CALI Conf 2008: Voices of American Law Project

Speaker Wayne Miller, Director of Educational Technologies, Duke University School of Law

This series of documentary videos provides a unique view on key constitutional cases in recent American legal history. In each case, participants are interviewed and profiled; locations and actual documents are shown; and a rich, coherent narrative brings you up to the point of the supreme court decision. In this session, we explore how this project was begun and how it has developed; what resources are necessary; and how we are making it available to the law school community.

Project begun in 2002

Series of documentaries on important legal cases.  Go beyond written legal opinions to show context and impact.  Show factual and legal context, don’t try to explain the law in detail. Show how legal decisions have important effects on ordinary people.

Speaker: Alex Anderson, Video Production Specialist, Duke University School of Law

Professor selects cases to cover.  Two student researchers compile info for review.  Make initial contacts, acquire permissions, make travel arrangements.  Try to schedule three interview in a day.

2-4 individuals: Professor, videographer/producer, 2 student associates.

Camera: Canon XL-1.  Lowe light kits, light stands, tripods, monitor, extension cords, tapes, lavalier mics, gaffer tape, etc.

Lighting setup: fill light above camera, key light 45 degrees from camera, back light almost directly behind subject behind camera frame.

Video recording: producer asks questions.  Be sure to get written permissions.

Later, shoot B-roll footage (context, neighborhood, etc.)

Post production: review, import, create rough cut, finishing touches.  Narration etc.

How is it all funded?  “Different sources of money over the years.  Initial funding was a private endowment.”

Showed examples of rough cut and final edit.

See  Videos are on sale on DVD.

Speaker: Richard Mixter, Director, Digital Product Development, Aspen Publishers

Videos appeal to students who grew up in rich media environment.  Aspen saw an opportunity to partner with Duke.  Duke hosts the site and sells the DVDs; Aspen publishes associated teachers’ materials.


Narrator: professional voice actor for NPR.

Currently no plans to expand beyond constitutional law cases.

Copyright issues as you expand from educational to for-profit applications?  There have been some at the beginning; the music is license, and we’re very careful now to avoid permissions issues.


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