Getting Creative With Video in the Classroom

walmart receipt.png

While watching the Oscars tonight, I was intrigued to see a promotion that Walmart was running to celebrate the craft of film making. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to  commercials, but these ads managed to catch my attention, and I think that they have some interesting potential for teachers who are looking to add some creativity to video projects in their classroom.

Walmart contacted four award-winning directors, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors), Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), and Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner). They sent each of them a receipt with the same six items and challenged them to make a one minute movie that was centered around the six items on the receipt. You can learn more here, but take a look at the videos below to see what these talented directors came up with…

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The One App I Can’t Live Without

app you cant live without

Recently, at the #iPadU conference, I was challenged to think about the one app I couldn’t live without. This was harder than I thought it might be. I mean, there are a lot of apps I really like, but are there any that I couldn’t live without, or at least be able to find some kind of passable replacement for? After some consideration, I decided that there was such an app, and that it really was quite unique in what it offers students, teachers and just about everyone else. That app, is the Camera app.

In many ways it is more than just an app, because it is now an essential hardware feature, but many people forget that when the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, there was no camera. Even today, there are those that still laud the introduction of the original iPad as a new era for computing, but for me, the iPad 2 was far more important than the one that came before it. When the iPad 2 was announced a year later, it had a two cameras – one on the front and one on the back.  The addition of these cameras opened up a whole new world for what was actually possible with an iPad, and quickly turned this mobile tablet from a consumption device to a creation device. It transformed the iPad into something infinitely more appealing and opened the doors for developers to create some amazing apps. Continue Reading

How (and Why) to Compress Video on iPads & iPhones

compress video ipad

Do your videos take a long time to upload to YouTube? Does the iOS Mail app refuse to send your large videos? If so, you should consider a video compression app for your iPad or iPhone. The job of a video compressor is to make your file sizes smaller so that they are easier to work with or share with other people.  Today I am going to show you one that I use and give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Why Use a Video Compression App?

Today there are lots of reasons why you might want to compress a video that you have on your iPhone or iPad. Smaller videos are easier to share with others whether that is via YouTube or simply to upload as a student assignment via Showbie or an LMS. Storage space is another good example of why you might want to compress videos. If you have a 16GB iPad (or iPhone) then free space is increasingly a problem. Compressing a video lets you keep a more friendly file-sized version on your device so that you can backup or remove the original. In schools, this can be a common problem.

If students are working on a shared video project, or filming with multiple devices, smaller video files are easier to transfer from one device to another via AirDrop or cloud services. They are also more email friendly because you can usually reduce them below the maximum file size limits found in most email services.

Video Compression Apps for the iPad & iPhone

The app I have been using for compressing video on an iPad or iPhone is called Video Compressor – Just Set the Target Size! It’s a free app and a useful one to keep on your iOS device for those times when you really need it. Best of all, the app is really easy to use. Simply select the video you want to compress, and move the slider to select the file size you would like to achieve, (also shown as a percentage reduction). Compressed videos are saved to the Camera Roll alongside the original video. This means you effectively have two copies of the same video, but the file size of one will be significantly smaller than the other.

Compress Video - Just Set the Target Size

The Downsides of Using a Video Compression App

Of course, everything has a downside. When you compress a video you are making a compromise between quality and file size. The more you compress a video, the more artifacts you will see on the final product. This means a video that has been compressed a lot could appear fuzzy or grainy when viewed full screen or on high resolution screens. So, it is a bit like limbo dancing. You have to think about how low can you go before things start to get out of control! 🙂

Often this comes down to trial and error as you work between what file size you need versus how much resolution you need. However, it could also come down to what your end goal is. For instance, is your goal to share an HD video at the highest quality, or are you just looking to share a first cut with an instructor or peer in order to get their feedback on your early edit? This is an important distinction to make, but the results you get from compressing a video may be better than you think if you are judicious with your use of the Target Size slider.

Should You Compress Videos?

At the end of the day, it comes down to what your needs are and how important it is to have the full resolution in your final videos. If you use services like Google Photos to back up your media, you are already compressing your photos and videos to a smaller file size if you opted for unlimited online storage, (like most people do). Google says that if your video is 1080p or less, it will look “close to the original” when uploaded to Google Photos. Ultimately that is what I aim for if I ever have to compress an iPad or iPhone video, but 720p is very usable too, especially if YouTube is the final destination.

Of course,  a good way to avoid compressing videos is editing. When you edit video on the iPad you have the chance to cut down the length of your videos, which will in turn cut down the file size of your videos. Shoot short, and edit tight. Nobody really wants to watch a ten minute video so if you can, try to aim for two to three minutes at the most on your finished, edited project. Otherwise, compression is a valid option. I don’t compress videos often, but when I do, this is the app I use.

