For the last two weeks I have been working on a digital story telling project with my 3rd grade classes, 6 or them to be exact. While this project wasn’t difficult to pull off or plan, I did think that writing about it in the context of the elementary classroom and the es student might be beneficial to some. This post and the next few subsequent posts will be my reflection on the process of digital story telling using green screening, the successes, the parts that failed, the preparation, the details I got right, and the ones I overlooked. I hope your next project goes a little smoother after reading these posts.
Scheduling and Resources
Resources (2 green screening locations):
*2 Flip HD Cameras
*1-Portable Green Screen
*1-Green Screen Lab/Studio
*19 Students with prepared writing samples, cue cards, or writing samples committed to memory
When my third grade team mentioned they wanted to do a green screening project, my first response was, “This needs to be student lead from start to finish.” Those of you who have done green screening or any movie editing in the ES setting know how quickly it can turn into a teacher led or Technology Resource Facilitator (TRF) led project where the onus on editing falls on the adults rather than the kids. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROJECT AND MAKE SURE THIS EXPECTATION IS CLEAR AND UNDERSTOOD FROM THE BEGINNING.
As I mentioned in Part I, we had scheduled two double sessions for filming with the students. The plan was to have two green screening locations set up. One, in our ES laptop lab is a legitimate green screening wall, the other was to be in the classroom using our portable green screen. In both locations we set up a tripod with a flip camera. We
then split the class into groups of three. Three of these groups went with the classroom teacher and my technology assistant down to the laptop lab, and three groups stayed up with me in the classroom. This gave us roughly nine kids in each filming location.
For filming we used groups of three. One student in front of the camera and one operating it (included giving them the cue to start speaking, and starting/stopping the recording), and the third person was used to either hold cue cards or practiced their story (like being on deck in a baseball game). Anytime you are doing projects like these where only one group at a time is engaged in the actual activity, class management comes intoplay. For the two groups that were not filming, the teachers had them working on another project on the laptops in the classroom or down on the lab. If students finished these they were encouraged to quietly read, watch the filming, or rehearse their stories.
What we found, and your mileage may vary, is that we were able to record 18-19 students in a 60 minute block. Kids average story length was probably 2:30-3:00 long. Once you got the first group rolling and the other groups saw how it was going to work for them the kids were off and running. This meant we had overestimated the time necessary to record but that was preferable to being cut short.
From Camera to Network
After filming was done in each of the locations, the students were “done” for that day. At that point I took the cameras and uploaded the videos from the camera to my desktop. Because of some of the limitations that we have in place for file uploading size at my school, I decided to compress all these video files to make them smaller, especially since we had shot them with the HD Flips. I used iSquint for this. iSquint is a super intuitive video converter for MAC and it is free. It does a great job of taking video files and compressing them and converting them to .MP4 format. Once that was done I put the videos in the teachers outbox so students in the next session would be able to easily grab their video and download it to their machine. This, and the uploading of the videos to our internal video server (you will read about in part IV) were the only two areas where I helped the process along.
It’s all about the details
My oversight is your bonus. Call me a rookie, a b-teamer, what have you, but there were a few kids that wore green shirts on the day of recording. Between scheduling sessions with six teachers doing the project, booking labs, and A/V equipment, I overlooked the fact that green shirts are not a good thing to wear on the filming day. I learned this the hard way when we did the green screen editing in iMovie and the student showed up as a talking head with arms but no torso (some of the kids-boys, loved it, and thought it was cool, but it was an unintended consequence). Keep that in mind when you do your project that solid color shirts are best, reds, and dark blues worked really well. Remind students and parents the night before filming starts to send kinds with the proper colored shirt or to have a couple zip up sweat shirts in the filming locations that kids can slip on if they have forgotten.
In Part III of the Green Screening in the ES, I will discuss the process for leading third graders through editing their projects including, having their background drawings digitized and in iPhoto, finding and downloading their video clip from the network, and putting the pieces together in iMovie. Stay tuned……