Both products are available in computer and toy retail outlets When Steven Spielberg was 12 he filmed his first scripted movie. A year later, his 40-minute war film, Escape to Nowhere, won him his prize. More than 40 years on, Hollywood's most successful director is putting his name behind a film editing package that will help children as young as eight create their own productions.
Lego amp; Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set is the first product from the Lego Studios range. The basic kit includes set backdrops, characters and equipment made of Lego, a PC movie camera that looks like the Lego version of a throw-away camera, and film editing software.
The set includes 400 pieces that can be used to construct a variety of movie-making equipment and props, including cameras, cranes, lights, platforms, skyscrapers and cars. Cast and crew models include a green T. rex, a 4cm-high Spielberg figure, a cameraman and even the grip. The Movie Backdrop Studio and the Stuntman Catapult are among the extras that are available separately.
The camera, which comes with a 5m lead, is simplicity itself. All you need do is set up your scene, point the camera, set controls for light, volume, contrast and so on, click the live filming icon for a continuous shot or click the animation icon to create stop-motion animation.
But it's not the accessories and camera that most schools will be interested in,it's the editing software itself. Anyone with basic drag-and-drop mouse skills should have no trouble using the editing suite. Once the scenes are filmed all you have to do is drop the chosen ones on to a timeline, edit the individual shots, add transitions, special effects and music, choose from the hundreds of sound effects, and top and tail with opening and closing credits.
Happy with the finished product, you can have your movie premiere on a full screen. The finished results can also be emailed to anyone with Media Player.
Instructions and tutorials covering each stage, from filming and editing through to presentation, are available on-screen or with the accompanying manual. As well as covering the basics, you can extend your movie-making prowess by reading up on more complex editing and special-effects techniques.
If you like the sound of the editing software but want to encourage pupils who are past the Lego stage, Studio Action from Pinnacle Systems will fit the bill. Pinnacle designed the video editing software for MovieMaker in tandem with Lego, but has released it as a standalone product. It comes with a USB video cable which can be plugged into analogue or digital camcorders, making it useful for older students able to cope with more sophisticated equipment.
With both products, the technology has been allowed to take a back seat, leaving users to think about what they want in their movie rather than how to make it.