News of the world

Roger Frost looks at a package that can turn your class into the next batch of Kate Adies

Visual Communicator (VC) allows pupils to create high-calibre presentations to match the TV news. Kids will love the fun of this so much they will not notice your strategy to get them presenting ideas in a concise, fast-paced way. And with its pre-made styles and effects, you gain an efficient tool to present book reviews, historical reports or science discoveries.

VC offers a TV newsroom on a PC and it outputs video to a file, the web or a CDDVD. You line up the broadcast elements, stills, graphs, captions and backgrounds on a timeline that runs down the screen.

What you can add beggars belief, and includes video, photos, music files and, yes, PowerPoint. For each media item you choose a layout like picture-in-picture, or a transition effect where screens peel away or shatter like glass. Surprisingly, these effects ran in real-time on my slug of a computer, so clearly there's some efficient software running inside.

Alongside these effects is a teleprompter that scrolls your script during recording. You could voice-over the visuals but the heart beats faster with a camcorder pointing at you. A webcam costing under pound;30 works the same, and using a green sheet as a background you can already see or "Chroma Key" yourself as the on-the-spot reporter at historical events.

Amazingly, you can put yourself in a "virtual room", talk from the plasma screen and experience a missed calling. Whether you've any feel for this medium or not, a slick result is not far away.

Despite the American feel of some hilarious anchor-man clips, VC is a fabulous new arrival.

Visual Communicator Pro

Retail price pound;258

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features *****

Quality *****

Value for money ****

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