The raw power of some amateur footage shows that video needn't be broadcast quality to be effective in your school, says Jack Kenny
It all started in Dallas. A cheap 8mm camera owned by Abraham Zapruder recorded one of the most crucial events in the latter 20th Century. Abu Ghraib and the London bombings also illustrated the power of communication technologies: now the general public have changed into news hounds.
Acting head of BBC News Interactive, Pete Clifton, said that on July 7, 2005 the BBC was inundated with eyewitness accounts from readers - 20,000 emails, 1,000 photos and 20 videos in 24 hours.
All this technology is available to most of the children we teach. The sheer raw power of video made by people in the right place at the right time can be more than the most skilled cinematographers and editors can achieve.
Video can be made by still cameras, mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants, or handheld computers). Sure, all the items sent in by the public paparazzi broke every rule - but that should make us think about how we use video in school.
Until now, secondary schools have used video sparingly in lessons, possibly intimidated by the need to produce something of broadcast standard. But there's no time like the present - not all video has to be polished. Use camera phones to record experiments, use the PDA to capture moments of significance, use web cams to catch conversations. Raw video has its place.
So does innovative video. Pete Wells taught special needs students.
He knew that because of their disabilities they would be unlikely to travel far from Sunderland. His pupils will probably never go to Las Vegas or take part in Star Trek, but they can with Chroma Key technology. Wells records children with a green screen as background. Then, using a PC, that green is made transparent to reveal a video clip or still image that appears to be behind the student. Lo and behold, they are flying with Superman, singing with Elvis in Las Vegas or walking down the yellow brick road. Amazing! And just think what they feel. Imagine how the techniques could be used across the curriculum. This technology is available with software packages such as Adobe School Collection, Ulead, Pinnacle, iMovie and iLife plugins from Kudlian Soft.
Apple is still the place to be with digital video, aided and abetted by KudlianSoft, which is producing some ground-breaking software. It also does some Chroma Key software. I Can Animate (pound;35 single machine) creates movies using a variety of animation techniques: you can mix stop-motion stills with pictures drawn directly in the software; you can animate backgrounds behind your foreground characters. On-Camera (pound;35 single machine) is a new application to help students and teachers create striking movies with the script being read from an autocue. You enter the text, drag the camera icon to the storyboard, and then press record.
Being able to make a movie out of stills means that every still camera in school can be recruited to make movies. Microsoft's PhotoStory (which is like the "Ken Burns effect" part of iMovie) is a new way of making a video with stills. You can take a succession of photos to arrange and edit on a timeline; add narration, music, motion, animation and transitions; then save and share the finished product.
The new Ulead Video Studio 9 (pound;31.97 from Amazon) has a wizard that enables you to capture footage and then press the Create Disc button to immediately burn the results to DVD, VCD or SVCD. If you are more ambitious, VideoStudio Editor, will help you to take footage and to trim and manipulate it in many ways. In addition to burning to disc, the software can make streaming video for a website, or a low-resolution clip for use on a Pocket PC or Windows SmartPhone.
The Plus version of Pinnacle Studio (pound;62.97 from Amazon) features an additional audio and video track for Chroma Key and picture-in-picture effects. With a title track and two extra audio tracks for background music and narration, Studio offers three video design layers and four audio tracks. Studio now includes Insta-Save technology, which continuously saves all edit decisions, so if you do crash, you won't lose any work.
Finally, the Adobe School Collection 3 (pound;299 for 10 licences) is a superb bargain. It is a stable product and that is important, especially with video. It includes Premiere and Photoshop in cut-down versions.
Don't miss at BETT
The Adobe School Collection ADOBE Stand W70 Premiere is one of the most stable video-editing programs, and the bundle also contains the cut-down version of Photoshop.
Tel: 020 7365 0733 www.adobe.co.ukeducation
Kudlian I Can Animate KUDLIAN SOFT Stand M100 Learn to use Chroma Key in a friendly Apple setting. Has applications across the curriculum.
Microsoft Photo Story 3 Microsoft Stand D30 D34 Probably one of the best programs that Microsoft has given away. Can be used in all curriculum areas.
www.microsoft.comwindowsxpusingdigitalphotographyphotostorydefault.mspx Other contacts
Apple Stand E34F34 Tel: 0800 039 1010 www.apple.comukeducation BECTA Stand X40 Tel: 024 7641 6994 www.becta.org.uk
BFI Stand P2 www.bfi.org.uk PINNACLE STUDIO - RM Stand E50D50 Tel: 08709 086969 (Primary); 08709 086868 (Secondary) www.rmplc.co.uk
PATHE www.britishpathe.comaboutpathe.cfm SERIF Stand X90 Tel: 0800 376-6868 www.serif.com
ULEAD Stand 066 Tel: 07000 583542 www.ulead.comukvsrunme.htm