Image conscious

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
So you're thinking of getting into Digital Video, Jack Kenny looks at the resources on display at BETT to get you started

A visit to the BETT Goes to the Movies area will show that working with digital video (DV) remains one of the most stimulating activities that teachers and students can do.

Apple, the leading light in the DV arena, has this year stitched together some of its applications to emphasise the integration of its approach to digital creativity (iLife pound;39). With iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes and IDVD it is so easy to move media from one area to another. Sound in iTunes can be added to a sequence of stills in iPhoto. A still from iPhoto can be added into an iMovie video. Final Cut Express is a step beyond iMovie and enables a user to be more precise, especially with sound and the way it can be layered. It brings an upmarket editing package within the reach of most schools. The Sound Editor software opens up music making for non-musicians.

Imagine making a video without a camera. One of the most impressive parts of Apple's iPhoto is the Ken Burns effect. Ken Burns has made videos for American television on subjects such as the American Civil War and the recent one on the history of Jazz, subjects where there is little film in the archives but a great many still images. Burns had to find ways of creating the effect of movement, of making the static dynamic.

He pans across the images, zooms in, fades and uses transitions. With Apples software you can easily create similar effects.

Links Education hopes to show that DV in schools need not be daunting. It has produced the Movie Box (pound;899). It is a one-stop box containing everything you need to start making exciting videos - in a case. Included in the case are Pinnacle Studio 8 editing software, a Panasonic camera, wide-angle lens, additional long life battery, five tapes, lens, screen hoods, handbook, cables and tripod. If you want a PC with firewire and software that can be supplied too.

Combining things together is something that Microsoft has been doing. The Windows XP Media Center Edition is a PC that Microsoft sees as the media and entertainment hub for the home. A Media Center PCs come with a remote control, a TV tuner card and a large hard disc drive. A user can watch DVDs, manage digital audio, video and picture files, and play, pause and record live television, in addition to using the PC for traditional tasks such as word processing. Because of the additional hardware and the expanded software, Media Center PCs are more expensive than standard PCs.

Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu are among the PC makers that will offer the systems. You will have to decide if it is going to have an impact in the classroom.

The big change this year is that PC users now have a free equivalent to iMovie. That is MovieMaker 2, free with Windows XP. If you have XP you can download MovieMaker 2 for free from the Microsoft site. It is a considerable leap forward from the earlier version and a good way for working out if DV is something that you and your pupils will want to work with.

Another way is Magix Music Maker 7 (pound;29.99) - this is creativity in a box. Not designed for education, this is meant for people who want to create both music and video. In schools we keep those separate. This package shows how mistaken we are. You can create sounds; there are 96 sound tracks! Sound and video can be combined via the drag and drop method.

You can then burn it all to CD. There are filters, synthesisers, mixers, sound editors and loop generators. Remember the price. The software is not entirely bug free but it does open up possibilities that students will be eager to exploit and explore.

A bargain is the Digital Movie Creator (pound;84.95) from TAG Learning.

This inexpensive camera enables you to create simple videos and animations.

The picture quality is not high but it will enable many students to get hands-on experience. The software is included in the price of the camera.

Students will learn many of the basic DV techniques and it is particularly good for animation.

Animation with more expensive cameras can be done easily with iMovie and less easily with the PC. A remarkable example of what can be achieved can be seen on the website of Cookstown Primary School.

www.cps.cookstown.ni.sch.ukMy_Homepage_FilesPage4.html

Earl Saves the World, was done last summer by the children of Cookstown and their teachers Joanne Murray and Paula Burnside. It is an accomplished piece in the style of the Aardman Studio. You can also read Joanne's excellent notes, which will act as a guide should you want to put your own project in to action.

Kathryn Stowell at Charlton School is experimenting with DV profiles, using video to record achievement. She can give her students DV portfolios that they can take with them when they leave. She also uses it for case studies for the annual review. Case conferences can be given much more material to evaluate. More importantly, Kathryn has found that the video is very motivating for pupils and increases their self esteem.

Kathryn uses Pinnacle software. The main entry-level video packages for PC are the Ulead's Video Studio 7 (pound;39.99), Pinnacle Studio 8.0 (pound;51.99) and the new Serif program MoviePlus (pound;39.95). The principal virtue of the Ulead program is that it has two books with it that contain "how to" guides and ideas for use in the curriculum. Pinnacle Studio 8 comes with a firewire card that you can install in your PC if it lacks one.

With MoviePlus you get DVDPlus and Learn to Make Movies. It is a program that follows the traditional format of timelines and storyboards. Well worth considering, you can see it in action on the Serif stand.

You don't have to create something new, you can be just as creative with material that already exists - taking old footage and re-editing, for example. The RBCs (Regional Broadband Consortia) have recently concluded a ground breaking deal with the Pathe news archive. All those schools affiliated to an RBC can have free online access to the archive. Pathe is the first substantial media archive to have opened up in this way. It is not only video clips that will be on offer but millions of still images too. It does mean that schools can use the archive to construct their own materials. Imagine how useful this will be for history, for PSE and for English. Look out for the launch of this initiative at BETT.

Also on the subject of open resources, The British Film Institute (BFI) has launched Screenonline, the BFI's digital archive. Clips and stills from thousands of film and television programmmes are available, all supported by comprehensive documentation. Free access to this wonderland of audio and video is limited to schools, colleges and libraries.

Finally, Becta's DV Awards have just been judged; the results will be announced at the Education Show. On the Becta ICT Advice site (www.ictadvice.org.uk) you can find case studies from some of the schools who entered last year. Looking at those is a good place to start.

Contacts

Apple E34 F34 Tel: 0800 039 1010 www.apple.comuk education

Becta X40 www.becta.co.uk

Links Education C46 Tel: 01908 646337

www.linkseducation.co.uk contact.htm

Magix Tel: 01923 495 496 www.fasttrak.co.uk contact_us.php

Microsoft D30 D34 www.microsoft.comukeducation

Pathe www.britishpathe.com aboutpathe.cfm Pinnacle Studio 8.0 www.amazon.co.uk

RM X10 Tel: 08709 086969 (Primary) 08709 086868 (Secondary) www.rmplc.co.uk

TAG Learning F50 Tel: 01474 357 350 www.taglearning.com

Ulead www.ulead.comukvs runme.htm

Screenonline www.screenonline.org.uk

Serif X90 Tel: 0800 376 6868 www.serif.com

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