Ten Tips for Digital Movie-Making

from Educators' eZine

Digital technologies are revolutionizing education at every grade level and in every subject area. The possibilities are endless, and one of the most innovative and exciting instructional strategies is to have students create their own movies.

There are essentially three stages in the creation of student-developed movies: pre-production, production and post-production. Each stage has several components and facets. This article offers you suggestions for the post-production stage.

1. The Importance of Deadlines: Post-production work requires ample time; therefore, it's essential to establish and stick to strict timelines for all project activities. Without this, post-production typically becomes short-changed and the victim of missed deadlines.

Because this is a learning experience for students, it's critical for students to complete the entire process. Therefore, keep students on-time, on-task and moving forward.

2. Use Student Reflections for Assessment Purposes: Begin the post-production stage by asking your students to reflect on the earlier (pre-production and production) stages of their digital media project. This activity enables you to elicit comments from students while the experience is still fresh.

Here are some sample questions to spur reflection:

  • What were the most challenging aspects of the pre-production and production stages?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What topics do you need to know more about?
  • What specific suggestions would you offer someone starting his first media project?

Use this assessment information to gauge students' understandings as well as to plan for future classes.

3. Purposeful Post-Production Post-production includes a number of possible activities, including editing the picture and soundtrack as well as adding sound effects, music and special effects. The complexity of the final product will be determined by the age of the students, available resources and expertise.

All post-production decisions should be based on logical reasoning. Ask students for the rationale of their decisions. Resist responses such as "I just like it" or "it looks awesome." Instead, insist on answers related to purposeful objectives. "I strung 30, 12 second shots together to reflect the fast-paced action of the scene." "I choose lyrical orchestral music because I was trying to reinforce the peaceful setting of the video." Responses from younger children may not be as sophisticated, but they still should be purposeful.

4. Realistic Expectations Set clear expectations for post-production activities and communicate them to your students. While it might be reasonable to require high school students to add animation and sound effects, expectations for middle school students may focus on organizing the video (telling the story) in a coherent way. Be sure to allow for some flexibility because of the range of abilities in your class. One student will need direction on locating the on/off switch while another may be the next Stephen Spielberg.

5. Post-Production Basics Post-production is part technical expertise, part art. Explaining and demonstrating common post-production activities will depend on your personal skills. Thanks to the Internet, there are multiple resources to assist you. Entering "post-production tips for teachers" into a reliable search engine will yield an array of useful resources. Novices as well as experts will benefit.

6. The Rough Cut The rough cut is the student's first attempt at creating a final product after learning some post-production techniques. The storyboard (hopefully created in pre-production) serves as a valuable blueprint.

Verifying the quality of raw video footage and sound as well as initially sequencing scenes in the preferred order is an important first step. They can also attempt other general refinements, time permitting. Remember, this is a rough cut.

7. The Rough Cut Critique This informal screening includes you and your students. It's an opportunity to view rough cuts and to make constructive suggestions. This process stimulates self-reflection and builds camaraderie among classmates.

8. The Final Cut Incorporating useful suggestions from the rough cut critique, students create their final cut. This cut publicly exhibits their assimilation of all aspects of the digital media project.

9. Screening and Celebration Screen final cuts together. Emphasize the positive. Be sure to go beyond reviews of "I liked it!" Encourage your students to comment on pacing, camera angles, music, etc. What made a particular sequence exceptional?

It's also an appropriate forum to celebrate your accomplishments, reflect on what was learned and plan future digital journeys.

10. General Reminder - Telling Versus Guiding Students Your primary purpose in this digital media project is to guide students instead of telling them exactly what to do. While there are some technical "how" questions that require a direct response, such as "How do I add sound effects to my digital video?", many questions should be given back to students. "We need a racing car engine sound for our video, where can we find one?" While it might be easier and faster to give these students several Internet web sites to check, their learning is enhanced by turning the question back to them. "Where would you look?" Further guidance may be needed depending on their response. Learning how to find their own information will serve them well now and throughout their lives.

Email:Janet Buckenmeyer