Splice by GoPro: A Great Free Video Editor for iPads

splice ipad

While preparing a workshop for teachers on iPad movie making, I was reviewing my top picks for free iPad video editors. One of my early favorites, the Clips Video Editor, is apparently no longer available because the developers got bought out by Google and their apps have been removed from the App Store. So, as I looked for a replacement I came across Splice. This app has been around for a while but I was pleased to see it now includes a iPad version and a much improved user interface. The app was recently acquired by GoPro, but can be used to edit any video footage on your iOS device.

Splice lets you create videos, or photo slideshows, with no time limits, ads or watermarks. It also has an impressive list of editing features that include:

  • Trim, cut, crop photos and videos
  • Choose from a selection of lens filters for special effects
  • An impressive library of free soundtracks and sound effects
  • The ability to record your own voiceover narration
  • The option to overlay and mix multiple audio tracks
  • Ken Burns pan and zoom effect
  • Control over video playback speed – slow motion or super fast!
  • A collection of professional looking video transitions
  • Text overlays for photos or videos

splice ipad

The interface may take a little getting used to, but I found it pretty intuitive and easy to learn. It is different from iMovie, but different in a good way. Everything feels very modern and fresh. There is a great built-in, searchable help menu that can be used to find the features you want, but it is largely text based. A few screenshots here would add a lot to the usefulness of the help screens.

Finished videos can be shared in a number of ways. There is built-in support for direct uploads to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, but you can also save to the camera roll or activate the “Open in” app picker to choose another app like Drive or Dropbox. However, perhaps most interesting is the ability to share via a link. When you choose this option, your video will be uploaded to GoPro’s servers and you will be given a link to the video that you can share with others. Only those with the link can access the video, and no account or login is required in order to share your video this way. Here’s a link to my sample Splice video. (Note: You can turn the GoPro outro on or off as required. In this case I chose to leave it on).

splice video editor

Any drawbacks? GoPro state that some features require newer devices and the latest version of iOS. As yet, I have not been able to uncover what those are, but no doubt time will tell. There are no themes like you might find in iMovie, and you can’t adjust how long text appears on a video clip. Once you add it, the text is there for the whole clip, just like it is in iMovie, unless you split the clip and only add text to the part you need. Finally, when in landscape mode, the narration button is harder to find than it should be. You need to tap Audio tab and then scroll up with one finger to reveal the additional audio track on the timeline.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a free video editor for your iPad, Splice by GoPro is well worth a look because it’s a powerful video editor that works really well on the iPad. I will definitely use it more in the future because I love the design of the app and the way everything is laid out. Below is a sample video that I put together in Splice with Creative Commons Zero video clips sourced from www.pixabay.com.

3 MORE Top Tips for Green Screen Classrooms

3 more green screen tips(1)

Some time ago I wrote a blog post entitled 3 Top Tips for Green Screen Classrooms. It proved to be a popular post, so I thought it was time to do a follow up with three MORE top tips that you can use in your classroom when embarking on multimedia green screen projects. So, take a look at the ideas below, and feel free to submit your top tips in the comments below.

1. Add Logos to Images and Videos

Green Screen by DoInk lets you add up to three layers of media to each project. Think of these like the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. Often, we just use two of these layers – one for the live camera and the other for the background – but that third layer can be very useful for branding, a watermark, or even your school logo. Simply add it to your foreground layer, resize it, and position it to where you would like it to appear on the screen.

This is ideal for adding logos at a conference you are running, or simply to add a channel number icon to your news broadcast. Any image will work here but transparent PNGs (images with no background layer) will add an additional air of authenticity. Create your own and export them to the camera roll with Paper53 or search for Vector images at Pixabay.com.

logo watermark

2. Use a Tripod

This is a very quick and easy way to make your videos look more professional. Shaky camera work, especially on a green screen video, can be quite disorientating for the viewer so the steadier the better. Thankfully, this is not as expensive as you might think. The Padcaster is a great setup, but it’s not within everyone’s budget. However, the Makiyama Movie Mount is a decent option. Amazon is full of affordable iPad holders that cost even less and they will easily mount to any standard camera tripod. Many will even work without removing the case you have your iPad housed in so be sure to look for those too if you need that flexibility.

tripod-

3. Get More Green Cloths

If you only have one green screen, you’re missing out on some creative opportunities. Ever wanted to fly like Superman or float like an astronaut? Cover a table, or some sturdy boxes, with an extra green cloth and you can take to the skies with the magic of green screen. When Halloween comes around you can use that extra green screen cloth to have fun with a disembodied head simply by wrapping the cloth around you like a cloak! For a less morbid example, you could try adding your head to Mount Rushmore! You could even try a mixed media example like this one on human anatomy.

fly green screen

BONUS TIP: Experiment With The Masking Tools

If you ever find that your green screen is not quite big enough, or there is a stubborn area of your background that you just can’t fix, then the masking tools are for you. They let you mask out areas of your scene that you don’t want to show on your final product. Simply tap the mask icon to get started and use any of the the eraser or shape tools to define an area that you want to mask. Anything that is underneath that layer will be transparent.

