MET:Filmmaking in the Classroom, Process to Product
Originally Constructed by Dominic Smith January 2010, completed March 2010, Edited by Milena Brunetta, March 2012
Technology is transforming the world from entertainment to education (Theodosakis, 2001). In an educational context, technology is providing educators, as well as, students access to resources and information that may have once been difficult to access. Technology has become a part of students' daily lives. Through the increase in availability and accessibility of technology, learning opportunities become endless. Technology provides many creative possibilities, which can be incorporated into the classroom to enhance learning experiences.
Movies are a medium that encourage the development of one's creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving skills. With the possibility of using various tools to create videos, as well as, accessible programs to conduct the editing process, filmmaking within the classroom is just a few steps away. The purpose of this resource is to provide teachers with information on the basic steps, resources and tools required, in order to integrate filmmaking into the classroom.
The students we are currently teaching have grown-up with technology as part of their daily lives, in some form or another. Students are “connected” (Johnson, D., 2005) using computers, iPods, cell phones, camcorders, video game consoles. Johnson (2005) indicates that research has determined that 96% of the Net Genners work and play online and a large proportion use the Web for research purposes. With this is mind it is important to show students how to wade through information and ensure they are media literate. Chantell Drolet, has outlined, in the Recommendations section, how filmmaking can assist with students developing knowledge with respect to Media Literacy.
The Director in the Classroom (2001) written by Nikos Theodosakis is a comprehensive resource which outlines some of the benefits and methods for engaging students in the filmmaking process. Students are living in a visual world, “if we expect them to be fluent in this new visual language, where do we begin teaching the visual grammar and the visual vocabulary skills that will help them both understand and present concepts and ideas that use images as well or instead of text” (p. 26). Theodosakis also argues that “learning technology is not enough. What is required is learning how to use that technology to solve problems, to answer questions, to present ideas and to communicate” (p.26). Thus, it is not enough that camcorders, cameras, filmmaking equipment, and resources are available for use, it is imperative that students have the ability to explore ideas, and use this technology to express their own learning.
Having the opportunity to express their ideas in their own creative way, students can develop a sense of empowerment. Also, given the opportunity to create videos will provide students with the ability to create their own teaching tools, which can be used concurrently with a unit. The videos students create can be used to review learned concepts, or present new ideas and stories. Furthermore, students at higher levels can share their material with younger students (Heath, 1996).
Teambuilding and communication, both verbal and written are vital to the production of a video project. In order to plan, implement and edit a production students must engage with each other to meet deadlines. Heath (1996) provides evidence that this engagement assisted ESL students with their development of the English language. Hall (1990) also promotes the idea of video assisting with language development. In many cases, teambuilding and communication skills development for students, will assist them when they become members of a team in their work environments (Theodosakis, 2001).
In addition, the potential for cross-curricular learning, when creating videos is also possible. Heath (1996) and Hall (1990) provide examples for the use of camcorders in social studies and linguistics. For example, Japanese and French classes could use camcorders to assist with providing feedback to students regarding pronunciation of words, and diction. Students would write a short script and then record a presentation. Or a similar project to Hall’s (1990), students could download a video from YouTube, and then do voiceovers for characters in either Japanese or French. Another possibility is having students write subtitles for already created videos in order to promote language development .
Public Service Announcements or PSAs are also another way for students to produce a short movie piece without spending a significant amount of time. This is another method of filmmaking that can assist with students’ awareness of social issues (Theodosakis, 2001).
In addition to the benefits filmamking provides students, both Buckleitner (2001) and Sprankle (2008) suggest the value for teacher as it increases professional development.
Therefore, filmmaking provides not only the ability to expand ones creativity, critical thinking, collaboration skills, and problem solving skills, one can also benefit from increasing their language, organizational, research, writing, and presentation skills (O'Brien, 2005).
Abdelraheem (2005), argues that “There has been far too much spending on equipment and too little on program design and development” p.129. Thus, providing support for the creation of a resource teachers can use to afford their students the opportunity to use filmmaking for knowledge building.
