1. Quick Start
2. Curriculum Benefits
3. Recent Advances
4. Possible Uses
5. Buying Camcorders
6. Project Planning
7. Video Production
8. Video Output
9. Software Tips
10. Camcorder Tips
11. Hardware Tips
13. Helpful Resources
14. Site Credits
1. Quick Start: It is better if you
video project first but start here if you wish!
- Grab a digital video camcorder.
- Make sure you have a tape inserted and a charged battery attached.
- Find a suitable subject or scene.
- Turn the camcorder on by switching to CAMERA (usual choices are VCR/OFF/CAMERA).
- Fold out the LCD screen or look at your subject through the viewfinder.
- Hold the camcorder steady, press the RECORD/PAUSE button and start filming
(avoid flitting rapidly from scene to scene or sudden zooms in or out)
(remember that you are also recording all sounds or voices in the area)
(do not film other people without permission)
- Press the pause/record button to stop filming
- Review your efforts by switching to VCR (not CAMERA), REWIND and then PLAY
Take a few more practice segments while experimenting with different camera angles, varying distance from the subject (or different zoom levels) or with lighting from different directions. Review your progress by switching to VCR, rewinding to the start, pressing play and watching via the viewfinder or LCD screen. Alternatively plug your camcorder in to a television (possibly via a video cassette recorder - VCR) and check out the quality of your work by watching it at full screen size.
Once you have had some practice it is critical that you plan your video project rather than just rushing around recording a whole heap of scenes and then spending hours to edit out all the garbage (see the Project Planning section for some ideas).
2. Curriculum Benefits: Students today live in a multimedia world and appreciate variety in their learning environment. They take audio visual information and the Internet for granted! When learning they find a mixture of text, still images, sound and video is more interesting than 'chalk and talk'. They gain opportunities for higher level thinking when producing their own digital video clips. Now that it is easier to produce digital media there are huge opportunities for learning within a school and for global collaboration between students and teachers via the Internet. Even small video clips can be very powerful. One eLearning site that uses this idea very successfully is The Atomic Learning Library.
Teachers and lecturers have found even short digital video segments very useful in customized e-learning. Students find video motivational and enjoy greater control over their own learning (it is easy to start, stop or replay video segments). With greater bandwidth a quality store of validated digital educational resources can provide teachers and students with significant additional learning resources. This is helpful for teachers concerned about the work necessary to provide students with more customised learning. Some schools in Western Australia are also using short digital video clips to provide evidence of learning outcomes that have been met by each student (particularly helpful in ESC classes).
3. Recent Advances: Digital video filming and editing is now common in schools as it is cheaper and easier to use. There are plenty of good quality major brand Firewire or USB2 digital video camcorders available in Australia. More importantly there is now also a much better range of software for both Mac and Windows users that are reasonably easy to use and affordable for schools. Apple includes free iMovie software and Windows XP includes free Movie Maker 2 software (which is much easier to use - do not persist with Movie Maker 1 - download the current version). However a critical factor is still the ability to convert completed movies to a suitable format for use in classrooms.
DVD recorders for both Windows and Mac are now more affordable - with good software they allow people with limited experience to create video projects that can be played back on the rapidly increasing number of DVD players in the community. A number of Apple models come standard with the ability to create video DVDs using a SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW) drive. Mac OS X supports free iDVD software that provides easy authoring tools for creating DVDs - including menu driven interfaces to multiple video clips or other resources. Full details at http://www.apple.com/ With Windows computers check the quality of the DVD authoring software when including a DVD recorder.
The size of Mini DV camcorders continues to shrink - one tiny camera is the Panasonic e.cam GS5. Sony also has the tiny DCR-IP7 (about 9 cm x 6 cm, 310 grams) that fits in a shirt pocket. It uses a special format of MicroMV tapes and includes wireless Bluetooth technology. Another non Mini DV solution is a camcorder by Hitachi that records video in MPEG-2 format on to a 8 cm mini DVD disk.
