Dungeons and Dragons: New Commons Project Nomination

Around two years ago, the university where I work was awarded a grant to start something we called the New Commons Project. I wrote about this a while ago, but if you’ve forgotten, it’s an effort to select works that are important to us today for a variety of reasons. For example, finalists so far have been everything from the FEDCO Seed Catalog to the Canoe to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony to The Wire to The Simpsons to Persuasion. Tons of variety, with each work nominated by a person in Maine.

Finalists each get a month of programming here at UMF, with guest speakers and events and lectures to discuss why the work is important. I’ve nominated a few things over the space of the last while (True Grit, Arrested Development, and Libraries themselves), but I really wanted to put something together that would push the envelope in terms of nomination videos. I wanted something that would be fun to watch. Something along the lines of a lot of the videos I enjoy watching online that combine humor, media, and thinking in one.

Six months ago, I decided a nomination for Dungeons and Dragons would be perfect for this. I wrote a script for the video, and I even photoshopped some pictures of the faculty members involved in running the program, but after that, I just ran out of time. I’ve made enough videos to know how much work can go into making one, and I just didn’t have it in me to get over that final hump of sitting down and getting it done.

The deadline is March 15th, however, so I finally decided that needed to change. I recorded the narrative and pushed myself to complete the thing. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. For one thing, I discovered that the script I’d recorded was really bland and boring. When I’d recorded it, I thought I was reading in an interesting tone and that it would be fine, but when I played it back, it just sounded like snoozeville. So I rerecorded it, this time trying to push things over the top. Honestly, I felt like an idiot, reading it in that tone. Like I was doing way too much. But when I played it back, it sounded much better. Lesson learned. To make things really interesting, I need a ton more animation in my voice.

From there, I needed to figure out how to import movie clips and GIFs into my video. Movie clips could be done pretty easily with a Chrome add-on called Steam Video Downloader. (It doesn’t play nice with YouTube, but it’s great with Vimeo.) Then I taught myself how to capture video on my screen with QuickTime Player. Once that was done, I was off and running.

In the end, I’m quite happy with how it turned out. It’s a great mashup of all sorts of things that could have been good nominations on their own, but it makes my argument well: picking Dungeons and Dragons essentially picks a ton of works that it was influenced by and has influenced in turn. I would love to see the programming that would come from a D&D selection. Crossing my fingers that it will happen.

Also, now that I’ve done the video and know what goes into it, I’m tempted to try my hand at a few more. I’d like to do some video essays around different topics. We’ll see if that ever comes together, though. It took me forever just to do this one . . .

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