123apps: Free Web Apps for a Multimedia Classroom

123apps.png

In an increasingly digital world, students and educators find themselves dealing with multimedia files on a regular basis. This means creating them, editing them, and converting them are not uncommon tasks. Thankfully, there are free tools like the web apps from 123apps.com that can make things like this a whole lot easier. Here’s what you need to know.

Continue Reading

Advertisements

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…

Continue Reading

What You Might Not Know About Adding Video to Google Slides


Recently, Google added the ability to add Google Drive video files to a Slides presentation. It’s a great new feature for schools, but it’s not what this blog post is about. Confused? Bear with me, because there was an additional feature added at the same time that didn’t get a lot of attention. I found it by accident, and I think it is a useful option to know about it so I wanted to share it here in case you find it useful too!

Continue Reading

Creating Photo & Video Slideshows is Easy With Quik for iPad

Quik for iPaD

I love iPad video editor apps like iMovie and Splice, but sometimes all you really want to do is quickly throw some photos together in a slideshow, save it as a movie, and share it with others. In this past, this has undoubtedly taken more time than it should, but Quik for iOS changes everything. With this free app you can create a professional looking video with music and titles in almost no time at all. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Create Video Slideshows With Quik for iPad

1. Start by tapping the Create button and selecting the images and/or videos that you would like to include. Tap OK when you are ready to move on.

Select photos videos Quik

2. A video will immediately start playing with the media you selected automatically matched to an upbeat music track. If you like it, then you’re done! Click Save to share your video. To explore more options, keep reading!

3. Tap the paint bucket icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen to choose a new theme. Scroll horizontally to see all the themes that are available. Each one has a selection of filters, fonts and animations that will give your movie a unique and stylish look. Tapping twice on a theme will let you fine tune the effects.

Quik themes

Continue Reading

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.

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.

3 Top Tips for Green Screen Classrooms

green screen tips

Are you part of the green screen revolution that is sweeping schools? iPad apps like Green Screen by DoInk make it easier than ever to take advantage of the magic of green screen from the comfort of your own classroom. So, here are three top tips on how to make your filming experience a little easier for both students and teachers!

1. Use Mirroring Software

Green screen is an abstract thing for your actors because they can’t see where they are. Do they need to move left a bit? If so, by how much? Wouldn’t it just be easier if they could see for themselves without moving away from the green screen? Well, they can if you put your video feed on a projector, TV or large screen monitor. iPad users can do this with mirroring software like Airserver. The difference is like night and day, and your actors invariably look more confident in front of the camera because they can see where they are in the scene.

AirServer image

2. Use a Teleprompter App

Nobody likes memorizing lines, but you don’t need to if you have an extra iPad handy. Why? There are a number of handy teleprompter apps that you can use to make forgotten lines a thing of the past. There are several free ones like Teleprompter Lite or Best Prompter Pro, but if you have the money to spare, take a look at PromptSmart Pro – a voice activated teleprompter that listens to your voice and automatically matches the movement of the script to the pace of your voice! For best results, hold the teleprompter as close to the camera as you can so that it looks like the actors are talking to the camera.

ipad teleprompter

3. Use External Microphones

A study showed that people are more likely to watch a bad video with good audio quality as opposed to a great looking video that has really poor audio. With an iPad, you might think it would be hard to add an external microphone to improve your audio quality, but it is actually easier (and cheaper) than you might think. I like several of the iRig mobile products but there are definitely a number of options available to you if you are looking for better audio quality. The iRig Mic plugs directly into a mobile device, while the iRig Pre will let you add directional shotgun mics or standard XLR mics that you may already have at school.

microphone

Bonus Tip!

Traditionally, a green screen is set against a wall in some kind of vertical arrangement, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In the video below, I laid the green screen flat on the ground and chose an image with some deep perspective to simulate a walk that not many people would want to take! 🙂

Are you a green screen veteran? If so, what are your favorite tips for recording a great green screen movie in the classroom? Leave a comment below.

Hyper: Inspiring Videos for the Classroom

hyper ipad app

Educator’s looking for great examples of digital storytelling, journalism, and video production should take a look at a brand new app called Hyper: Best Daily Videos. It’s one of my favorite new apps for the iPad and I am going to take a few minutes to tell you why, as well as share some of the videos you can expect to see with this new video app.

I am currently taking some graduate classes as part of a Master’s degree. One of these classes is focused on filmmaking and digital storytelling: skills which I believe are important for students to be exposed to. The class has really opened my eyes to all that goes in to the creation of a great video in terms of the time and effort that is required to tell a really good story.

In essence, this is the goal of Hyper. It is a daily video magazine that consists of 6-12 videos that are hand-picked by real people. Each one is chosen for its quality, production values, visual appeal, journalistic integrity or storytelling prowess. Many are educational and are designed to make you think. For instance, did you know the internet is under water and covered in Vaseline? The video below explains why.

Looking for examples of great stories? Vimeo has always been a great place to find them. The Staff Picks often contain great stories worth sharing, but there are plenty of other amazing videos on Vimeo that don’t always get the attention they might. The film that is embedded below is from Alex Aimard. It has some amazing shots of a world champion skydiver. It is also less than three minutes long. Can your students tell a great story in three minutes or less? It would be fun to watch them try.

Green screen is all the rage, right? Whenever I show teachers how to use green screens, I like to put it in perspective. I show some of the real world examples that we see today in film and television. The video below is from WIRED and is a behind the scenes look at The Martian, starring Matt Damon. It shows exactly how and why green screen effects were needed to make this movie as authentic as it could be.

Need some interesting talking points for Social Studies? How about this next video. It exposes the true cost of the vast amounts of food that we waste on a daily basis. Is there a way to avoid this? What can governments do to discourage or redistribute the surplus? Your students could help decide.

All of these videos, and many more, are videos that I have watched in the Hyper app for iPad over the last week or so. The app is slick and well-designed. It refreshes with a new set of videos once a day, and if you miss a day, you can go back a few days to catch up on the ones you missed. You can also take advantage of the Weekend Recap which rounds up the best videos of the week.

Not every video is going to be one that you are going to use for in your classroom. In fact, not every video is going to be appropriate for your classroom. Hyper is rated 12+ so you will occasionally find videos that skirt the line between acceptable and unacceptable. That said, the vast majority of the videos that I have seen are just great examples of modern filmmaking. They are inspiring for videographers young and old. In my opinion, that makes Hyper a perfect discovery tool for educators who are looking to teach students the finer points of film making. Try it out for yourself and see what you think.