Time Lapse Art (Prep)

The objective for this project was quite simple. Draw a picture and film it. More specifically, it was for the students to draw a picture of their favourite season and have a partner film it using the Time Lapse feature from the iPad camera app. This tied in perfectly with their unit on seasons.

The skills, in terms of video, that the students were learned were based on constantly checking and critiquing the film as it was being shot. That’s a complicated way of saying that the students doing the filming are watching and adjusting as needed.

So, the way I had it set up was that the students who were drawing were sitting at a single desk. Next to them was an iPad attached to a tripod. The tripod was angled down to the desk so that the whole (A3) paper was in the frame. Students who were drawing had a bunch of coloured pencils each, had to decide what season to draw, and then got to it. Students doing the filming would watch the drawing on the iPad and carefully adjust the sheet if the illustrator accidentally moved it out of frame. They also kept an eye out for heads being in shot and gently indicating to the illustrator to move back.

When the picture was finished, the two students swapped roles, and we began again.

The results were actually extremely good for something that conceptually was extremely simple. The students, when sharing their videos, were amazed at how their drawings came to life so quickly.

Here are a couple of my favourites as examples:

This was the last of the projects I did with the Preps. I will reflect on the Prep curriculum during the summer break.

Adding Subtitles to Star Wars (Gr3-4)

It was about this time last year when I found out I was going to take on the Media Arts specialist role. So many ideas were running through my head. What tools, what equipment and mostly – what projects should I do?

This one is the first one I thought of. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the best project we’ve done all year, but it was a lot of fun.

Essentially, I wanted to teach the students how to add subtitles to a video project. So there’s your learning outcome. My way to engage them was to use Star Wars. I remembered years ago seeing a clip online where someone put their subtitles on a sequence featuring R2D2. So, simply – what is R2D2 really saying? A fun idea – yes. But one that takes a lot of planning, both from the teacher and the students.

The clip I used, which I found on YouTube and downloaded, was the start of Revenge of the Sith where Obi Wan and Anakin are flying around, trying to get in the command ship to free Chancellor Palpatine. Yes, I knew all of that without looking it up! There are some moments where R2 says somethings, but in the history of Star Wars cannon, the movies never subtitle R2. Other characters sometimes know what he’s saying, but you as the viewer do not. So, I had a think and came up with this video.

I’m not claiming it’s all that funny, but that was fine because I challenged the kids to do better. I gave them, in the first session, a planning sheet where I had transcribed the whole sequence, added timecodes to each line of dialogue, and left a blank space everytime R2D2 beeped and whistled. I even left a space for the enemy droid ship who said something mechinical before firing his missiles.

So, after watching the sequence a couple of times, the kids had to basically fill in the blanks as to what R2D2 was saying at each point. Of course, as you’d expect, there were some students that I had to temper their enthusiasm a little as what they suggested was borderline inappropriate, but for the most part, the kids got into the spirit of it. Even those who had no real interest in Star Wars.

The second and third session was the real challenge. The process of adding subtitles (or captions, as Premiere Pro calls it) is fairly simple, but easy to mess up. Below is a video of me explaining how I added subtitles to my Star Wars clip.

I was strict with the kids on using proper capitalisation and punctuation. I helped out when it came to spelling. I also made them check, and re-check their timecodes so that they matched what I had on the sheet.

The results were mixed. I’m not a comedy critic, but I do think my version was better than some of the kids, but most did a very reasonable job. And all students, at the end, had a much greater understanding of subtitles, their various purposes, and the technicalities of where and how they are placed in a video clip.

This was the last project I did with the Gr 3-4s. I will post a reflection on the Gr 3-4 curriculum over the summer break.

After Effects – Green Screen and PixelPoly (Gr 5-6)

So now the Gr5-6s have a little experience with the After Effects workflow and are developing their understanding of keyframes, it’s time to have a bit more fun. I came up with the idea where they could blow themselves up. Imagine you see a robot, you beg for your life, it shoots you and you explode. See the video below.

Such a simple and fast video requires a lot of work in After Effects to pull off. I want to make a disclaimer right away – I know the video quality is rubbish. I had to use an iPad which was all we had to use for video at the time. The green screen corner I had painted in my room is also problematic because of either low or uneven lighting. This can make a big difference in keying out the green from the video.

In any case, this project took up three sessions. Session 1 was filming each group on the green screen, getting them to upload that video from the iPad to their Google Drive account and then importing that video into After Effects. Like the last project, I already had a After Effects project set up for them, so they just needed to open it and save it with their names as their own copy. From there, the students learned how to key out the green and clean it up as best they could. As I said, because of the lighting issues, results were quite varied.

Session 2 involved the students creating the explosion effect with the sound and Session 3 was about generating the laser effect.

Here is my video for teaching Session 1 – keying the green screen footage.

And my video for teaching Session 2 – creating the explosion effect

And finally my video for teaching Session 3 – creating the laser beam

I’ve also added again the video I used in the last After Effects post about exporting the finished composition to a video file.

As I mentioned before, After Effects is challenging to use, so if you are game like me and want to give your kids a go with it, there are several resources I can point to.

First, the Adobe Education Exchange is a must in finding courses, lesson plans and all sorts of teacher goodies. All completely free of charge. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. At the time of writing, there are close to 1000 hits when it comes to projects and lessons you can look at for After Effects – including Up and Running with Adobe After Effects CC.


If you want some simple starter activities, have a look at Adobe’s Learn and Support area for After Effects. There are some excellent tutorials and videos here for you to have a look at, with excercise files to play along with.


If you want something even more in depth, have a look at Lynda.com – a brilliant site for self paced courses. Check to see if your institution gives you free access to Lynda. My public library gives library members free access as well. Otherwise, it does cost to access the course library – but you can sign up for a free 10 day trial. Well, well worth it!


