Monday, November 23, 2015

Exploring Aerial Videography

Last week, I edited some 4K drone footage my uncle captured on a recent visit to a golf course in Murieta. My video editing software, Final Cut Pro X, handled the high resolution footage really well. Granted, a solid state hard drive and 32 gigs of RAM had a lot to do with it. I'm looking forward to exploring this new medium for the beautiful perspective it can lend to storytelling and event videography.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Protect Your Apple Watch Screen

Straight from the box (I had not even turned my Apple Watch on yet) to the Armorsuit Military Shield. Application was a little more challenging than other devices due to the nature of the curved screen; however, fear not. The tackiness of the spray (included) when combined with the stickiness of the shield (combined with the pliability and stretchiness of the shield itself) does indeed cover the entire screen - curves and all. 

After I pushed all the bubbles and excess liquid out with the supplied squeegee, I slowly and carefully began to press the sides down. It's true, the more dry they edges are, the better the sides and corners begin to stick. I was hesitant to use a hair dryer, as some users have suggested, so I opted to patiently press the sides and corners down, working my way around the device for several minutes. After about 15 minutes, the sides and corners had completely adhered to the device, and I can not even tell there's a shield on there. Thank you, ArmorSuit - you have a new customer.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Tips For Shooting Videos Like A Pro

Over the last twelve months, I've been asked to produce a lot of videos for my district. To mark this busy and exciting year, I've compiled my top twelve tips for shooting video like a pro, one tip for each month of the year.

Some of these tips I learned over my years as a wedding videographer; other tips I acquired from reading magazines, blogs, and shooting videos for EdTech Magazine: Focus on K-12; and others I stumbled upon through old fashioned trial and error. Although this is not an exhaustive list, perhaps there's something for everyone. So... you want to produce professional development (PD) videos for your school, or district?

1. Plan. Before you even pick up a camera, it's imperative that you take the time to understand the vision and scope of the project. Ask questions like: Who is the audience? After watching, what do you want the viewer to feel, to know, or to do? Is this a "call to action?" The better you understand the vision, the better the video will be.

2. Use at least two cameras. The wide shot can be a camcorder on a tripod in the back of the room. A mid-range camera can be mobile, such as a handheld camcorder, or, a camera attached to a mono-pod. Maybe a spouse, friend, or student, can be in charge of this second camera. The second camera operator should only use zoom to frame the shot.

3. Digitize visual aids whenever possible. Filming a screen yields poor results; therefore, if content is going to be shown on a projector during the lesson, visual aids should be digitized (scanned) and integrated into the video during post-production. This includes PowerPoint presentations, websites, etc. If content from a computer is going to be displayed during the lesson, install screen-capturing software and capture this content right from the source. I prefer an application called Snagit.

4. Interview key people. Interview the subject on-camera. Ask about the lesson. In fact, the best videos are driven by a good interview. Capture those conversations between the teacher and the students. Take a couple students into the hallway and interview them, too.

5. Care about audio. People can tolerate subpar video if the sound is good; therefore, invest in at least one wireless, lavaliere mic. Get a shotgun mic for your second, mobile camera. That way, when your footage is ready for editing, you will have plenty of options.

6. Care about lighting. Before the lesson, ask the teacher to avoid standing in front of the LCD projector for long periods of time. Bring extra lights, if possible, and if there are any curtains, open them. Video requires a lot of light to produce a good picture, so turn on as many classroom lights as possible. Although lights will diminish the brightness of the projector for the students, failure do so will lead to poor video quality.

7. Cut it out. Be ruthless. Viewers' time needs to be respected. They are giving their time, so be sure to cut interruptions from the final edit: students asking to use the restroom, searching for a cable, troubleshooting a computer glitch, etc. Dead air must be eliminated.

8. Add textual elements. Take advantage of onscreen, textual elements to draw attention to significant points the teacher makes in the video. Use lower thirds when introducing your talent. If a speaker says something that is difficult to hear, type the text on screen for the viewer. Identity moments during the lesson when the teacher addresses the common core state standard (CCSS), and draw the viewer's attention to this by typing it on the screen. There is tremendous value in other teachers seeing what CCSS implementation really looks like.

