Traditional Japanese Stories Brought to Life by Bradway Y6s

June 30, 2011

Two year 6 classes from Bradway School spent a full day each at the CLC to animate the traditional Japanese stories they had been learning about in class. The students had also being studying Manga comics, and each group created some fantastic 2D characters, props and sets for the animations. They were the most ambitious characters I’ve seen at the CLC, with a huge number of moving parts, with different eyes, mouths and profiles. I was very impressed with how the students managed to keep track of all the bits and use them to full effect in their films.

Once again the difficulties of animating enough action to match the scripts came to the fore. The problem partially lies in recording the voice-over separately, rather than straight onto the animation, but this isn’t really practical. However I think that any problems like this teach the pupils a lot, and they hopefully will be very aware of the issue for future animations.

Here are some of my favourites from the sessions (I just love the Windy Bride story!):


Y1 Animations from St Thomas of Canterbury

June 30, 2011

The year 1 class from St Thomas of Canterbury attended the CLC in two halves this past couple of weeks in order to animate the stories they had been learning in lessons. The first half animated The Gruffalo, each group taking one or scenes to work on. These were all put together at the end with the voiceover recorded in class. We used the software Zu3D, as it is very easy to use and primary friendly, with the ability to add titles and audio to the animation without having to export it into another application. The pupils worked really hard to get the animations completed in a morning, although we had the common problem of struggling to have enough action to fit the voice-over. This is where one of the Zu3D features is particularly useful – the frame rate slider means you can quickly reduce the number of frames per second, in order to slow the film down.

The second half of the class animated a Funny Bones story which you can see below.


Totley Primary’s Eggcellent Animation Day

April 1, 2011

The Totley Primary Year 5s had a smashing time at the CLC yesterday, creating some eggcellent animations using painted hard-boiled eggs. Each group had written a story and built a set in a cardboard box for their egg characters. Unfortunately they only had a morning to complete their films, but they worked really hard and I was amazed at how much they got done – the finished films had titles and sound added, as you can see below. The biggest problem was getting the eggs to stand up, but they did make excellent characters for squishing.


Carfield Y3 Animations

April 1, 2011

Two year 3 classes from Carfield Primary School came to the CLC this term to animate their own short stories. Each group wrote a script, designed their set and brought toys and props to animate. They spent the morning using I Can Animate to create the animations, and the afternoon editing the films in Windows Movie Maker to add sound and titles.

The first class had developed some quite lengthy scripts and it soon became clear that their animations weren’t long enough to fit in all the speaking, so they had to cut out large parts. The second group therefore decided to create silent films, using only music and sound effects to enhance the action – unfortunately this meant the storyline was often unclear. The perfect balance is an action-driven story with very small amounts of narration/dialogue, and the use of titles to explain where necessary.

You can see some of the finished animations below:


Mundella Y3/4 Animations

March 16, 2011

Three classes from Mundella School have visited the CLC this term to create some animations. Two classes animated part of the story of The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, using some fantastic hand painted sets and props.

The third class had been learning about explorers, and created animations set in the Antarctic based on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, again with some beautifully painted backdrops and penguins.


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.

 

 


TeachMeet NQT

October 21, 2010

Our CLC is hosting a TeachMeet on the 11th November, starting at 5.30pm. A TeachMeet is an informal conference for teachers, by teachers. Anyone who attends is welcome to give a presentation, relating to the use of technology in the classroom or for CPD. These presentations can be 2 minute nano presentations, or 7 minute micro presentations. This means that the evening moves at a good pace and planning a presentation isn’t too onerous. Above all the experience is supposed to be fun as well as informative.

This TeachMeet has an NQT focus, with the aim of inspiring newly qualified teachers (and trainee teachers) in the use of ICT and providing them with resources and ideas for use in their own practice. However all teachers and educationalists are welcome to attend, whether from the Primary, Secondary, Further of Special sector. The evening also provides the opportunity to network and socialise with other teachers, and consume free food and drink!

Currently there are presentations on the following subjects:

  • Joining a global staffroom for support and inspiration: Building your PLN
  • Putting the Interactive into IWBs
  • Using video in the music classroom
  • Multimedia Extravaganza in Y6
  • Using Microsoft Mouse Mischief to make PowerPoint presentations interactive – and fun
  • Organising your classroom for learning

If you are interested in attending/presenting you can sign up at www.teachmeet.org.uk (scroll down to find the Sheffield logo), or e-mail me, Catherine Elliott, at celliott@ssclc.net.

There is also a Page for the TeachMeet, which will contain links to some of the presentations and videos from the night. It can be found here.


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.


Mundella Robots Challenge

July 2, 2010

A year 6 class from Mundella spent 3 sessions at the CLC recently to help us trial our new Lego Mindstorms robots. The class was split into four groups working on separate robots. In session 1 they were shown the robots and looked at what information the sensors detected (sound, colour and ultrasonic), e.g. what colours they could detect. They then practised creating a simple 5 step program on the NXT brick itself (this is the “brain” of the robot and can be programmed independently of a computer).

 

In week 2 they were introduced to programming on the computer – we used Apple Macbooks as they had bluetooth and therefore the robots could receive the programs without being connected physically to the computers. The software does work on PCs too. The pupils were given a task to create a program where the robots would move forward until they detected an obstacle, then reverse until they crossed something red, and repeat 5 times. I was really impressed with how quickly they managed to do this, and the most succesful groups were those that were working fully as a team and discussing each step. We then hit a major hitch when I asked them to start and stop the loop on a sound cue – for some reason none of the robots would stop although the program looked correct. I have to admit none of the CLC staff have worked out a solution yet! (We think it may be a software issue rather than human incompetence).

In the final week I introduced some more sensors (light and touch) and the switch programming blocks for making a decision, e.g. if there is an obstacle <20cm away reverse, if not carry on going. The groups were then given an hour to devise their own program, around an obstacle course in the room, and we would all vote on our favourite and most succesful one.

At the end of the time none of the groups managed to carry out exactly what they had wished and the programs were quite linear in nature (rather than using loops and switch blocks). In future I’ll give them a bit more guidance and practice on programming to ensure a more succesful outcome. As it was the pupils seemed to really enjoy working with the robots and it taught them the importance of working in a team, and not just relying on one person to do all the work.

We’re hoping to run a year 7 robotics club after school with Newfield students starting in September for any interested pupils, and will continue to work with our primaries using the kits. Please contact Catherine at the CLC if you wish to undertake a project with them.


Enter the Robots

May 20, 2010

We have just had delivery of our new “teaching aids” – four sets of the Lego Mindstorms Nxt 2.0.

The idea is to invite primary and secondary classes to the CLC to build and program the robots, which fits in particular with the control aspects of the curriculum. The robots come with a number of sensors, from colour to gyroscopic sensors, and the students will program them to react to their surroundings.

We were initially drawn in by the Renewable Energy Add-on set, complete with wind turbine and solar panels, to use in our soon to be completed ourdoor play area. Sadly this isn’t available until later in the year.

If you are one of our partnership schools and interested in trying out the Mindstorms kits, please let us know.

Here is a stop-motion animation of one of the robots being built – thanks to Andrew, our technician, for the construction and animation work!