Exciting Opportunity 14 – 19 Documentary Competition 2011

July 5, 2011

So, what’s this competition all about?

The Showroom Workstation, The Childrens University, Red Tape Central (SVC), Sheffield Theatres and Channel 4 are working together on this exciting competition which will give you the chance to make a documentary film with the experts!

The most successful entrants will see their entry screened at the Showroom before an audience of industry professionals on Monday 24th October.  You will also be offered a place on a four day Mobile Movie Workshop held at the Showroom and Red Tape Central from 25th – 28th October 2011 (during the half-term holiday) when you will work through from pre to post production to plan, film and edit your very own documentary!

The films from the workshops will be showcased in the Mobile Movie Finals at Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema on at 11am on Saturday 5th November when each member of the team producing the winning film will receive a Toshiba Camileo S20 Full HD 1080p Camcorder!

The closing date for submissions is the 18th September 2011. The entries will the be judged by an industry panel and the winners notified by email and post by Friday 7th October.

So, if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a filmmaker or have ambitions to become the next David Fincher or Steven Spielberg, this could be just what you need to get noticed by the right people and start to make your dreams a reality!

CLICK HERE <http://www.sheffield-mobile-movie.co.uk/>  to visit the Sheffield Mobile Movie website for more details!

Hold on, did someone mention Channel 4?

That’s right! The Sheffield Mobile Movie competition is part of Channel 4’s Inspiration Week. All entrants to the Sheffield Mobile Movie competition are invited to register for the Sheffield Channel 4 open day, taking place on Saturday 17th September. The Channel 4 Inspiration event will then take place on Monday 24th October. Details of this event can be found HERE.


OK, great! What do I have to do to enter?

All you have to do is make a documentary style movie on your mobile phone between 1 and 2 minutes in length and upload it at the Sheffield Mobile Movie website HERE. <http://www.sheffield-mobile-movie.co.uk/>

The subject of your Mobile Movie can be anything that inspires you, from sport to music or anything in between. All they ask is that you are between 14-19 years old, are currently attending a Sheffield school and that your finished film complies to the BBFC ‘U’ certificate, details of which can be found HERE. <http://www.bbfc.co.uk/classification/guidelines/u/>

I want to get started, how long have I got?

You can upload your Mobile Movie right away! The closing date for submissions is the 18th September 2011. The entries will the be judged by our industry panel and the winners notified by email and post by Friday 7th October 2011. Please note that the judge’s decision is final.

I’m still not sure what I have to do, can I contact anyone?

No problem, just visit the website HERE

<http://www.sheffield-mobile-movie.co.uk/index.php?option=com_contact1&gt; and use our contact form. The Sheffield Mobile Movie Team will get back to you as soon as they can.




Hana’s Suitcase

July 14, 2010

A year 6 class from Meersbrook Bank spent the day at the CLC last week to finish off a project they had been doing on Hana’s Suitcase. This is a book by Karen Levine that documents the story of Hana Brady, a Jewish girl from Czechoslovakia who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944. Her suitcase was later displayed as an exhibit in a Japanese holocaust museum and the curator uncovered Hana’s story.

Groups of pupils filmed short plays and news reports based on Hana’s life in front of the green screen. In between filming they created Wordles of keywords about the story, and contributed to a Wallwisher wall on how they felt after they read the book, for example “It made me feel like… Like i havent bothered to learn about it before and now i am really amazed!” They also used Comic Life to recreate the story in pictures.

Seven Hills Canal Boat Adventure

May 26, 2010

A small group of key stage 3 pupils from Seven Hills School spent the day on a canal boat on the Sheffield canal before Easter. They travelled on the Ethel Trust Community Barge, which is a registered charity providing boating trips to community groups. The barge is fully equipped to take disabled passengers in wheelchairs, and is crewed by volunteers.

During the trip the staff took photos and shot video footage which we have used at the CLC to help recreate the journey. The class has spent 3 mornings at the CLC filming in front of the green screen, re-enacting parts of their day, including feeding the ducks, making and eating lunch, waving at passers-by and opening the locks.

The students really enjoyed their time at the CLC and the filming helped them to remember the experiences on their trip.

Digital Video Camera Comparison

April 16, 2010

It’s always quiet during the school holidays, and this Easter I finally got round to doing a comparison of the digital video cameras we currently have at the CLC. This isn’t so much about the best camera, rather about the most suitable camera for using with our school groups, in terms of video quality, compatability with video editing software, cost and ease of use.

I’m also aware that these may not be the most up to date versions of these cameras, but it’s what we have, and hopefully this post can still be of use to educators out there who are wondering what to buy. (Note all prices are rough guides and show the cheapest offer I found online).

The Cameras (Clockwise in image above)

  • Digital Bluemuch loved (!) by primary schools across the country.
  • Flip Mino – not the HD version, but better than the basic version.
  • Toshiba Camileo P30 – our newest acquisition.
  • Sony DCR-SR77 – a replacement camera for one that got stolen.
  • Canon MD101 – what we’ve been using for years.

The Test

Basically we filmed the same thing using each camera – me talking to camera, walking through different lighting in the CLC, filming outside using the zoom. I wanted to see the difference in quality of the video and audio. I also looked at file types, storage, ease of use and flexibility. Full copies of the video should be up on Vimeo soon, due to space issues, I’ve only included short sections below.

Digital Blue

I have to admit that I’ve never liked these or actually used one in anger, but thought it worth backing up my gut feeling with some actual footage. To transfer the video you install the software, then put the camera into the dock and plug into PC using USB. Sadly we couldn’t seem to get any video off at all, so I did a second recording whilst attached to the PC:

As you can see the quality is pretty poor. However it is the only device I tested that takes video, stills and can do animation, using a USB connection (rather than firewire, which is a problem in many schools if they have no firewire ports). It’s still not enough to make me want to use one though!

Video filetype = AVI, price = around £120, storage = internal memory (though newer versions seem to have SD card slot)

Flip Mino

These are ridiculously easy to use – point the device and press the red button to record, and they can fit into a pocket for taking on field trips. Not only that but the video quality is pretty good for the price, and audio is excellent. It picks up audio even from a distance and it’s very clear.

The zoom isn’t up to much, but I always encourage students to use the zoom as little as possible anyway. To transfer the video simply plug in the integral USB connector. There is software that comes with the Flip for editing, but it is fairly basic – however you need to install the software in order to have the correct codec for the video to play on the computer. Once this is done you can open the Flip folder and drag and drop video files into your documents. The Flip records video as AVIs, which can be edited in Windows Movie Maker no problem (this is the editing program we tend to use with younger students, as it is free and most schools hav PCs with it on). The video is stored on internal memory and you can shoot 60 minutes worth. You can’t take stills or use it for animation.

Price = £80+

Toshiba Camileo P30

This is a small, lightweight HD video camera, at a very reasonable price, so I was interested to see the quality. We tested it on the HD 720p setting (the HD 1080p setting creates massive file sizes), and the video quality was  good as you might expect, though it didn’t deal well with dull light conditions, and the audio has a bit of ambient noise in it.

On the WVGA setting (standard definition) the video quality was reasonable too, but there seemed to be a bit more hiss on the audio.

It has an optical and digital zoom, and it is very easy to transfer video to the PC using the USB cable. It has a small built-in memory with SD card slot. However the whole unit feels a bit cheap and it records video as MOV files, so you need Quicktime installed to play them on the PC, plus it can’t be edited in Windows Movie Maker. You can take still images, but it can’t be used for animation.

Since writing this blog post we ordered a whole set of these cameras. After a number of issues with trying edit the footage in Adobe Premiere we’ve discovered that these newer ones record the video as AVIs – normally not a problem, but there’s an issue with codecs and we would need to convert the video before editing! This is not in any way desirable, and there was no indication when we bought them that the format had been changed.

Price = £100+

Sony DCR-SR77

This is the most expensive of the cameras I tested, although it only records in Standard Definition. It does have an 80Gg hard disk drive, onto which you can record 60 hours of video, and it is easy enough to transfer the video files (MPG format) via USB. The video quality was good (and was by far the best quality when zoomed in), but when I played it back using Windows Media Player there was no audio with it. Putting it into Adobe Premiere I could export an AVI with sound, but the quality of the video suffered (and it won’t edit in WMM). Here is the original MPG format (it should be widescreen but has been embedded as 4:3 ration for some reason):

You can take still photos on this camera, but again no way of using it for stop-motion animation work.