O'Brien (2005) says that "good films are the direct result of good ideas, good planning and good preparation. Making a film needs to be undertaken over time, as each part of the process plays an integral role in the creation of a successful end product. The time spent can be well worth the effort" (p.87).
There are three basic steps to be followed when creating a film in the classroom: 1) Pre-Production, 2) Production, and 3) Post-Production.
1) Pre-Production includes discussing, with students, filmmaking and the types of films that can be produced, as well as, the possible subjects/topics to base their story line on. This section primarily focuses on writing the story, which, would include scripts and storyboards.
- Real-life Films: These films require actors to act out roles.
- Animated Films: These films require drawings, pictures and/or objects as the basis to create the film. In the resource section, you will find many sites to create animated films with your students.
2) Production includes preparing any sets and/or props students will need when filming. Most importantly, this part is where students will be filming or creating, for animated films, the scenes of their movie.
3) Post-Production includes taking the raw footage, in order to edit it. Editing includes adding titles, subtitles, credits, music, sound effects, and visual effects.
Before beginning a filmmaking project with your class it is important to keep in mind these guidelines to ensure you and your students get the most out of the filmmaking experience (O'Brien, 2005).
- Filmmaking takes time, therefore, make sure to allocate enough time for each part of filmmaking: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.
- In order to make sure all students have a role in the fillmmaking process, groups should consist of 4-8 students, depending on the criteria set for the film.
- The films your students create should not exceed three minutes. Keeping a film short will allow students to really focus on the process. In addition, if it is the first time producing a film, students can get overwhelmed if their film is any longer, as the editing process does take a considerable amount of time.
- Well produced films have been thought out over a period of time.
- The script is the foundation for the film, therefore, it must be fully developed before going into production.
- Good films have been well recorded, and edited.
Camcorders are extremely diverse today. Recording media tends to differentiate depending on the camcorder you are using. Most commonly used today are the, MiniDV camcorders, DVD camcorders, Flash camcorders, and hard drive
With any type of camcorders using cassettes, you will need a special converter to connect the camera directly to the computer, using the RCA to USB converter. Usually the adapter comes with its own software, in order to facilitate the conversion from tape to digital. There are many miniDV cameras that use Firewire (IEEE 1394) which is available in virtually all computers. If you are using a DVD camcorder, the size of the DVDs are smaller, called mini-DVDs. These mini-DVDs can often fit in a DVD player or computer tray if there is an evident indent that can hold this size of disc. Otherwise, there are adapters available that take the size of a standard DVD, and allow you to insert the mini-DVD inside it, so any DVD player or computer can read the disc. As far as the latest technology, the flash camcorders and hard drive camcorders are virtually the only types of camcorders sold in your local electronic shops. For the hard drive camcorder, the only way to connect it to your pc is through the use of a USB wire, generally provided with the purchase of the device. For the flash camcorders, there are two ways to transfer your content to a computer. The first being the USB technique, as previously mentioned for the hard drive camcorders. The second being the removal of the memory card located inside the camcorder.
You must placing it into a slot, usually located on the front of your computer tower, or for laptop, in the front or on one of the side. Not all computers have these slots, but it is a common feature available in recent computers.
Another camera available is the Flip camcorder. This is a simple video camera with a record button which has zoom in/zoom out options. This camera does not use a cassette or DVD; it simply records the video onto internal flash memory. Solid state recording such as a USB key is enabling the camcorders to become smaller and lighter, video transfer is also quicker. The Flip camera also connects to a computer via USB, similar to USB keys or Flash drives. This means easier downloads to most computers.
If you are unable to use a camcorder, or one is unavailable at your school, another option is to use a digital camera. Digital cameras offer the flexibility to take pictures and record video. Therefore, if students wish to incorporate a mixture of pictures and videos into their film, this may prove to be a feasible option. You will need a memory card, which will provide you with a certain amount of pictures or time for recording, depending on the size of the card. Memory cards range from 32MB to 128GB. Refer to the above paragraph on flash camcorders for two of the possible ways to transfer your content to a computer. There are also WiFi digital cameras entering the market, which facilitate the upload of pictures and videos directly to your computer without the use of wires. Simply, over your network connection, it can be as easy as a click of a button.
