Category Archives: Video in the Classroom

Three iPad Apps for Serious Moviemaking

I’m about to start production again on both a classroom video project and an independent short movie outside of the classroom.  The planning stages are an exciting time, especially after taking a break from moviemaking for a couple of years.  This is the first time I’m shooting without tape.  We’re using a DSLR with interchangeable lenses.  And it’s the first time I’m shooting with the aid of both an iPhone and iPad.  The iPad wasn’t even invented the last time I made a movie.  It’s amazing to see how the iDevices are changing the filmmaking process.

I had the opportunity to receive evaluation copies of three iPad apps that I have included for a long time on my app wish list.  Each app currently costs $29.99 so they are relatively expensive as far as apps go.  I’ve been working with each of them for about two weeks and I’ll explain here what they do so you can make a decision on whether they would help your production.

Artemis (Director’s Viewfinder) HD

With Director’s Viewfinder, you select your camera and choose the lenses that you own.  The app shows you how much of the image you will see (referred to as Field of View) when using lenses of different focal lengths on your camera.  Most DSLR cameras crop the image because of the relatively small size of their sensor.  This app corrects for that cropping and shows you precisely what you’d be seeing with your lenses.

On a single screen you can see what the scene would look like when using any one of your lenses.  This is much easier than changing lenses  on a DSLR multiple times to find the best lens.

You can also take a picture of the scene at a particular focal length and record information about the focal length on the frame.  The captured frames can be used within the Storyboard app below to show you exactly what you’re going to see on screen or you can simply print them out or e-mail them to crew members.

Physical Director’s Viewfinders can cost hundreds of dollars and this app is far less than that.  If you are using a DSLR as your camera, this app is pretty much indispensable.  We are using it both for deciding which lenses we will need to purchase and to plan out our shots.

It’s been practical as well as educational.  I am used to shooting video with a fixed lens so I have a lot to learn about focal lengths.  I’ve fired up this app several times just for a refresher on how different focal lengths would affect the image.

Director’s Viewfinder from Artemis is not universal so you would need to purchase both the iPhone and iPad version if you need both.  The iPad real estate makes for a far better app experience but then again, the iPhone camera is generally easier to use and of better quality than the iPad’s camera.

Storyboard Composer HD is the app that I imagine would be most valuable to typical classrooms doing moviemaking.  You take a picture of a location (ideally the location where you’ll be shooting) and then you can insert people into the image.  You have the option of inserting men or women and positioning them forwards or to the side.  You can also easily simulate camera motion (pans and zoos).  We’ve been using the app in combination with Director’s Viewfinder…inserting images shot with Director’s Viewfinder into storyboard composer and completing sample storyboards there.

You can easily export PDFs of your storyboards which will be helpful for sharing boards with crew members.

Storyboard Composer HD is universal so you only need to buy it once for iPhones and iPads.  The bigger iPad user interface provides a better ease of use.  However, as I said, unless you have the newest iPad, photos you take with your iPad will likely be a little grainy and so the iPhone is preferable in that respect.

I still haven’t decided if it’s easier to storyboard using software or using paper and pencil but I am someone who has had much experience with the latter.  If someone has never storyboarded before this is an excellent tool for teaching them how to do it and it provides an advantage in terms of accuracy, sharing potential, and and clarity of vision.  It’s clearly the best software storyboarding tool I’ve used so far.

Movie*Slate (Clapperboard and Shot Log)

Whereas the other two apps are useful in the preproduction stages of moviemaking, Movie*Slate is for your production use.

Movie*Slate is a digital clapperboard and has many advantages over a chalk clapperboard in that it automatically advances the shot numbers and provides the time onscreen.  Although Final Cut Pro X has a feature to automatically sync audio and video captured from two separate devices, in the event that anything goes wrong it will be invaluable to have the accurate time information provided by this app.  The app also allows you to take notes after each take which will help in the editing process since those notes can be exported.

There are several bonus features like screens for focusing and setting exposure.  The app can also be greatly expanded through in-app purchases for sound and timecode which I haven’t tried.  Movie*Slate is universal but the small size of the phone probably makes for a less optimal experience if you need to be able to read the text on screen of your video camera.

Summary

It’s awesome when you find that there are apps that can transform the iPad into new tools.  All three of these apps are well designed and provide useful functionality for your production.  The apps work well as a team but if you can only afford one you must decide what your production needs are and what can be accomplished (albeit less efficiently) without the apps.

If you have any questions about the apps I’m happy to answer them below.  If you have movie making apps you’d like to suggest you can leave them down below as well.

 

Caine’s Arcade and Google’s 80/20 Innovation Model in the Classroom

The 80/20 Theory

As I understand it, Google allows employees to work on their own pet projects for 20% of time while having them work on company chosen projects for the other 80%.  Allowing employees the chance to choose what they want to work on for some amount of their time increases motivation in the other 80% and leads to innovation that Google might not think of on its own.  Even though most of the pet projects never come to fruition, some of the ones that have have been great.  How can we bring this innovation to the classroom?

A Dreamer Becomes a Hero

Like many, I was inspired by the video making the rounds about a nine year old boy, Caine, who built an arcade out of cardboard boxes in the front of his father’s auto parts store. What is striking is Caine’s passion, his perseverance, his creativity, and the point at which idle work in his father’s shop turns into genius. The video which has been widely seen has generated a large college fund for the boy.

