making our own movies

Control of the Moving Image comes to Schools
but what will we do with it? here I had a guess a few years back after seeing some wonderfully creative work from 11 and 12 year olds with famous mentors
The moving image has become the definitive medium, but it's still strangely elusive when we try to master our own versions via camcorder and screen. The end result is usually wobbly vision which takes too long to edit into something viewable so we give up and consign the school camera to the back of a cupboard.Desktop publishing has long since given us all the power to be printers (albeit with occasional attacks of fontitis) but manageable video editing has been a lot longer coming – 2001 could be the year.For schools the potential is enormous – the advent of fast broadband networks (see p18) means it's only a matter of time before schools run their own TV stations across the computer network – imagine tuning into the news coming live from room 12. Of course, there's nothing new in this: Sharnbrook Upper School in Bedford has been running TV around the school for 15 years. What is new is that digital video editing brings point'n'click ease to an area that was once complex and only for the cognoscenti. And now, once video is digitised it can be sent and shared via standard networks and the internet in just the same way as any other computer file.The latest version of Microsoft's Windows Millennium Edition (ME) operating system comes with digital editing software built in, so that you can copy, paste and edit any digital video clip.Apple has also invested heavily in this area and developed an interface called FireWire to allow computers to communicate with digital cameras and transfer video from camera to computer in real time. This has now become an industry standard, with most major camcorder manufacturers, including Canon and Sony, building a compatible port (which they call IEEE-1394) into their cameras.Want to know what could be this year's best digital media advice? – don't buy a camcorder unless it has a FireWire compatible DV out port.At an event last October Apple paired 16 students from four UK schools together with 16 Apple Masters. The masters were all media, entertainment and academic celebrities who have used Apple computers in their work. Their creative task was to film, edit and present a two-minute movie in two days using only a low-cost Canon MV30i digital camera and an iMac DV computer (it has the FireWire port fitted as standard).The results were stunning as stars like Ken Russell and Hugh Laurie cajoled, encouraged and listened to their young charges. I stood behind Ken Russell as he worked with Emma Downey from Liswerry high school in Wales, and watched as they discussed the use of diagonal shadow and effect on the first clips. The computers running iMovie2 software, which comes as standard on the Mac, allowed simple edits, effects and transitions to be introduced with ease.Watching the groups working I got a sense of what is possible now that neither camera nor computer get in the way of the creative process.Video-making and editing is a natural communication activity which children can excel at. It also provokes talk and creative argument and, most importantly, it can give students a chance to represent their own view rather than be consumed by those of others."In the past, non-academic children couldn't shine on film because it was too expensive. Now if you believe in yourself and have access to equipment costing less than £2,000, you can produce something good enough to show a top producer," says Floella Benjamin, the TV producer and presenter.I was seeing faces I remember from TV and voices from the airwaves and, yes, they were smaller in real life, but their creative commitment to passing on their skills was clear. Bob Geldof popped in to see the work nearing completion and John Hurt had a creative difference of opinion with Fergus Stuart, his young partner.Elsewhere, Joseph Fiennes worked with Sarah Clarke from Bedford high school. She was more familiar than he with the editing tools – girls at the school regularly use digital video to make their own adverts for completed products made in Design and Technology lessons.The creative experience of the 12-year-olds and mentors showed what is possible with support, equipment and a little creative constraint. Compact cameras, a low-cost computer and a tidal wave of creativity means that schools can now build their own digital video-editing suite for less than £2,000.

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