Getting to the point

Had an interesting day working with Y7-10 children from two local schools yesterday. They were a “gifted and talented” group who I was asked to work with using film. Initially we were going to get them to “play with” the green screen and develop some work from that but it struck me that this group would benefit from some focus on film technique and general media literacy. I took inspiration form the experience of letting my own Y9 loose on iMovie (see earlier post). I wondered if the fact that the camera and the editing device being one and the same might allow me to focus more on the content rather than worrying if I had the right firewire to get footage to a machine.

I tried the structure the day into two halves, the first “half” lasted about an hour and a half and I basically asked the kids to use the Trailer function to create a trailer on any subject or genre they wanted. This was their time to get to grips with the framing of shots, sequencing of ideas and so on. The groups really seemed to enjoy the task and it was a seamless process using an Apple TV to stream their finished videos onto a plasma screen. This allowed some discussion of shot angles, choice of image and so on. In one day we didn’t go into this too deeply but clearly the seeds were sown…

The next task, which formed the bulk of the day was to use the basic “create project” function in iMovie. Several of the children had expressed frustration during the first task as they wanted to change the music, remove required shots and so on. This was now their chance to take proper control of the project. Creating a project from scratch also introduced the ability to edit clips to the length that they wanted, addition of titles and all the other tricks of a video editor. It doesn’t have all the features of a full blown Adobe editing package but I see that as an advantage, there is more than enough to do what the children need and this focuses them on the actual product rather than what technical wizardry they can apply.

The format of the task was to choose from four poems and shoot a promo for them. The poems were in fact four Beatles songs (While my Guitar Gently Weeps, The Long and Winding Road, She’s Leaving Home and A Day in the Life). I chose them carefully as She’s Leaving Home allows quite a literal promo if that is what the children want to do, whereas the others move more and more toward the metaphorical. I purposefully gave them the texts without playing the music as I wanted them to think about the content, not just pick the tune they liked best. Once they had decided they went off in pairs to plan and film. In hindsight I think I may actually have given them a larger choice of songs so that every group did a different one, the reason being that when we watched them back at the end we saw a LOT of long and winding roads!

I suggested ways of storyboarding or mapping ideas but was more concerned with letting them plan how they wanted to for this particular task. Some children DID use simple storyboards but most jotted down the key things they wanted to shoot.

The results were all very watchable. It was nice to see that some had literally filmed it all and pulled it together, others had used stills of texts (with a Ken Burns pan effect) or imagery off the web. They were all very different and the children are now expert in using the software..they really are (thank you to one lad who showed me how to access the Titles menu). It is s shame that it was only one day as the finished products are now a brilliant place to start on the next session, identifying strengths and weaknesses in what they had made. It was brilliant to see that some of the groups had taken on board the discussion following task one and had varied camera angles and heights for purpose and effect. Sadly the children do not have permission to be shown on the web so I cannot show their films here…

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