Skip to main content
  • Capturing the Folklife Festival: A Student Perspective

    Editor’s note: The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage partnered with ARTLAB+, the Hirshhorn Museum’s digital media studio for teens, to help document the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. A group of students produced three videos (embedded in the article below), and team member Alexis Woodyard wrote this reflection on her experience.

    On a hot day this past summer, I had the opportunity to capture footage, help direct, and edit videos about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. With digital cameras, microphones, reflectors, and questionnaire in hand, my ARTLAB+ production team and I were ready to see what the Festival had to offer.

    ARTLAB+ production teams are made up of groups of able teens who applied to help document a Smithsonian event, such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. When my team met the day before the event, we set our goal for what we wanted to achieve by the end of the day: to shoot footage to put together a video that accurately presents the Festival.

    There were three programs at the Festival: The Will To Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity; Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival; and One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage. The goal for each was to document the meaning and culture, using various styles of video, audio, and photography.

    I was out there, camera in hand, and realized there’s more to capturing an event than just pointing and shooting. I learned how to film in certain lighting, how to use a camera microphone to conduct interviews in a noisy environment, and how to effectively capture a moment. We shot B-roll footage to help establish the angle of each video—everything from fashion shows of the Will to Adorn exhibit to Hungarian jam-making, to the many languages of festival attendees.

    I wasn’t aware of the many responsibilities of a videographer, or what it’s like to spend an entire day capturing a cultural event. The slightest mistake can throw your whole project out of order (for example, forgetting to turn on the microphone when conducting an interview). I also found myself having to re-record and re-watch all of the clips until I felt I had all the pieces necessary to make an effective video.

    What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you passionate about? I am asked these questions every day. I wasn’t certain of what my passion was until I joined the ARTLAB+ production team. After learning different editing and camera techniques from the ARTLAB+ mentors, I found that this is something I’m interested in and would love to pursue in the future.

    The highlight of it all was not only working hands-on with new equipment and having a say in the final cut, but being able to portray the Festival through my own eyes.

    Alexis Woodyard is a junior in high school in the Chevy Chase, Maryland, area with a passion for photography, videography, and all things digital. Before working on the ARTLAB+ production team for the 2013 Folklife Festival, she worked on production teams for the Summer Preview, Women’s History Month and Art of Love.

  • Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.