project 3: time-based instructions

10/15/19 research

For this project, I got tasked with ‘How to Make Tea’. The first assignment we had to do was to just research and get to know our topic, and I decided to first make tea from what I know already. Which was from tea bags.

(above) tea selection at Entropy
(above) package of Peach Tranquility


  • Scent
  • Visuals
  • Type of bag/tea


  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Color
  • Technique: Straining? Pulling up and down? or let sit, no touching.
  • Temperature of Water


— Smells softly of peach, citrus, fruity
— Herbal tea
— Had a lot of flower buds in addition to the tea leaves


— Mildly floral

(left) what the tea bag looks like; (middle) beginning of the steeping; (right) after steeping for a minute

The Research:

After the first attempt, I then looked to the internet for other ways I could make tea, outside of the prepackaged teabags.

  • Water should be boiled only once, more than once would decrease the oxygen level too much, thus affecting taste.
  • Water should preferably have a low mineral content for stronger flavors.
  • For black tea, water should be poured as soon as it’s boiled (water should be extremely hot) so that the flavor and its richness would be at its best.
  • Tea bags: patience is key, bag should be steeped for about 3–5 minutes for the water to infuse with the tea flavor.
  • Poking and prodding should be avoided.
  • Both tea leaves and teabag: after steeping, brew should cool down a bit for 2–3 minutes so that the flavors are more clear and developed.
  • Recommended steep time: Black tea for 2–3 minutes; Green tea for 1–2 minutes; Fruit & Herbal for 3–5 minutes.
  • Boil cold filtered water as it wouldn’t add other flavors to your tea.
  • Gentle boil is recommended for black and green tea.
  • Rule of thumb: 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of tea per cup or 3 grams per cup
  • Steep high quality tea for best flavors, good quality tea is rolled whole leaf tea.
  • Keep track of time: set a timer.
  • There are many vessel options: teapot is one of the easiest.
  • Recommended loose leaf tea as the content in tea bags are typically leftover broken bits aka ‘tea dust’ that are collected after whole tea is processed.
  • Recommended steep time is 4–5 minutes for black tea, 3 minutes for green and oolong tea, and 4 minutes for white tea.
  • Leaving in tea leaves for too long can make the tea bitter.
  • Warm teapot/mug by swishing and dumping freshly boiled water out. This would keep tea hotter for longer time.
  • Loose leaf tea: 1 teaspoon per 8–12 oz. cup.
  • Pot of tea: 1 teaspoon per cup.
  • Tea should infuse for 3–5 minutes depending on desired strength.
  • Most teas should be brewed once as it would lose strength and become more bitter (more tannins extracted from tea).
  • If tea is too hot, putting a spoon in it will help it cool down.
  • Loose leaf tea is superior!
  • Black tea should be steeped with the hottest water, and the longest time.
  • Steeping too long can make the tea too bitter due to the tannins.


— Strong smell of peach
— Notes of lemon
— No ginger
— Blend: black tea, lemon petals


— Mildly peach


— Strong smell of artificial blueberry
— Notes of floral
— Blend: black tea, dried blueberries, blue petals


— Mildly of dried blueberry

(left) Ginger Peach Black Tea; (right) Blueberry Black Tea
(left) Ginger Peach; (right) Blueberry
(left) 1.5 tablespoon of tea for the cup size I used; (right) steeping process

10/17/19 example videos

In class, we were shown numerous videos that would give us ideas as to what is and isn’t effective for an instructional video.

“Se7en” Opening:

  • Overlays for suspense: fits in with the theme.
  • Music tempo fluctuates occasionally, creates tension.
  • Excessive number of jump cuts, feels random: perhaps intentional.

“Around the World in 80 Days” (at 1:58):

  • Music piques interest even when the visuals on the screen are simple.
  • Music also changes according to visuals: whale, sea = deeper percussion.
  • Still visuals animated (moved around).
  • Delightful sounds.

Smuckers Advertisement:

  • Extremely short: gets to the point.
  • Good lighting + macro-shots = visually pleasing and makes you want to eat it.
  • Jump cuts to many different angles to portray different details of the PB and J sandwich being made.

“How to Make Bread. Super Easy”:

  • Confusing in some frames, person walks out and walks back into frame in the beginning (very unnecessary, does not seem well thought out — loses professionalism).
  • Some parts could be cut: gutters!

“Easy Bread”:

  • Hands don’t obstruct camera.
  • Shaky camera: transitions are rougher.
  • Intro music: is it necessary?
(above) some example sections of gutters

10/22/19 storyboarding

After watching numerous example videos, we were then asked to create our first storyboard of the project. I initially approached it by taking pictures as I went along, but for the second draft, I approached it by filming the process of making tea on the white seamless background with my camera, and then screenshotting it on my computer afterwards.

