Seven Hills World War II Project

May 16, 2012

The Blitz

I worked with four different phase two classes from Seven Hills School before Easter to help them bring alive their topic on World War II. Each class chose a different aspect of the war and wrote a script for a short film. We filmed using the green screen, both at the CLC and in school, and added voiceovers, backgrounds and music. The finished films were:

  • 2BT – Evacuation
  • 2SM – The Blitz: with information on  the different types of shelters.
  • 2DS – D Day: including poems written by the pupils.
  • 2JL – Rationing: with dishes cooked by the students based on wartime recipes.

Using the green screen was a great way to put the students into an era very different to their own, and helped them to understand how life was for young people at the time.

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Talbot Space Project

March 17, 2011

A y10/11 class from Talbot School used the CLC this term to create a film for their Space project. They began by creating science fiction sounds and music in Garageband on the Apple Macbooks. Garageband is a great tool for composing music and creating soundtracks as it comes with a large number of sound effects and music loops that can be combined in layers. Some of the pupils managed to work independently, to choose sounds they liked and drag them across to different tracks. Others needed a bit more support, but all were involved in making decisions about the sounds they wanted.

In a later session the class acted out scenes in space in front of the Green Screen, for example lifting off in the rocket, walking on the moon and planting flags. This footage will be accompanied by the sound tracks they created.


How To: Green Screen for Schools

October 27, 2010

Green Screen, also known as Blue Screen or Chroma Keying, is a technique in video whereby you film your subject in front of a green or blue background and remove the blue/green colour to reveal another image behind. Most people know it best from weather forecasts – the forecaster isn’t actually standing in front of a weather map at all. It is used heavily in films and television programs too – see this link for an amazing video showing the potential of the technique.

How we’ve used it:

Students found it very motivating to use the green screen, as they could transport themselves anywhere they needed, for example play football at Bramall Lane, or play the guitar on stage at Wembley. We have found it particularly good for the students from the special schools we work with, as they can act out certain behaviours in a safe setting – for example crossing a road for a Green Cross Code video.

The Background

At the CLC we use a green screen (we decided on green as less people wear green than blue – anything the same colour as the background will also become transparent!) made up of a large green curtain on a curtain rail. You get best results with a very bright, vibrant green or blue colour, for example:

We also bought a Lastolite portable green screen with frame, which packs up small enough to take into schools. However, you don’t have to use a piece of cloth, it could be a wall painted blue or green with enough room for filming in front.

The Lighting and Other Considerations

You get the best results from an evenly lit background, as any difference in shade of colour will cause problems in the editing stage. If possible light the background and the subject separately, as this helps with crisp edges (and reduces the green halo effect). Try and avoid the subject casting shadows on the screen. Finally it is difficult to get a good result when there is a lot of movement; static scenes (e.g. news reports) work best.

The Editing

We use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit our green screen videos, but this is an expensive option for schools. There is a cheaper version, Adobe Premiere Elements, which costs around £60 for a single licence, and this still gives a good result:

  1. Drag your background image onto Video 1 track on timeline.
  2. Drag your green screen clip onto Video 2 track (i.e. above the background).
  3. Click on the Edit tab on the right and then Effects. Scroll down to find the Keying section and drag the Chroma Key effect to the green screen clip. (There is a specific Green Screen effect too, but the Chroma Key one is easier to tweak to get best result).
  4. Click on Edit Effect and open the Chroma Key effect (click on triangle).
  5. Click on the eyedropper icon then click on the preview screen to pick the most representative colour of the background (i.e. not too dark or light a shade).
  6. Use the Similarity and Blend sliders to get rid of any remaining background colour. I generally aim for Similarity between 15-30%, and Blend <20%.
  7. If there is a problem area in a corner (which never appears behind the subject), use the Eight-Point Garbage Matte effect. You can drag any of the 8 points to mask out areas you don’t want.

See below for a screen shot of Adobe Premiere Elements:

  • If you have access to a Mac, then iMovie has a Green Screen function:
    1. Click on iMovie > Preferences in the top menu bar, and tick the box next to Show Advanced Tools.
    2. Drag your background image or video onto the project area first.
    3. Now drag your green screen clip on top of the background image. In the menu that appears, choose Green Screen.
    4. The software does all the tricky stuff (like choosing the colour to remove) and gives a surprisingly good result.

    It is possible to chroma key video in Windows Movie Maker – see how to do it here. However the end result isn’t great unless you have a very well lit background, without too much variation in colour.

    Here is an example of  a music video, created using the Green Screen by year 6 pupils:


    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.


    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: