Week 7 – Stop Motion, Scratch and Shots on Film Pt1

Due to a whole day School Concert rehearsal, I didn’t see the Preps this week. The Gr 1-2s had a second go at doing the stop motion photography, the Gr 3-4s started work on their final Scratch project and the Gr 5-6s learned how to create Lower Thirds in Photoshop to bring into their Premiere Pro project.

Stop Motion #2

After having the discussion with the students last week about how to safeguard against having hands (or other extraneous body parts), we reviewed it this week and I modeled how you can work carefully and how you can edit out photos that accidentally have something in it.

The students really took it to heart, and we shared some really fun stop motion animations. We all agreed that if you had a movie that had nothing in it that spoiled it, the illusion works very well. Most movies the kids made didn’t have any particular story to it or anything, but some did and I was very impressed with the imagination and how – with just a couple of small unrelated toys, kids could dream up a universe!

Here are a couple of examples:

Scratch – Final Project

Originally, this was going to be a one lesson thing, done and dusted. But by the end of the first class, the kids begged for another session to finish it off. With such passion and excitement, who was I say no?

There was very little instruction needed. They could build a Scratch project on whatever topic they wanted, with whatever characters. They had (now) two lessons to complete the whole thing, publish it and send me a link.

Like the digital portfolios we did at the end of last term, I had set up a basic Google Form that the students would fill out when they were done, that included fields for their names, class and a space for them to paste the link for their project. This gets imported into a nice Google Sheet that I could then have to refer to when we get to adding to their digital portfolios at the end of the school year.

Next week I will share a couple of examples of what the kids made up.

Shots On Film – Editing Part 1

In this lesson, the Gr 5-6 students learned how to create lower thirds in Photoshop (in one file) and then import their clips and the Photoshop file into a new Premiere project. This is following on from the video they shot last week with the examples of shot compositions. The task was for the students to create lower third “labels” that will match the different shots they took and marry them together in Premiere Pro.

Here is the first of three videos where I talk about this project and what I got the students to do.

Next week. the Gr 5-6s will continue their project and add transitions, titles and music to their project.

 

 

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Week 6 – Animate Me, Stop Motion, Scratch and Shot Compositions

This week, the Preps looked at a new app called Animate Me, the Gr 1-2s started work on Stop Motion photography, the Gr 3-4s did more work with Scratch, and the Gr 5-6s learned about shot composition and went out in the “field” (ie: outside the classroom) to film examples.

Animate Me

I had planned for the Stop Motion lessons to include the Preps, but I ultimately decided against it thinking that it would be more appropriate to the older classes. So I found another app I gave them called Animate Me. Animate Me is like a cross between Easy Animator and Sticknodes. It has the kind of fun 3D characters that Easy Animator has, but has the pivot points that Sticknodes have.

animate-me

For this lesson, I let them play with the one character that comes in the free version – a fun worm like creature. They needed to create frame-by-frame animation, experimenting with the different movements and perceptions (the eyes can follow around). Unfortunately as of writing, there is no way for the app to export their projects as movie files, so we weren’t able to save them for later. The kids enjoyed the app though.

Stop Motion

Stop Motion is one of those classic techniques you look at when you study animation. When explaining it to the students, I explained that it was pretty much the same kind of animation they were used to making, but instead of drawing pictures, they needed to take photos.

I set up iPads on tripods all around the room, and room on couches and tables for them to play with some toys I sourced from the early years classrooms. Again, they were encouraged to make small movements as they took their photos. If you don’t know, Stop Motion is the process of taking many, many photos and having the computer (or in this case, the iPad) stitch it together to make a movie.

Now, you can use an ordinary camera to do these, or the standard iOS camera app, but I chose to use the Stop Motion app available on iTunes. I did this mainly because it has the onion skin effect that shows the students where the last photo was taken.

sm

This week was about playing around with the app and understanding how the stop motion worked. We saw straight away that because of the excitement and the rushing to get as many pictures as possible, there were a lot of mistakes made. To make a good stop motion movie, you really need to make sure that the background is consistent and steady. That wasn’t really a problem, but there were a lot of instances when hands or parts of the body were accidentally included in the shot. This really does spoil the effect.

We shared a few of them at the end of class, and we discussed some strategies to try and avoid getting things in the way of the shot. Mainly this boiled down to the students realising to slow it down when making their movies.

Next week we will do this again, but I will show them how to delete a photo if something gets in the way, as well as to check their project to remove any photos with issues.

The Scratch “Pressure Test”

The cooking reality show Masterchef is absolutely huge in Australia. For those not familiar with the competition, one of the regular tasks the contestants have to do is a Pressure Test. This is where a guest chef comes in to the kitchen to show off an extremely complex dish that the contestants all freak out over. They are given a recipe (usually many, many pages) and time (which is always just short of anything realistic) to make the dish as close to what the chef brought in as possible.

This week, the Gr3-4s did a Scratch “Pressure Test”. I had a project built based on something I already found on the Scratch site (hey, no need to reinvent the wheel, right?) and I printed out copies of what the script looked like. The students, in their pairs, had 20 minutes to recreate the project, using the script “recipe” as a guide. If something didn’t work, I wouldn’t tell them what they did wrong. They had to go through their work and “debug” it themselves.

 

I said to the students the reason we were doing this was the same reason they do it on the show. It pushes them to explore parts and blocks in Scratch they might not normally use.

Needless to say, they LOVED doing this. Most groups finished in the given 20 minutes, but not all of them. I gave help after the 20 minutes to groups who couldn’t work out where they went wrong. Usually it was something quite small which was hard for them to pick up.

