More Lego, more production values

Long-standing readers of this blog will know that Lego has been a regular presence in my practice. Whether for creative play or for insights into political theory, it’s a great medium.

Part of my use of it has been in videos. Many years ago, I made a little piece about electoral reform with the help of the university’s comms people, which went down well at the time.

Those very same bricks gave an idea for my work on Brexit, which has now been worked with a professional production company to produce this. The core idea remains the same, namely that the Lego can provide a helpful visualisation of an issue.

Both these examples are possibly beyond your everyday reach: I’m guessing you don’t have a production team to hand, or the freedom to spend 8 hours in a studio doing takes and re-takes (as I did for the latest one).

But that isn’t really the point. Having made my own versions by myself in all these cases, I know that you need only a small investment of time and equipment to make it possible.*

The most important thing is an idea. Video is not good for a dense packing in of concepts, as you have to walk the viewer through things at a fairly pedestrian pace, even if you have the dual channels of audio and video. That means you have to be very clear about your purpose.

If you have that, and a phone with a reasonable camera, then you have a video.

To demonstrate, check out this effort from 2013, which came from a momentary inspiration as I walked around Strasbourg. One shot, a couple of takes and we’re away. (And yes, I still wear that hat)

Video remains something of a closed book to me, largely because it is a step more involved than audio or writing: presentational elements do matter more. I’m more than happy to say that video of me talking in my office (or walking across a field) isn’t really the most engaging.

But it’s a matter of trying things out. For example, one benefit of using Lego is that you don’t have to put your face on the screen, because there’s other stuff going on instead. The technical barriers are minimal and easily handled with a little bit of practice.

Ultimately, it’s like the rest of our teaching practice: try things out and reflect on how they go. I now know I can ‘do’ video, but I also know better what that involves and where it might be worth investing time and effort. Even if that only happens once in a while, then at least the groundwork is laid.

 

  • If you’d like a link to my very first effort on the Brexit video, then drop me a line at s.usherwood@surrey.ac.uk