The Kingdom’s Credits

One Direction

The Kingdom‘s opening credits are just oh-man jaw-droppingly forehead-smackingly good.The movie itself is a racist little turd, however.

We’re talking a four-minute blend of motion graphics and archival footage so fine it’s tough to tell where one ends and the other begins. The mad geniuses at PIC Agency tossed ’em both in a blender, hit purée, and the result is an even-handed, sober narration of Saudi Arabia’s entire existence.

As a kid born after the embargo, I never understood until now just how their interests and ours have competed on their soil and, as of 9/11/01, on ours like some fatal game of football. “A violent collision of tradition and modernity,” as the narration puts it.

And they’re online. And in high-def. If you teach history, I’d sock this one away for the appropriate unit.

Another Direction

So clearly the visuals here supplement the narration in a sum-greater-than-the-parts kinda way. This wouldn’t have been nearly the accomplishment with just visuals or just text.

But I think the success of this piece and others like it leads some teachers to the wrong conclusion, that multimedia is the magic element here. The mistake is to assume that using video clips or pictures or sound or some combination thereof or even some student buffet selection thereof is gonna improve learning.

It is, as with every media, a matter of editing. What you leave out matters more than what you leave in.

What no one teaches teachers to do, what teachers only teach themselves if they’re of the mind, is how to edit their material into stories, how to set-up antagonists and position their students as protagonists, how to modulate their voices, letting them bend a little with the direction of the stories, how to use volume like a scalpel, letting it drop a little before a conclusion and pick up as they move along, how to generate kinesthetic energy by moving around the classroom when the lesson’s pace slackens, when to signal that something big is coming up and when to let it kinda drop on them and settle on different students at different times.

Or how to do that in multimedia, surround sound stereo.

More than the media matters is the quality of the media. The edubloc is taking up the cause of multimedia but how many bloggers realize that their responsibility doesn’t end with putting a camera in a kid’s hands or a microphone in front of her face.

How many of them realize that there’s a right way to teach this stuff, or that their multimedia fixation is making video / audio / photo production teachers out of them all?

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I thought that was a powerful, concise way of setting up the story so that everyone could be on the “same page” in terms of the background.

    Your viewpoints on media tie in well with my K12online presentation next week called “Design Matters”. I also use your 4 slides contest as a great example of constraints (which is why I popped over here but got sidetracked since I just saw The Kingdom on Friday).

    The use of stock footage, text, timelines and narration are great examples of storytelling at its best. Here the goal was simply to inform but as the movie unfolds this leads to some fairly complex issues.

  2. Thanks for the link, this is simply outrageous.

    Yet when I pass this along the same teachers that ask “how do you always see to find this stuff” are often the same ones who ask, “why do you bother reading blogs?”

    We are embarking on a performance-based/alternative/authentic/[insert your buzzword] assessment this year for our history courses. One of the portfolio entires students may choose is an historical documentary.

    I will show them this little brass ring as a target.

    No, I don’t expect them to be able to do something like this. But I would expect that they could learn a lot trying to do something like this.

  3. Steve, my students give me the same trip with my show-and-tells as teachers do at your school. They dig the videos, which are far fresher than what other teachers show ’em but they still vibe me. “Do you just sit around all day and cruise YouTube?”

    You and I know how easy it is to find the best stuff with only a few choice RSS feeds but I start to get into it and I sense zero traction. Moreover I feel too clumsy to properly explain the concept.

    Maybe I’ll show ’em RSS in Plain English one of these days for show and tell.

    Dean, I appreciate your commentary on the credit sequence as well as the link-up on your blog today. You and I seem to share a similar sideline interest in videography. In case you came by after I debuted it, here’s one of my video projects from this summer.

  4. Ah, never mind. Just re-read your comment over there. Definitely get your hands on AfterEffects. This guy teaches the best stuff for free. So hard and so fun.

  5. I totally concur w/ Steve. Even before I embarked on the professional-relationship crushing role of tech coach, fellow teachers would often muse and ponder about my ability to stumble upon resources and goodies.

    They claimed I must not be a good teacher.

    They were joking.

    So they claimed.

    Now I am powerless against their jibes.

  6. Very impressive.

    I don’t have any kind of expert opinion, and I’m not even an educator, but I do have a handy trick to share to help sock away the footage of a quicktime streaming movie like this one (without qt pro!): in quicktime, once the movie has fully downloaded, right click on the movie on a non-essential frame and select cut. Then close the window. Quicktime will ask if you want to save your changes. Do so, and oh look! a copy of the movie (minus the frame you cut) on your hard drive.

    I have no idea whether or not this works on the PC.

  7. I love that intro!

    We need so much more content like that.

    I’ve got Motion now. I guess it’s time I learned it.

  8. You open up a door with Motion, you’re going into a dark, dark corridor from which I still haven’t found an exit. Dark, but really fun.

    Post a project sometime.