Saturday, June 15, 2013

Coming Attractions: 4th Grade Trailers for 2013

I'm taking a short intermission from the "Teaching Kids To Code" series because when I was writing the last post it reminded me of a project I love, an issue I have with it, and a solution that is possible but so far out of reach.

For the past several years in some capacity or another, I've asked the kids to make book trailers. I started off by making Picture Book Trailers in iMovie HD. Then when iMovie '11 came out a level of obstruction was taken away because the format of the trailer- the sound and the sequencing- is already there in their "Movie Trailer" templates. I began teaching the iMovie '11 format for our mystery unit.
Last year I got too ambitious and had each student try to make their own.
It was impossible. For me.
So this year I had each student storyboard their own, and then get into their book club group and take the best scenes from each storyboard to create one book trailer. Here is the book trailer that The Westing Game book club created:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I also had a "Making Movie Trailers" after school activity. The format here was a lot less rigid, and as a result everyone seemed to storyboard either a movie about a mad scientist or aliens taking over the world. Here's one that has both:

Although iMovie '11 made it a lot easier for the kids to storyboard and create trailers, it's difficult for them because there are a couple of layers between filming and the final product. And those layers don't add anything to the creative process. Plugging the video camera into our laptops, for instance,  and waiting for the clips that were filmed to download is time consuming.
As Bret Victor said, "...(I)mportant to the creative process is being to try ideas as you think of them." In this case, having to film all your scenes, then download onto a laptop, and then load them into an event in iMovie '11 is just like writing your code, compiling it, and then running it to see if it works. If it doesn't always fit (and it never always fits, even with detailed storyboards- usually because a scene is too short) then the students have to reshoot and download the clip again.*

That's why I wish I had at least a few iPads to work with. Because there is a lot less down time between the idea and the final product. Since the video camera is in the iPad, creation of a trailer is  more streamlined.

Hold on a second... I'm going to go off on a tangent:
And actually it's more than just improving the time it takes from idea to final product. Here's a fake movie trailer I made for my teenage niece Mary for her Christmas present when I was in a remote part of Northern Thailand.

If you don't recognize the effects, they are from the free app Action Movie FX. I didn't make this for school, and I'm not advocating blowing random things up for a school related project. But you can use this app for school. And actually we needed to when we were writing commercials this year. One script called for a rolling boulder and a lightning storm. We couldn't do the rolling boulder, but the app allowed us to have a giant boulder that dropped from the sky. And it has lightning.

The point is that it was so easy to make. One app gave me the special effects, another app gave me the movie trailer template, and the hardware that ran the two apps had a built in camera. And apps like Action Movie FX will only become more abundant, giving the creator more choices and avenues to explore film making, while tearing down the "compiler" wall that inhibits those ideas, since everything can be found in one device.

*Actually for the specific case of when a clip is too short, we open it up in iMovie HD, use an effect to slow it down, save it, then load it back into the iMovie '11 event. It's a pain, but less of a pain than reshooting the scene.

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