Finally, if you’re more of a book person, I love Adobe’s “Classroom in a Book series”. It comes with lots of projects, technical information for lay people and a host of excersise files to play with. The latest edition, at the time of writing, is Adobe After Effeects CC Classroom in a Book (2015 release).


The Gr 5-6s will be doing one final mini project where they combine their two videos for their portfolioin Premiere Pro. It’s a very simple thing to do, so I don’t think I’ll do a post on it. For this year, that’s then the last project for the senior grades. I’ll be posting a reflection during the holidays.

Simple Motion Graphics – Intro to After Effects (Gr 5-6)

After Effects is probably the trickiest program in the Adobe suite to get your head around. It can be very complicated. After Effects is used for post production. So that’s motion graphics, special effects, rotoscoping, animation, the whole gammat. I once heard someone say that After Effects is the middle ground between Photoshop (for images) and Premiere Pro (for video). I would also add there is a fair bit of Animate in there (for animation).

So, to get the students introduced to After Effects, I had a really simple project in mind. I wanted them to animate the school logo coming in from the left of screen, staying put, and then flying out to screen right.

Pretty simple. But I wanted the kids to get started with understanding the idea of keyframes – markers in an animation that have set values. In other words, you could set one keyframe at 1.00sec saying the object is 100% scale and another at 2.00sec saying the object is at 0% scale. So that means, in your composition, the object – between 1-2 seconds, would shrink from 100% to 0%..

Got that so far? Right, so I didn’t actually focus on size. I just focused on position. Have a look at the video below to see how I taught the project to the kids.

Below is an extra video explaining how to export the composition to a video file. In experimenting with different files, I choose to use the preset YouTube 720p HD and H264 as the video format. And with using After Effects, I find using Adobe Media Encoder the best option that’s easiest for the students to understand.

The next project for the Gr 5-6s will teach them some basic video effects inside Adobe After Effects.

iMovie Trailers (Gr 1-2)

I have a love/hate relationship with the Apple iMovie app that you can get for the iPad. I love it because it is an awesome easy to use, super fun app. It can make video projects look beautiful and professional with hardly any effort.

And I hate it for exactly the same reason – it can make video projects look beautiful and professional with hardly any effort. In other words, it doesn’t really teach you anything. It does all the hard work for you.

So when the Gr 4s asked me this term if they were going to use iMovie for their projects I said no. And why? Because I want them to learn real-world video editing. I want them to learn different cutting techniques, and styles of titles, and audio editing.

Now, in my mind, letting the Gr 1-2s use iMovie – that’s fine. They’re not ready to jump on a computer and learn about layers and transitions. They just want something fun that looks good that engages them. And iMovie fits the bill perfectly.

So the project was to use one of the iMovie templates (in our case, we used “Family”) to create a fun looking trailer. Of course, this started with a discussion of what a trailer is and why we have them. One particularly bright student said a trailer was a persuasive text. I wanted to hug her. But I didn’t. I like my job too much. 😉

This project took 2 sessions to explain the app and give enough time for them to film little silly clips to put together as a trailer.

Here’s a video where I explain the lesson:

And here is an example.



Colour Movies (Prep)

The idea for this actually came out of a course I did over at the Adobe Education Exchange. if you don’t know about the Adobe Education Exchange, hop on over after you finish reading this – it’s an amazing repository of lesson plans, resources and free courses you can take for all matter of Adobe tools and topics. This course was on Digital Creativity, and the idea is very simple. Choose a colour and go around filming short clips of places in your environment that are predominately that colour.

I thought this was ideal for the little guys who are learning how to make movies for the first time. I assigned every student a colour in their group and sent them out with an iPad to film short 4 second clips of objects with that colour. I made a note of which group had which iPad. This is where it helps to have numbered iPads!

Between that session and the next, I created a project for them using the fantastic Adobe Premiere Clip app. Since I knew which videos were which, this was the easiest way to do it. I bundled their videos into a project and named it with one of the student’s name and their class.

In the second session, the students learned how to find their project, open it up and group the clips in order. So, in one group, all the yellow clips were together, all the blues, all the reds, etc. We then looked at how to remove the audio from their videos and finally how to choose music that is supplied with the app that they could put on the movie.

In the final session, we looked at how to put titles in their movies. I wanted cards that had written the colour before the clips came on. I then showed them how to put credits at the end.

The movies came out beautifully. Yes, the students could be quite shakey when filming, but that will improve with time. The important thing is that they learned how movies are made up of clips, and about the role of music and titles in a movie project.

Here’s a video where I explain what we did.

And here are a couple of examples.


Silent Movies (Prep-Gr2)

There is a wonderful app called Silent Film Studio which lets you shoot video clips on the iPad, add title cards (in that wonderful art deco style) and converts it all into a shakey, scratchy silent movie with an era-approriate piano jingle to go with it. It’s easy and a lot of fun to use.

I showed the students a couple of examples of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, so they got the idea of slapstick. You can appreciate how the 6-8 year olds really loved seeing movies of people fake slapping each other and falling about everywhere. The only thing they loved more than watching the movies was making them.

This short video I’ve done explains how you can quickly make a silent movie using the app.

I spent two sessions on this. The first was the introduction to the genre and the app, with some time for the kids to play around with it. The second session was for them to start from scratch and make their movies.

I didn’t worry much about title cards for the Prep-Gr 1s, but I did insist the Gr 2s put some thought into what should go on them. We discussed how they were used for dialoague, in place of sound, and occassionally for setting the scene.

Here is a student example.

A fun activity that taught the kids about movie making from yesteryear, but one that the kids were highly engaged in making.