9. Easy on the transitions. No one walks out of a movie theater and asks, “My, weren’t those transitions amazing?” Or, “Boy, I really like how the editor used that boxy, spinning transition.” Fancy transitions usually distract from the story.

10. Make faster cuts. Ever since the days of MTV (Music Television, circa 1980s), video cuts occur  quickly. It's not uncommon for music videos to cut to another angle every second. Although professional development videos are not the same as music videos, it's good practice to change the camera angles frequently, as this tends to hold the viewer's attention longer.

11. Use B-Roll. When filming b-roll, film the subject for at least 10 seconds. These "handles" can be trimmed away, leaving the center portion, which is often the best part of the clip. Film liberal amounts of b-roll, and use only the clips that best illustrate what is being spoken on screen.

12. Short and sweet. When it comes to professional development videos and tutorials, be concise. I think TeachingChannel has the right idea when it comes to tutorials for teachers. They get those lessons down to the bare bones – they’ll take a 50-minute class period and trim it down to a lean 5-14 minutes. Depending on the video, two minutes is golden. Three minutes is often just right. Longer than three minutes may fall on deaf ears. It totally depends, of course, but as a rule, always leave the audience wanting more.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Kids Rock Free® School of Music & Home Gardens Academy: FirstPerformance

One student shows her rock pose after playing guitar
Yesterday, there was a performance of the first class of students that benefitted from a Home Gardens Academy and Kids Rock Free® (KRF) School of Music partnership.  It was  the first foray into off-site lessons for KRF. 

It came about because my principal, Cassandra Wills and I, let Pam Hogan, executive director of the Kids Rock Free program, know how important we thought music education would be to our students’ future success in high school. They agreed and we jointly devised a plan using funds from Fender Center’s National Endowment for the Arts grant to engage Americans in the arts. 
Bella demonstrates her guitar skills on the "EFG" song

Two KRF instructors, Lee Zimmer and Chris Diaz, took on the challenge of providing lessons in a location other than the Fender Center to best accommodate the students.  Lee taught guitar lessons once a week and Chris handled the vocal lessons. Lessons ran for eight weeks and were either free or at a reduced cost. 

We are all pleased with the results of this trial and are looking forward to implementing what we have learned and to expanding the offerings in the next school year funded by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and, we hope, other sponsors we have approached.
Breanna brings down the house with her amazing vocals
Next school year, we are looking to add two more courses to our program: music production, taught by Chris Diaz; and music video production, taught by yours truly. 

It's gratifying to me, both professionally and personally, to watch a vision become a reality, but more importantly, as I reflect on yesterday's performance, I'm reminded of how important the arts are in education. May I challenge you to do whatever it takes? Think outside the box and make it happen if it's not already happening in your school. We owe it to our kids to make the arts a priority -- even when politics and funding seem to point us in the opposite direction. We want our kids to be well rounded and given opportunities to be successful in all aspects their education.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is "What If Week?"

8th grader, Bianca, shows a pillow case she painted at lunch on Monday.
Our middle school leadership team organized and carried out our own first-ever What If Week event, targeting our own middle school students. Students were confronted with a thought-provoking question each day, as well as lunchtime activities related to each day's question.

  • Monday: What if everyone accomplished their dreams?
  • Tuesday: What if there was no peer pressure?
  • Wednesday: What if everyone had a friend?
  • Thursday: What if no one wore masks?
  • Friday: What if everyone had a hero?

  • What If Week is a five day long school-wide event that will challenge and change how your students view life, their relationships, and their future. If you've never organized, or even heard of What If Week, this brief video summarizes our school's first-ever What If Week and might even give you a few ideas on how to organize one for your own school. 

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Pass The iPad: Collaborative Storytelling using Technology

    iMovie's Edit Screen on  iPad during "Pass the iPad" activity
    Need an activity to help your students integrate a little technology in their storytelling? Here's one that's both fun and educational: "Pass the iPad!"

    Overview: Pass the iPad is a lesson that encourages students to work together as they invent a story while giving them exposure to iMovie on the iPad. In this activity, each student will have the chance to hold the iPad and film the person on their left. Students will verbally add a line to the story based on a pre-drawn picture prompt, drawn by someone in their group.

