Monday, September 27, 2010

Reflection on Collaboratively Producing a PSA: Be Careful What You Post Online

In a talk given at the 2008 Apple Education Leadership Summit, Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University, defined collaboration with these words:
Collaboration for Pixar means amplification. The amplification you get by connecting up a bunch of human beings who are listening to each other, interested in each other, bring separate depth to the problem. Bring breadth that gives them interest in the entire solution. Allows them to communicate on multiple different levels. Verbally, in writing, in feeling, in acting, in pictures. And in all of those ways finding the most articulate way to get a high fidelity notion across to a broad range of people so they can each pull on the right lever.
Having just participated in a group project which produced a one minute video public service announcement (PSA), Nelson’s words resonated with me as an excellent description of the collaborative process. Collaboration done well takes the individual contributions of invested team members and results in the amplification of those contributions as they become part of an end product that is more powerful  than the individual contributions themselves.

I believe each of the members of our PSA team, made up of Kim G., Alma G., Brian P., and myself, brought their strengths to the pre-production, production, and post-production processes while maintaining  their interest in the entire solution. In pre-production, I offered  the topic of helping educators remember they should be careful with what they post online because it could impact their careers. Although not everyone on the team works in a school district, they all agreed it was a timely topic. An initial storyboard was drawn up and shared for comment via an online Google document that we would continue to use to record our project’s progress over the next three weeks. From the very beginning, everyone was engaged in offering encouragement and ideas for improvement of the initial story idea. To discuss our ideas, we met via a phone conference and continued throughout the project to communicate via email and through our Google document.

As we moved into the production phase, Alma stepped up with her video staging experience and suggested camera shots that Kim, Brian, and myself would not have thought of on our own. Although she lived two and a half hours away from the rest of us and could not make our video shoot, her shot list sent via email was invaluable to the three of us who had much less experience with videography.

In production, Kim, Brian, and I took Alma’s shot ideas, tweaked the dialog I had initially written and Alma had added details to, and shot multiple takes of the scenes we felt would be most effective in the video. On “shooting day” I was primarily an actress, so it was fun for me to watch as Brian and Kim took the ideas the four of us had developed and transform them into scenes for our PSA.

One of the most difficult parts of post-production editing was selecting the best shots because we had so many to choose from. It was a good problem to have as we sorted through the clips, selecting the ones which balanced best delivery on the part of the actors with best overall sound and setting. A second challenge in post-production occurred after Brian had done most of the editing which brought together our video segments, Alma’s graphics, Brian’s narration, and our “camera-shutter” sound effect. Kim was tasked with adding credits and finalizing the video, but we found that Kim’s version of Movie Maker was not compatible with the aspect ratio that our video was shot in. Fortunately, I had a newer version of Movie Maker that could handle the wider aspect ratio, and I did not mind taking over the finalization of the movie. Because of the features of my version of Movie Maker, I was able to format the final .wmv video in a high definition, wide-screen aspect for posting to YouTube. It was just another example of each of us stepping up and jumping in where needed to make the final project a success.

Overall I believe our final PSA is a high-quality product for what was a first effort at video production for most of our group. Most of our video elements were original creations, but we were careful to provide links in our credits at the end of the video for elements from other sources. Credits for the graphics point to http://www.shuterstock.com/ where Alma has subscription access to the graphics files she used as backgrounds for the text elements in our video. Credits for the “camera-shutter” sound effect point to http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=42862 where we downloaded an audio file posted by user crk365 and licensed for free creative transformation under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/sampling+/1.0/).

One improvement I would like to see in the PSA would require the graphic elements to display a little longer on the screen, perhaps a second or so after their words are narrated to give time for additional visual impact on the viewer. We were exactly at the one minute time limit, though, and we had to sacrifice some on-screen time for the graphics to fit all of the dialog in. We could have shortened our dialog in spots, but we really wanted to make some points about how easy it is for inappropriate content posted to the Internet to be shared and how students, parents, and administrators might react in those situations. I suspect with experience we would be able to strike the right balance on these aspects.

The creation of this PSA was a very positive experience for me. I feel our original idea was indeed amplified by the collaborative process. I am also encouraged to know that everyone on the team enjoyed and learned from this experience, as evidenced by our debriefing at the bottom of our collaborative Google document.

This blog post would be incomplete without our final project. I hope you enjoy watching Be Careful What You Post Online as much as we enjoyed making it!



Reference

Nelson, R. (2008). Learning and working in the collaborative age: A new model for the workplace. Edutopia. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from http://www.edutopia.org/randy-nelson-school-to-career-video

Monday, September 6, 2010

Web Conference Experience

The following blog post is a requirement for an assignment in Lamar University course EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology.

