There are many combinations of hardware and software to produce a short film in the classroom. This is just a quick and dirty way to create a short film.
The FujiFilm A330 is an inexpensive digital still image camera. It is not a video camera. The quality of the video output is low but adequate. You basically can get 1-4 minute clips depending on the quality settings. The camera’s inability to record audio would be a “bug” if I were buying it for personal use but it is a “feature” for this lesson. The emphasis is on planning the shots and telling the story visually with narration and music added to support the video.
The students film their storyboard one little clip at a time and then import them into the video editing software. Remember, you don’t have to shoot the clips in order because you rearrange them in the video-editing tool (non-linear editing). This is an important concept for the students to understand. They can shoot in the order that makes sense. If it is late afternoon and the opening shot requires early morning sun, they can just shoot an indoor scene now and then do the morning scene tomorrow morning.
I like to use Audacity to add audio (words and music later). You could use the film editing tool to add narration and music later but Audacity gives you a lot more tracks, effects, and editing tools to work with. One important note, you will have to also download the LAME MP3 encoder in order to export your Audacity file as an MP3 which you will use as the audio track of your film.
One of the great things about Audacity is the big visual displays you get for your audio clips. In some video editing software, the tracks are visually small and not easy to work with. “Playing” in the tool can be fun and empowering. You get immediate feedback when you have done something right. Of course, a big disadvantage of working outside of the video editing software is the timing of audio with the video. That is why you might actually create the narration/music track first and then edit the video around the audio. That is how they do it in music videos.
Having worked on both iMovie and Windows Moviemaker 2, I prefer iMovie but my day-to-day environment is a PC one so that is what I’m working with here. At the end of the day, it should be about teaching kids non-linear film editing and not platform specific applications. No matter what application-specific skills we teach them, they will be confronted with new technology to learn on their own. It is about the concept.
Any of the major video editing software packages, including the free ones, offer a large assortment of titles, transitions, and video effects. It is tempting to “guide” the students into what you think is the best combination but let the students play with them all. Even if it won’t win any design or cinematography awards, it is an expression of their creativity. If they are seriously interested in the subject they will seek out more information on their own. The idea is to get them interested not to be the next Peter Jackson.
In addition to the English skills required for the scripting of the narration, creating a film in class is also an excellent way to introduce the concepts of project management and lifecycle. Project management is a portable skill that can be used throughout one’s life. Lifecycle is just a fancy way of describing the various phases or parts of a project.
Although I made this lifecycle up it still illustrates the point that there are logical steps in the creation of film. The concepts of project management and lifecycle can also be extended to term papers, science projects, art portfolios, etc.
- Plan - Regardless of the project, I find that many students want to jump into the tools without putting the time into the upfront planning. In a film project, putting a time limit on the filming usually helps students see how valuable planning is. The students that do their storyboard and plan their locations (with backups) usually finish their filming on time. The students that “wing it” usually do not finish on time or their finished product is of a lesser quality. You really need to emphasise how long the editing part of the project can be and make sure the students have planned enough time to edit and overcome the invariable hiccups that will occur.
- Create -
Like painting a room, if everything has been planned and prepared, this
is usually the shortest part of the project. If it turns into a
nightmare, you can use it as a great teaching moment on the importance
of planning and having backup plans.
- Edit -
This part can be difficult because of the learning curve of the tools.
Assuming the students have had some training on the editing tools, this
phase of the project should be when the students build their movie
according to their plan/storyboard not a “wow, look what we came up
with!” one…although creativity frequently does arise from chaos.
Sometimes we have to create to satisfy a desired end-product for a
customer and sometimes we can just create for ourselves. Students
should understand the difference.
- Check - Does the film match the storyboard? Do we need to re-shoot some of the scenes?
- Re-Create - Fill in the gaps and correct any problems.
- Re-Edit - Put it all together and save in the format of choice.
- Present/Reflection -
Play the movie in front of the class. Describe what made the film
successful or not. What worked and what didn’t? What would you
differently if you could do it again? You can take presentation in all
kinds of directions including video blogging or “vblogging”. You can
find out more about vblogging at Audioblog.com or freevlog.
hurdle to making a short film is low. It mainly involves the time to
learn the tools. There are many different lessons which could be
incorporated into the film project. Project management is one skill
that we normally associate with business but it is quite portable. It
stresses the efficient use of time and resources to produce a quality
result. Students frequently know how to do the tasks, they just lack
the ability to take a big problem (or opportunity) and break it down
into its piece parts (lifecycle phases). By giving them a fun but
challenging project and a methodology or “tool” to complete it, you
will help them learn how to manage other challenging parts of their