AIRS Documentary

Short Film, 2019

Background & Project Goals

This is a 5-minute documentary about the Artist In Residence Studios (AIRS) program in Vancouver. Arts education funding in B.C. has been decreased and AIRS program can only provide a limited solution. Through the discussion on the value of arts education with statistics and testimony from the students and teachers, our goal is to raise attention and funding for the program and vitalize local art education.

Filmed by Alison Chan, Sky Li and Vivian James.

My Role

Pre-Production: Moodboard, Interview Prep

On Set: Sound Recordist, Cinematographer (B-Rolls)

Post-Production: Video, Sound Editing

Skills & Tools

Camera: DSLR T7i; Canon, Tamron 18-270mm

Audio: Zoom H4n, Sennheiser Wireless Microphone (Interview), Shotgun (short interviews), Boom Microphone

Editing: Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition

Program Director Interview

Moodboard, Interview Prep

In order to pitch our angle on AIRS and art education, we prepared moodboard, interview questions and storyboard to convey and get feedback on the look and feel we were interested in pursuing.

Art Direction — In consideration of the overall mood and color, camera angles, lighting and various composition, I looked into how color contrast can support our storytelling and change in mood to create an emotional build.

Interview Prep — I designated and revised the questions for elementary school students. Narrowing to key questions and the sequence in asking are the main factors.


Rationale: As the goal is to show the value of art education in a more emotional perspective, my initial research with image references was more focused on how color contrast could support narrative arc.

When the background and difficulties of AIRS were addressing at the beginning, I wanted to show the tense with dimmer and more cooler colours, which would bring contrast with a brighter vibe in the end to portray the pure joy, harmony and devotion students in art education.

  • Lighting: Warm, bright, natural
  • Color Treatment - B-Rolls: Vivid, vibrant, energetic
  • Color Treatment - Interviews: Clean, cooler
  • Background: Art studio; hallways with good backdrop
Low Angle CU on art crafting shots
High Angle Still Shot on artworks
Wide Angle MLS on teamwork
Wide Angle LS on whole class studio
MCU on solo interviews
MLS on interviews with two directors
Interview Preparations

I further revised and arranged the questions. By warming up with easier questions on students' favourites on the studio then asking the key questions to share deeper thoughts on the program, I hope our team could conduct a more casual interview for students to speak comfortably in front of the camera.

Beside the testimonies from program directors and teachers, one of the focus is the positive effects on students in art education. Here are the list of questions I prepared:

  1. Do you enjoy the art class?
  2. Which part of the studio do you like/ enjoy the most?
  3. What is your favourite/ proudest piece that you have done and why?
  4. Flashback to the beginning of this shadow puppeet project and final showcase today, what did you learn in the process? (Share about journey of current project)
  5. What is something that you learn about yourself or develop specifically through these art projects?
Program Director Interview
On-Set/Filming Days

Sound Recordist, Cinematographer (B-Rolls)

We had scheduled 3 filming days at the elementary school for interviews and shadow puppet showcase.

Sound/audio recording is my main challenge throughout the whole filming process as I had to make sure microphones were recording clearly. I got better and more prepared each time we filmed.

Filming assigned b-rolls contents from film log allowed me to explore more composition, camera angles, movements and filming techniques to capture motions and precious moments cinematically.


I should have thought of the meaning and placement of the b-roll footages in our storytelling rather than random clips that did not convey and add more to the storytelling. Quality over quantity. Also, filming together as a team would be more efficient to get our ideal shots rather keep testing individually.

Program Director Interview

Video and Sound Editing

Video Editing — In the making of rough cut and client's feedback on rough cut, we had major issues on content structure to create emotional storytelling.

Sound Editing — I specifically focused on interview audio bridging as we want to put as much content as possible yet digestable. Use of music and the process to de-noise

c h a l l e n g e # 1 — interview editing

As our interviewees gave long, informative answers to questions, trimming with natural transitions into a 5-minute video was my initial challenge.

Therefore, I paid extra attention to the tempo, pulses, tone in speaking and also movements in the shot so viewers will not find anything unnatural and maintain a continuous editing. I also covered the unnatural gesture change in footage with B-Rolls, which were visual evidences or aesthetic shots.

Day2-Mid Shot
School Teacher Interview
Day3-Mid Shot
Students Interview
c h a l l e n g e # 1 . 1 — interview audio bridging

When I was editing long interview, I realized that there were many "um..." or "and..." long hesitations in between the parts we selected. It was hard to shorten this hesitations with considerations on the flow, and whether it would sound natural, where I should break the part.

I tried different approaches to connect the contents and I found that "um" and "and" are actually useful to bridge parts.

Here are some additional notes when bridging the cuts:

  1. I pay attention to the loudness, pitch and speed in different cuts to see whether it matches or similiar so that the cut can be hidden seamlessly.
  2. Never connect the fast talking to slow parts with hesitation and be careful with the mood of the interviewees.
c h a l l e n g e # 2 — emotional storytelling

The lack of emotion build in narrative arc and arbitrary placement of b-rolls was our major hit after first class-review session. In this iteration, I followed problem-solving structure to edit.

1. Build Empathy — I put a black screen at the beginning with audio of program director describing the situation. With additional images and statistics, viewers can understand the context and black screen can add the seriousness to the problem.

2. Iteration on Narrative Arc— I also changed the climax as testimonies about influence of art education in school so this positive change can be further supported by b-rolls of active engagement in art class to emphasize the joy and necessity of art education. Here's the overall changes on the arc:

Original Narrative Arc
  1. Hook
  2. Introduction of Founders
  3. Problems
  4. Introduction of AIRS and values
  5. Testimonies of teachers and students
New Narrative Arc
  1. Black Screen (statistic & research)
  2. Introduction AIRS
  3. The start of AIRS: fundings, location lookup, supports
  4. Testimonies of teachers
  5. Changes on art education brought by AIRS
  6. Shadow Puppet process, showcase and students' testimonies
c h a l l e n g e # 3 — de-noise

Directors and teachers' interviews were intended to film during lunch time and after school. However, students' interviews were unavoidably more noiser as they were only available to film right after the exciting showcase.

Before Effects: Room Ambience Sample Before Effects: Wireless Mic on Interviewee After mixed and de-noise
  • Limitation: I de-noised/ removed background noise to keep the audio content clean and clear with Adobe Audition, yet noise were still heavy and obvious.

  • Possible Improvements: As sound recordist, I should be more cautious on when and where to do interviews. It would be better to have helper checking recorders at the same time rather than I focused only on the wireless microphones.

Final Reflection

It is a great experience to participate the whole production from initial research to final review, and film professionally for a good cause.

Continuous communication — To update our clients on our ideas, schedules, progress and receive their reviews, it helps us to visualize the finish production and create the best work for them. The relationship and communication is truly key to success.

Storytelling — The project taught me how to tell a good story that audience can connect to with the help of meaning visual evidences.


Watch the short film