HISTORY: The price for a complete video production system dropped rapidly when the simple plug and play high speed IEEE 1394 port (also known as Firewire or i.LINK) was included on the DV iMac computer in 1999. Most important however was the incredibly easy-to-use iMovie digital video editing software. iMovie allowed even young students to start working with video. A complete video production system (digital camcorder, cable, computer and software) can now be purchased in Australia for less than $3000. Firewire is very easy to use. It is common on digital video camcorders which can now link to an increasing number of models of computer. The quality of digital video is much higher than analog video - in fact it is so good that a number of television broadcasts have now included video material produced on low cost Mini DV systems. Another major benefit of digital video is the ability to store, copy or transfer digital content without any loss of quality.
4. Possible Uses:
- create learning resource video clips (for use by students or the professional development of staff)
- prepare educational segments on safety issues (e.g. on roads, in playground, at home)
- assist in a variety of ways with the learning of other languages
- preparation of mini documentaries, interviews or news reports
- record students role playing difficult social situations
- record school performances, excursions, special events, field trips, visits by specialists, etc.
- collect video of authentic workplace situations that can be analyzed in maths or statistics classes
- use frame by frame analysis techniques to accurately record rapid change in experiments or sport
- compile still images over a long period to produce time lapse movies
- use frame grabbing software to record and analyze critical events
- increase student awareness of manipulative techniques used in advertising
- develop greater critical literacy skills by comparing television or movie segments with own creations
- view difficult, dangerous or expensive experiments or activities (recorded with specialists)
- assist in the introduction of disabled students into mainstream classes
- show skills that are quicker to learn by observation (e.g. sewing a French seam)
- record and analyse student or teacher presentations
- (please email suggestions to add to this list)
Some situations are more easily understood by students when using video. Although digital video can be highly motivational it is important that there are clear learning benefits from the use of the technology.
The most common way to create video clips is recording with a DV camcorder and then editing on computer. An alternative way to produce your own digital video clips is by using time lapse photography with a digital camera and then stitching all the images together with software - for details on how to do this in schools visit lapse.htm Another way to create short digital video clips is via a digital camera - many models include a feature for recording either audio, video or both - it is low resolution but quick and easy. It is definitely useful in a classroom - for details visit digcam.htm
For tips on features to look for when buying a camcorder see Camcorder Tips
Mini DV - Advantages - Very popular format, smaller lighter camera (ideal for young students), physically small tapes with high storage capacity, allows digital still, and other special effects. Some models include analogue to digital conversion. Mini DV may have slightly better image quality than Digital8 but this is usually due to the use of better lenses on the Mini DV models. Disadvantages - More expensive camera and more expensive tapes than Digital 8 or Analogue.
Some models that are currently available in
Western Australia, prices
in Australian $ inc. GST, note there
are frequent changes or updates! (CF - Compact Flash, MS - Memory Stick, SD
- Secure Digital, MMC - Multi Media Card)
*** recommended models (more stars is better).
Entry Level - under $1000
e.g. ** Canon MV700i (~$700), JVC GRD53AAM (~$700), Sony DCRH15 (~$700), ** Panasonic NV-DS60A (~$700)
(notes: extra features such as memory cards are often not needed in the classroom - consider avoiding the additional cost, the Sony uses a touch screen which may be a concern with regard to wear in a heavy use classroom environment)
Mid Range $1000-$1500
e.g. ** Panasonic NV-GS120 (3CCD, ~$1900), Canon MVX10i (~$2100), Sony DCRTRV80 (~$2500)
Advanced Models (3CCD)
e.g. ** Panasonic NV-MX500 ($3700), ** Sony TRV-950 (~$4400), **Canon XM2 (~$4700)
Alternatives 1 - Digital8 - Advantages: Cheaper camera and cheaper tapes. Disadvantages: Larger heavier camera, tapes are physically larger in size but hold 50% less video, may not support digital still, fewer special effects. May not be able to edit in camera. Economical but this format is less popular than the Mini DV format.
