Employee Spotlight February 2024
Jason with his wife Ali who is holding their infant son Milo.

Jason Johns

Senior Digital Media Producer

Senior Digital Media Producer Jason Johns steps out from behind the camera as this month’s OTDI Employee Spotlight. As a member of the Media Production team, Jason helps produce promotional and instructional videos for departments and instructors across the university. Growing up watching PBS and filming goofy videos with his friends on a VHS camcorder, Jason knew early on that educational videography was his calling. After Jason clocks out for the day, you can catch him enjoying the great outdoors and spending time with his family—wife Ali, human baby Milo, and fur baby Karma. And if you’re looking for a “film” or “flick” recommendation (yes, there’s a difference), this cinephile has you covered.

Q: What is your role at the university? I am a Senior Digital Media Producer on the Media Production team, so I do all things video! My team and I create promotional videos for online learning, instructional videos that go into courses, departmental videos, social media videos and templates, and handle photography and archiving. We also specialize in instructional media consultations and are adept at helping instructors and departments make decisions on how to best utilize video.

Q: How long have you worked at Ohio State? I started at OSU as a student employee my freshman year, in Fall of 2005. I got my fulltime position in 2009, and whittled away at my undergraduate degree while working for OSU. In 2016 my wife and I moved to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she was the Honeybee Lab Manager, and I worked as an Instructional Video Specialist for the Gies College of Business. In late 2019 we decided to move back home to Columbus to be closer to friends and family and I was able to, once again, work at OSU in the same department I left! So all told, I’ve been working at OSU for 14ish years.

Q: Have you worked on any large projects since you’ve been here? I got to be at the forefront of the burgeoning Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE, now Ohio State Online), creating promotional and educational videos centering around flipped classrooms, distance learning, and tech integration such as the Apple iPad launch. This was a lot of fun and some of the videos we made were featured on ESPN during OSU games which was a wild experience.

I recently got to do some fun and creative videos for the launch of the new GE program at OSU. We were given a lot of freedom to make videos that would engage students and had a lot of fun making those!

Q: What does a typical day look like for you? Today I’m going to be traveling to the OSU airport to get some 360 videos of the cockpit of several different kinds of airplanes for an online Aero Engineering course. We’re going to combine this with auxiliary footage of different instruments, voiceovers, and additional b-roll to make an interactive 360 experience that situates learners in these planes and allows them to explore the instrumentation at a distance. I’m very excited about this course!

A typical day, however, is usually spent editing, planning, and doing preproduction. My team does a lot of consulting with instructors and instructional designers, helping them figure out what is possible with video and how they can enhance their courses with dynamic content. We also work with our marketing team to come up with interesting ways to tell stories that connect potential students with programs that meet their needs and goals.

Q: What do you like best about your job? Getting to work with all the cool people in the many colleges and units across the university is incredibly rewarding. I get to learn a bunch of different things from experts in every field, and I get to try and communicate that knowledge through video. It’s a lot of fun for a nerd like me!

Q: How do you create and innovate? I watched a TON of PBS when I was growing up, so a lot of my inspiration comes from open access educational programming. I find the various ways that people learn to be fascinating, so I’m constantly trying to make educational video entertaining, informative, and impactful at the same time.

Q: Did you always know this is what you wanted to do as a career? I used to make goofy videos with my friends and a VHS camcorder when I was growing up (I still make goofy videos with my friends, but we’ve left the VHS behind), but I didn’t really think of it as a career until I was working in my student job at OSU. My undergraduate degree is in Urban Planning, which is something I’m very interested in, but I found that video production also fulfilled my creative side.

Q. How did your career path bring you to work for us? I learned how to do video production on the job and by watching instructional YouTube videos, so I’m a huge fan of open-source educational materials. I got to see firsthand the impact that video has on teaching and learning, and building connections with different departments at OSU was incredibly rewarding and really informed my decision to stick with educational video production

Q: What was your very first job? I worked at an after-school program for Elementary students when I was in High School. It taught me patience and made my immune system strong enough that I could probably drink Mirror Lake water and be fine.

