The past few weeks I have been making movies with my technology classes. Now, I love movies, but making them—that is another thing. The fact is, making movies on a PC (our lab has no Macs) is a difficult and cumbersome process. Windows Movie Maker, which is loaded on all our machines, is cumbersome to use. It is integrated into the whole “My Documents” home folder thing, not our student file server. It does not play nice with many of the common file formats and makes many of the most common editing tasks awkward. In short, it is not iMovie.
That said, it’s free, and available, and even though there are great, web-based options out there, they are all a little too complicated or require too much personal information for my taste. Also, I don’t know how much bandwidth out network can take pushing high-def MP4 video down the pipe, multiplied by 33 students.
That brings me to another problem. Every camera out there is hi definition. For the love of Pete, why? I understand that people want their videos crisp these days, but it all ends up on YouTube anyway! Meanwhile, our server is filling up with 10meg-a-second videos.
To solve both the file size problem and Windows Movie Maker’s limited tolerance for video formats, I found a great and now indispensable little program called Any Video Converter. It does just what it says it does: converts nearly any video (including our proprietary Flip video formats) into any other format and size. Suddenly that high-def video is cut down to a decent size again.
With the technical part of this project out of the way, I had to figure out how to plan this thing. Most of my students, if given a camera, want to point it at their friends and re-enact America’s Funniest Home Videos. So it fell to me to give them direction. Their assignment was to make an instructional video to give to the lower grades, explaining how to do things in the school. Examples included how to walk in a line, how to stand up to a name-caller, how to check out a book, and how to get ready for skiing (our gym teacher is awesome).
I had the students write up a “treatment” in the form of an outline and a list of materials and permissions they would need to get to film this movie. They then made storyboard cards and laid out their story.
After that, it was all very easy. Most the principles of video editing match PowerPoint—except when it comes to inserting sounds and trimming clips in the timeline—but I was glad I spent so much time on presentations before starting this.
Next week should be interesting. That’s when we focus on entertaining videos…