Price = £270+

Canon MD101

We use these for the majority of our work with schools, for video and animation projects. It records video onto a mini DV tape and to transfer it you have to connect to the computer using a firewire, and 30 minutes of video will take 30 minutes to upload, so not ideal for projects where filming and editing happens on the same day. The quality of the video isn’t great, and the audio is affected by a considerable amount of ambient noise.

This camera won’t take still photos, but can be used for animation.

Price = £145


My all round favourite is the Flip Mino* – you get something really easy to use, very portable for a reasonable price, and the video quality is fine for most of the projects we’d do here. The only real issue with them is that you have to install the codec first, which is problematic in schools where staff don’t have administrator rights on the computers. (We are also yet to see how long the rechargeable battery lasts, as it can’t be replaced).

I’ll recommend we buy some more of the Toshiba Camileo P30s too, or something similar, for older students to use who are editing in Adobe Premiere Pro. Having the SD cards makes transferring video a lot quicker than off a tape, and the quality is better than the Flips.* Note added comments above. I no longer recommend these.

The Canons will now be relegated to use for stop-motion animation only, and I’m putting the Digital Blue back in the box and hiding it in a back cupboard somewhere. The Sony SR77 is nice, but not worth the money for us.

The big issue still remains what to recommend to our partnership schools when they are looking for something for filming and animation. Anyone out there got a neat solution?

(*We do have some of the basic Flip Video cameras out on loan, as soon as they come back in, I’ll take some test footage and post up as a comparison with the Flip Mino).

Extreme Weather Hits the CLC (again!)

April 9, 2010

Two classes of year 3 pupils spent half a day at the CLC before Easter to consolidate their work on extreme weather this term. In pairs the students filmed their own extreme weather report in front of the green screen. Meanwhile they contributed to a Weather Wallwisher, answering the question, “What do you think is the most extreme weather and why?”

They then created their own word clouds, using Wordle, of weather keywords. One of the y3 teachers, Mr. Yates said, “The children really enjoyed it and got lots out of the experience.”

Primary Cross-Curricular Music Project – Final Summary

March 22, 2010

The four weeks with the Valley Park year 6 class passed far too quickly, but it is all over and the music video has been completed.

The Publicity group continued with posters, and presentations and diary entries about the World tour, all of which can be seen on the project blog at www.valleyparkmusic.posterous.com. During the final session they held a Wii Music competition, to see who would record the best version of the Locomotion, playing instruments of their choice.

Over the last two weeks the animation group discovered that their story was a little complicated, and had to simplify it all. As this group also made up the editing group, there wasn’t much time for the pupils to edit the video in the final session. However they communicated their vision for the film and I hope to have done it justice:


Newfield Transition Days

March 19, 2010

Six of the feeder schools to Newfield  sent their year 6 classes to the CLC preparing them for transition to secondary school. Each group participated in three activities during the day:

1. A GPS walk around the school, using a GPS logger (see post about it here) to record the route they took. The pupils took photos of the school site on their journey and back at the CLC they used www.picnik.com to edit them. They added text on the images according to what they had learnt on the walk around the school. These were added to the GPS trail, and posted on the internet. We then viewed the finished trail and talked about some of the statistics, such as how far we had travelled, what altitude meant etc. For an example click here.
Initially I’d thought about the students annotating the photos in the a-trip software that comes with the GPS loggers, but this soon showed itself to be impractical, as the track would have to uploaded to every PC individually. Having them annotate in Picnik was much easier and gave me time to upload the track.

2. Ghastlies drama filming – in small groups the pupils scripted, rehearsed and then filmed a short role play about any worries they might have about moving up to secondary school, e.g being bullied, and how they might resolve these issues.

3. Friendship presentations – the pupils wrote about their friends and how their relationships might change as they move schools, using PowerPoint (we wanted to use Glogster, but this is still running slowly through our broadband provider). They added photos of themselves and their friends in the class, plus Wordles of keywords about friendship.

