Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Penultimate Series Post! Documentary Resources

If you missed earlier posts, look here: Intro, Preparation, Planning, Videotaping, Script and Storyboard

I'm feeling some pressure to finish this series. I leave for Connecticut and the new job on Saturday; haven't even started packing yet...Thus, today I'll post the resources, tomorrow I'll discuss why I think it's so important we make time for this sort of project in the days of NCLB, and link the project to both NETS-S and Information Literacy standards. Then I'll be on hiatus for a few days while I deal with stacks of boxes and newspaper!

One very cool thing. For our in-service day, the school is bringing in Grant Wiggins (of Understanding by Design fame); I'm very excited to hear (and blog about!) what he has to teach us. I've been working my way through the book, and he validates what I've slowly grown to understand over the course of my 20+ year educational career: Teaching content is the least of what I do. More on that later. In the meantime......

At Last! Editing the Film

Thanks to iMovie (NOT the o8 version, for reasons posted here) and Windows Movie Maker, film editing, while time consuming, is actually a LOT easier than you think! In the bad ol' days when I just turned the students loose and said "Go do it; you've got a month," they actually did figure it out on their own. With lots of whining, of course. (and rightly so!) Now that I'm enlightened, I can teach them the basics in about 45 minutes by booking the computer lab, uploading a 5 minute segment of video and a musical selection to the server, then walking them through the basic editing steps:
  • Importing video
  • Using the Timeline
  • Editing video
  • Adding titles and transitions
  • Adding still photos
  • Adding/editing audio (music and voice)
  • Subtracting Audio

With these skills, students can produce very professional and creative videos. (I've posted links to tutorials below) As they gain more confidence, they usually start playing around with adding effects. They'll run amok here if you let them, and suddenly you'll start seeing myriad effects :shooting stars, flying titles, you name it! Have a serious talk with them about professionalism, making their content and interviews the focus, not the special effects. It's the old adage: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should! Less is definitely more in this regard; encourage students to use transitions sparingly, if at all, and to keep to simple cross dissolves and fade in/outs if they have to use one. They need a very good reason for something more eye-catching, and need to explain what it adds to their documentary's message.

They should be able to put together a "rough draft" for peer review in about 4-6 weeks. If students have problems getting together to use iMovie or WMM, Jaycut allows students to upload video, stills and music and do very basic editing. While limited in what it can do (no titles, for example, only captions), students could certainly put together the rough draft here, then fine tune it later in a more advanced program. One effect it DOES have that you won't find in iMovie or WMM (without buying add-ons, anyway) is picture-in-picture. Students could show an interview subject in the small screen, adding footage in the larger screen to show examples of what's being said. Very nifty tool.

Other options include JumpCut and MuveeMix, though I haven't tried these out yet.


Rather than a huge list that you'll need to search for as I add new posts, here's a link to a wiki page of Documentary Resources. It's a work in progress, so I'll add more links and information as time goes on, including adding all the links I've used in this series.

Final post:  Why bother?


  1. I came upon this blog in search of templates for documentary film. For some reason I read posts beyond what was relevant to my search, and found this one.

    I say, "Bravo!" We will not reform our educational system or tap the extraordinary potential of American society without focusing on learning. The movie DEAD POETS SOCIETY is an example of teaching for understanding and learning how to learn.

    This is not about competition; it's not about catching up with Western Europe or Japan or China. It's about fulfilling the potential of our own youth, our culture, our society, irrespective of how others are doing.

    My hat is off to Jeri Hurd.

  2. Website difficulty: This post pertains to the Final Post: Why Bother?