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 – 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.