Monday, August 20, 2007

Student Cam Contest and C-SPAN Campaign 2008 Bus

C-SPAN is currently touring the country with a refitted bus that they use to shoot and edit video about the upcoming election. The brightly painted bus is named Campaign 2008, and it draws a crowd wherever it goes.

C-SPAN staff members opened the bus for tours in Iowa recently. Doug Hemmig explained the C-SPAN philosophy of recording the news while it happens. The front half of the bus was their edit bay, with a video switcher, audio switcher, monitors and editing equipment. The back half of the bus could be used as a mini-studio.

After the tour, I spoke with Adrianne Hoar, education coordinator with C-SPAN. And she told me of an opportunity that is available for middle and high school students.

Student Cam is an annual video documentary competition, where students produce a ten minute documentary on a topic of current political interest and then submit it to C-SPAN. Footage taped from C-SPAN or obtained from their online archives must be used. Additional material may be used if it falls under the Fair Use for Education copyright guidelines. Cash prizes are awarded, and winning entries are posted on the Student Cam website.

Adrianne Hoar and Rebecca Stewart, both C-SPAN employees, were knowledgeable and helpful in explaining this opportunity. I will be encouraging instructors to share this with their student video producers. It looks like a great chance to incorporate technology into the classroom while learning more about the political world around us.

Check out this link to learn more about C-SPAN and Student Cam.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bluetooth is NOT secure

MSNBC has produced a really frightening news story about people who use Bluetooth technology with their cell phones.

We've all seen the person at the airport with the little electronic dongle in his ear...wirelessly talking on his cell phone. For some, it's a matter of convenience, for others, it's the ultimate geek-chic statement. Sort of the 21st century equivalent of wearing one of those big chronograph watches. They don't really need it, but they think it makes them look fascinating.

What you may not know is that Bluetooth is very easy for hackers to intercept. The small earpieces are fairly secure. What are not secure are the car units that allow total hands free use of your phone. They are constantly transmitting, even when you are not on the phone.

What does this mean? It means that every conversation you have in your Bluetooth-enabled car could be hacked, listened to and even recorded, whether you're on the phone or not.

Click on this link and prepare to learn how easily someone can invade your privacy.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Advertising: There are only 12 kinds of ads

Some of the schools in this area have an interesting way to introduce media literacy and video production to their students. The assignment: write, produce and edit a television commercial about a product you have created.

This approach requires students to research, write, practice, shoot and edit on a very tight timetable. Skills from graphic arts, reading, writing, acting, narration, photography, and technology use are all integrated into this project. OF course, time management is also needed, because these projects are due on a specific date, no excuses allowed. It's an eye opener when kids discover this. has an interesting article on different styles of television advertising. Author Seth Stevenson and advertising mogul Leo Gunn discuss 12 basic ways that a commercial can get and hold your attention.

You may not agree with the way these ads are categorized, but you will admit that discussing ad styles while referring to Geico, iPhone and other commercials that students are familiar with will grab your students' attention.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What can you do when editing?

Post production (editing) is when you transfer your video clips to the editor and start putting things together. So, what things can you do when you edit your raw video footage?

Remember, you only have two things to work with: audio and video. So, what can you do when you edit?


Add music

Add sound effects

Add narration

Adjust volume


Trim clips to the exact length you want

Add titles

Add transitions (cross fades, page turns)

Add effects (black & white, slow-mo, backwards, etc)

Add scenes in any order you want

Remember that if you shot several “takes” of a scene, you need only use the best take. Also, you can put scenes in whatever order you like. It doesn’t have to be in the same order you shot it.

What can’t you do??

Make a blurry picture sharp and in focus.

Remove the “shake” from a shaky shot

Turn the audio up a lot, so a very soft voice is easy

to hear.

Remove background noise to make voice easy to hear.

Remember you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. To have the best finished product, start out with good video and good audio. You can’t “fix it in post.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Picture But No Sound?

This happens occasionally in our Prairie Lakes AEA Lending Library. A school will return a videotape with a Post-In note attached, saying that when they played the videotape, there was a picture but no sound. Most of the time, the sound is there but the school VCR could not find it.

If this happens, here is the “short answer.”

1. Look at the remote for your VCR. Is there a button marked AUDIO (or perhaps SOUND)? If so, press the button.

2. If you don’t have an AUDIO or SOUND button, then you’ll have to access the MENU for your VCR. What you want to do is change the AUDIO output from HI-FI to NORMAL.

Every menu looks a little different, so I can’t post detailed instructions for your specific equipment.

All right, if you would like to know the theory behind what we just did, here is the “long answer.”

On every VHS tape, the following information is recorded:

A: This is the NORMAL (or LINEAR) audio track. Every VCR, even the oldest RCA SelectaVision VCR from 1977 records audio here.

B: This is the VIDEO TRACK. As you can see, the video is recorded as stripes on an angle.

C: This is the CONTROL TRACK. The control track records 30 electronic pulses per second that are used to synchronize the tracks.

For many VCRs, including very old and very inexpensive ones, this is everything that’s recorded on the tape.

D: Most newer VCRs also are able to record and playback audio in high fidelity sound, or HI-FI. The HI-FI track is embedded in the video track. Our illustration shows the HI-FI track in red.

Sometimes, because of equipment failure or operator error, a Hi-Fi audio track is recorded with no sound. (It’s like there is a highway with no cars on it.) When you play such a tape, your VCR senses there is a Hi-Fi track and plays it. But no sound was recorded on that track…it’s just an empty audio track. So you have picture and no sound.

The solution is to tell your VCR to quit horsing around and just play the NORMAL audio track.

If you are lucky enough to have the remote handy, and if the remote has an AUDIO button, it’s a simple matter to switch from HI-FI to NORMAL audio playback. If that’s not an option, then you have to open the MENU on your VCR and find the AUDIO or SOUND command, and switch that to NORMAL.

Unfortunately, we do sometimes discover a tape with this problem in our library. By selecting the NORMAL audio track playback on your VCR, you will be able to work around this problem and show your video tape in class as planned.