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How to do green screen movies in school

The interest in Green Screen seems to be gathering momentum.  I think it's one of those techniques which is a mystery to many people but once you know how it works is really simple.  The coloured background is replaced by another image using software; dead simple.

Raynville-greenscreen

Below is a little test video we made with the media team at a local school.  It became clear during this exercise that the process was exciting for the children and well within their capability.  Using the software to replace the background and edit the sequence was within the grasp of some year five children. 

The technique can not only help with ICT skills but potentially address teamwork, speaking and listening, writing, drama, storytelling, artwork.  The next project will be a journey to the moon.

The recipe

  • Bought 3 yards by 1 yard of green felt from Leeds Market and used Velcro to attach it to a wall between the photocopier and a desk. £20.  
  • The school already had a MacBook which we upgraded to iLife9 -  iMovie in iLife 9 is capable of green-screen overlay – earlier versions aren't.  £40
  • Came up with the idea of a hiker who couldn't tell his left from his right and ended up in unexpected places  download the script
  • Put the camera on a tripod and connected it directly to the MacBook using a firewire cable.
  • We recorded the action directly into iMovie.
  • Children sourced background images and imported them to the MacBook via a memory stick.
  • Edited the sequence in iMovie – green screen is a simple drag and drop.
  • Imported the music track to enhance.

I shall be setting up green-screen areas in a few local schools.  If you'd like to have one and would like help please drop me an email.

 

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Wall of Secrets

The idea:
One of the schools in Keighley wanted to take the theme of "lots of hidden things" for their film. They didn't want to take a single person, place or event but to encourage the children to look at their environment for signs of history. The emphasis was on walking about and looking.  They came up with the idea of a wall of secrets which worked well since most of the historical clues seemed to be embedded in walls of one sort or another. Amy Heild helped the children make a puzzle made of numbered bricks. When the bricks were constructed in the right way they made a victorian street scene.

The cinema film used this puzzle – the wall of secrets – as a theme, out of which would come the information about the town's history. 

Technology:
The children used Flip cameras to record the information.  The opening sequence of the film involved pretty much the whole school and involved the camera being pulled backwards on a chair with wheels. We used a Canon 5D MK high definition camera for the playground sequence and employed some of the children as crew. The idea for the special effects came from the class and was beyond the capability of Widows Move Maker! – so Final Cut Pro was used for this effect.  Although some of these techniques were beyond the school to achieve themselves, I felt that by making these tools available I was able to put no restrictions on their imagination – if they wanted a magical wall then they could have one.

Learning:
The teacher set the creative bar very high and didn't settle on the first idea that came along. He was open to ideas as they came along and imagined that anything was possible. There was a high level of risk taking and a willingness to experiment with new or seemingly impossible ideas. The children were highly motivated by the large amount of visual media generated by this project – there was a high volume of photography and video used not only in the film but in the course of the everyday teaching. 

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Art

Hidden Keighley discovery day

We completed the Hidden Keighley discovery day yesterday. Six schools trekking around the town in search of boxes which had been transformed by the children. My role has been to organise the film making element in collaboration with artist Amy Heild.

The process of making a film is a fantastic way for the children to learn so many skills and build their confidence, even a simple interview has so many elements to it. Deciding on the most relevant location to film the story, observing  & planning the shots, managing the equipment, problem solving, engaging with the interviewee are only a few skills needed.  It's particularly rewarding to pick shy children to work in front of the camera or take a leadership role and see them rise to the challenge. 

The brilliant thing about video is that you can re-take if things go wrong.  We've had some wonderful conversations about the value of being able to learn from mistakes. At first the children get embarrassed when they make a mistake but soon they're able to have a laugh about it and move on to an improved attempt.

Bringing professionalism to the way the video is filmed and edited can be a huge boost to many children. They imagine that professional film makers have none of the problems they face  – being nervous, tripping over their lines, wobbly shots and so on.  Once they realise that there are some simple techniques to achieving impressive results they begin to feel so much more confident.

We've had a lot of discussion about whether the process is more important than the outcome – i.e. that a poor quality film is OK provided that the children learn something in the process.  I'm sure that the end product is vitally important – especially for a product designed for public showing.  The buzz the children get from achieving a film that looks like something they would see on TV or at the cinema is something they can be proud of and will remember for a long time.

HK2 

This is  the model of Keighley Picture House. Inside is a screen on
which interviews about of the old cinema play. Next week all the films
will be shown at the real cinema at a red carpet event  for 300 children.

HK3

This is from the film Box of Sounds in which we take this animated Victorian girl to re-visit one of the local mills.

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