Draft 1:

Here, I took pictures of each step as I made the tea. I then printed it out and taped it together into a strip (easier to be read in one continuous line).

(above) storyboard cut and glued into a strip
  • First frame isn’t clear: what are the measurements? How much tea?
  • Time: how long do I steep the tea for?

Draft 2:

After realizing that I had too little information in draft 1, for draft 2, I filmed and then screenshotted each frame instead of taking pictures of each step as it would be more consistent. After compiling all the images, I then printed everything out on tabloid sized paper and cut them into one long strip. This way, each ‘snapshot’ could be read easier.

(left) all the snapshots complied; (right) post-printing and gluing
(above) storyboard cut and glued into a strip
  • Simplifying/Complex-ifying
  • Distractions: too many things obscuring the main focus in the frame.
  • Different angles: arm position? What point of view of the video?
  • Correct resolution for the project: check website.
  • Point of view: First person? Third person? Has to be consistent.
  • Focus issues for some of the frames.
  • Deciding camera angles before water cools too much.
  • Hands/object weren’t in frame.
  • Find a way to show heat, time (phone timer? clock? watch?) and amount of tea.
  • Consider getting teapots or a glass cup.
  • Experiment with different angles for a clearer view of the tea.
  • Print it out larger: too small can hide details.

10/25/19 video clips: draft 1

After storyboarding, we then moved onto filming video clips of our instructional video. One thing I focused on right off the bat, was background noise. As I’m trying to teach an audience on how to make tea, I wanted to capture the sounds in the process of it. Furthermore, I believe that sound for this task is extremely important, as it gives cues on what’s next: i.e. the boiling water in the kettle.

(left) set up angle #1; (right) set up angle #2
(left) front view, set up angle #1; (right) top view water pour, set up angle #2
(left) notes on draft 1; (right) quick planning storyboard sketch for draft 2
  • Each step is clear.
  • Phone as microphone (didn’t work).
  • Video was too long (40 seconds over).
  • Autofocus: faster adjustment/less adjustment can shave off a few seconds.
  • Consistency with the frame compositions between jump cuts.
  • Faster actions: i.e. pouring water, scooping tea (helps shorten video).
  • Seamless white background: looks/seems too sterile, adjust cool/warm tones (doesn’t fit the mood).
  • Too much warm tone in lighting.

10/30/19 video filming: draft 2

Looking at the critique from last class session, I wanted to see if I could alter the aperture, however, I ended up not being not able to as my camera has a set aperture for video. What I was able to explore though, was lighting, as last times was too warm. For this video, I borrowed cool-toned lights from the downstairs photography renting room in addition to the tripod.

  • Added multiple jump cuts to show the strainer, open it, and display the tea before I scooped it (made it resemble a bit of stop motion): took off ~15 seconds.
  • I also added a jump cut to when I scooped tea out of the bag and putting it into the strainer: took off ~5 seconds.
  • Switching to cooler lighting doesn’t do anything about the ‘sterile’ atmosphere as described previous draft.
  • I kept the element of showing the phone (timer) to the camera before setting it down, which ended up up being too jarring of a jump.
  • Shows instruction clearer than before, more concise.
  • Is too much context (complete background change) a good thing?
(above) video consideration notes from class
  • Blueberry Black is more darker red = more appealing (I should stick to the blueberry tea).
  • I’ve been working in the dimensions 1280 x 720 instead of the required 1024 x 768 aspect ratio for the past few drafts, so this time I cropped it using my iPhone (iOS 13 allows for simple video editing) as the newest iMovie took away the cropping function. (It didn’t take away quality, thank goodness.)
  • After watching other people’s video during class time, I saw another tea video that was filmed in their dorm room. Although I liked how the context felt right for tea making, I thought that the miscellaneous items in the background became slightly distracting.

11/1–11/2/19 video filming: draft 3 + finetuning

After going through two iterations, I found that my main issues were timing/pacing and showing context (background’s too sterile). As such, I managed to contact a family friend, who lives in Pittsburgh and I’ve met up with recently, to ask if I could film at her house. She agreed, and we set a time so I could go over to film.

(left) option 1 dinner table; (right) option 2 kitchen counter
(above) draft 3, dinner table
(above) draft 4, kitchen counter
(left) notes before filming; (middle+right) setup for the dinner table
(above) snapshot of what I used for editing: iMovie



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Sarah Xi

Sarah Xi


Hey! I’m currently studying design @CMU with a focus on communications design + minor in HCI. You can find some of the projects I’ve worked on here.