Alternatives 2 - DVD -Advantages: Non-degrading storage, faster seek times, uses DVD-RAM or DVD-R disks. Disadvantages: No Firewire link (but has USB2). This new format is growing in popularity.
e.g. Hitachi DZ-MV350E or DZ-MV580E, Sony DCRDVD101 (~$1900)
Mini DV currently has a leading market share. The video quality is determined by a number of factors that include the size of the CCD elements, how colour is processed, lens quality, lens size and method of compression. A number of other differences may also affect your final decision. However before buying a camcorder compare any interesting models you find with at least one of the recommended models above.
6. Project Planning: Although many people love to start by immediately recording a video this is not very efficient. Think about the intended audience. What message or information is to be communicated? How are you going to provide humour, drama or interest? How will you acquire the video, how will you edit it and what will be the roles of each team member? How will you maintain control over the technical quality, suitability and variety of segments. Be aware of copyright requirements and seek permission before filming people. Use a story board technique to plan out the key requirements in each scene.
For example a small entertaining video clip was emailed all over the world - it was about grizzly bears, salmon and spinning back kicks! The file salmon.asf is 380 kb and will take approximately 3-4 minutes at 56k to download. To view the file you will need Windows 98/2000/XP and a recent version of Windows Media Player. It is in the Advanced Streaming Format (asf) so that you can commence viewing before the file has been completely downloaded.
Top Start Curriculum Advances Uses Buying Planning Production Output Software Camcorder Hardware Glossary Resources Credits
7. Video Production: Once you or your team have recorded all of the planned scenes the next step is loading the work from the camcorder into the computer. You will need your computer turned on with the video editing software open e.g. iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Premiere on Mac; e.g. Movie Maker, Video Factory, VideoStudio, VideoWave, VideoFactory, Studio DV, Premiere, Mediastudio Pro or Xpress DV on Windows. Plug the Firewire cable into the camcorder at one end (usually the smaller 4 'pin' plug) and the Firewire port on the computer at the other end (usually the larger 6 'pin' end but some Windows laptops now include the smaller 4 pin port). Make sure the camcorder is on and in the playback mode. Select the import video option on your computer by choosing CONNECT TO CAMERA (usual choices are CONNECT-TO-CAMERA/EDIT-VIDEO or similar). Selecting PLAY either on the computer or on the camcorder loads your video clips into the 'shelf'. Choose STOP when you have finished importing the required clips. Each clip can be previewed in the monitor widow.
Editing out any poor sections immediately improves your product. Editing is done by moving the play head to a particular point in the clip. Sections can be marked out (e.g. on the scrubber bar by using the crop markers) so that any unsuitable material can be deleted (this may be due to lack of focus, poor angle, lighting, subject problems, confusing background, repetitious scenes or lack of action). The ability to advance frame-by-frame allows you to choose the best image to start and end each sequence. When you are happy with an edited clip it can be placed on the video track timeline of your project. Continue until you have placed enough clips on the video track to make a movie. Rearrange the order of clips if necessary. You can then add titles, sound effects, voice or music. There are usually a number of audio tracks. Transitions between segments can also be added. The final step is to get some feedback - so find an audience and show them your creation!
8. Video Output: After production of your movie there are a number of options for distribution. The movie may range from a few megabytes (MB) to many gigabytes (GB). If you have a SuperDrive it allows you to record it to DVD - these can store up to 4.7 GB. Another choice is to export your movie back to a clean MiniDV tape in the camcorder. With transfer of digital video there is no loss of quality. The camcorder can then be used to playback the movie on a TV. Alternatively the camcorder can be plugged into a VCR and you can record the movie onto a blank standard VHS cassette. The use of analogue (not digital) VHS tapes does result in a loss of quality. However VHS cassettes are cheap and most people have a VCR so this is one easy way of giving other people a copy of your movie.