I attempted to attend a web conference live on August 31st for EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology, but due to a glitch I was never admitted to the conference. I was grateful, however, for the conference chat log and link to the recorded conference that was sent out the next day.


The information from the chat log was extremely beneficial this week due to the number of questions I had about the assignment. From reading the log, I can see I was not alone in my confusion. Our assignment called for the creation of a podcast, but several times throughout the assignment there were references to video editing software which we were reviewing. Reviewing the software entailed editing video clips. In trying to follow all of the steps of the assignment which interchangeably referenced tasks with audio and video, I was not clear as to whether or not I was supposed to be creating an audio-only podcast or a video podcast.

As I read the chat log from the video conference, I saw that several other students had the same questions about the assignment. So even though I was not able to participate in the live web conference, I was able to gain a better understanding of the assignment requirements. Dr. Abernathy stated in the chat that we had a choice as to whether or not we would do an audio only podcast or add video to it as well. Knowing that information, I was able to move ahead with my assignment planning.

Web conferences are extremely valuable in a distance education course such as this one. No matter how clear teachers and professors strive to be when they write assignment instructions, each student brings his or her own interpretation to what they are reading. Just like in traditional classroom settings where students have ample opportunity to ask clarifying questions regarding course content or assignments, online students need to have the same opportunities.

We are all able to email our instructional associates with questions at any time. I believe, however, that the additional opportunities web conferences provide for participating in a conversation, or even listening in on a recorded conversation at a later time, provide an important instructional component for those of us who have strong auditory or even interpersonal learning styles.

I hope to be able to attend more web conferences in person throughout the rest of this course and during my internship.

Intro to Movie Maker Video Podcast

The following video was created to satisfy requirements of my Week 2 assignment in EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology to create a brief video editing software tutorial. Although only an audio podcast was necessary for this assignment, after reviewing Windows Movie Maker and learning about its features, I wanted to use it to create a project. I took the option to add video to my assignment.





For those interested in how the podcast was put together, here is the information:

Video Screen Capture: I used a piece of software I own called Snag-It to record a screen capture of the tasks covered in the podcast. Snag-It allowed me to export the video capture to .avi format which I then imported into Movie Maker.

Narration: I used the narration feature of Movie Maker to add audio Narration to the actions I performed in the screen capture video.

Podcast Title: Created using title creation feature of Movie Maker.

Podcast Credits: Created using credits feature of Movie Maker.

Creative Commons License: I created this on a PowerPoint slide due to the amount of text which would not have worked well in Movie Maker. I  exported the slide as a .jpg from PowerPoint and imported it into Movie Maker as the final “scene” of my podcast.

Video Editing Reflection and Software Evaluation

NOTE: This reflection is part of an assignment requirement for Lamar University course EDLD 5363 Multimedia & Video Technology

“Media production engages and excites; it leads to unexpected discoveries, increased self-awareness and esteem, sharpened critical thinking, analytical skills, group work skills, and ability to communicate ideas” (Garrison, 1999). In following educational blogs and research over the past year and a half, I have read themes similar to Garrison’s many times over. A number of educators are writing about the engagement and growth that multimedia production encourages in their students. I have not personally worked much with multimedia production, and having been out of the classroom for ten years did not have the opportunity to work in this medium with students. Over the past two weeks, however, the readings in our Multimedia and Video Technology class as well as last week’s personal digital story project and this week’s video editing experimentation and podcast assignments have stimulated my interest in multimedia and video editing. I was excited when a blog post called Doing a “FLIP” Across the Curriculum (Zimmer557, 2010) came across my Twitter stream on Friday because it was full of ideas on how to use FLIP video cameras in the classroom. I know I will grow in my knowledge of this area even more over the next three weeks as we work on a group project to produce a public service announcement, and I look forward to continuing to find new ways to use multimedia to reach teachers for professional development as well as to encourage them to design engaging multimedia projects with their students.

Video is one medium of multimedia production that can be used to reach teachers and engage students. According to Desktop-Video-Guide.com (n.d.), after shooting and capturing video to a computer, the next step is to edit the video by adding effects, transitions, titles, and even sound. This week, we were given the task of using and evaluating two different video editing software packages of our choosing. Since I work in a K-12 school system with a technology budget that we stretch as far as possible, I decided to look only at free video editing solutions. The two options I experimented with were YouTube Video Editor and Windows Movie Maker.