In the example where your green screen is too small, select the live camera view, then use the masking tools to “paint” the area outside of your green screen. This creates a mask that will now show your chosen background media instead of the classroom walls!

Of course, the masking tools can be used creatively too. If you don’t have another green cloth on hand, the masking tool could be use in place of that. Or, as you can see below, it could even be used to show two videos side by side! 🙂

Side by Side

5 Video Tutorials for Green Screen App By Do Ink

Green screen tutorials

I am a big fan of using green screen in the classroom. My favorite app for doing that is the Green Screen app by Do Ink, so you can imagine how happy I was to see these new green screen tutorial videos from Do Ink that show you various ways to use the app. Each video is short and to the point. They are a great way to learn the app, or to share with others that are interested in getting started with green screen on the iPad. Take a look! The videos are embedded below.

How to Combine, Trim and Save Two Videos

Just getting started with green screen? Then this is the video tutorial for you. It shows you the basics of how to combine your green screen video with a background of your choice, as well as how to save and export your finished video. Easy, right?

How To Use All 3 Layers in the Green Screen by Do Ink app

Wondering what you can do with all three media tracks? In this video you can see a quick demonstration of how (and why) you can use all three tracks to make a multimedia video that is layered with different tracks. It sounds hard, but it is easier than you think.

How to Change Position, Size and Orientation of Images

I find that this is something people discover by accident, but it is a very useful skill to know when using the Green Screen by Do Ink app. With a couple of pinch and drags you can easily scale and move your images to position them exactly where you want them on the screen. The same technique works with pre-recorded video.

How to Crop Images, Videos and Live Camera

The crop tool is a powerful way to deal with smaller green screens, or bad framing when capturing the original photo or video. Why? It lets you crop out areas of the image that you don’t want to appear in your final video. Here’s how to do it.

How to Use the Mask Tool to Create a Moving Newspaper

This is my favorite of all the videos. It shows you how to create an animated newspaper that looks like it fell straight off the set of a Harry Potter movie. This could be a great way for students to interact with local or national news and give their opinions on hot topics. It could also be ideal for historical perspective pieces with archive images of newspapers from the past. This green screen video tutorial is quick and easy to follow.

Are you using green screen in your classroom? What tutorials would you like to see next?

How to Blur Student Faces on YouTube Videos

Blur student faces on YouTube

Student privacy is important, but so is sharing student work online. With the ability to blur faces on YouTube you may be able to have the best of both worlds. YouTube has had blurring effects for some time now, but it was somewhat crude and did not always work as well as it might. However, this week YouTube introduced custom blurring effects, and they work much better than before. Here’s how they work!

Step 1: Upload your video to YouTube. If you have student faces that you need to blur before you go public with your video, be sure to set your video to private until you get all the edits done that you need.

Step 2: Follow the URL for your new video and click the magic wand under the player controls to go to the Enhancements menu.

magic wand youtube player

Step 3: Select the Blurring Effects tab on the right-hand side of the screen, and then click the Edit button next to Custom blurring.

blurring effects youtube

Step 4: Cue up your video to the point where you would like the blurred effect to begin, then click and drag a box around the face(s) that you would like to blur. Adjust the size of the blurred area by dragging the corners of each box. You will see a blurring preview in the player and during playback you will notice that YouTube will attempt to track the movement of the face(s) you selected.

blurred faces on YouTube

Step 5: Adjust the duration of each blurred box by clicking and dragging the effect boxes on the timeline underneath the video. This will control when the effect begins and ends.To prevent the blurred area tracking the subject as they move around the screen, click the Lock icon to fix it in position.

edit blurring effects

Step 6: Once you are finished, click Done and preview the effect in the before and after window. If you find you need to make further tweaks, click Reconfigure to fine tune your adjustments.

Step 7: When you are ready, you can save your creation, adjust your sharing permissions accordingly, and share your video with everyone you want to see it.

If you are planning on using the YouTube blurring effects to blur student faces in videos, you will find that it works best on static or slower moving subjects. As of now, it is not as effective for things like sporting events or unpredictable movements. For all other scenarios, this is a useful tool for educators and for anyone else that needs to make light work of an otherwise complex editing process.