Reporting From …


Awwww, Saturday morning.  I was looking forward to a little grass cutting but the rain has delayed these plans.  So, I’m just sitting in the rec room watching CMT.  In the mornings on the weekends, the show “Pure Country” plays some of the old classic videos.  One of my favourites came on.

hank williams jr and sr – theres a tear in my beer

It’s a duet with Hank Williams Sr and Hank Williams Jr doing one of the anthems that we think of when we think of Hank Sr.  Other than one of the great country songs of all time, what was unique was that he died when Hank Williams Jr was quite young so this duet never happened in real life.  But, with the use of editing techniques, the producers were able to place Hank Jr into the same video as Hank Sr.  The results are so memorable.  For $.99, it’s a steal through iTunes.

What’s cool about this technique is that with the OSAPAC recommendation, the Ontario Ministry of Education has licensed Adobe Premiere Elements 7.0 for all publically funded schools.  This means that the same sort of thing can be done in Ontario classrooms.

At the final CIESC Meetings in May, the technique and how simple it is was explored by the Computers in Education School Contacts.  Premiere Elements features Green Screen, Blue Screen, and Chroma Key effects in the Video effects menu.  This is going to be fun.

Of course, I had to test out all of the features first before going live.  So, I’m in the lesson room looking for some inspiration.  I have my RCA Small Wonder camera (all of our 87 locations have one purchased centrally so this is replicable everywhere).  I also have my $9.99 tripod that I picked up in one of my wandering sessions at a local super store.

Thanks, M@rio Rossi
Thanks, M@rio Rossi

What to do?  Then, it hit me.  One of the things being discussed this spring was how many home runs were being hit at the new Yankee Stadium.  So, I get on the internet and download some footage from there.  That will be my background.  We live in a layered world so the concept is just to record myself with the camera with a green background.  Using the effects from Premiere Elements, I’ll just make the green background transparent and put myself on top of the Yankee Stadium footage.  Looking around, I see that the walls are painted beige and are covered with those posters that hours were spent designing.  Now, with some previous planning, I could have bought the official equipment but I want this to be replicable.

In fact, as I look around the room, the only big area without stuff on it was the SMART Board.  Bingo!  I turn on the data projector, load the SMART Notebook software, turn the background green, and go full screen.  Instant green screen and since all the schools have this technology, they can do it.  I mess around with the lighting a bit, hit record on the camera, position myself in front of the screen, and give it a shot.  After 2 or 3 tries, I finally get it right so that I’m on the left side of the screen like a real reporter and do my report.

Now, this would work better as a team effort but how do you describe this goofy little whim to someone else and then take them through all of the trials and errors until you get it right?  I was actually quite impressed with what I was able to do locked in a room by myself.

Looking through my camera, I see that I had taken some footage of Will Richardson at the Expanding Our Boundaries conference in February.  Sure enough, I was able to put myself on the stage with Will and co-present.

The power of this should not be lost in the classroom.  There’s all kinds of room for this activity in research projects.  Imagine students reporting live from the beaches of Normandy.  Imagine students reporting on the opening of the Olympics.  Imagine students reporting from the Space Shuttle.  Imagine …  In fact, anywhere you can grab video, it serves as a suitable background with students as reporters or totally immersed in the moment.  How about footage from a web cam?  Imagine doing a traffic or pollution report with the 401 across the top of Toronto in the background?

As with good instructional practice, beware of the “low hanging fruit”.  Just like podcasting or blogging, this is an activity to be done after careful planning, research, writing, editing, coaching, and most assuredly practice.  The mechanics can be accomplished in a short period of time but quality learning comes from everything else.

There are some interesting web resources to help the cause.

Ideas for using this in all subjects abound.

links for 2009-08-07