Q: What is your favorite place to visit? Vienna. My sister-in-law lives in Vienna and my wife and I have been to visit her a couple of times. Vienna has the best public transit of any city I’ve been to, and there are sausage stands on every corner. Really there isn’t any more that I need in life. I also love “the outdoors,” so anywhere I can hike, camp, be under stars is where I wanna be.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? Anywhere?! Take me to the bottom of the sea and the center of the rainforest, or on top of a Mountain or inside of the oldest restaurant. Somewhere with views and story.

Q: Can you tell us about your family? My wife, Ali, and I met while dancing one night and have been inseparable since. She is a scientist through and through, and has worked as a honeybee lab manager and now in clinical research. She is by far the smartest person I’ve ever met. My family grew by one human this last year! Ali and I welcomed Milo in June, and his giggles have lit up the house. Right now he is learning how to eat solid foods and has started to hug us. It’s amazing! We also have one dog, Karma, who absolutely loves Milo, almost as much as she loves the water. She is shaped, and acts like, an otter so we have been calling her an “otter dog.” I also made up a breed for her: Slovenian Grouse Hound, adept at flushing animals out of briar patches. She’ll never catch one, but she will certainly try.

Q. What do you do for fun outside of work? Do you have any hobbies? I love to cook, climb, hike, travel, take photos, and bike. I think I could combine all of these into some kind of epic National Geographic-esc adventure… The cooking might be tricky to pull off while I’m somehow descending a mountain with a camera in one hand and maybe a skillet in the other, but I’m willing to try.

My friends and I have participated in the 48 Hour Film Project most years since 2014. The 48HFP is a worldwide film competition where you have 48 hours to make a 7 minute film, given a genre, character, prop, and line of dialogue. Some of them have turned out really great (Janitor Cop, Ready or Not, Unboxing Brad) others I won't link here ;)

Q. What kinds of things are you passionate about outside of work? Social Justice, Independent film, nature, helping my son learn and grow, birds.

Q: Favorite place to eat in Columbus? I primarily eat a vegetarian diet, so anywhere with a good veggie menu; Comune is really great for this, as is Basi Italia. I do, however, love BBQ so Ray Ray’s BBQ Pit is a big favorite of mine too. I’m either eating no meat, or ALL of the meat.

Q: Best concert you’ve ever been to? Toss-up between David Byrne and Foxygen. We saw David Byrne at the Rose Music Center, and that venue was way better than anything I was expecting, and David Byrne is amazing live. We saw Foxygen at Skully’s and they had more people on stage than were in the band, everyone dancing and playing along. The lead singer was in the crowd more often than not, and at one point was hanging upside down from the balcony section and singing without missing a beat.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie? Risky to ask a video producer what their favorite movie is! I’ll do a top 5 with a caveat: I put movies into two categories; “films” and “flicks.” “Films” are those movies that greatly impact you, those intensely smart but overwhelming movies that make you think but you may only ever want to see once. “Flicks” are movies that you will happily watch over and over again and would share with friends. There is some overlap, I would put Robocop into both categories.


5) Call Me By Your Name (something about the way this was shot makes me feel nostalgic for a place I’ve never been. Its got a summertime dreamlike quality that makes you want to be there)

4) Pan’s Labyrinth (Dark fairytale that manages to be both terrifying and whimsical)

3) The Burmese Harp (Superbly crafted anti-war film. Incredibly moving and incredibly depressing. I’ve only seen it once and it still is impacting me)

2) The Third Man (Another anti-war film, this one featuring Orsen Wells and Joseph Cotton

1) Robocop (A perfectly irreverent blend of cheese, action, social commentary, and great filmmaking that somehow manages to get at the heart of what makes a human human)


5) When We Were Kings (Muhammad Ali Documentary, truly shows why he was The Greatest)

4) Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice Beetlej….)

3) Mad Max Fury Road (I love an action movie that could work as a silent film. This movie is expert filmmaking at its core AND it has explosions)

2) The Guest (Yet another anti-war film, although this sentiment if very much hidden behind thrilling action. A story about a soldier returning home, on the surface it’s a horror/thriller but it has so much style that it becomes an engaging comedy. The soundtrack is a character in and of itself. Highly recommend this one)

1) Robocop (“I’d buy that for a Dollar!”)

Q: It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday. What are you doing? Getting ready to sleep! Our 7-month-old keeps us on our toes, and catching up on sleep is about all I can think about after 8pm any day of the week.

Q: Give three adjectives that best describe yourself. Curious, Comedic, Helpful.