Another option is to choose from the range of compression techniques and movie formats available in your software to reduce the file size of your movie. Determine the preferred final output format by considering file sizes, bandwidth, media, and the resources available to your intended audience. Common choices include mpeg (Moving Picture Experts Group - cross platform), avi (Audio-Video Interleave - a video format for Windows) and qt or mov (QuickTime - cross platform). iMovie exports to QuickTime. It is possible to produce your movie in versions ranging from full quality to CD-ROM, web, web streaming or even email quality. Obviously the email version will be a much lower screen size and considerably poorer quality than the original but it can still be very effective.
9. Software Tips
Recent Apple computers include both iMovie digital video editing software and at least one Firewire port. Windows XP now includes Movie Maker 2 for video editing (which is much easier to use - do not persist with Movie Maker 1 - download the current version) but check that your computer has a Firewire port. Advanced users may desire additional software for video editing. Combination products of a card plus software are available (e.g. Firewire card plus Pinnacle Studio DV ~ $200). Additional video editing software includes Pinnacle Studio DV, Canopus DV Raptor, Video Action Pro, EZ Easy DV, Ulead Media Studio Pro, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Video Toaster and Lightwave. Any of these products can be used to edit the original video - clips can be cut or moved, transitions can be included (e.g. dissolve, wipe, 3D effects) plus titles and sound can be added.
10. Camcorder Tips
Things to check for when comparing camcorders:
- ease of loading/unloading tapes
- support for IEEE 1394 (commonly called Firewire)
- camcorder support for Digital Video IN (from camera in to computer) and OUT (from computer out to camera)
- suitable CCD resolution in the camcorder (higher CCD count usually indicates higher image quality)
- reasonable camera size, weight and ergonomics
- good size and quality LCD viewing screen (including ability to use in sunshine)
- good strength and quality optical zoom
- rechargeable battery (size, weight)
- spare long life rechargeable battery
- camcorder image stabilization features (or use a tripod)
- uses common video format (e.g. Mini DV - recommended)
Other features could include close-up, still image capture, alternative still image storage devices (e.g. Compact Flash, Memory Stick) and special effects (e.g. slow motion, filters). Other accessories include lenses, lighting and microphones.
11. Hardware Tips
A suggested minimum for a school is:
- Mini DV camcorder
- several Mini DV tapes
- spare rechargeable camcorder battery
- padded carry bag or case
- quality tripod
- Firewire cable (NOTE: may require more than one if working on different equipment. Options include 4 pin - 4 pin / 4 pin - 6 pin / 6 pin - 6 pin. Most laptops and digital video cameras favour the smaller 4 pin connector.)
- fast computer with large hard drive and Firewire
Use your best computers for editing video - at least 256 MB RAM and a fast processor is recommended (preferably Pentium 4 for Windows, preferably G4, G5 or Intel for Mac). Recording digital video typically consumes 3.6 MB per sec so 9 minutes of videotape transferred onto your hard drive may fill 2 Gigabytes! When purchasing computers to work with digital video at least a 60 GB hard drive is recommended! However for larger numbers of students or longer videos 80 -120 GB is a better choice. Higher speed drives are preferable. Also necessary is a Firewire port to connect to the digital camcorder. Most Windows 95/98/2000/XP computers need a Firewire PCI card to be added inside the system unit. However first check that you have an empty PCI slot in your computer. Also make sure that installation of this card will not interfere with any of your existing Windows device drivers. Apple iBooks, iMacs, PowerBooks, G4s and G5s come with Firewire. An increasing number of Windows desktop and laptop computers are now including Firewire options. Some recent laptop computers include a mini Firewire port (4 pin) - the same port as is on Mini DV camcorders.