Passion

I love the part in the video when Caine describes how he made alterations to a game to make it harder.  Many of the students I see in reading intervention classes seem to give up on most things after only one try.

Sometimes it seems like our students are apathetic.  But maybe they’re just apathetic about school.  Do we know what they’re passionate about? Do we encourage them to find their passion? And do we let them follow passions far enough that they can go past the necessary point of frivolity and blossom into something substantial?

Let me ask a deeper question.  Are you as a teacher, passionate about teaching?  Do you as a teacher have something that you are passionate about?  I write this as I am finishing writing a script for my first film project in ten years not to be made in a classroom.  I love teaching.  But my passion is making movies.  If you’re not feeling some passion in your own life, how can you encourage it in children?

It’s a safe bet that for most of our students, school is not their passion.  We forget that decoding words is not the fun part, discovering and applying knowledge is.  Long division, multiplication facts, and timed tests are not enjoyable but problem-solving, brainstorming, and code-breaking might be.

The Past

I’ve done a couple of things in the past to offer moments of independence in my classroom:

  • Independent Work Time (students choose their own activities after completing assigned ones)
  • Writer’s Workshop (you write whatever you want but you have to publish on an agreed upon deadline)

The Future

I want students to take an interest.  I don’t’ care so much what they take an interest in.  I don’t want to give up class time for them to play games.  However, I do think I can give up class time for them to research, create, and explore while I guide, encourage, and motivate.   They can’t create Caine’s Arcade, it’s already been built.  I want them to create their own projects.  I’d like to give up as much of 20% to this notion.

I hypothesize that the lost time will be made up for in increased productivity and job skills when it comes to the assigned curriculum.  I could be totally wrong.  What do you think?

iPhoneography: Unleash Creativity

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

My latest creative interest has been iPhoneography. Last year I purchased a DSLR camera, lenses, cases, accessories, and more. I took a class and I’ve even gotten pretty good at using the manual settings. However, on a recent vacation I found myself reaching for the phone much more often than I did the DSLR. It’s small, it’s fast, and it’s immediate. I would take photos with the iPhone, have them transfer wirelessly via Photostream to my iPad back at the hotel and then edit the photos with the iPad.

The DSLR photos are certainly sharper and the lenses give me much more flexibility than I have with the iPhone. However, I much prefer the editing apps on the iPad than my desktop tools. The tactile nature of touching and swiping make it a breeze to quickly add effects.

My favorite photo editing apps are Photo Wizard HD and Snapseed. Both apps are frequently available for free if you wait long enough. The best app for sharing photos is Instagram. With Instagram, I am able to quickly share photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s built in social network. The feedback, or lack thereof, from other users encourage greater picture taking.

My photos are now so much more dramatic and I feel like I am have photographic success. I am trying to post at least one photo per day. I find that the process of taking pictures is leading to greater creativity overall in my life. Imagine what it could do for your classroom.

New Book: What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies

I’m honored to have a chapter I authored on integrating digital video production in the classroom published in the just-released hardcover book, What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media edited by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehman.

The other chapters are written by  several of the educational technologists whom I’ve come to admire and respect through their blogs, presentations,  and work in the field.  The book is arranged in easy to digest chapters on relevant subjects you can read or reread when you’re ready for them.  I recommend it for principals, tech committees, and teachers who have an interest in transforming education.

The book is available now in hardcover or for the Kindle and includes the following chapters:

  • Introduction, Chris Lehmann & Scott McLeod
  • Foreword, David Warlick
  • Learning Tools

    Interlude

    More Learning Tools

    A Teacher’s Guide to the New Final Cut Pro X

    You may have heard that Apple has released a new version of their movie editing software, Final Cut Pro.  The reviews are in and they’ve been mixed.  Even Conan O’Brien made fun of the new software.

    I’ve been using Final Cut Pro since they released version 1.0 nearly a decade ago.  I have some of the same concerns about the new version, Final Cut Pro X, that many professionals have, namely the inability to import previous versions and having less control over how “tracks” behave.  However, as someone who has trained teachers on how to use Final Cut Pro, I am nothing but excited about the new version.  If you’re a teacher—and not a professional editor—who has been afraid to step up from iMovie, now is your time.

    The new interface borrows a lot from iMovie which offends professionals but should excite teachers.  If you’ve figured out how to use the versions of iMovie since 2008 then it’s not so difficult to step up to Final Cut anymore.  For iMovie users, I’d jump in now if you’re ready.

    If you’ve been using older Final Cut Pro versions then you’re going to need to figure out what to do with your old projects.  However, you can look forward to background rendering, ease of sound sweetening, and color correction once you make the switch.  And based on the recommendations of others, like Larry Jordan, I would wait until version 11 before switching.

    I have not had a chance to play with the new software myself.  However, here is a round up of everything I’ve read on it.

    Steve Martin’s Final Cut Pro: A First Look, a fantastic article with how-to directions on many of the new features.

    David Pogue loves Final Cut Pro X

    David Pogue Addresses Professional Editor’s Concerns

    Richard Harrington responds to David Pogue’s reviews

    Apple Answers FAQ about the new program

    More Tips on Using Final Cut Pro X

    Larry Jordan video presentation