Category Archives: Digital Storytelling

Digital Video in the classroom

What Equipment Do I Need to Make Movies?

A reader question:

I’ve always been interested in TV Production and am thinking about writing a grant to start one.   Our school has no funding for this, so I don’t even know where to start. What equipment do I need? How much will it cost?

I’ve learned that nothing goes out of fashion faster than equipment recommendations.  However, here are my best recommendations for today.

Cheapest

Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch with iMovie installed is all you need to start making movies.  $200-$500.

Better

I’m using a T3i DSLR camera that is excellent for still images but also shoots 1080p 24 frames per second high definition video.  $400-$600

For sound, I use a boom microphone which can attach directly to the camera to shoot better sound.  $100-$350

You will also need editing software, either iMovie (free with any Mac) or Final Cut Pro X ($300).

The T3i shoots excellent video in low-light situations.  However, you may wish to add some lighting to your setup.

It’s Not About the Apps Keynote Now Live

I’m pleased to announce that my keynote presentation for the K12 Online Conference is now live and will be archived indefinitely so you can watch it whenever. In this fifteen minute presentation I share a little bit about how taking photos with my phone sparked something of a creative renaissance in my life and talk about my thoughts on how this might apply to our classrooms. I am very much interested in your ideas as my thinking on the subject keeps evolving. Please leave your comments below.

See the movie here.

K12 Online Conference Trailer: It’s Not About the Apps

The K12Online Conference is on now (and forever).  The conference is free and asynchronous…this means you will never “miss” it,  you can watch the presentations whenever.

I’ve presented twice for the conference before, my favorite being Film School for Video Podcasters in which I play a detective and  explain how to make better classroom movies.

This year I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the Kicking it up a Notch strand.  I’m not wearing any costumes this year but I do speak from the heart about what taking photos with my phone has meant for me, nothing short of a creative renaissance, and explain the implications that this could have for our classrooms.

Please take a moment to view my 30 second teaser trailer.  The actual presentation goes live on 10/29 (but remember, you can see it any time after that).

It’s Not About the Apps

Rebranding and Reblogging

Periodically, I like to reintroduce myself to blog/newsletter readers and (re)define the purpose of this blog/newsletter for those of who may be joining this program already in progress. In addition, a couple of recent developments will be new to almost everyone.


E-Mail Subscribers

I want to thank subscribers to this blog.  Many of you have subscribed via the e-mail newsletter link on Open Court Resources.com or Treasures Resources.com.  You may not know that what you’re reading is a blog at all, but thank you!  Blog reading is pretty painless, isn’t it.

Who Am I?

I’m Mathew Needleman.  I’m just one guy, a teacher and sometimes filmmaker.  I write all the content on this blog and do not accept guest posts.  The most prolific periods of my blogging have been while serving as a Literacy Coach and Intervention Coordinator in the elementary grades during which time I blogged about things like reading comprehension, reading fluency, and writing with a dash of technology thrown in occasionally.

I was recently hired as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  I assist 130 schools with integrating technology into their curriculums particularly in support of the Common Core Standards and Language Learners.  I’m still focused on good instruction but my focus has widened to include not just language arts and all grade levels K-12.

The focus of my blogging going forward will likely shift to include more technology but only as it relates to instruction.  I’ve never been interested in technology for technology’s sake.  If you can do it better with a pencil and paper, please do.

My Other Sites

I maintain a number of additional web sites.  I’ve made the decision to revive my dormant independent digital film studio, at Needleworks Pictures.com.  Needleworks Pictures hosts my personal  artistic pursuits unrelated to education and will have more information about my latest moviemaking project shortly.

I’ve spun-off all education endeavors (Open Court Resources.com, Video in the Classroom.com, and this blog the most popular among them) and linked to them all from Needleworks Education.com All of my web sites are free but sometimes advertiser supported.  No advertiser support has ever influenced the content of any of my pages.  In addition to web sites, I also make iPhone apps which are not free and quite costly to produce.  More information about the apps is available at the Needleworks Education site.

My Outside Associations

Although I don’t intend to ever post anything offensive or controversial, it’s worth noting that although I work for a school district, everything I post here is my own opinion and not the opinion of my employer.

I am an Apple Distinguished Educator.  I was chosen for this program because of my fondness for Apple products.  I am not required to post about Apple and only do so when I choose to.  I am allowed to be objective in posting comments about Apple products.

I’m a member of the Adobe Influencer Program.  In exchange for passing on some information about Adobe news I’ve been given something akin to advanced press access to some Adobe announcements.

Questions

I thank everyone for sticking with me, particularly in this long dormant blogging period.  I hope to have new content soon.  If you have any questions, feel free to post them below.

 

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.