A supply of quality digital tapes is essential. Prices vary depending on brand, tape quality and the number of tapes purchased. Mini DV tapes range from $5 to $15. Usually a 4-pin to 6-pin IEEE1394 Firewire cable is needed to connect the digital camcorder to the port on the computer (however some laptops with built in Firewire require a 4-pin to 4-pin cable). Buy a second battery - consider a longer life model than the battery supplied with the camcorder if possible. To protect your camera buy either a soft bag or a rigid case - both should include sponge padding. You will need space for the second battery, charger, leads and other accessories. Either a portable mini-tripod or a full height tripod is useful for vibration free recording. Remote controls for the camcorder can be useful when filming with a tripod. Additional lenses and filters can be added to some camcorders. Simple external light sources, filters or reflectors may be needed to adjust lighting. External microphones may offer better control over the recording of sound when filming.
asf - advanced streaming format
Casablanca - example of a dedicated video editing system
CCD - charge coupled device (chip which records light falling on it to capture a picture)
compression - digital representation of media in an efficient storage format (with lossy compression the quality is lower than the original and cannot be restored)
Digital 8 - a video format that competes with DV but is backwards compatible with 8mm tapes
LCD - liquid crystal display
IEEE 1394 / Firewire / iLink - easy to use and low cost way to connect high speed devices to a computer (400 megabits per sec over distances up to 4.5 metres), hot pluggable (can add or remove devices while computer is running), flexible (can daisy-chain up to 63 devices), scalable (supports 100, 200 and 400 megabits per sec devices) and physically small. For more information about Firewire visit http://www.dvcentral.org/Firewire.html
Mini DV - mini digital video - a widespread standard video format
MMC - multi media card - mini storage device
SD Memory Card - new mini storage device
Streaming - you can commence viewing before the file has been completely downloaded
Storyboard - series of sketches and notes outlining planned scenes
VCR - video cassette recorder
13. Helpful Resources: ***
recommended resources (more stars is better)
**** Digital Video in Education - Educational Technology Resources
*** Auckland College of Education - Video in the Classroom
*** Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School DVD project http://www.mvrhs.org/garcia_lorca/index.html
*** Ideas from Dean Shareski, William Grayson School, Moose Jaw, Canada http://www.mjsd1.ca/~rbl/dv/
** W210 Digital Video Editing Assignment (Indiana University) http://www.indiana.edu/~w210/videoassnsp00.html
** Students Make Audiovisuals Themselves: How it can be done http://utopia.knoware.nl/users/schoutdi/eng/introduc.htm
Videos in the Language Classroom http://lookingahead.heinle.com/cnn/mejia.htm
**** Next Power Guides "Digital Video - Lights! Camera! Action! Movie Making Made Easy (comprehensive coverage of all aspects of digital video and making movies, includes CD)
Video Camera and Desktop Video magazine http://www.videocamera.com.au
World Wide Web
** Creating Digital Video - Tips for Making Great Videos http://www.computerlearning.org/articles/DVTips.htm
* Video University http://www.videouniversity.com/article2.htm
* Real Communication with Audio Visual Means http://utopia.knoware.nl/users/schoutdi/eng/thcomac.htm
* DVD on your Desktop http://www.apple.com/ilife/idvd/
* All About Movie Making - History, Techniques http://www.xs4all.nl/~wichm/cinelink.html
14. Site Credits: This site is to help the 80% of people who just want learning, information and communication technology to be easy to use and reliable. I believe the higher picture quality and greater ease of use for novices make the Mini DV solution a good choice for schools. Details of analog alternatives have not been included on this site despite the prices of analog camcorders being cheaper. Feedback from Steve Donatti, Jarrad Basterfield, Mike Leishman, David Krieg and Dean Shareski has been included on this site. Please take the trouble to offer ideas or suggestions - you will be acknowledged and others can benefit. The site is intended to be free of bias and receives no commercial gain from any party. Currently up to 400 people per week visit this site. Statistics on usage of this site are gathered by Chilli Tech web stats. First published online in March 2001.