Archive for August, 2009

August 25, 2009

CourseMedia™ Interview with Dr. Devin K. Joshi

Dr. Devin K. Joshi is an Assistant Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. This interview was conducted by Alex Karklins of the DU Center for Teaching and Learning regarding his use of CourseMedia™ as a faculty member.

DU CourseMedia™ is a course media management system that helps instructors organize and present media materials (images, video and audio). Instructors have access to large collection of art and world history images, library reserve videos and audio works.

2:24 PM Permalink
August 21, 2009

Integrate with Stop Motion

Stop motion animation is one of the best ways to build digital communication skills and team work into any curriculum. You don’t need fancy equipment or temperamental actors, just some craft materials and the digital cameras from your friendly librarian.
Integration
The really great thing about stop motion animation is that it can be used effectively with any subject and at most age levels. I have worked with students that successfully animated subjects from science (life cycle of a butterfly), social studies (scenes from Lewis and Clark), math (slope), and of course language arts with any dramatic or comedic narrative. Check out some examples at: http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/storytelling/example_stopmotion.html
Pre-Production (planning)
Stop motion is a great way to integrate writing and decision making into your curriculum. Planning is a critical step in the process of creating any story. I start my students out with a simple treatment that helps them focus their story by making some simple decisions about the target audience, objectives and other basic parameters of the project. (http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/storytelling/handouts/treatment.doc) Then we plan each scene out with a storyboard, but first we talk about shot variety and do a quick exercise with our digital cameras. (http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/storytelling/handouts/Composition_still.pdf) Storyboarding is an communication skill that is useful in most disciplines so the time spent creating and reviewing storyboards is very valuable. (http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/storytelling/storyboarding.html ) I keep a handful of three ring binders in my room so each group can keep all this planning materials together and the group will always have it even if a member is absent.
Team work
One of my favorite things about stop motion animation is that it brings students together in such a natural way that you will see amazing results. Throughout the process there are multiple jobs that take different skills and abilities. During the planning process you will have those that prefer to write the script while others prefer to draw the storyboards. Next, some of the students will naturally gravitate to building the sets and creating the characters while others prefer to set up the cameras, lights and computer. During the actual animation process we usually have one student run the computer, one on the camera, one handling the lighting, and two animating the characters. Then once we have shot all the scenes and move into the post production process we usually have a couple students work on editing the rough cut while the rest work on sound and graphic design. No other activities I do brings students closer together than stop motion animation.
Digital storytelling
Stop motion animation is a powerful communication tool that students can control better than any other digital medium. They can use a either a digital still camera or digital video to express their stories through unique camera angle and composition. I prefer to hook up a cheap digital video camera to a computer and use Adobe Premiere Elements to capture our images. The reason I like this method is that the software provides us with a couple invaluable tools:
• Onion skinning – this is the ability to see a ghost images of the last couple moves you make when shooting your scene. This makes your shots smoother and easier to shoot.
• Preview and delete – this is the ability to watch a sequence of shots as a video clip to judge the pacing and smoothness of your shots. If you accidentally got your hand in one of the shots you can easily delete just that one frame.
• Save as video clip – this is the ability to save a sequence of shots as a video clip that you can then apply effects and adjust the speed to easily.
• Editing environment – once you finish shooting you have a powerful video editing environment that allows you to work with up to 99 video tracks and 99 audio tracks!
I just have one twelve foot firewire cable for each pod of four computers in my room. This gives the students enough room to setup their camera and set, but is close enough to work with the computer operator easily.
Control
One of the cool things about stop motion animation is that your students have complete control over the small world they will be shooting within and it will cost you very little! We usually use three sides of an old card board box as our set and either legos, clay or pipe cleaners for our characters. For lights we simple purchased the 8 inch clamp light for around $10. This really makes your colors and images pop and allows the students some creativity with shadows.
Post Production
This is where those digital communication skills come into play. I usually break up the group into three parts. One group is the editor(s) that will put the scenes into the right order, adjust the speed of some clips and usually adds titles. Another group is the sound designer(s) that will create the voice overs, sound effects and find copyright free music or create their own if it is called for. The final group is the graphic designers that will create the movie posters, DVD labels/covers or invitations to the movie premiere.
Sharing
Once you and your students have made your stop motion animation master pieces make sure to share them with your community. Ask your local theater if they will have a special showing, make DVD’s for the families of your students or post them online at web sites like School Tube. Last year a few of my students earned an award of excellence at the Northwest High School Film Festival for their stop motion film “Kichinjo”. Enjoy.
http://www.schooltube.com/video/40226/Kichinjo
Getting Started
Now it is your turn to get out there and have some fun with stop motion animation. I have posted a bunch of video tutorials that will walk you and your students through the process at: http://www.mountsihighschool.com/directory/_dockeryj/conferences/storytelling/05session.html

9:59 PM Permalink
August 10, 2009

LiveStreamer AIR Application

I wrote a new AIR app called LiveStreamer available now via the Adobe AIR Marketplace.
This started as a simple mechanism to display a live RTMP stream from Flash Media Server to a client machine and related projection system. So… not for broadcast over the web- just sending a live stream from one physical location to another.
While developing the application, I came across the need to test an RTMP stream and it was so simple using this app that I decided to expand it. In the current version (0.9.0), it will accept RTMP and HTTP streams- just type in the URL and you can easily test it in order to verify that it is correct before trying to publish anything on a website or whatnot. You can also use it as a fullscreen projection or display mechanism as was originally intended.
If you have some FLVs or MP4s or whatnot on your local machine- you can just drag those into the app to watch them. I’m thinking about adding some playback controls and other options a bit later.
LiveStreamer

Application for display of video streams via RTMP, HTTP, or local filesystem. Just drag in a file or enter a stream address and away we go!

At the University of Denver, we have built a good number of AIR applications at this point. Some are internal data management tools, others are full, complex, private applications such as the VPS Projection system, and then we have small utility apps like this which others may also find some use for. These we make available to others free of charge as part of our community outreach.

10:29 AM Permalink