Sound and Lights
As mentioned, if a more polished look for a film project is required, the use of proper lighting and an external microphone will be necessary. These can be used to eliminate shadow and enable control of light for a scene that the students may be filming. A basic use of lights is called Three Point Lighting.
As for microphones, there are options. The first option is a boom microphone. It can be placed on a boom or long pole and connected to the camera. This boom enables the microphone to be placed close to the actors or sound that need s to be recorded. The second option can be used to record interviews. These are called lapel microphones. These are commonly used on TV during newscasts and are attached to clothing, placing the microphone close to the speaker’s mouth. Lastly, there are condenser microphones and two pencil microphones and stands that can be used for higher quality sound recordings. These microphones are connected to a mixing board enabling the control of the sounds as they are being recorded. Digital mixing boards enable audio to be recorded directly to a computer.
Computers and Editing Software
PCs and Apple computers are commonly used in schools today. Generally, however, Apple machines are commonly used for video editing and manipulating video and audio. When considering which machine to use you should think of:
- Cabling to connect camcorder to computuer
- Video editing software
- Size of hard drive
- Ability to burn DVD once a project has been edited.
Raw video footage is transferred from the camcorder or camera to the a computer into an video editing software package. This software program is used to capture, edit video footage as well as send the final project to a DVD, back to the video camera or compress files for viewing on the Internet or creating video podcasts. This software can also be used to separate the two key components of a video project: video and audio. It is common to separate the video and audio components for editing purposes.
iMacs have other software programs that can be used to integrate with iMovie, these included: GarageBand (audio editing), iPhoto (picture editing). Files can be imported from these software packages into iMovie and incorporated into a final video project.
PCs also have software for working with and creating videos. The most common software package that comes with a Windows PC is Windows Movie Maker. Although adequate other packages are much more robust and numerous reviews of these software packages exist. Fireworks and Adobe Photoshop can also be used to edit video footage.
Editing (Video and Audio)
The camera is connected to the computer and then the editing software such as iMove or Movie Maker is opened. The software will allow the transfer of the video footage. For editing purposes computers usually have a couple of different pieces of software available. Editing can be split into two different categories:
- Video editing software is used for manipulating video transferred from the camcorder. This software will permit video clips to be put together with what is called a transition, to shorten or split a clip into parts, add special effects, add or remove sound or dialogue, combine video with digital pictures and add titles/ credits.
- Advanced editing in many of these software include what is called chroma-keying or green screening. This is the ability to film a shot or sequence of events in front of a green sheet, which is also available. Both programs will permit a user to insert a different scene to replace the green sheet. Any example of this technique is the daily weather. The weather person standing in front of a green sheet and the computer inserts a weather map, which we see at home. Final Cut Express is better equipped to deal with this process; however, iMovie can accommodate simpler versions of this process.
- Fireworks is also available, as mentioned, to modify and alter digital photographs. This program will permit the user to add text to a picture, change colours, combine images, and cut out aspects of a photograph. Files can then be saved and inserted into a Movie project.
- GarageBand (iMac) or Audacity (Apple/PC) are common programs that will permit you to modify audio. You can separate the video and audio or you can add your own audio material from Internet or programs such as iTunes.
Viewing Final Product
With new TVs, there is usually a USB port located on one of the sides. Using a flash drive to transfer your product is simple since you can put the project onto it and then plug into the TV to play it back. Some TVs come incorporated with WiFi. Another option, however, more tedious, is to playback your video on a TV by uploading it back to your camcorder, and then plugging it to the TV via RCA cables or even mini-HDMI to HDMI for high definition playback. In addition, there is always the traditional route of burning your video onto a DVD. This would be the most convenient option if you intend on distributing your final product, assuming it is a larger file, and you wouldn't want to upload it to the internet.
Creating Animated Videos
Editing Software Tutorials
Film Ideas by Curricular Area
Arts and Humanities Links
Math and Science Links
Stop Motion Animation
Added by Shannon Hagen. January, 2017
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