dy/av post-mortem

Dean Shareski posted an interview over at his Ideas and Thoughts covering my summer-long vodcasting series, dy/av. Since the guy is like Lesley Stahl with a Skype mic, I went back through the archives to prep myself. I cringed at moments I didn’t expect and found some moments more durable than others.

More of my public navel gazing:

Defining The Structure

I knew I wanted the episodes to land between two and three minutes (though even that proved too long for some of y’all), to feature three words in the title, to close with my blog’s plucky little tagline in voiceover, and I wanted to shoot in a 16×9 aspect ratio (think HDTV, not your old 4×3 TV tube) because the thinner rectangle lets you balance your composition in fun ways, packing useful elements into both sides of the screen.

For example:

The structure evolved in the editing room. For better or worse, I started adding a short, silent cutaway before the final line, an effort at ratcheting up the drama before the close.


Throughout the ten episodes, I felt too somber and too portentous by nine-tenths. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the seventh episode, which I shot on two different days. One day I’m more or less my ornery, ebullient self, the other I’m kind of staring and speaking at the camera like I think I’m Jesus. I only kept a consistent, accurate tone in the ninth episode, which, of course, was the last episode with any monologue.

Oh, and the cutaway in the office episode where I try to conjure Jim Halpert just didn’t work.

Audience Interaction

I shot the behind-the-scenes episode three times, each reshoot modified by your inquiries into the process. Aside from that, the production time (averaging out at 14-ish hours per episode) prohibits the kind of post/comment/followup feedback blog posts enjoy. Once I shot an episode, only a monster incentive would reset the process.

My Least Favorite Episode

The behind-the-scenes episode, the visual core of which (the parallel shots of creating lessons and creating vodcasts) disintegrated halfway through. The last thirty seconds are particularly painful for me to watch as I murmur several passages which would’ve been better served by simple a blog post.

Favorite Flourishes

In carver’s classroom management, I mention how “I always, always took discipline personally.” I visually italicized the second “always,” with a slo-mo shot of Carver on top of the police cruiser chopping at the air, a shot you’d already seen at regular speed.

It lasts less than a second and underlines everything I believe about the strength of video.

Oh: the eyebrow in episode seven.

Also: “graham crackers and wiki hour.”

The Hardest Part About Editing Videos You’ve Spent Months Brainstorming, Writing, And Shooting

Forcing yourself to watch and listen to your story through the eyes and ears of someone totally unfamiliar with it, a hypothetical viewer. I found it really easy to cut too much, having grown deathly bored hearing myself say “My name is Dan and I like to teach.”Zadie Smith sez: write it and put it in a drawer.

The Least Watched Episode

dy/av : 007 : the motiongraphics episode, which was also my favorite, illustrating my connection to the content I have spent my professional life teaching.

The Most Watched Episode

The most watched episode was dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer, the popularity of which surprised and, frankly, annoyed the hell outta me. I paced the ten episodes according to which ones I felt would play like gangbusters and which I felt would lull an audience appropriately. Turns out I have no idea what any of you people are into.

Watching it again, I’m really happy with how I edited the classroom conversation into the video, a conversation which includes so many aspects of teaching I’ll cherish long after I stop teaching.

Nielsen Ratings

My Most Flameworthy Assertion In Dean’s Interview

“Video at its best is better than writing at its best.”

Essential Vodcasting Skills

Dean asked me to define the skills essential to this vodcasting gig. There is only one. It is common to good speechwriting, good storytelling, and good teaching: increase the bandwidth. More throughput. Say more, just as clearly, with less.

For video that requires two specific skills:

  1. Use the blade. Edit the dead air from your shots. Cut the passages that don’t serve the point of your video. It’s just like the delete key with blogging, only harder. (In fact, if you can’t wield the delete key adequately in your blogging, rethink video.)
  2. Layer video. Is there something so special about how you look when you talk that you need to show yourself talking? Show something else – something informative, illustrative, or (for humor) contradictory – while your voice fills the background.

You can find my best throughput in the coffehouse scene from episode ten, where I split two complementary angles while at the same time layering audio from the next scene for a smooth transition.

It’s my best work of ten episodes.

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 loved episode 7. I watched it several times, downloaded it and linked to it on my website so that my Calc I students can watch it. Then I made the mistake of showing your stuff to my wife. “Why can’t you look like him,” she says. Good grief. Anyway, I loved the videos and commend someone so talented for being so self-critical.

  2. I disagree that the Jim Halpert homage didn’t work. It made my mom LOL.

    On a meta-note, I just noticed that you tend to write reflective pieces as short comments with section titles. I think I will try this, it makes the task seem less daunting for the reflection-challenged like myself.

  3. Heavy reflective work given you’ve already been Herculian across the 10 episode adventure. Agree by a mile on the cut screen shot as the coffee house closed down. Thought it quite lovely at the time; just as much in reflection.