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Fun with Video

Video has always been a tricky medium. Kids are excited by the prospect of making a movie, but most of them don't realize all of the factors at play until it well into the project. Creating a strong video requires strong writing, set design, costume design, performance, awareness of camera placement for a strong visual composition of the frame as well as optimal mic placement and editing. The editing can be particularly complex and while most students are aware that a green screen can be used to replace a background, they are often unaware of how it works and consequently fail to shoot their footage properly.

This year I tried a new strategy in my approach to video. I challenged my fifth-grade students to make video adaptations of popular picture books. This approach helped to eliminate some of the stumbling blocks such as writing, which I don't have time to teach in the one hour per week I spend with students. By providing a picture book as a starting point, students had a script and storyboard so they could imagine not only what the story is, but what it might look like. Of course, I say an adaptation of a picture book because I always want my students to feel free to put their own ideas and personality into their work. As a side benefit, after students selected a book, I found that they seemed freer to ham it up and give a more expressive performance. Because they weren't performing material they had written, students seemed less self-conscious.

In approaching videos, my recommendation is to accept from the start, that special effects will not be perfect. The simple truth is that if you are going to be unreal, it is better to be way off than just slightly off. By embracing the fake, you can disguise the flaws and limitations of equipment, time and the classroom environment. The unreal can be a stylistic choice and if played up properly, it can make the feature more charming. For example, instead of using the green screen effect to put a photograph in the background, I encourage kids to put a drawing in the background. Putting live actors into a cartoon style world seems cool and impressive.


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