The Civil War Trust is taking on a new unofficial role, “modern teacher,” with their In4 video series—putting a strong focus on explanatory videos rather than paper maps, textbooks and lectures.
Discussing the war’s leaders, technology, and warfare—among other subjects—the videos aim to inform those without extensive knowledge of the war.
“The idea was short and interesting videos about Civil War topics,” said Sam Smith, the Trust’s education manager.
“It’s a quick way for people to learn something and get engaged in American history,” added Meg Martin, the Trust’s communications manager.
According to Martin and Smith, a video shoot can take upwards of five hours to complete.
“We film them with a SLR [single-lens reflex] camera and then we come back and make a rough cut in our office,” said Smith. “Sometimes, we’re just at a battlefield with a camera. And, sometimes, someone just feels the spirit.”
After a rough cut is made at the Trust, the videos are sent to production.
“We send that rough cut to Wide Awake Films Production Company,” said Smith. “They take it and make our rough cut look better and match it with reenactment footage.”
Both Martin and Smith explained that, while production could take as little as five hours to complete, the Trust sends as many as a dozen videos and an animated map to the company at a time. Thus, they said, from initial shooting to completed production, finalized content is usually put online within a month.
The series’ name, “In4,” derives from the videos’ 4-minute duration and, is part of the short films’ concise nature. Smith said their easily comprehendible nature has led to favorable feedback from students, teachers, and the general public alike. While their studies of web visitation can only reveal so much, Martin and Smith both say the verbal feedback the Trust’s received is telling.
“The initial thought behind the program was to make something adults find interesting,” said Smith. “[However,] we hear all the time, from teachers all across the country, how much they enjoy using the videos.”
Smith’s says the short duration of the videos captures student’s attention and provides visuals no textbook can.
“Imagine you’re a teacher in a class and you’ve got to cover the whole war in a week,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of specialty topics that are pretty important to [understand] the war—but you can’t devote the whole plan to religion in the Civil War or how a battle was handled. You could fire up a four-minute video. Students love videos…”
Martin added that the videos serve a dual purpose—in turn, fulfilling the Trust’s mission.
“Our primary mission is battlefield preservation. Our important second mission is education,” said Martin. “For people who are relatively new [to Civil War scholarship], this is a great way to get them started without a huge commitment. Maybe they’re interested in medicine or women in the Civil War. Maybe it piques their interest in the Civil War or the Civil War Trust, making them potential agents in future preservation projects.”
Looking forward, Smith said the trust hopes to expand their coverage of other wars through the In4 series. Through this expansion, the Trust will further their educational influences and, hopefully, engage younger audiences in Civil War-related topics.
“We have a lot of filling in to do with the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812,” said Smith. “Tackling those topics will be our next objective. We’re comfortable with the formatting of the videos and their topics.”
The Trust’s In4 videos are available for viewing at http://www.civilwar.org/education/in4/.