    Materials: One post-it note per student. One iPad with iMovie (or other tablet with a basic film editor) per group.

    Objectives: Working in a group, students will invent a story; practice oral language skills (listening and speaking); demonstrate creativity; film one another with iPad’s built-in camera; acquire basic editing techniques with iMovie on the iPad.

    Ideal group size: 7-12

    Time: 50 Minutes

    Grade Level: 6th-12th

    Getting Started: Before class starts, form students into small groups (depending on the number of available iPads). Although this activity can be done with fewer students, it’s most fun when there are between 7 to 12 students. Provide each student with a post-it note. Instruct each student in the group to draw one “picture” on it. (In order to provide some structure and to avoid students drawing inappropriate things, ask each student to “number off” and give them limited choice. For example:
    -Number Ones: “Draw a picture of something an average student might have in their backpack.”

    -Number Twos: “Draw a fruit.”

    -Number Threes: Draw something one might pack and take with them on a week-long trip.”

    -Number Fours: Draw a picture that represents a “verb” , i.e. stick figure of a person running, jumping, etc.”

    -Number Fives: Draw a picture that represents an emotion, i.e. a smiley face, heart, etc…”

    -Number Sixes: Draw a picture that represents direction, i.e. an arrow up, down, etc…”

    -Number Sevens: Draw something electronic, i.e. computer, cell phone, light bulb.”
    (You can add more creative ideas depending on how many you have participating in your groups).

    When students are finished drawing their picture on a post-it note, instruct them to trade their post-it note with the person sitting across from them (so they don’t have their own post-it). Give them about one minute to clarify with the person who drew the picture what it actually is.

    Passing the iPad: The first storyteller will start the story with the words: “Once upon a time…” and then add something to the story (prompted by the picture drawn on his or her post-it). Each part spoken must be inspired by the picture on their post-it note and should attempt to move the story forward. For example, Suzy, the first storyteller, is holding a post-it with a picture of an apple. Suzy might say, “Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Jesse who was reading a fairy tale under an old apple tree. All all of a sudden, an apple fell on her head and caused her to fall in a deep, deep sleep.”

    The whole time Suzy is talking, she is being filmed by the student seated on her right. When Suzy is done telling her part of the story, she takes the iPad from the person on her right, and films the next storyteller who is seated on her left. Students will continue on in this manner, passing the iPad, filming the person on their left, until everyone in the circle has added something to the story.

    By the time the story gets to the last person, the story should be brought to a close -- so the last story teller should give the story some kind of closure.

    Rules: Only one student is permitted to speak at a time. No coaching anyone on what to say.

    Editing on the iPad: Allow students about five minutes to arrange the clips on the timeline in the order they were recorded. If you wish, it may be helpful to show students how to trim the clip (to cut away any excess video at the beginning or end of each student’s segment). If time permits, students can add a title at the beginning of the video.

    Tip: iMovie on the iPad automatically uses a cross dissolve transition between clips. This can make it difficult to hear the first and last words of each clip; therefore, I recommend showing the students how to change the cross dissolve to a straight cut.

    Present your Stories to the Class: Collect the iPads and show them all the videos on your LCD projector (using the appropriate VGA or HDMI adapter, of course). We won’t be winning any Oscars for this, so don’t let your students be perfectionists.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    iRig KEYS PRO Released Today

    Ready to rock that skinny piano tie you haven't worn since the '80s? IK Multimedia's music tools add so much value to iOS devices and they always bring out the inner rock star in me.

    From their super-popular iRig instrument interface adapter to their killer iRig Stomp, IK Multimedia continues to raise the bar. They're expanding their iRig KEYS line with two new products for mobile musicians: iRig KEYS PRO and iRig KEYS with Lightning connector, compact MIDI keyboard controllers with 37 velocity-sensitive keys.

    It's the first and only range of professional MIDI controllers that include Lightning-connector, 30-pin and USB cables, for universal compatibility with all models of iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac/PC.

