Be sure to include references and credits to all sources used in creating the video essay. 

For more information on editing video essays, please check out the following resources: 

When creating, saving, uploading, and sharing video essays, it's important to have a basic understanding of digitail file formats, for videos, audio, and images. 

Linked below are some resources (websites, videos, & infographics) to help you learn how to navigate each file format and learn their best uses. It's likely you'll become aware of and proficient at most of this as you move through your Film & Screen Studies coursework, so think of these resources as a brief introduction to the topic and/or as little reminders for you to refer to in the future. 


Blog Posts: 

Other Resources: 

Image Credit: 99 Designs, "Image file formats: when to use each file type"

Image Credit: WonderShare, "Top 9 Video Formats You May Want to Know In 2023."