Week 2: Easy Animator, Pivot Animator and Screencasts

This week the Prep-2s started off easy with an app called Easy Animator, the Grade 3-4s looked at Pivot Animator and the Grade 5-6s started their unit on Video Production with making screencasts (or instructional videos) using the free web based tool “Screencast-o-Matic”.

EASY ANIMATOR

Really, you could get easier than this. This is basic app, made by Crayola, that lets the students choose a character, a background and then punch in some predefined movements to have the character move in sequence. It’s a perfect introduction to how animation works without having to learn any difficult concepts.

There is also another layer to this app that we haven’t used yet, but I would love to in the future. You can buy a kit that allows you to manipulate a puppet, record the movements, and program that into the app. The video below shows how this works:

As I say, a perfect introduction for the younger kids on how animation. Below is an example of what some Prep kids did. Note, there is the facility (similar to PuppetPals) for the students to record audio over their animations.

PIVOT ANIMATOR

Pivot Animator is a great desktop application that introduces students to the idea of frame by frame animation. You start of with a basic stick figure with pivot points that can be manipulated.

It’s important to stress to the students – in my case the Grade 3-4s doing this – that to create the illusion of movement, the changes between frames needs to be very slight. Small movements, and LOTS of frames. Otherwise what you get is a lot of figures flashing on the screens in random positions.

I talked to them about the onion-skin feature. That “shadow” that shows where the previous frame was, so they can get an idea of what kind of movements they should be looking at. We also looked at creating backgrounds from taking photos, as well as playing with colour and opacity.

The software is free to use at www.pivotanimator.net

Here is a Grade Four example. These kids even found out where the other “characters” could be accessed from at the end.

SCREENCASTING

Screencasting is making a video of your computer or device. Usually it’s for making a tutorial on how to do things. Linking this in with the students’ knowledge of procedural texts, we discussed how a video version of the same thing would work. Simple, step by step instructions, showing along the way, and giving voice to their thoughts and processes as they do so.

I asked them to pick something they knew easily how to do on the computer and record that particular activity or skill. Something that would last about 2 minutes, no longer. Some kids demonstrated how to find things on Google, some about how to use PowerPoint and Word. Some even found Pivot Animator and did a video on that. Most, however, were keen to get on Minecraft (we have a school license) and demonstrate that.

The software – again free to use in a limited capacity – is called Screencast-O-Matic and you can find it here: http://screencast-o-matic.com. This installs a recorder on your computer where you can record a screencast. Using headsets, the students can narrate as they go through it.

We found a great program called Voicemeeter Banana – which you can find at http://vb-audio.pagesperso-orange.fr/Voicemeeter/banana.htm – that acts like a virtual mixing desk. This was essential when I had each computer set up with two USB headset/microphones. Without this program, Windows would not recognise both devices operating at the same time. With tweaking, this program worked great.

I’ve had a lot of feedback saying this was one of their favourite projects to do, and I can see why. The kids are showing off and demonstrating what they know.

Here below is a great example from the Grade 5s going through some basics in Minecraft.

Next week, the Grades 5-6s will take the video they have done, and make a 30 second trailer using editing techniques and Adobe Premiere Pro.

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