    I intend to post a full review here after I've had a chance to test the iRig KEYS PRO, but until then, here's the company's press release in its entirety:

    December 3, 2013 – IK Multimedia, the global leader in mobile music making apps and accessories for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac/PC, announced the expansion of its iRig KEYS line with two new products for mobile musicians: iRig KEYS PRO and iRig KEYS with Lightning connector, compact MIDI keyboard controllers with 37 velocity-sensitive keys.

    Both iRig KEYS PRO and iRig KEYS come with Lightning-connector, 30-pin and USB cables. These allow musicians to connect all iRig KEYS to any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac/PC model, and provide MIDI control and performance features for Core MIDI apps of all types, such as IK’s own SampleTank, iGrand Piano and iLectric piano apps, and its range of Mac/PC virtual instruments. 

    iRig KEYS PRO: Big features — compact design
    iRig KEYS PRO is a true “plug and play” professional-quality programmable MIDI controller designed specifically for making music on the go with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. It features 37 velocity-sensitive full-size keys for 3 full octaves plus one note — allowing for realistic-feeling, two-handed playing. Even with pro features like mod and pitch wheels, illuminated octave and program buttons, 4 programmable “sets” for storing complete setups, and a programmable continuous-controller volume knob, iRig KEYS PRO is 30% smaller than any other full-size key MIDI controller that can be played with two hands.

    iRig KEYS PRO comes complete with Lightning-connector and 30-pin cables for plugging directly into the dock connector of any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. A USB cable is included for direct Mac or PC connection. With standard Core MIDI support, you can play any compatible virtual instrument or recording app on your iOS device or computer from Apple’s GarageBand to IK’s SampleTank. iRig KEYS PRO needs no AC adapter or batteries, it draws its power from the device it’s connected to, and it even features an auxiliary mini-USB port to provide it with power during performance, allowing the battery on the mobile device to be conserved.

    Programming and expansioniRig KEYS PRO also has powerful programming features that are useful during live performance and in the studio. Players can program iRig KEYS PRO with different set-ups and store them in one of the 4 “Set” banks. When iRig KEYS PRO is in Edit mode, the user can set the MIDI transmit channel, velocity (touch) response, assign Control Change numbers to the Volume/Data knob, send custom Program Change messages, transpose the keyboard in semi-tones and more.

    iRig KEYS PRO also sports an expansion jack for adding a sustain pedal (not included) for a realistic piano feel, or an expression pedal that sends MIDI continuous controller data that can control parameters such as volume, rotary speaker speed, tremolo and vibrato speed and more, on the connected app or software instrument. 

    FREE software for instant playability, universal compatibilityiRig KEYS PRO comes with SampleTank FREE* for iPhone/iPod touch and iPad, IK’s award-winning multi-part sound module designed for live performance and recording, and the iGrand Piano FREE* app, a high-quality studio-sampled grand piano sound module. Both apps are expandable with sounds from IK’s massive collection of sound libraries, and provide musicians with tools for complete music production. 

    iRig KEYS PRO is also right at home in the studio, and works seamlessly with DAW software, including GarageBand, Logic Pro and many others. It’s also perfect for controlling virtual instrument plug-ins such as IK’s SampleTank, Sonik Synth, SampleMoog™, SampleTron and Miroslav Philharmonik. For Mac/PC use, iRig KEYS PRO comes with SampleTank 2L**, the full-featured professional sound workstation that includes over 2 GB of professional samples, which cover all instrument categories.

    iRig KEYS with Lightning connectoriRig KEYS with Lightning connector is IK’s new version of the ultra popular iRig KEYS portable mini keyboard and now comes with a Lightning-connector cable for connecting iRig KEYS to the newest Apple devices, including the new iPad, iPad mini and iPhone 5 series. It shares the same powerful features of iRig KEYS PRO but with a more compact build so it only takes up minimal space on your desktop and can easily fit in a backpack or a carry-on bag.

    Pricing and AvailabilityiRig KEYS PRO is priced at $149.99 / €119.99 MSRP (excl. tax), and is available now from the IK network of music and electronic retailers around the world and the IK online store. iRig KEYS with Lightning connector is priced at $129.99/€95.99 and is available now from music and electronics retailers worldwide.

    For more information, check out