With video stories, ads and other content, ambitious yearbook programs go beyond ink on paper

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, I didn’t need to. As so often happens in a student-centered yearbook lab, the right students came along at the right time and, with access to the right resources, they created something special and transformative.

It was nearly a decade ago that West’s Skjöld yearbook staff took its first steps into video production, creating a DVD supplement for the 2011 book, “Your 24.” We had access to an HD camcorder and one Canon Rebel T2i with HD video, and if memory serves, a tripod with a half-busted leg. A wunderkind rookie staffer and self-taught video editor, Ryan Carl, worked with a handful of classmates, those cameras and a single copy of the editing software Sony Vegas Pro to create a seven-video disc we tucked inside the back cover of each book.

Ten books later, our video team includes five staffers and two editors, access to a suite of DSLRs and lenses, a set of wireless beltpack lavalier mics, Adobe’s powerful software — and publishes roughly 50 videos a year onto a thriving YouTube channel. We’ve gone beyond pictures and words on spreads, and we’re not looking back.


We’ve grown and invested a great deal since 2011. That said, you probably already have the tools you need to get started producing video within your yearbook program. First, every modern DSLR camera body can capture video and sound. Next, computers come bundled with editing software, and budget programs are available for purchase in the $40–100 range. Grab a modest $20 tripod, and your staff is ready.

What do your students cover first?

Maybe it’s a single-game highlight reel or a non-interview behind-the-scenes look at your drama production’s path to opening night. Perhaps you encourage them to interview a beloved librarian or create a promo piece for your book.

Whatever they do, set modest goals and work from inspiration pieces — that is, look at sports highlights, “talking head-style” interviews, newscasts, quick-hit ads for major brands, YouTube channels and more, and break them down as a staff.

What do they see?

How are angles and perspectives used, just like with photography? What is the camera’s relationship with interviewer and interviewee, if there is one? Just as we do with other inspo, we can look to the pros.


As we found in 2011, all you need is one student with the production know-how or passion to learn, experiment and create. These days, when we’re recruiting for the next year, we routinely ask current staffers if they know anyone active on YouTube or Instagram. Find the students who are creating video content already, and welcome them.

We support our seven-person video team with two editor-level positions. The video editors — leaders, not to be confused with those who edit, which we call producers — report directly to our editors-in-chief, and are my primary contacts within their team. Our video staff doesn’t touch the print side — their work is the 50 videos produced each year, complementing the printed book. It’s entirely feasible to embed video production in a print staff’s workflow, but — given our large staff size — it hasn’t been our model.

Confession: I’ve had varied success keeping our video staff and content front of mind, especially in the midst of 80-page print deadlines. It’s important as you establish a video component, particularly if a standalone team, that adviser language and actions support them, their content and presence as equal to that of your print staff. When we share photos of the week, spreads in progress or celebrate making deadlines, we feature video, too.


You’ve jumped in — a student or team is creating video, you’ve got a highlight package or an interview piece edited and ready to share. But questions remain: Where, when, how?

Do you host via an augmented reality app? Post videos to the cloud and embed QR codes in your book? Mass produce a DVD? Where do YouTube and social sharing fit into it all?

Options have changed a great deal since 2011. At first, we worked as an assembly line to tuck a DVD into each book. Then we used Google Drive and Dropbox, linking to them with printed QR codes.

When our district consolidated in 2014, we moved to augmented reality app, Aurasma — which would play synced videos when a student running the app pointed their phone at a spread with embedded content.

As many anticipated, support for the app dwindled after it was purchased by HP, and discontinued, rendering all of embedded video inaccessible.

Tesserae’s video content now lives where many others post theirs: YouTube. Granted, it might not be around 20 years from now either, but it’s the best solution for now. Commenting can be turned off, if that’s a concern. Need a YouTube alternative? Take a look at Vimeo.

Finally, we’re happy to share. You can see our current and past content at

Corning-Painted Post HS • Corning, NY

Sounds good to me

A camera is all you need, but for better audio quality, you’ll want to make a sound investment.

On-board mic: Your DSLR has a basic microphone included in the body — look for a small pattern of holes near the top of the camera. Good for room and ambient audio, they are prone to mechanical and handling noises and don’t do well with verbal or interview audio at any distance.

Shotgun mic: With a modest $75–150 investment, you can increase the quality of your audio dramatically. These directional mics capture sound from a tightly concentrated area straight out from your camera, so they’re great for isolating interview audio for a subject. They can be used for “b-roll” ambient audio as well, since they can isolate noise from the periphery.

Lavalier mic: The best option for interviews, you can use a wired or wireless lavalier lapel clip-on mic to capture crystal clear audio from your interviewee. For a wired solution, you’ll do best with a 15- to 20-foot cord so your interview subject isn’t tethered close to the camera. Wireless, beltpack-based lavaliers like the twin set we have from Saramonic UwMic9 (Amazon, $399) allow you to interview two subjects at once and at far greater distance from the camera, if needed. One of our videographers produced an excellent ESPN-like “behind-the-scenes” feature for our boys swim team by mic-ing the coach at practice, capturing her words of critique and encouragement live while shooting from across the pool deck.


EVEN THE STEADIEST HANDS are not enough for shooting good video footage. For quick pieces, editor Lewis Wightman uses a monopod to steady the shot and a RODE Video Mic Go for high audio quality. PHOTO BY ROB O’DELL