PSA Exercise

To shoot and edit a 30-second persuasive message using broadcast-quality visuals and audio. An entire class time will be devoted to the production work. Students will work in groups and must be prepared with a proposal, script and storyboard.

Working in groups of 3 (depending on class size), students will work on writing a project proposal, which includes who is doing what, a title and process message, a one to two page treatment that describes how the PSA will unfold visually. You will also need to storyboard this project and write a script (in TV two-column format) that must be turned in before you shoot video. It's encouraged to set up a meeting with your instructor to go over the pre-production work so you can get feedback and advice before you shoot. You will then be able to start the production work.   

Here's the list of pre-production elements (all items to be typed and turned in prior to starting your production work:

  • Tile
  • Tag line
  • Who is doing what? Describe what each person on your team is responsible for doing.
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Background - why should this subject be done? Is there a need that you can back-up with evidence, e.g., CDC data showing an increase in drowning deaths. Your PSA would then raise awareness of this issue.
  • Treatment - one to two pages just describing your PSA
  • Storyboard or shot list
  • Script - TV Two-Column format
Must use a Tag Line - last 5 seconds of the PSA video
Your PSA needs to end with a catchy line that says the message. Some tag lines in PSAs have been most effective in driving home their message. A popular example comes from the Smoky the Bear PSA's with the tag line, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires." The tag line must be visible as text at the end of the PSA and last at least 3 seconds, but preferably 5 seconds to give viewers enough time to read and process it.  That means all your important stuff needs to happen in 25 seconds before you insert text that includes a catchy tag, one that will be embedded in the minds of viewers and help them to remember the message. Tag lines are effective only if they are a catchy phrase that is memorable.You also have the option to record a voice that reads the tag line

Must be exactly 30 seconds, with fade up and fade down. ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS
The reason why is because broadcast stations do not accommodate PSA’s that are, for instance, 27 seconds and 25 frames or 30 seconds and 15 frames. They have time slots for precise lengths, therefore, YOU WILL LOSE POINTS IF YOUR PSA IS NOT EXACTLY 30-SECONDS LONG!

What to Turn In

  • One MP4 file on a thumb drive, student storage, or emailed link. It needs to properly labelled. In the past we exported as H.264 so please pay attention to the export change here.
  • A slate that includes the names of all the students who participated. Make sure you keep the original project files, including the Premiere file, to make modifications. 
  • All of your pre-production work detailed above.
A Public Service Announcement (PSA) is a 30-second production (other PSA’s might be 15, 20 or 60 seconds long). PSA’s contain a persuasive message that is meant to change the viewer’s attitude about a particular issue. For example, some of the most popular issues in PSAs have been “anti-smoking,” “keep the environment clean,” “stop drink driving,” “stay in school,” and the ever-popular tag line “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”  A PSA contains a persuasive message that usually appeals to our emotions. Many of the most memorable PSA’s insert humour even if the issue is serious or controversial.

The Assignment

Before the shooting date, you need to meet with your group and brainstorm. Write the proposal, including a treatment. Also, write the script and then storyboard (a must!). The storyboard is essential, but the golden rule is to keep it simple so the production will run smoothly.
The final edited version must be exactly 30-seconds. 


You're encouraged to use narration to go with your visuals, which will give you the chance to use the audio booth located in the edit lab. Your instructor can show you how to use it.
Another option is for you to conduct interviews and use portions of the interview as sound bytes. Or you can generate text on-screen. You can even use music, but make sure the music is relevant and that it doesn’t compete with your narration. The music must also be free from copyright restrictions. You can create your own music using Garage Band or other computer applications or download royalty-free music from Video Blocks, Vimeo or Incomptech. For us to air your PSA, you must avoid using anything that is copyrighted.


You will be required to submit a script using the two-column format. We will go over this format in class prior to the due date.


The bar will be raised on this assignment both in terms of creativity and execution. Exemplary work means that you used proper composition and kept the camera steady. Avoid using shots with jittery zooms and pans in your final edit (unless that’s the intended effect). Avoid low light conditions unless you plan to use additional lights. Don’t forget to monitor and record NATS (natural sound) during the production. Make sure that you get good audio, which is worth repeating: GET GOOD AUDIO!

As always, All assignments must be shot with the equipment assigned to the class unless other arrangements have been made with the instructor.

Assuming you are well prepared with script and storyboard, the editing shouldn’t take long. This is where staying on top of pre-production comes in handy. Pre-production is valuable to help move the production forward and smooth out the post-production experience.

Make your PSA look professional. Also, everyone in class should keep a copy of their PSA on their own portable drive for resume purposes. The instructor will not be obligated to keep a copy once the semester ends. 

Remember, maintain high production standards and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Have fun and Good luck!