It’s so easy being green(screened) with iMovie ’09.

I recently finished a combined Art/English project with 6th grade. The year-long theme of How History Shapes My Identity is explored using the core concepts Analysis, Understanding, and Memory. Students wrote a brief “About Me” piece in English with Marisa Guastaferro, practiced delivering it orally, and wrote bulleted talking points on a note card (rather than read the essay verbatim).

Next, Yoshiko Maruiwa, 6th grade Art teacher, helped set-up three different filming stations with a stretch of green construction paper taped to the wall, a tripod, and a Flip Camera. Note: We actually have a giant green/blue screen that I unfolded once (!) before bunching it back and replacing it on a top shelf. It’s huge and heavy and the green paper (or even a monochromatic wall) is way easier to manage.

While waiting for their turn in front of the Flip camera, students were asked to locate and cite three defining images from the web or from their own albums. If searching with Google, students were instructed to perform an Advanced Search to locate a) large images and b) freely shared images. They then dragged these images into iPhoto and copied/ pasted the image URLs for future reference.

The USB arm on the Flip Camera (which @bkolani complained about recently) make it a cinch to upload the video to the kids’ MacBooks. (We’re a 1:1 school from grades 2-8.) Students imported their footage into iMovie, and trimmed a few seconds of awkward pre-teen dead air at the beginning and end of the footage as necessary.

iMovie’s Green Screen tool is ridiculously easy to use. (Verify first that Show Advanced Tools is checked in iMovie’s Preferences.) The most important thing is to remind students that order matters, and an easy mnemonic device is Photos First. Students imported their three images from iPhoto using the Photo Browser tool in iMovie and dragged the images onto the Project staging area. Based on the length of their video, they had to adjust the clip duration of each photo (the default seems to be 4 seconds) so that the photos and the videos were the same length of time.

Then, students simply grabbed the entire video clip and dragged it over and near the beginning of the first photo in their Project area. A menu popped up that offered Green Screen. Ta-da! We sometimes needed to tweak the green or blue gain with the sliding scales in the video inspector (they had to double click on the video clip to open this menu). But otherwise, the videos came out really well (technologically). The kids exported their m4v files to the desktop, used Quicktime to save as a .mov, and uploaded their finished movies to our in-house video server (powered by Drupal). They then pasted the embed code onto their profiles on our in-house social network (powered by Elgg) and commented on each other’s orations and video stylings.  Done and done.

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