YouTube's Video Editor

YouTube’s Video Editor just launched in mid-June of 2010. I found a couple of tutorials on the Free Technology for Teachers blog prior to experimenting with this program. Before you can use YouTube’s Video Editor, you must first upload a video or videos to YouTube. Once the videos are uploaded, you have a few editing options. These options include trimming the videos from the beginning or the end, combining two or more videos into one single video, adding one of three transitions between videos, and replacing any existing audio in the videos with a single song sound track from YouTube’s AudioSwap music gallery. When you are finished with your editing, the Video Editor renders an entirely new video combining all of your edits and publishes it to YouTube. YouTube’s Video Editor is in its infancy and as many online tools do it will probably gain more features over time.

A big positive I see for using YouTube Video Editor is its simplicity. If all you need is to take some unedited video, trim a bit from the start or end, and add a musical soundtrack without worrying about copyright, you can have a decently edited video in a short amount of time. I also see several drawbacks to using YouTube Video Editor in a K-12 setting. First of all, you can’t work narration into the video unless you do it before uploading to YouTube, and then you cannot use YouTube’s music for a soundtrack option for the video because it will completely replace your original narration. Using AudioSwap music as your sound track may also result in advertisements being placed on your video. Second, the final video is rendered on YouTube and not downloadable, so anyone you want to share the video with must have access to YouTube and you cannot make a local copy for archival purposes. Third, you have to make sure you have permission/rights to post all of the media and people in the video publicly to comply with YouTube’s terms of service. The last drawback is not specifically related to the editor itself, but the fact that YouTube is blocked in many K-12 settings due to the necessity of CIPA compliance.

Windows Movie Maker

I also experimented with Windows Movie Maker on my Windows Vista computer. Before using Movie Maker to edit any video, I found an excellent online tutorial at the Teacher Training Videos website. The tutorial was well paced and very thorough, which helped me with understanding how to use Movie Maker even before I opened the program. In watching the tutorials and using the program, I could see that Movie Maker is much more robust than YouTube Video Editor. Right away the ability to combine multiple video clips along with individual digital photo images stood out for me. Movie Maker will help you capture video or photos directly from a digital camera or it will import clips and photos you already have stored on your computer. Once you arrange your media in the order you would like it to play on a video editing timeline, you can choose from a selection of forty-nine different effects such as panning, zooming, pixilating, and changing the look of the film to make it look antique. There are also sixty-three different transitions that can be inserted between clips as visual aids in moving between portions of the video. To help in making the most effective use of effects and transitions, Movie Maker also has a split function, so long segments of video can be separated and extraneous sections cut out using the clipping feature. Movie Maker has a function which will allow you to record narration directly into the video and balancing features which allow you to quiet or mute any original audio that imported as part of the video so your narration can be heard over the original soundtrack. Optionally, you can record your narration using another program such as Audacity and then import it into your movie. As a final, professional touch, Movie Maker also has features which help you create titles and credits for your video.

After experimenting with Movie Maker, I felt I had used a program that would allow for the kind of editing referenced in the Desktop-Video-Guide.com (n.d.) article. One of the big positives for me as someone new to video editing was even though it is a feature-filled program, Movie Maker was relatively simple to use after watching about an hour’s worth of tutorials. I’m sure a teacher or student with more video editing experience than me would find the program intuitive without needing to watch a tutorial. A second big positive is the fact that Movie Maker comes for free with Windows XP and Vista. Movie Maker is not included with Windows 7, but version 2.6 can be downloaded from Microsoft and installed on your Windows 7 PC.

The potential for sharing your final projects is increased by using Movie Maker over YouTube Video Editor. Movie Maker has multiple options for rendering the final videos, including publishing in .wmv format which will play in Windows Media Player on a PC. If you want your movie to be cross-platform without having to upload it to the web, you can export it in .avi, a more universal format which will allow your video to play in QuickTime on Mac and Windows computers as well as in Windows Media Player on PCs.

Conclusions

In a contest between YouTube Video Editor and Windows Movie Maker, Movie Maker wins for me. I feel Movie Maker is more robust in its features while remaining simple to use in a K-12 setting, where computer time is often a precious commodity and less-steep learning curves for software mean more time for accomplishing meaningful projects. I enjoyed learning about and using both programs, however, and in the process learning more about video editing itself. I look forward to using the techniques I experimented with in the remaining weeks of our class.

References

Desktop-Video-Guide. (n.d.). The various stages of creating a digital video. Retrieved August 31, 2010 from http://www.desktop-video-guide.com/video-creation.html

Garrison, A. (1999, Winter). Video basics and production projects for the classroom. Media Matters. Retrieved August 31, 2010 from http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/article3.html

Zimmer557. (2010, September 3). Doing a “FLIP” across the curriculum [Web log post]. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from http://edutechintegration.blogspot.com/2010/09/doing-flip-across-curriculum.html
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