Here below is the recipe they were given.. I can’t take credit for the project, but the idea of the pressure test in class – that was all me!

scratch-demo-and-project

Shot Composition

Here is another lesson that must mostly be credited to another. This time, from Deila Bumgardner – an online educator that, amongst many other things, teaches using Adobe products. Delia provided a chart that explains how directors and cinematographers set up a shot, and the various shots and angles they might employ.

shots

From this, I created a PowerPoint to show the grade 5-6 students, using the examples Delia provided, to briefly discuss each type of shot and what the purpose is behind them. I will admit, I did not go to film school, so I’m going off what I read, but I think I knew enough to get them started on the ideas.

Next, I provided them with an iPad and a tripod (we haven’t yet got the budget for camcorders, but they’ll be coming hopefully soon) and a clipboard which has this chart on it. The students were then tasked to go outside with their group and film a four second example of each shot. Next week, they will begin editing the shots together to create an instructional video on shot composition. This will go over a few weeks, where I will teach them some more Premiere skills as their project goes on. So, examples to follow in the next few weeks.

Week 5 – Animator and an Introduction to Scratch

This week, the Grade 5-6s are on camp, so we will get to their next project in the next post. The Prep-Grade 2s looked at making digital flipbooks using the app Animator and the Gr 3-4s started with an introduction to Scratch.

Animator

In the first class where we talked about the history of animation, one of the things I brought up was the old fashioned flipbook. Interesting that even five year olds had heard of or seen a flipbook. I was going to get the Prep-Gr 2’s to do it on pads of post-it notes, but I couldn’t get the resources ready in time, so instead I planned a lesson to produce digital flipbooks with an app I found called Animator.

A digital flipbook is literally that. You are presented with a blank screen that looks suspiciously like a post-it note, and you do your drawing on it. When you are done – and I encouraged very SIMPLE drawings – you go to the next frame. On the next frame you see a shadow (technically, it’s called the onion skin) of the previous frame, and you draw on top of it, varying it slightly, for your next frame. And so on, and so on, and so on. This can then be exported as a video file.

animator

I said to the students that this is different to what we’ve done before. This time we are making our own drawings move! The kids found that very appealing and came up with all sorts of interesting designs. Here are some examples:

Next week we will spend a couple of lessons on Stop Motion photography.

Introduction to Scratch

For the first time, really, we get into something that some kids already have some prior knowledge about. Scratch is a wonderful initiative from the folks at MIT. It teaches kids programming using coloured building blocks that snap together to form a script. You can use scratch to make art, games and – yes – animations.

So when talking about it with the kids, I said that this is another way of animating – by using code. I explained how character move and interact depending on the blocks that you put together to tell them what to do. I modelled an example, showcasing various techniques and – for this lesson, just let them have fun and explore for themselves.

This is the first time really in Media Arts that I had to consider differentiation. But there wasn’t much to consider. The kids who already knew something about Scratch went ahead and made something to impress their friends, and those that didn’t either tried to copy what I had done on the screen, or just explored the characters and blocks themselves to make something happen.

Here is how I introduced Scratch to them. This is very much based on the Starter Project you can find in the help section of Scratch.

We didn’t share any of the projects at the end of this class. Next week we are going to do a “Pressure Test” and the weeks that follow will have them create their own choice Scratch project to include on their end of year digital portfolio. I will have more to share then.

 

Week 4 – Sticknodes Redux and PuppetWarp

This week the Prep-Gr 2’s discovered the Sticknodes library and consolidated their skills with new characters, the Gr 3-4s looked at the PuppetWarp feature in Photoshop and how it can be used to manipulate and animate a character. The Grade 5-6s were still editing their trailers from last week, and they will be on camp for the next week, so we will catch up with their next project in a couple of posts time.

Sticknodes

Building on what we did last week with the Prep-Gr 2s and Sticknodes, I showed the students how to access the Sticknodes library. It’s a bit of an involved process, choosing to import a character and then add the character to the stage. I decided that I would make up a sheet that showed the characters and, at least for the Preps, they would come up and ask for what they wanted and I would import them in myself.

sticknodes-characters

Some of the characters have such specific pivot points, it’s not easy to choose the right one. The kids had to learn to zoom in and manipulate before zooming out again. Probably not that ideal on an iPad, but they enjoyed it just the same.

Here is a grade 2 example.

PuppetWarp with Photoshop

The lesson – indeed the image as well – for this lesson must be credited to Greg Hodgson who provided it as part of the Adobe Generation Professional: Animation course over at the Adobe Education Exchange. As I mentioned in the last post, the problem with the Simpsons characters from the last class with the grade 3-4s was that the characters couldn’t move any apendages. This lesson, although not using a Simpsons character, works to address this problem.

This actually tied in really nicely, not just with the Photoshop animation we did in the previous class, but with the animations they did with Pivot Animator in the class before. Essentially with PuppetWarp, the students created their own pivot points, manipulated them, and did so frame by frame. I provided them with a Photoshop file that had the image of cat four times, so they could have four different versions of the cat. From there, their animations could jump from one pose to another. This provided an easy way to understand how the process worked. Even though their animations proved extremely short in the end, they did a good job in making some interesting poses. I tried to get them to not make adjustments that were too extreme – we wanted the poses to be at least partly realistic -but kids being kids, some didn’t heed my instruction.

Here is the tutorial, again based heavily on Greg’s tutorial at the Adobe Education Exchange, where I go through the process.

And is one example. Be prepared, it’s only really a second long. On Photoshop it can be looped, but when exported into a video file, it only lasts as long as the frames do.