The popularity of YouTube, coupled with the declining price of video cameras and ease of handling video online, have all given rise to an expanded use of video in schools and colleges. Video can enhance a class presentation, provoke a spirited discussion, focus a student project, or provide content for an online course. How can a teacher, or his students, create those videos that enhance learning?
This article looks at a few of the quickest and easiest ways to capture, edit, and publish video for learning. Not professional videos that take hours of time and oodles of talent to produce, but those everyday videos clips that provide information that goes beyond the text.
A personal video
Suppose you want to make a short video introducing your online course to your students, or to present a personal message to parents on your web site, or for your students to perform a scene from a play. What's the easiest way to do this? In order of ease, they are:
- QuickTime Recording with built-in camera. This works best on a Macintosh, where everything is already built in and connected. You'll need to upgrade to QuickTime Pro for this to work. Sit in front of your computer with good light upon your face. Comb your hair. Smile. Launch QuickTime. Choose File --> New Movie Recording from the menubar. Look at yourself in the QuickTime window, and adjust things accordingly. Press the red record button. Look straight into the camera and speak. Click the button again when you are finished. The movie file is ready on your desktop, all compressed and ready to post on your site or distribute on a CD.
- MPEG-4 Video Camera. Get yourself an MPEG-4 video camera, such as the Sanyo Xacti series. Set it for web-quality video. Put it on a tripod pointing toward where you are going to sit, and about 30" from your face. That's close, but the results will be best at this distance. Open the display. Click the record button. Look into the camera and speak. Click the record button again when you are finished. Your video will be on the SD memory card inside the camera. Use an SD card reader to copy the .MP4 video file from the card to your computer. It's ready to be posted, or emailed or embedded in a web page or slide show.
- DV video camera and video editing software. If what you have is a DV camera (the kind with the small tape inside), connect it to your computer with its FireWire or USB cable. Put it on a tripod less than three feet from your face. Launch the video editing software on the computer (MovieMaker on Windows, iMovie on Macintosh). Choose record or capture on the editing program. Speak your piece, looking directly into the lens of the camera. Stop the recording. In the video editing software, drag the captured video into the editing timeline. Save in a web-friendly format (in iMovie, choose Share --> Medium from the menubar. In MovieMaker, save in web format.). Your video is ready to use.
A video clip from the movies or television
Suppose you want to use a scene from Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet in your English course. Or show a short segment from Abraham Lincoln: Life and Legacy from the History Channel in your social studies course. Here are your options, from easiest to most difficult.
- Purchase the movie or the video from iTunes. An episode of Lincoln will cost you $2, the entire Romeo and Juliet $10. From the iTunes store, the file will download to your computer. Open it with QuickTime Pro. Select the exact scene you want to use. Copy it, then paste it into a new QuickTime player window. Now choose File --> Export for Web from the menubar. The resulting file is compressed and ready to be posted to your web site or online course or slide show or CD.
- Purchase the movie or show on DVD. This will cost you a bit more, perhaps $15. Look at the DVD menu and determine which scene you need. Open the DVD with Handbrake or other video conversion software. Select the scene you need. Click the start arrow, and wait while the software converts from DVD format to MPEG-4 format. Drink a glass of pineapple juice while you wait. The resulting file is ready to be posted on your course or web site or shown from your computer onto the projector.
A video from an old VHS tape
Before you attempt this, see if your VHS video content exists on iTunes or DVD. It's much easier to convert from those digital sources than from analog VHS tapes. But if all you have is the tape, try this:
- Use a VHS-DVD converter deck. Your school may have one down in the audio-visual cabinet. Put your tape in one slot, a blank DV-R in the other. Press the copy button. Hope for the best. The DVD copy will be blurry but usable. Now take that DVD and convert it to MPEG-4 following the instructions above. Better yet, ask your audio-visual expert to assist you. These decks cost less than $200, and may be useful if you have many VHS tapes to convert.
- Use a VHS player and a DV camera. Connect the audio and video output from the VHS player to the A/V input of the DV camcorder. Set the camcorder to record from the A/V input. Press record on the camcorder. Press play on the VHS player. Get a cup of coffee, or a complete dinner, as the video is recorded. Now stop the playing and recording, disconnect the DV camcorder, and take it to you computer. Follow the instructions above for DV video camera and video editing software. Play the tape from the DV camcorder as the editing software captures. And so forth. More coffee. Not for those with a short attention span.
This is not an exhaustive list of video-making methods, just a review of some of the quickest methods. And yes, all the activities described above would be legal for a teacher or student as long as the video content was used for instructional purposes and not made available to the general public. We'll review in a future article some of the copyright issues raised by using copyright materials such as Romeo and Juliet or Abraham Lincoln: Life and Legacy in the classroom.