All the students had a great time during the day, and we received some very positive comments from staff and pupils. One pupil who admitted she had been scared about going to Newfield said she now couldn’t wait!

Updated 29/03/10


Greedy Mr. Fox

March 5, 2010

From Flickr.com by Everything is Permuted

A year 1 class from Lowedges came in two groups to the CLC over the last couple of weeks to consolidate their work on the Pie Corbett story, The Fox and His Bag. They began by being filmed retelling the tale with actions in front of the green screen. We searched for some images using the Advanced Search on Flickr.com that were Creative Commons licensed to use as the backgrounds. In pairs they were also filmed as reporters interviewing the characters from the story. The pupils came up with their own questions and answers, which varied a lot in quality, but kept us all entertained.

Group 2 came with props and costumes in order to act out key scenes in front of the green screen. They then created a short animation (see below) using a toy frog, puppy and rat. In addition we looked at different expressions, and took photographs of pupils’ faces being sad, happy, curious, angry etc. Finally the students did some Freeze Frames of moments in the story.

All of the activities helped the class to remember the story and think deeper about the actions and feelings of all the characters.


Primary Cross-Curricular Music Project – Week #2

February 2, 2010

So the song has been written and recorded in our recording studio, and now just needs a few finishing touches by Mr. Hilton at school. The Locomotion dance is ready to be filmed and the animators have all their characters ready to be brought to life.

Last week the Publicity Group struggled at bit with the unstructured nature of the project, so this week I gave them a very clear task – to finish the T-shirt design.  First I showed them examples of exisiting t-shirts, both old (Beatles) and new (JLS) and go them thinking about what kind of design they wanted. I also showed them how to work with text in Adobe Flash – making interesting patterns and changing the font. I know this isn’t normally the kind of software one would use, but it’s one I’m very familiar with and it is relatively easy to use.

After some paper and pencil planning, the students got on with their final designs which we then voted on. You can see it here – the pupil actually designed it on a website Blingee.com and so I worked with him translating the design into Flash, and losing the less appropriate images and text!

Meanwhile the bloggers were photographing everything that moved and started some interviewing. The school is lucky enough to have Jon Windle, previously the lead singer of Little Man Tate, working with them at the moment, so he was duly interviewed. The audio of the interview can be found on the blog here. Unfortunately their enthusiasm doesn’t stretch to writing up a report on what has been happening each week, something to work on next week!

In all, progress has been made, but it is really tough to ensure everyone is engaged at all times. Year 6 pupils definitely need plenty of structure to their sessions, even when they are interested in what they are doing.

Primary Cross-Curricular Music Project – Week #1

January 18, 2010

Finally the snow stopped long enough for the first year 6 class from Valley Park School to get to the CLC on Friday. I’d visited the class the day before to talk a bit more about the project and assign some roles. Work was already underway on the song to be recorded, which is about Machines – the current topic being studied, and some ideas had been explored by the Video Concept Group.

In terms of roles, I was delighted to have a volunteer to be the Director and general boss of things from the students, her first role was to fill in a Google Calendar with tasks for the upcoming sessions. The other pupils were split up roughly into two groups – the Music Video Group and the Publicity Group. During Friday’s session (9.30-12.00) the Video Concept Group firmed up their ideas and looked at some examples of storyboards before beginning their own. A group of dancers began choreographing a dance to a section of the music (based on Kylie Minogue’s Locomotion!)

The animators began designing their characters using Paint. I also spent some time training up two camera people to use the video and still cameras – before starting the filming of each pupil playing an instrument to be used in the video.

Meanwhile the Publicity Group were hard at work coming up with a name for the band (they decided on “The Equals”) and then designing T-Shirts. The three bloggers took photos of the proceedings and wrote their first post on the Posterous site (which can be seen here – please note this may become password protected at a later date). Throughout the morning pairs of students also tried out the Nintendo Wii, learning to play instruments on Wii Music.

Generally it was a very successful first session. We will perhaps have a struggle to get everything done in 4 weeks, but as always it is the process not the outcome that is most important.